It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, Tomato Gravy is good Southern food. If you have never had tomato gravy before, you have to try my father in law Dale’s recipe. This delightfully different gravy recipe is a flavorful and filling. You will want to make it again and again. (And again.) The great part? It is so easy to make. Honest food. Stick to your ribs food. Family food.
And did I mention it gives you another excuse to eat a biscuit?
Daddy Dale’s Tennessee Tomato Gravy
First and foremost, do NOT mistake this for tomato or pasta sauce. This is not an Italian-style tomato sauce. Although I would totally scarf this tomato gravy down on top of spaghetti. Just sayin’.
This is about as country as it gets, if you ask me. When my husband told me about his dad’s tomato gravy, I had to get the recipe.
Problem? There is no “recipe”. He didn’t write it down. So I asked my mother in law, and to the best she could remember, this is how he made the best damn tomato gravy you have ever tasted.
To start this recipe, you have to start with a generous amount of bacon grease or butter. (About 4 tablespoons is what we used.
Butter will cut some of the acidity of the tomatoes. And bacon grease makes the world go around. So we used both.
...bacon grease makes the world go aroundClick To Tweet
(If you are wondering what those brown specks are, that’s pan scrapings left over from country-fried steak. If you don’t want that flavor, you can start with a clean pan.)
Tips on How to Make the Best Tomato Gravy
- Use a cast iron skillet. Yes, we are using tomatoes, but that’s ok.
- This tastes best if using pan drippings from cooked bacon or other meat (sausage, country fried steak, etc).
- Let the flour and cooking grease cook until it is browned. You will have to stir it constantly so it doesn’t burn. Cooking it lets the flour cook and develop rich flavor (instead of tasting like flour).
- Slowly add the liquid and tomatoes. Don’t dump it all in at once or you can get runny gravy or lots of lumps.
- Remember, you can always add more water, but you can’t add more flour.
- Serve steaming hot!
Stir in some flour and cook until bubbly. Be sure to stir it constantly. You want the flour to cook and brown, but not to burn.
Then…the tomatoes. Use a big can of whole stewed tomatoes. And all that yummy tomato juice, too. I crushed the whole tomatoes up with my hands before adding them to the gravy mixture. I cannot wait to make this recipe using fresh Tennessee tomatoes.
You will smell it when magic starts happening….the gravy with the tomatoes starts bubbling up and oh my word, your tummy will start growling!
The tomato gravy will thicken quickly, so add some water and continue stirring. Continue this process, adding water, simmering, and stirring until the tomato gravy is the perfect consistency and color. Or, until you can’t stand waiting for one more minute!
The only seasonings this recipe calls for is salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Be easy with the salt, especially if your tomatoes already have sodium in them. If you are a pepper fan, you can get a little heavy handed. Pepper is perfect for this gravy recipe.
(You can also make this with milk, but it will have a lighter color and creamier texture. My vote? Make this with water for the best traditional flavor that Daddy Dale intended.)
If you love Southern food like I do, try these recipes, too:
Cheesy Mashed Potato Casserole (My aunt’s recipe)
Southern Style Chicken & Dumplings (My recipe, but with my mom’s touch)
Green Tomato and Peach Chow Chow Relish (Mine, all mine!)
The Best Sweet Potato Casserole EVER (My step-mom’s recipe)
I have heard of serving homemade tomato gravy over rice. Or even ladled over a nice piece of fried chicken. Or how about a bowl of steaming hot grits?
All of those ideas for eating Tomato Gravy sound amazing. But I’m a biscuit kinda girl.
Look at this Tomato Gravy. I know in my heart that Dale would be so proud. That man loved to cook for everyone. His love for people and cooking lives on in his amazing recipes.
And FYI, Tomato Gravy and Biscuits makes an excellent dinner with mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas, too.
Tennessee Tomato Gravy
A flour based gravy made with pan drippings of butter, bacon grease, and stewed tomatoes. Simmered until thick and bubbly, this tomato gravy is best served over hot, buttery biscuits.
- 28 ounces can whole stewed tomatoes Undrained
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons bacon grease and/or butter
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
In a large skillet (cast iron preferred), heat the bacon grease or butter over medium heat until melted. Stir in the flour.
With a fork or whisk, cook and stir until bubbly and smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not burn the flour. You want it to be slightly brown and smell "toasty". (Trust me, you will smell it.)
Pour the liquid from the can of tomatoes into the grease and flour mixture. Whisk until thick and smooth. Crush the tomatoes (by hand) into the gravy mixture, adding all of the liquid. Add the pepper and salt.
Continue to stir. Add up to 1 cup of water if needed. Reduce heat, cook and stir until the tomato gravy has reached desired consistency.
Serve hot over warm buttermilk biscuits, rice, or grits.