Ridiculously Good Vegetarian Mushroom Onion Gravy

This one might convert your carnivorous friends to vegetarianism. Or at least make them wonder why people usually use meat drippings to make gravy.

There’s a story behind this gravy. (Isn’t there always?) It began with loaf.

I never understood meatloaf. As a child I always wondered, if you were going to have formed meat product, why wasn’t it tasty Swedish meatballs or regular meatballs covered with spaghetti sauce? Maybe I never had a truly excellent meatloaf, but I suspect the range of meatloaf quality is just not that wide.

My interest in veggie loaf came from examples of such loaves I’d tasted before. Once I had veggie loaf at a brewpub in Lake Placid after skiing. My expectations were pretty low but I was surprised to find it actually tasted good. It had grains and veggies in it, like a good veggie burger, but moister. A revelation.

Since then I’ve tasted a few veggie loaves. At a bakery north of Montreal, I had a dense veggie loaf, filled with earthy and sweet flavors. It perhaps had some sprouted grains, beans, nuts, maybe even dried fruit. I could eat that every day on a sandwich.

How hard could a veggie loaf be? Well, not terribly hard, from the recipes I saw online, but there were a gazillion variations. Apparently you could use various beans or not, nuts or seeds or not, grains–yes, veggies or not…No one recipe was satisfying to me. One had bulgur wheat in it which I don’t like, another had some bean I didn’t want to use, yet another had weird seasonings. A few recipes disturbingly called for fake meat from a mix or crumbled up packaged veggie burgers. The whole point was to make a whole food.

As usual I was planning to decide on my own variety, but how would I know which items tasted good together? I bought all the ingredients I thought I might want in my loaf. But when I got home to face the recipes, I found myself completely flummoxed. Too many options. I made my vegetarian lentil Bolognese instead (recipe appearing here soon).

Wayne, meanwhile, felt free to make up his own recipe based on quinoa and a few days later, he put his plan into action. I stayed out of the kitchen until the loaf was in the oven. Who knew what the loaf would be like, but I was going to make some veggie gravy to pour over his creation.

Unlike the loaf idea, I knew exactly what I wanted in a gravy—the deep oniony flavor of French Onion soup plus mushrooms and thickener. I couldn’t find any recipes at all that sounded like what I imagined. So this one I made up based on techniques for the soup that inspired it.

It came out so amazingly good, I made it again the next day to smother the loaf leftovers, and I am trying to figure out other things to pour it over. Ideas?


Vegetarian French Onion and Mushroom Gravy

(approximately 4 servings–enough to coat at least four large slabs of loaf, that is)

  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms (any kind)
  • 1/8 cup wine
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • pinch sage
  • 2-3 TBS flour
  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in your sauce pan. Brown the onions over medium heat, stirring and stirring and waiting until they’re practically chocolate brown.
  2. Pour in the veggie broth to deglaze the pan—in other words, use the broth to release all the flavor of the browned onions stuck to your pot.
  3. Dump in the mushrooms, wine, mustard powder and sage and simmer until the mushrooms are soft.
  4. Mix the flour with a little water in a small bowl before adding to the pot. Three tablespoons flour plus bubbling on the stove made the gravy quite thick.


  1. But what about the veggie loaf from quinoa? I have had a really good one with nuts in it.

  2. Ah, yes, the loaf. Thanks for asking! Wayne is working on perfecting his recipe–I’ll post it when he’s satisfied:-). We’re both big fans of quinoa. What else besides nuts was in the loaf you had?

  3. What kind of wine?

  4. Really any decent wine will do. Julia Child uses a dry red or white in her French onion soup so I’d follow that advice, as this recipe was partially inspired by hers.

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