Discover the ultimate recipe for homemade Tomato Gravy: a delectable, authentic Southern delicacy that is easy to make and reminiscent of old-fashioned flavors.
Indulge in a velvety blend of robust chunks of tomato, savory bacon, aromatic onion, and vibrant bell pepper, resulting in a thick and creamy tomato gravy.
Traditionally prepared in a cast-iron skillet, this legendary breakfast classic perfectly complements fluffy biscuits, elevating your morning meal with its tantalizing tomatoey goodness.
Like my Jezebel Sauce, Southern tomato gravy is an extremely versatile condiment, and it can also be used as an add-in or topping in numerous recipes.
Sometimes called country tomato gravy, red gravy, or cajun red gravy, it was also called desperation gravy in lean times because it was usually made with leftover ingredients and whatever happened to be in the pantry.
Why you will love this recipe:
- Made with pantry and fridge staples, you can easily change it up or leave out ingredients you might not have on hand.
- It’s a great way to use up an overabundance of fresh tomatoes from your garden, and it’s just as delicious made with canned tomatoes when you don’t have fresh ones.
- Easy to make, you can have it on the table in less than twenty minutes.
Main ingredient notes and substitutions:
- Tomatoes: the heart of this dish, nutrient-rich tomatoes lend their sweet, tart, tangy flavor and beautiful red color to this flavorful dish. You can use either canned or fresh.
- Bell pepper and onions: add more layers of flavor and sweet deliciousness.
- Bacon: is there any more flavorful food than sweet, salty, and smoky bacon? The flavor in this recipe comes not only from the bacon but also from cooking the veggies in the bacon drippings, which elevates their flavor. It’s a win, win!
- Brown sugar: adds a touch of sweetness and keeps it from being too acidic.
- Flour: is the base of a roux. It’s an essential element that works to thicken it. Without it, the gravy would be thin and soupy.
- Salt: besides being an essential nutrient, salt enhances the flavors of all of the ingredients and brings everything together.
(A complete list of all ingredients and measurements is listed in the recipe below.)
How to make tomato gravy:
- Add bacon to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Cook for about three minutes and stir frequently.
- Add the bell pepper and onions to the bacon drippings, and continue to cook and stir for another four to five minutes or until the bacon is browned and crispy.
- Sprinkle the flour over the top of the pan drippings, bacon, and veggies.
- Cook and stir for about two minutes or until the flour has turned a light golden brown.
- Slowly add the chicken stock and continuously whisk until the mixture has thickened, about two minutes.
- Add the brown sugar, tomatoes, and salt and cook while stirring for two to three minutes.
- Spoon over biscuits and optional garnish with chopped basil. Serve hot.
Tomato gravy origin:
The exact origin of tomato gravy is not well-documented, but it is a dish that has evolved over time and is deeply rooted in Southern cuisine.
Over the years, homemade tomato gravy has become a staple in Southern cooking, often served with biscuits, fried chicken, country-fried steak, or other comfort foods. Its versatility and rich flavors have made it a beloved regional dish.
If your gravy looks too thick, add chicken stock or broth until it reaches the consistency you like. You could also add a little white wine or milk.
This recipe can be modified depending on what ingredients you have on hand:
- If you don’t have bacon, you will need two tablespoons of butter, olive oil, lard, or vegetable oil to replace the bacon grease.
- Onions can be frozen or fresh and left out altogether if you don’t have them. Same with the bell pepper.
- You can substitute water for the chicken stock or milk diluted with water or tomato juice. If you want to make your chicken stock, here is a link to my homemade chicken stock recipe.
- Feel free to add a pinch of your favorite seasonings and spices like garlic powder, thyme, or even ground cumin. Add a bit of cajun or creole seasonings to make cajun red gravy.
- Incorporate heat and spice by adding ingredients like red pepper flakes, diced jalapeños, or a pinch of cayenne pepper to make spicy tomato gravy. Red gravy is made by adding some Creole or Cajun spices.
- Roasting the tomatoes first adds depth and sweetness to the sauce. Cut the tomatoes in half, drizzle them with olive oil, and roast them in the oven until they caramelize.
- Enhance the flavor by adding fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, or a combination of your favorite herbs. Chop the herbs finely and stir them into the sauce while it simmers.
- Add an earthy and savory dimension by incorporating sautéed mushrooms. Slice or chop the mushrooms and cook them in a separate pan before adding them to the gravy.
This tomato gravy recipe is not just for breakfast. This condiment is versatile and can also be served at lunch and dinner.
- Biscuits: When served over fluffy biscuits, it creates a classic Southern breakfast or brunch combination.
