This Simple Onion Gravy is made without meat drippings for a delicious sauce that can accompany any meal. Use red or white onions depending on preference for a rich gravy with a hint of sweetness and lots of depth of flavour.
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As much as I will always love a proper gravy made with meat juices and good stock, there are many occasions where I want a gravy but don’t have drippings to hand.
Onions provide the perfect base for a good sauce and of course this is a great recipe to have on hand if you are catering to anyone that doesn’t eat meat.
Saying this, there is also nothing to stop you from adding meat juices into an onion gravy base and/or using a good meat stock. For example I would usually make an onion gravy with sausages but make it in the sausage pan and use beef stock.
What I’m trying to say is this is a brilliant base recipe that is great to have on hand and is infinitely flexible. You can even add a dash of cream at the end to make a creamy onion gravy.
How to Serve Onion Gravy
Any kind of classic British meal like roast dinners, bangers and mash or even pork chops and chips, benefits from a good glug of gravy. Indeed just a plate of chips will be infinitely improved by some gravy. But then I am northern and gravy on everything is my natural default position.
Try with the following quick meals:
The really important thing is that gravy should be piping hot. One of the benefits of gravy is that however poor your timings are for getting everything else on the plate at the same time, gravy is going to make the meal hot again!
Onion Gravy Ingredients
You can use any colour of onion you prefer for this recipe, just be aware that the sweeter the onion, the sweeter the gravy will be. The least sweet will be regular brown onions. Red onions will be the sweetest.
I don’t write recipes that specify X number of onions without good reason. That’s because onions vary wildly in size. So to be vaguely accurate in this recipe, I’ve specified the weight. Saying this, the weight doesn’t need to be bang on accurate, it’s largely to give you a vague idea of quantities vs serving sizes.
I like to cut my onions into thin half moons. If the onions are very large, I’d probably quarter them and then slice. But ultimately how you cut the onions is down to your preferences.
Just bear in mind that the thicker you cut them, the chunkier onion gravy you will end up with. And if they’re chunkier, the initial cooking time will need to be extended.
The reason for using two different types of fat is so the butter provides flavour and the oil prevents the butter from burning. If you would prefer to use just oil, you can of course do so.
Use the stock that matches what you are serving the gravy with. Beef is the most common, especially if serving with sausages, etc. Chicken will give a lighter flavour. For vegetarian gravy use a vegetable or mushroom stock.
Homemade stock is of course the greatest if you have some. But otherwise you can of course use bouillon powder, stock cubes or the kind that comes in a sachet or carton.
Sherry provides a little extra sweetness and depth of flavour to the gravy.
White port or Shaoxing rice wine will all provide a similar flavour if you don’t have sherry to hand.
Substitute with white or red wine if desired but I suggest also adding 2 tsp Sugar. Red wine will make a richer gravy than white so choose accordingly.
Regular port will also make a rich gravy with no extra sugar required. If you don’t want to use alcohol, simply skip that step.
As I’ve mentioned, this is a really good base recipe. It’s ideal to make as a large batch and then freeze in portions. You can then add any juices from your meal or reheat in your cooking pan to soak up any extra flavour.
I’ve not added any herbs to this simple onion gravy recipe but this is something I do quite often. Thyme is a perennial favourite. I add in fresh picked leaves a minute or two before adding the sherry. This gives it time to fry in the butter/oil and release its flavouring without being in there so long that it becomes bitter. Finely chopped rosemary, sage and oregano can be used in the same way.
To make an onion cream sauce, you can simply add in a good amount of double cream (heavy cream) right at the end of the recipe. Add as much or as little as you like to make it as creamy as you want. You can also add crème fraiche or sour cream but bear in mind, this will add a sour tang to the sauce. If adding dairy you will likely need to add extra salt so make sure you check the seasoning.
Vegetarian or Vegan Onion Gravy
This recipe is suitable for vegetarians providing that the sherry used is vegetarian suitable. Some alcoholic beverages are filtered using natural animal products so it is best to check the individual bottles if this is important to you. You will also need to use vegetarian suitable stock.
To make vegan onion gravy, swap the butter for a dairy free substitute or just replace it with more oil. And then of course you will still need to check the sherry and use a vegan suitable stock.
Make Allergy Friendly Brown Onion Gravy
This recipe is free from egg and nuts.
Gluten Free: I’ve used wheat flour as the main thickening agent in this recipe which is the traditional way to make a gravy with a roux.
One alternative option would be to use a good gluten free flour blend.
