The Vegan Gravy Train

The Grit in Athens, GA has remained a major favorite for locals and visitors alike over decades and as a teen from ATL, I fell in deep amour with their strong savory plates and selection of pies. Whenever we travelled to the Southern college town just an hour or so east from Atlanta, we had to stop in for a meal. Located in an old brick building owned by Michael Stipe, The Grit introduced me to my absolutely favorite vegetarian comfort meal, the Golden Bowl: warming, filling and perfect for colder nights. Crispy tofu and broccoli, seasoned to the nines over rice, the Golden Bowl was distinctively its own with a lather of tasty nutritional yeast gravy a-top. Grit’s Golden Bowl is not just delicious but in perfect link with a fondness for Athens, GA in general. The documentary Athens, GA: Inside/Out is an incredible glimpse at the past music scene of this college town, especially for those interested in seeing The B-52’s in their earlier days. In my older age, I have embraced more R.E.M., appreciating the earnest countryside drive + ache the gay Athens-ian angel Stipe made in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It also features interviews with the great folk artist, Howard Finster (ant art piece featured above).

Not living in Athens, we would only occasionally trek out to go see Glass Candy or Sleater-Kinney shows, in need of a double dose of music with a side of vintage shopping and definitely a Golden Bowl lunch. Luckily, we got our hands on The Grit Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes and have periodically been making this dish at home for a solid 15 years. With “Friendsgiving” and Winter holidays upcoming, vegan relatives and those with sensitivities can happily enjoy a smattering of Goddess send Golden Bowl gravy. Hallelujah, my happy experiment in whipping up a vegan gluten-free version was merry-met with almost exact similarity to its original! Just make sure you have your whisk arm ready. You will be whisking the entire time and this act is very important for your gravy’s smoothness and success.

It’s quite a simple and quick recipe, but takes some attention and a bit of a sweet short symposium over the stove. This savory gravy goes great with mashed potatoes, biscuits, rice, stuffing, meats. I prefer almond flour and almond milk for a GF version, not just because this is what I primarily have on hand day-to-day, but due to their slight nutty flavors that compliment the mixture of ingredients. 

  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine (or 1 stick regular butter, if preferred)
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour OR gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast 
  • 1 cup UNSWEETENED soy, oat or almond milk
  • 1/4 cup soy OR tamari sauce
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire substitute (optional)
  1. Heat margarine in a saucepan til melted, then add flour and yeast. Using a whisk, blend until a roux forms and starts to bubble on medium heat. Keep whisking for a couple of minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken. 
  2. While still mixing, add milk little by little. The trick is to consistently whisk until smooth.
  3. Add soy sauce, worcestershire and hot water while still whisking on low heat. 
  4. Adjust levels. If too watery, add a little more flour, too thick, add a little more milk. For taste, you can simply adjust by adding slightly more nutritional yeast or sauces. I like to sprinkle a little black pepper and Spanish paprika as well for extra seasoning. 

The tofu for the Golden Bowl dish itself is very easy for those interested in trying the whole she-bang. Just cut up extra-firm tofu into cubes and sauté in a lightly oiled pan on high heat til golden brown, add soy sauce to taste. Remove tofu and coat the rinsed (or new) pan with new oil to further brown, add tofu again with more nutritional yeast to bring to a further crisp, making sure to evenly coat tofu with nutritional yeast fully until outsides resemble a toasted “fried” texture.

This recipe is included in our Concoctionary cookbook e-zine, available on Etsy and now “pay what you can” on Ko-fi. All 2021 sales are donated to Nourish Botanica, a Black-owned greenhouse eatery in Southeast ATL, soon to open in Spring of 2022.  

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