- Fried Chicken: The tangy and savory flavors of tomato gravy work exceptionally well with crispy and succulent fried chicken, creating a delightful contrast of textures and tastes.
- Country-Fried Steak: The richness pairs beautifully with the savory, breaded steak, creating a comforting and satisfying meal.
- Meatloaf: Tomato gravy is delicious when served alongside or drizzled over meatloaf, adding a flavorful twist to this traditional dish.
- Mashed Potatoes: This gravy can be used as a delicious alternative to traditional gravy on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, adding a tangy and savory element.
- Grilled Vegetables: Use this tasty gravy as a flavorful sauce for roasted vegetables, adding a burst of tanginess to complement the natural sweetness of the vegetables.
- Grits: Tomato gravy can be poured over creamy grits, offering a delightful combination of textures and flavors.
- Sausage Bread: It also makes a great dipping sauce for my cheesy sausage bread.
- Quiches or Scrambled Eggs: This gravy can be used as a condiment or poured over quiches or scrambled eggs, adding a zesty kick to your breakfast.
- Rice: Tomato gravy is often served over rice.
The best tomatoes for tomato gravy:
If you want to use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, you will need about two cups of chopped tomatoes.
- Roma Tomatoes: Roma tomatoes are popular due to their meaty texture and lower water content. They have a rich flavor and are known for their sweetness.
- San Marzano Tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes are known for their vibrant red color, sweet taste, and low acidity. They have a firm texture and are commonly used in Italian cooking.
- Heirloom Tomatoes: Heirloom tomatoes come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, offering a range of flavors. They are known for their exceptional taste, juiciness, and unique characteristics. Using heirloom tomatoes can add complexity and depth of flavor.
- Vine-Ripened Tomatoes: Vine-ripened tomatoes are typically picked when fully ripe, allowing them to develop maximum sweetness and flavor. Using vine-ripened tomatoes can contribute to a flavorful and aromatic gravy.
If you use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, you must add an additional one-quarter cup of chicken stock, water, or milk.
This homemade tomato gravy is a “from-scratch” recipe and is the real deal! No shortcuts here.
No, tomato sauce is made from pureed stewed tomatoes. You can strain the liquid from tomato sauce to make tomato juice. However, you can’t make tomato sauce from tomato juice.
The main difference is that the base of tomato gravy starts with a roux made with flour, bacon grease, onion, and peppers. It is also thicker than tomato sauce with chunks of tomatoes.
Transfer the cooled gravy to an airtight container or airtight sealable bag. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
If you want to store it for a longer period, you can freeze it. Place the cooled gravy in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to use it, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator if it was frozen. Reheat the gravy on the stovetop over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Add a little water or broth if needed to adjust the consistency.
More tips and tricks:
- If your gravy looks too thin, let it cook a little longer or add a pinch of more flour or cornstarch.
- You can make this recipe for tomato gravy up to 24 hours ahead and reheat it on the stove when you are ready to serve it.
- If you don’t want to make homemade biscuits, I like and have used Mrs. B’s Frozen Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits, and they work great in this recipe.
More breakfast recipes:
If you would like to make homemade biscuits to go along with this recipe, here are links to some popular biscuit recipes on my blog: Easy Southern Cheddar Biscuits, Cornmeal Biscuits, and Sweet Potato Biscuits.
Other breakfast recipes you might enjoy include:
- Southern Fried Potatoes and Onions
- Ultimate Blueberry Bread
- Butterscotch Pecan Monkey Bread
- Spinach Bacon Quiche with Tomatoes
- Breakfast Fruit Salad
If you need more ideas or menu suggestions, check out all of my breakfast recipes.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐⭐⭐ If you make this dish, please leave a comment and give this recipe a star rating. I would love to know how you liked it!
Thank you so much for visiting Grits and Pinecones; I hope you come back soon!
Old-Fashioned Southern Tomato Gravy
- 3 pieces bacon finely chopped
- ¼ cup finely chopped green bell pepper, about ⅓ of a large bell pepper
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil optional garnish
- Optional: biscuits for serving
- Add bacon to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for about three minutes and stir frequently. Add the bell pepper and onions and continue to cook and stir for another four to five minutes or until the bacon is browned and crispy.
- Sprinkle the flour over the top and cook and stir for about two minutes until the flour has turned a light golden brown.
- Slowly add in the chicken stock and continuously whisk until the mixture has thickened, about two minutes.
- Add the brown sugar, tomatoes, and salt and cook while stirring for another two to three minutes.
- Spoon over biscuits and optional garnish with chopped basil. Serve hot.