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

Appalachian Tomato Gravy 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

Appalachian Tomato Gravy

Appalachian Tomato Gravy

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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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

4 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

  2. I grew up eating tomato gravy. I still eat it today. My parents were from Johnston and Wilson County , NC. This is the first time I have encountered someone else that knows about tomato gravy. We also eat it with biscuts and fatback or a breakfast meat. We differ wth the receipe. We don’t put meat, sugar or cream in it.

    • Yeah, it’s not based on what I am used to but on recipes I found. Biscuit gravy for us was always some other type, even if it was on bread. Tomato gravy was not passed down through my family which go back to Mecklenburg county NC but rather did the sawmill gravy pretty much unless it was gravy made for something like beef or chicken. The sugar in this was to cut the acidity. It is good though. I can imagine making the type you know as well, as I like playing around with different versions of recipes. Thanks for stopping by to share your version! 🙂

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