A Vegan Mushroom Gravy this Nutritionist Loves

Registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares her recipe for vegan mushroom gravy, and explains why its star ingredient is so healthy.

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A vegan take on gravy

Gravy—a key Thanksgiving food item—doesn’t have to be unhealthy. You can easily turn this holiday staple into a better-for-you version with the help of a simple healthy food swap: mushrooms.

Mushrooms really are having a moment. The National Restaurant Association included mushrooms on its “Hot” list for 2020. And one of the most popular healthy food alternatives that nutritionists trust is mushroom jerky.

In addition to being gorgeous, slightly exotic (but readily available and affordable), and incredibly versatile, shrooms also boast science-backed health benefits. Before I share my recipe for how to transform culinary mushrooms into a satisfying vegan gravy, here’s a summary of this veggie’s impressive perks.

Nutrition of mushrooms

Mushrooms are fall superfoods thanks to their rich anti-inflammatory components, as well as antioxidants, vitamins, and biometals, according to research published in the journal Food Chemistry.

A review of studies, published in 2018 in the journal Nutrients, found that they’re also the only plant food that provides vitamin D, a nutrient needed for bone density, muscle function, and immune health. An adequate intake of vitamin D through vitamin D-rich foods is also linked to a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases, per the review in Nutrients.

Mushrooms may also be potent protectors of brain health. A study, published in 2019 the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that participants who consumed more than two portions of mushrooms weekly had reduced odds of developing mild cognitive impairment, compared to those who ate mushrooms less than once a week.

The association held true regardless of age, gender, education, smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and physical activity. Scientists say the data indicate a potential role of mushrooms in delaying neurodegeneration, a key aspect of diseases that include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Research published in the journal Appetite concluded that opting for mushrooms in place of meat may also play a role in weight regulation. Over two weeks, people ate eight test lunches in a lab, which contained either mushrooms or beef.

The total calorie and fat levels were significantly greater in the meat meals compared to the mushroom dishes. However, the ratings for palatability, appetite, satiation, and satiety did not differ significantly between the two options.

Scientists say the results show that trading meat for mushrooms as a plant-based meat alternative can be an effective weight management strategy.

How to make vegan gravy with mushrooms

There are nine commonly consumed edible mushroom varieties—from white button and portobello to shiitake, oyster, and more. I chose cremini for this recipe, also referred to as baby bella or brown mushrooms. They have an earthier flavor and firmer texture than white mushrooms, and a deeper hue that’s ideal for gravy.

Swap butter for olive oil

In place of butter, I included heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil. This good fat contains natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It helps keep arteries soft and flexible, to reduce the risk of artery hardening, according to a review in Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders – Drug Targets.

Swap regular flour for cassava flour

To thicken the gravy, I opted for Bob’s Red Mill cassava flour, a gluten-free powder made from the starchy root vegetable also known as tapioca. It adds a rich texture that’s thick, but not too gummy.

Add oat milk and veggie broth

The oat milk also adds to the creaminess. And low-sodium veggie broth replaces the animal-derived juices that are used to make conventional gravy.

While the flavor of the mushrooms shines though, it’s complemented by the slight tartness of the vinegar, as well as the salt and pepper, and the sharp, woody thyme. To be clear, this recipe does not completely mimic meat-based gravy in flavor. It’s quite mushroomy. Its thickness and richness are on par with an animal-based counterpart. And mushrooms provide a similar umami taste found in meat.

If you enjoy mushrooms, I think you’ll find this gravy to be a richly flavorful, hearty plant-based alternative. It’s fantastic on vegan mashed potatoes, drizzled over lentil loaf, or sopped up with a vegan roll or biscuit.

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

vegan mushroom gravyCourtesy Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD

Ingredients:

¼ cup minced yellow onion

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons cassava flour

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

¼ cup unsweetened oat milk

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, removed from stem

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan over low heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent.

Add the mushrooms and stir occasionally until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the flour and stir until browned, about one minute.

Add the vinegar, broth, and oat milk and simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir in the thyme leaves. Transfer to a small food processor and blend until smooth. Serve hot or reheat in a saucepan before serving.

Sources

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RDN, CSSD
Cynthia Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, writer, recipe developer, and practitioner, with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. One of the first registered dietitians to become a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, she has consulted for five professional sports teams in the NBA, NHL, and MLB. In her private practice Sass counsels a wide range of clients. She has worked with Oscar, Grammy, and Emmy winners, professional athletes across a variety of sports, Fortune 500 CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and many other high-performance people. She is also the nutrition consultant for UCLA's Executive Health Program. Sass has appeared on numerous national TV shows, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, The Martha Stewart Show, The Dr. Oz. Show, The Biggest Loser, Nightline, and many others. In addition to her degrees, Sass has formal training in plant-based, organic culinary arts and mindfulness meditation. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist and is working toward certification through the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy. She specializes in high performance nutrition and plant-based eating, and is based in Los Angeles.

Visit her website: Cynthia Sass.