The Expert-Approved Ingredient That's A 'Game Changer' For Canned Sausage Gravy

Sausage gravy is a breakfast staple in the southern part of the United States. Poured over biscuits or mixed into grits, the creamy white gravy is loaded with black pepper and toothsome bits of ground sausage. Although it's made with no more than a handful of ingredients, when it's done right, sausage gravy is packed with ultra-savory flavor. That's why when canned sausage gravy misses the mark, Chef John Politte calls on a classic culinary ingredient to give it more of that homemade meaty taste.

"One ingredient that I believe is a game changer in canned sausage gravy is chicken base," the owner and executive chef at "It's Only Food" told Mashed in an exclusive interview. Although it is typically absent from the canned variety, chicken broth is a common addition to homemade sausage gravy. Not only does the broth punch up the flavor of the gravy, but it also works to improve the consistency, keeping it from getting too thick and gelatinous. Politte's sausage gravy recipe, however, uses chicken base, a much more concentrated version of chicken broth that you can find in paste, powder, or cube form. "The chicken base will give the gravy a bit of umami and a richer flavor," says Politte, "helping the gravy to not be so bland and taste like salt and paste."

Like bouillon, but better

Southern sausage gravy used to have a different recipe, which made use of cornmeal as a thickening agent. To achieve the unparalleled creaminess of most modern sausage gravies, however, milk is added to a roux, which is made by combining flour and fat from the cooked sausage and simmering it into a paste. When the two ingredients haven't had enough time to meld together, it often results in a gravy or soup with a flour-forward taste. Because this particular issue can't be corrected in store-bought gravy, the strong herbaceous notes of chicken base can work to overpower that pasty flavor.

Chicken base, which is a type of concentrated bouillon, can improve your canned sausage gravy instantly. In the same way you might use chicken powder in a soup, simply stir the chicken base into a small amount of hot water until it dissolves and slowly blend it into the warm gravy. If you don't want to risk making your gravy too thin, you might try adding the chicken base directly to the warm gravy without water, whisking the two together until completely blended. For more useful cooking tips like this, follow Chef John Politte's cooking show "It's Only Food" on YouTube.