For A Vegetarian Gravy Fix, Fast Food Is A Better Bet Than Fine Dining

While steakhouses and meat-centric restaurants usually offer vegetable plates and vegetarian customizations to many dishes, there are some things that vegetarians know to avoid or at least question ordering. Gravy is among the most questionable menu items even though it's commonly served over otherwise vegetarian dishes like mashed potatoes, biscuits, rice, and roasted vegetables. Unless you're going to a fully vegetarian or vegan restaurant, don't count on gravy to be vegetarian-friendly.

Traditional gravies encompass a wealth of varieties, from brown and white to tomato and egg, but they all start with meat drippings. These sauces originated as a resourceful method to salvage residual fat that fell into drip pans under large pieces of meat. Cooks would salt the fat, blending it with stock and a thickening agent into the prototypes of the gravy varieties enjoyed today.

Meat fat and stock remain the fundamental ingredients to the authentic, scratch-made gravies found at fine dining establishments. Vegetarian gravies most certainly exist, and many of them are as comforting as their meaty counterparts. However, it's safer to make them yourself than to order them at a nice restaurant. And if cooking at home is off the table, consider getting your gravy from a fast food joint.

Where to find vegetarian gravy

Gravy from fast food or budget-friendly restaurants is more likely to be vegetarian because it's made on a tight budget. Scratch-made gravy takes time and effort that most fast food restaurants can't afford. These restaurants cut corners by using pre-made or artificial ingredients, and powdered gravy is a prime example of that. It's a cheap product, generally consisting of a seasoning packet or bouillon cube and cornstarch or flour that quickly combine and thicken with boiling water.

While budget restaurants are more likely to use vegetarian gravies, it's not a guarantee. You should always ask your server whether they make gravy with animal products or not. You can also opt for gravy alternatives by ordering other types of creamy, rich sauces. Roux-based, vegetarian sauces like béchamel or Alfredo closely resemble white gravy. Teriyaki sauce is a good vegetarian alternative to brown gravy.

Indian and Asian cuisines are known for their vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes, many of which include thick, creamy sauces. Tomato-based or coconut cream curries and umami-rich, cornstarch-thickened stir-fry sauces are wonderful options to pour over veggies, plant-based meats, mashed potatoes, and rice.