Today, you will discover a step-by-step guide to mastering the art of making an authentic and delicious classic Southern tomato gravy. Whether you are a seasoned cook looking to expand your culinary repertoire or a beginner eager to impress your taste buds, this article will provide you with all the necessary knowledge and techniques to create the perfect gravy. From selecting the freshest tomatoes to achieving that perfect balance of tanginess and richness, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to recreate this iconic Southern comfort food in your own kitchen. So, grab your apron, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get started on this flavorful culinary adventure.


To make classic Southern tomato gravy, you will need the following ingredients:

Canned tomatoes

Canned tomatoes serve as the base for this delicious gravy. They provide a rich and tangy flavor that is essential to the dish.

Bacon grease

Using bacon grease adds a depth of flavor and a smoky undertone to the tomato gravy. It adds that authentic Southern touch that truly elevates the dish.


Flour is used to create a roux, which helps thicken the gravy. It adds a smooth and velvety texture to the sauce.


Milk is the liquid component of the gravy that balances out the acidity of the tomatoes. It gives the gravy a creamy and rich consistency.

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Salt enhances the flavors of the other ingredients and brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.

Black pepper

Black pepper adds a subtle hint of heat and a touch of spiciness to the tomato gravy. It complements the flavors and adds depth to the dish.


A small amount of sugar is used to balance out the acidity and tanginess of the tomatoes. It helps to create a well-rounded and harmonious flavor profile.

Hot sauce

Hot sauce gives the tomato gravy a gentle kick and a hint of heat. It’s optional but recommended if you enjoy a bit of spiciness in your dishes.

Optional ingredients

You can enhance the flavor of your tomato gravy by adding some optional ingredients like onions, garlic, herbs, or spices. These additions can further customize the taste of your gravy according to your preferences.


Now that you have gathered all the necessary ingredients, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of making classic Southern tomato gravy:

Drain and chop the canned tomatoes

Start by draining the canned tomatoes to remove any excess liquid. Then, chop the tomatoes into small pieces. This step ensures that the tomatoes are a manageable size and will blend well into the gravy.

Render the bacon grease

Place the bacon grease in a large skillet or a saucepan over medium heat. Allow it to melt and become hot. When the bacon grease is sizzling and fragrant, you are ready to proceed to the next step.

Make a roux with flour and bacon grease

Gradually sprinkle the flour into the hot bacon grease, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the flour and bacon grease combine to form a smooth paste, known as a roux. The roux will thicken the gravy and add a rich flavor to it.

Gradually add milk

Slowly pour the milk into the skillet, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Continue whisking until the milk is fully incorporated into the roux and the mixture becomes smooth. This step ensures that the gravy has a creamy and velvety consistency.

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Season with salt, black pepper, sugar, and hot sauce

Add salt, black pepper, sugar, and hot sauce to the gravy. Start with small amounts and adjust to your taste preferences. Stir the seasonings into the gravy, making sure they are evenly distributed. Taste the gravy and add more seasoning if needed.

Simmer the gravy

Reduce the heat to low and let the gravy simmer gently. This simmering process allows the flavors to meld together and develop a delicious depth. Stir occasionally to prevent the gravy from sticking to the bottom of the skillet.

Adjust the consistency

If you find that your gravy is too thick, you can add a little more milk to thin it out. On the other hand, if it’s too thin, continue to simmer the gravy until it thickens to your desired consistency. Adjusting the consistency gives you control over the texture of the gravy.

Enhance flavor with optional ingredients

At this stage, you can add any optional ingredients you desire to enhance the flavor of your tomato gravy. Chopped onions, minced garlic, or a sprinkle of dried herbs can add an extra layer of deliciousness. Experiment with different combinations to find your perfect flavor profile.


After all the hard work of preparing the tomato gravy, it’s time to enjoy your creation. Tomato gravy is traditionally served with warm, flaky biscuits, creating a classic Southern combination that’s hard to resist. Spread the gravy generously over the biscuits, letting it seep into every nook and cranny. The result is a comforting and satisfying meal that brings the flavors of the South right to your plate.


To achieve the best results when making classic Southern tomato gravy, consider the following tips:

Choose high-quality canned tomatoes

Using high-quality canned tomatoes will ensure that your gravy has a robust and delicious flavor. Look for tomatoes that are ripe, packed in their juice, and have no added preservatives.

Use bacon grease for authentic flavor

While you can substitute other fats for bacon grease, using the real deal will give your tomato gravy that authentic Southern taste. The subtle smokiness and rich flavors of the bacon grease truly enhance the overall dish.

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Experiment with different types of milk

Feel free to experiment with different types of milk to find the one that suits your taste preferences. Whole milk provides a creamy and rich flavor, while skim milk offers a lighter consistency. You can even try using plant-based milk alternatives for a dairy-free option.

Adjust seasonings to personal taste

Seasonings are subjective, and everyone’s taste buds are different. Adjust the amount of salt, black pepper, sugar, and hot sauce according to your personal preferences. Taste the gravy as you go along and make any necessary adjustments.

Simmer the gravy to develop flavors

Don’t rush the simmering process. Allowing the gravy to simmer low and slow helps the flavors marry together and intensifies the taste. The longer you simmer, the richer and more flavorful your tomato gravy will become.

Store leftovers properly

If you happen to have any leftovers, ensure they are stored properly to maintain their freshness. Transfer the tomato gravy to an airtight container and refrigerate it. Consume within two to three days to ensure optimal taste and quality.


Now, let’s address some frequently asked questions about classic Southern tomato gravy:

Can I use fresh tomatoes instead of canned?

While canned tomatoes are traditionally used in Southern tomato gravy recipes, you can substitute fresh tomatoes if you prefer. However, keep in mind that fresh tomatoes might yield a slightly different flavor and consistency, so adjust the seasonings accordingly.

Can I make tomato gravy without bacon grease?

If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan version of tomato gravy, feel free to substitute the bacon grease with vegetable oil or plant-based alternatives. The gravy will still be delicious and flavorful.

What can I substitute for milk?

If you’re lactose intolerant or prefer non-dairy options, you can use almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk as a substitute. Keep in mind that the flavor and consistency of the gravy may vary slightly.

Can I make the gravy in advance?

Yes, you can make tomato gravy in advance. Simply cool the gravy completely and store it in the refrigerator. Reheat it gently on the stovetop when you’re ready to serve. Remember to adjust the seasoning if needed before serving.

How long does tomato gravy last?

Tomato gravy can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days. Make sure to check for any signs of spoilage before consuming leftovers. If you can’t finish the gravy within that time frame, it’s best to freeze it for longer-term storage.

Now that you have all the knowledge and steps at your disposal, go ahead and impress your family and friends with a delightful Southern tomato gravy. Happy cooking!

Jenny Jones

By Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones is a passionate culinary enthusiast hailing from the heart of the South. Born and raised in a small town known for its rich culinary traditions, she developed an unwavering love for Southern cooking from an early age.