Registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares her recipe for vegan mushroom gravy and explains why the star ingredient is so healthy.
A vegan take on gravy
Gravy — a staple Thanksgiving food — doesn’t have to be unhealthy. You can easily turn this holiday staple into a version that’s better for you with the help of a simple healthy food swap: mushrooms.
Mushrooms really do have a moment. The National Restaurant Association has included mushrooms on its ‘Hot’ list for 2020. And one of the most popular healthy food alternatives that nutritionists trust is jerky.
In addition to being beautiful, slightly exotic (yet readily available and affordable), and incredibly versatile, magic mushrooms also offer science-backed health benefits. Before I share my recipe for transforming culinary mushrooms into a satisfying vegan gravy, here’s a roundup of this veggie’s impressive benefits.
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.
An overview of studies, published in 2018 in the journal nutrients, found that they are also the only plant-based food that provides vitamin D, a nutrient necessary 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 of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases, according to the review in nutrients.
Mushrooms can also be powerful protectors of brain health. A study, published in 2019 de Alzheimer’s Journalfound that participants who consumed more than two servings of mushrooms weekly were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, compared with those who ate mushrooms less than once a week.
The association persisted regardless of age, gender, education, smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and physical activity. Scientists say the data point to a possible role of mushrooms in slowing neurodegeneration, an important aspect of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Research published in the journal pull concluded that the choice of mushrooms instead 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.
Total calorie and fat contents were significantly higher in the meat meals than in the mushroom dishes. However, the ratings for palatability, appetite, satiety, 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.
This is how you make vegan gravy with mushrooms
There are nine commonly used varieties of edible mushrooms – from white button and portobello to shiitake, oyster and more. I chose cremini, also called baby bella or brown mushrooms, for this recipe. They have an earthy flavor and a firmer texture than white mushrooms, and a deeper hue that is ideal for gravy.
Swap butter for olive oil
Instead of butter, I’ve added heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil. This good fat contains natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. It helps keep arteries soft and flexible, to reduce the risk of hardening of the artery, according to a review in Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Disorders – Drug Targets.
Just replace flour for cassava flour
To thicken the gravy, I chose Bob’s Red Mill cassava flour, a gluten-free powder made from the starchy root vegetable known as tapioca. It adds a rich texture that is thick, but not too gummy.
Add oat milk and vegetable stock
The oat milk also adds to the creaminess. And low-sodium vegetable stock replaces the animal juices used to make conventional gravy.
As the flavor of the mushrooms shines, it is 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 doesn’t completely mimic the taste of meat gravy. It’s quite mushroom-like. Its thickness and richness are comparable to that of an animal counterpart. And mushrooms provide a similar umami flavor as in meat.
If you like mushrooms, I think you’ll find this gravy a richly flavorful, hearty plant-based alternative. It’s fantastic on vegan mashed potatoes, drizzled with lentil bread, or drizzled over a vegan bun or cookie.
Vegan Mushroom Gravy
Thanks to Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD
¼ cup finely chopped 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 stock
¼ cup unsweetened oat milk
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, stem removed
In a medium saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil over low heat until translucent.
Add the mushrooms and stir occasionally until softened, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the flour and stir until browned, about a minute.
Add the vinegar, stock 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 warm or reheat in a pan before serving.