Umami Gravy (Vegan)

umami gravy


This week, I had a chance to put on another fun healthy cooking event at the Foster City Public Library.  With Thanksgiving around the corner, I wanted to offer some new ideas for the holiday meal.  While there will be traditionalists out there who will say, “Leave Thanksgiving alone,” I figured there would be others, who like me, enjoy a little variety here and there.

Is Thanksgiving really the time to be thinking about healthy eating, you ask? As I say, everything in moderation– there’s nothing like a binge to create regrets the next day.  The holidays are not a time to try to lose weight.  However, a holiday meal also is not the Last Supper.

So, before we get to the gravy, I present you with a few healthy eating highlights from this week’s event, “Thanksgiving, Lighten Up!”


Healthy Holiday Eating– 5 Tips to Stay on Track and Enjoy Yourself

  1. don’t deprive yourself: if you would be sad not to have that bit of stuffing, cup of eggnog or that latke that reminds you of this time of year, have a taste, or a small portion. Complete deprivation may make you binge.
  1. pre-eat before going to those parties. Having a slightly full stomach won’t leave you as much room for gorging on those calorie-laden goodies.
  1. think before you drink: is that beverage worth it? You may wish to decide if you prefer your holiday calories in solid or liquid form. Some helpful figures to aid your decision:

pinot noir 5 oz, 121 cal

eggnog 8 oz, 343 cal

hot chocolate 8 oz, 222 cal

champagne, 89 cal

  1. keep up your fitness routine!
  1. don’t forget to sleep


As for the meal itself, here are some ideas on how to exchange flavor for fullness:

Holiday Menu Substitutions

canned cranberry sauce –> homemade cranberry sauce or relish

green bean casserole –> sautéed green beans with dukkah

sweet potato casserole –> roasted sweet potatoes with dukkah

mashed potatoes –> mashed cauliflower

turkey gravy –> vegan gravy


And this brings me to this week’s recipe, inspired by a patient and cooking student, who asked me for a recipe for vegetarian gravy.  At Thanksgiving, everyone deserves good gravy, and that includes your vegan friends. I had seen recipes over the years for vegetarian gravies, some of which looked pale and unappetizing, and others which could pass for a pan gravy.  I was up to the challenge, and after sifting through many recipes, came up with this recipe for a Portabella mushroom-based gravy.  This completely vegan gravy will compete with the best gravies out there, and you will not believe it contains no animal products.   In fact, my family has voted to make this our official gravy recipe for Thanksgiving.  The key to making this an unforgettably delicious gravy are the many umami-ful ingredients– the mushrooms, onions, red wine and soy sauce all play key roles in creating this gravy’s depth of flavor.

Thank you so much for coming by! If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join me at one of my healthy cooking classes.  You can find the updated event schedule at The Doctor’s Spicebox.  And if you’re on Facebook, please give me a “Like.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

*     *     *

Umami Gravy

Despite its rich flavor, it has 40% fewer calories compared to regular turkey gravy, 10% of the carbohydrates, and almost no fat.

Recipe inspired by “Everyone’s Mushroom Gravy” in Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate, Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.


Makes: 8 servings



2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely minced (1 cup)

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh sage leaves

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (1 stalk)

4 cloves minced garlic

8 oz baby portabella mushrooms, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock

3 tablespoons red wine

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari (which is gluten-free)

freshly ground black pepper to taste, 1/2 teaspoon or more



1) Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat for about a minute, until shimmery. Add onion, herbs and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, or until onion softens.

2) Add the mushrooms and salt, stir to distribute, and cover the pan. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and begin to release their juices.

3) Pour a cup of the vegetable stock into a bowl or mug and stir in cornstarch until dissolved. Set aside.

4) Pour the rest of the stock and the wine into the mushroom mixture and cook over medium heat, uncovered, until boiling. When it boils, slowly drizzle in the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium low.

5) Keep cooking, stirring very often, for another 10 minutes, until the mixture is glossy and gently thickened. Add soy sauce and stir. Then add black pepper to taste. Serve hot with turkey (or a vegetarian equivalent such as Tofurky or nut loaf) or mashed potatoes.


Nutrition Info

62 cal

5 g carbs

4 g fat

2 g protein

220 mg sodium

0 g sugar


3 responses

  1. Pingback: Healthy Thanksgiving: a Cornucopia of Vegan Sides | spicebox travels

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