Or you can skip the flour thickening stage and then use cornflour (corn starch) mixed with water to thicken at the end. Add the slurry a little at a time until you reach the thickness you prefer.
Dairy Free: The only dairy in this recipe is the butter. Switch this for a dairy free option or just use the oil if you prefer.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above and any variations suggested have not been tested unless otherwise stated. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
I’m a very big fan of getting ahead with gravy, especially when making a meal with lots of elements. You can make this onion gravy several days ahead if you prefer.
And it does freeze well if needed. Make sure it is fully cooled before bagging or storing in an airtight container to go in the fridge or freezer. It is best to let frozen gravy defrost before reheating.
You can reheat the gravy in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. Make sure to keep checking and stirring it. Chances are you will need to add a bit of extra liquid. You can add more stock if you have it to hand but water is just fine. Make sure to check the seasoning again before serving.
More often than not, I will simply make this an hour or two before I’m planning on serving the meal. I’ll just set it to one side and then put back on the heat 5 or so minutes before wanting to serve.
Leftover Onion Gravy
Leftovers can be stored or frozen in exactly the same way as if you’re making the gravy in advance. And can be reheated in exactly the same way.
If you want to use the gravy in a way that isn’t just as a sauce, consider thinning it down with more stock and serving it as a soup. You can either serve it as it is with some buttered crusty bread. Or add toppings like crumbled crispy bacon, shredded leftover chicken or vegetables.
To take that one further, you can add vegetables/potatoes/meat and cook as a stew/casserole.
Simple Onion Gravy Tips
If you’re not a fan of chopping onions, use the slicing disc on your food processor if you have one (I highly recommend having one).
Using a wider shallower pan rather than a deeper saucepan will help the onions to cook more quickly. This is because the larger surface area with direct heat is always going to cook things more quickly.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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More Saucy Recipes
Simple Onion Gravy Recipe
- 300 g Onion - see notes
- 25 g Salted Butter
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes - plus more to taste
- 150 ml Water
- 4 tbsp Plain Flour (All Purpose)
- 700 ml Stock - see notes
- 3 tbsp Sherry - see notes
- Top, tail, halve and peel 300g Onion. Use a sharp knife to finely slice the onion into half moons.
- Add the onion to a large frying pan along with 25g Salted Butter, 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil and 2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes.
- Cook over a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes – until the butter has melted and the onions have just started to take on a feint hint of colour. You don't need to stir constantly but do move everything around the pan with a spatula, especially while the butter is melting.
- Add around 150ml Water and allow the water to bubble away gently until it has all dissolved – this will take around 5 minutes. The water helps the onions to soften more quickly.
- Once the water has evaporated, allow the onions to continue cooking on a low heat for around 10 minutes until they are golden and soft. Again stir periodically. If anything starts to stick or looks overly dry, add another splash of water.
- During this time, prepare and heat 700ml Stock. Heat prepared stock in the microwave or in a pan. Or make up stock from a cube or stock pot using boiling water from the kettle.
- Add 3 tbsp Sherry to the onions and allow to cool away for a minute or two.
- Add 4 tbsp Plain Flour to the pan.
- Stir thoroughly. The mixture will look ugly but this is to be expected.
- Add around ¼ of the hot stock to the pan and stir in.
- Again it will look ugly and thick but this is the opportunity to make sure that there are no lumps of flour in the sauce. Stir well and use the spatula to press out any lumps.
- Add the remaining stock. You can do this is stages if you prefer.
- Mix until everything is well combined and the gravy is smooth (with the exception of the onion).
- Allow to simmer for around 5 minutes.
- If you want a smooth sauce, you can blend the gravy at this point.
- Taste the gravy and add any additional Sea Salt Flakes until it is seasoned to your preference. Don't be shy, gravy should be tasty and can take a lot of salt.
- If the gravy is on the thick side for you, stir in some boiling water. If it is thinner than you want, continue to simmer until reduced to how you like it.
- Decant to a jug for serving or spoon directly onto your meal.
- Onions – You can use white/brown or red/purple onions as you prefer. The latter will give you a slightly sweeter gravy.
- Stock – Use the stock that matches what you are serving the gravy with. Beef is the most common, especially if serving with sausages, etc. Chicken will give a lighter flavour. For vegetarian gravy use a vegetable or mushroom stock.
- Sherry – Dry sherry, white port or Shaoxing rice wine will all provide a similar flavour. Substitute with white or red wine if desired but I suggest also adding 2 tsp Sugar. Red wine will make a richer gravy than white so choose accordingly. Regular port will also make a rich gravy with no extra sugar required. If you don’t want to use alcohol, simply skip that step.