When it comes to Thanksgiving, no matter where I go, I always bring meat-free gravy. Thanksgiving for vegetarians usually means stuffing yourself on all the sides. I actually don't mind that—Thanksgiving sides are dope. But let's be real: Mashed potatoes without gravy are a travesty. And nobody on the face of the planet has ever said, "Oh, I just realized my gravy recipe is accidentally vegetarian!" If you want to drown everything on your plate in gravy, you've gotta fend for yourself.
Most commercial veggie gravies I've seen (and many of the recipes for homemade ones) are mushroom-based. It makes sense: mushrooms are hearty and have great umami. Vegetarians use them for everything, so why not gravy too? But when I get nostalgic for Thanksgiving gravy, I think of something smooth and savory in a more general sense—not chopped mushrooms in mushroom sauce.
This gravy, adapted from a recipe at UnTurkey.org, gets its umami from heaps of nutritional yeast flakes, a.k.a. the natural food crowd's version of MSG. You can get it in giant tins or from the bulk bins at Whole Foods or other natural food stores. It is nothing like bread yeast, instead lending savory flavor that is vaguely nutty, cheesy, or chicken-y, depending on what else is in the dish. It's basically magic dust that enhances whatever you add it to.
A bunch of nutritional yeast pulverized with spices makes the "fauxltry" seasoning that the gravy is based around. The recipe makes much more than you'll need for the gravy, so you can make half or a quarter recipe if you'd like. But personally, I always have it in my pantry—I find uses for it in my cooking all year and it stores for a long time in a tightly sealed glass jar. I love to toss it with roasted vegetables or use it to kick up bland soups and sauces in my day-to-day cooking. But when dissolved in water, it makes the perfect broth for this classic turkey-style gravy.
No Harm No Fowl Vegetarian Gravy
Fauxltry seasoning mix:
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 teaspoons rubbed sage (or 1 teaspoon ground sage)
2 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes, crushed up if the flakes are big
2 tablespoons fauxltry seasoning mix
2 cups warm water
4 tablespoons butter or vegan margarine
1/4 cup flour
To make the fauxltry seasoning mix, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until finely ground. Store in a tightly sealed jar until ready for use.
For the gravy, stir the nutritional yeast flakes and 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix in warm water to dissolve and set aside.
In a skillet or saucepan, melt butter or vegan margarine over medium-low heat. Add flour and quickly whisk in until all lumps are gone. If you don't have a flat spiral whisk, it's worth investing in one—a standard balloon whisk is not ideal for making gravies.
Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it takes on a light golden color and the raw flour smell is gone, about 2-3 minutes.
In a thin stream, pour the warm yeast broth into the roux, still whisking constantly. It'll get thick and lumpy really quickly. If you don't incorporate the broth slowly and get rid of all the lumps as they occur, it'll be hard to get rid of them later. Take a break after about a cup of broth if you need to and really whisk the hell out of it. Toward the end of the broth, you may have to scrape some sludge from the bottom of your measuring cup to get it all in there.
Whisk to make sure you've really gotten all the lumps, then let come to a simmer, whisking occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn. Once the gravy is at a simmer, let it bubble away, whisking often, until it is thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Give it a taste and add more salt or more fauxltry seasoning if desired.
Turn off the heat and let it sit for 3 minutes to cool down and thicken further. You'll probably get a little skin on the top—stir it in and then serve immediately.