Appalachian Tomato Gravy

One of the secrets of the Appalachian South  is a traditional tomato gravy often served over biscuits for breakfast or over meats, potatoes and rice at other meals.
Appalachian Tomato Gravy

Appalachian Tomato Gravy

By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime

The Ready Set Cook cooking challenge is being continued in one of my cooking groups, and in this second part, I am posting this recipe for Appalachian Tomato Gravy for the condiments/sauces/gravy recipes.

Now this is not the kind of tomato  gravy you might expect for Italian gravy (as they call it Sunday Gravy, although many Italians disagree on the use of the word). This is more Southern Appalachian in nature, and definitely IS what you call a gravy.

It is a favorite for having at breakfast, especially on biscuits. Now even though my family is southern, I don’t recall having tomato gravy on biscuits. However, Daddy used to like making gravy bread, where we would put brown gravy over slices of soft pullman loaf. I loved that.

It really does come from a time when times were harder and we had to make do, especially if Daddy was laid-off when the union was on strike. And he came from depression-era Kentucky, and knew lots of things to eat when the going got tough. I am sure most families ate plenty of tomato sandwiches. Every family I knew grew  tomatoes, and when the weather got hot, we had them coming out of our ears. And what we couldn’t  eat right away, was put up in jars or went into the freezer.

I have had tomato gravy on meat loaf plenty of times. And loved it. Especially if there were little bits of green pepper added to that one. This particular version is best served over biscuits or on top of things like rice, pan-fried pork chops, or meat loaf. Although you can tweak the recipe to be more destination specific, like the bits of green pepper for meat loaf.

I have added ham to this, since I can, but if I were in dire straights looking to economize, I could easily leave that out and make a meal out of that with biscuits or rice. If I had to be self-sufficient, it might be the order of the day, using tons of garden tomatoes either fresh in-season or ones I put up from the year before in canning jars. But especially as a breakfast version, the ham makes it more substantial. Or you could add pork sausage or bacon instead- but being RSC, I have ingredient constraints. Otherwise I might have used a bit of milk instead of cream as well, and scaled back that water I added.
Appalachian Tomato Gravy

Another year, another #RSC

If you recall, a couple weeks ago I told you about #RSC, in that I have been presented with a limited list of cooking ingredients and am confined to that to develop recipes. It’s sort of like a chopped basket.

Here are links to the recipes I created a couple of weeks ago in Round One:

Curried Chicken Lollipops

Vodka Paloma

Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Soup

Wild Rice and Mushroom Cabbage Rolls

My Curried Chicken Lollipops appear to be the most well received, although  I like them all. I think the ease of that recipe made it popular.

And earlier in the week, I posted my first RSC recipe for Round 2 in the desserts category:

Blueberry Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am also hoping to get recipes up for the main dish and breakfast categories before Tuesday, so watch for them.

Also, for those who have followed me online over the years, here is one of the recipes I put in for the first RSC on Recipezaar back in 2002. It won.

Santa Fe Pork Medallions with Peach Salsa

Here is another recipe that won in  a RSC a different year, and also in a CSM contest:

Strawberry Sweetheart Streusel Muffins

I also have had second and third place winners (I played whenever I could) but I don’t recall them all. I’ve been posting for over 15 years and the line of recipes goes back beyond easy memory.  I’d have to take the old brain and think  on it. 😉
Appalachian Tomato Gravy

#RSC Round Two

For the second round, the ingredients and courses have changed from round one. The object is to select a course, and create a recipe using one of the main ingredients and anything from the pantry list but nothing else. I wonder…what would you have made with these?

Round 2 – Theme – Spring – Categories :

  • Breakfast/Brunch 
  • Main Dishes 
  • Desserts/Sweets
  • Condiments/Sauces/Gravy

Round 2 –  Main Ingredients List   

  • Yellow cornmeal
  • Fresh papaya
  • Heavy cream
  • Ham
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Berries/ blueberries/raspberries/blackberries/strawberries/cranberries
  • Garlic
  • Herbs/fresh – mint/cilantro/parsley/chives
  • Chocolate
  • Instant vanilla pudding
  • Tart cherries

Round 2 – Pantry List

  • Soy sauce
  • Chicken /vegetable broth
  • Tomato sauce
  • Tortillas
  • Vegetables (tomatoes allowed as a pseudo-veg)
  • Nuts
  • Pineapple
  • Old-fashioned oats
  • Honey
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Bananas
  • Baking soda
  • Flour/ white/brown/baking/rice/potato/corn
  • Applesauce
  • Vanilla extract
  • Bisquick
  • Sugar/ white/icing/brown/yellow 
  • Baking powder
  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • Plain gelatin
  • Liqueurs
  • Vinegar 
  • Certo – (thickener for jam/jelly) 
  • Hot Sauce 
  • Ginger/ nutmeg/cinnamon/all spice/mace/cardamom/star anise/coriander/fennel/caraway/anise seeds 
  • Beef 
  • Sour cream/ creme fraiche/thick yogurt 
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Appalachian Tomato Gravy

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Appalachian Tomato Gravy
Yield: 6 cups tomato gravy


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces finely diced ham
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 (15 ounces each) cans crushed tomatoes


  1. Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet; add the onion and garlic, cooking until slightly soft before adding the ham, salt, pepper and sugar.
  2. Let the ham get a little bit browned, then stir in the flour to coat.
  3. Add the chicken broth  and water, and stir over low heat until it thickens, then stir in the cream and crushed tomatoes, continuing to stir until the gravy is hot.
  4. Serve over split biscuits, rice, pork chops, mashed potatoes, meat loaf, whatever you like.

From the kitchen of

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Appalachian Tomato Gravy


2 responses

  1. Wow, was this tasty. We loved it. Served over your mouth watering, tender buttermilk biscuits. Not a word was spoken until all the food disappeared. Seriously good stuff Sue. It was quick and easy to make with wonderful results. It reminds me a little of dad’s Hunter Sauce, but better. Great use of game ingredients. I am so enjoying your recipes, thanks for playing. Made for RSC – 2018

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