The Ingredient That Will Change Your Sausage Gravy Forever

There may be no savory breakfast more synonymous with the American South than biscuits and gravy. Whether flaky or crumbly, homemade biscuits smothered in rich, creamy gravy that's studded with healthy hunks of pork sausage is a morning hug in food form.

The decadent start to the day, now enjoyed in traditional as well as elevated formats by brunchers across the country, has a humble background. According to the Washington Post, the Southern staple was started in Appalachia in the 1800s and served as a means for loggers to load up on calories for the long day ahead. Additionally, the meal was cost efficient, making it ideal for those not flush with cash.

Now, sausage gravy is a go-to for many as a means of serving a crowd (or a hungry household), and plenty of new twists on the time-tested traditional sausage gravy recipe have emerged. As Alton Brown notes in his gravy recipe, sausage gravy is essentially béchamel, one of the five "mother" sauces, with the simple addition of pork sausage. Using that base, any home cook can create a riff on the old favorite, from a basic rendition to fancier versions like spiced-up jalapeño biscuits with chorizo gravy or Italian-style polenta biscuits with sausage gravy that incorporates sage and crushed red pepper.

However, there's one super simple trick to elevating sausage gravy that costs little but packs a punch.

Adding heat to your sausage gravy

There are myriad methods to add heat to sausage gravy, but none will brighten and spice it as easily as adding a can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies (via MyRecipes). The acidity of the tomatoes shines against the backdrop of the silky sauce's cream and fat, imparted from the dairy and pork. Meanwhile, the chilies add a zesty element of heat that plain pepper just can't deliver. As an added bonus, the cost of a can of Ro-Tel, even in the most trying economic times, is fairly low, keeping in line with the history of this frugal breakfast feast.

Options abound, too, when adding Ro-Tel to your sausage gravy. For those who are spice-sensitive, the mild or original version may work well while the hot style is the way to go for heat-seekers. Ro-Tel's fire-roasted version can also lend a whole new element of earthy flavor.

You can stick with tradition and serve up your sausage gravy over traditional Southern biscuits, but there is also no limit to the canvases that can lay as the foundation to your newly spiced-up sausage gravy. Try topping scrambled eggs, grits (another Southern staple), eggs Benedict, or even thick fried green tomatoes with this spicy sauce.