Imagine a Sunday morning at home, the scent of sizzling bacon filling the air and the anticipation of a hearty Southern breakfast. As you gather your ingredients and step up to the stove, you find yourself pondering the secret to mastering the art of Southern sawmill gravy. In this article, we will uncover the key techniques and flavors necessary to create that velvety, rich gravy that perfectly complements biscuits, chicken-fried steak, and everything in between. Get ready to elevate your Southern breakfast experience to a whole new level of deliciousness.


To prepare the perfect Southern sawmill gravy, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Fat (such as bacon grease or butter)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Milk or buttermilk
  • Salt and pepper


To start making Southern sawmill gravy, you need to go through the four main steps:

1. Render the fat

In a skillet or a heavy-bottomed pan, melt the fat over medium heat until it’s fully rendered and achieves a liquid state. Popular options for fat include bacon grease, which adds a rich smoky flavor, or butter for a creamy and decadent taste. Make sure the fat is fully melted and heated before proceeding to the next step.

2. Add flour and make a roux

Once the fat is rendered, gradually add the all-purpose flour to the pan while stirring constantly. This process creates a roux, which serves as the base for the gravy. The flour should combine with the fat to form a smooth paste-like consistency. Keep stirring the mixture for a few minutes, allowing the flour to cook and the roux to develop a slightly golden color.

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3. Gradually add milk

Next, you’ll gradually add milk or buttermilk to the roux. The liquid should be added slowly while continuously whisking the mixture to avoid any lumps. By gradually incorporating the milk, you allow the roux to thicken and create a smooth and creamy texture. The amount of milk you add depends on the thickness you desire for your gravy. Remember that the gravy will continue to thicken as it cooks, so be mindful of the consistency you prefer.

4. Season with salt and pepper

To enhance the flavors of your Southern sawmill gravy, it’s essential to season it with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper to taste. Give it a good stir to ensure the seasonings are well distributed throughout the gravy. Adjust the seasoning according to your personal preference, keeping in mind that the gravy should have a well-balanced and savory taste.

Tips and variations

To take your Southern sawmill gravy to the next level, here are some tips and variations you can try:

Experiment with different fats

While bacon grease and butter are common choices for rendering the fat, don’t hesitate to experiment with other options. Some people opt for sausage drippings or even a combination of different fats to add unique flavors to their gravy. Feel free to get creative and explore different fat sources to find your preferred taste profile.

Use different types of flour

While all-purpose flour is the traditional choice for sawmill gravy, you can incorporate other types of flour to achieve different textures and flavors. Whole wheat flour can add a nutty taste, while cornmeal or rice flour can provide a gluten-free alternative. Experiment with different flours to see which one best suits your preferences.

Try adding spices and herbs

To add extra depth and complexity to your gravy, consider incorporating spices and herbs. Popular options include garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, or even a dash of cayenne pepper for a touch of heat. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations to find the perfect flavor profile that suits your taste buds.

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Make it spicy with hot sauce

For those who enjoy a kick of heat, you can spice up your Southern sawmill gravy by adding hot sauce. Whether it’s a classic Louisiana-style hot sauce or a homemade chili paste, a few splashes can transform your gravy into a spicy delight. Adjust the amount of hot sauce according to your heat tolerance, but be mindful not to overpower the other flavors in the dish.

Add cooked meat for extra flavor

To take your gravy to the next level, you can add cooked meat to infuse it with additional flavor. Crumbled bacon, cooked sausage, or diced ham are popular choices that complement the rich and savory profile of sawmill gravy. Simply incorporate the cooked meat into the gravy during the final stages of preparation, allowing it to warm through and release its delicious flavors.


Despite your best efforts, sometimes things may not go according to plan. Here are some common troubleshooting tips for the most encountered issues when making Southern sawmill gravy:

Gravy is too thin

If your gravy turns out too thin, there are a few ways to thicken it up. One option is to simmer the gravy over low heat for a bit longer, allowing the excess moisture to evaporate and the gravy to thicken naturally. Another option is to create a slurry by combining equal parts flour and cold water, then gradually adding it to the gravy while stirring constantly. This helps to thicken the gravy without altering the flavors.

Gravy is too thick

On the other hand, if your gravy becomes too thick, you can adjust the consistency by adding a small amount of milk or broth. Gradually incorporate the liquid while whisking until you achieve the desired thickness. If you prefer to maintain the flavor intensity, you can use the drippings from the dish you are serving the gravy with as the additional liquid.

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Gravy is lumpy

Lumps can be a common issue when making sawmill gravy, but don’t worry, they can be easily fixed. If you encounter lumps while adding the flour to the rendered fat, try whisking vigorously or using a fork to break them up. If lumps persist, strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve or use an immersion blender to smooth it out.

Serving suggestions

Now that you have mastered the art of Southern sawmill gravy, it’s time to explore the many delicious ways to enjoy it. Here are some serving suggestions to inspire your culinary adventures:

Serve over biscuits

One classic and beloved way to enjoy sawmill gravy is by pouring it generously over freshly baked biscuits. The tender and fluffy texture of the biscuits soaks up the creamy gravy, creating a mouthwatering breakfast or brunch indulgence. Whether homemade or store-bought, biscuits and sawmill gravy make a heavenly combination that will satisfy your taste buds.

Pair with fried chicken or country fried steak

Southern fried chicken or country fried steak are iconic dishes that perfectly complement sawmill gravy. The crispy and flavorful coating of the chicken or steak is a delightful contrast to the creamy and savory gravy. Drizzle the gravy over the crispy meat, and you’ll have a mouthwatering dish that will transport you straight to the heart of the South.

Use as a topping for mashed potatoes or rice

Sawmill gravy can liven up any side dish, and it’s particularly delicious when served as a topping for mashed potatoes or rice. The creamy gravy adds a comforting and rich element to these staples, transforming them into a satisfying and indulgent side accompaniment. Spoon the gravy generously over your mashed potatoes or rice, allowing it to seep into every bite.

Serve with scrambled eggs and bacon

For a hearty and classic breakfast, serve Southern sawmill gravy alongside scrambled eggs and crispy bacon. The creamy gravy pairs perfectly with the fluffy eggs, creating a comforting and satisfying morning meal. This combination is particularly popular in the South, where breakfast is cherished as one of the most important meals of the day.


Congratulations! You are now equipped with the knowledge and skills to prepare the perfect Southern sawmill gravy. Whether you prefer it poured over biscuits, paired with fried chicken, or served with scrambled eggs, this versatile and comforting dish will surely become a staple in your culinary repertoire. Remember to experiment with different fats, flours, and seasonings to customize the gravy to your personal taste. Enjoy the process, savor the flavors, and delight in sharing this Southern classic with family and friends. 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.