Classic Red Eye Gravy Recipe

You've heard of a red eye flight, but how about red eye gravy? This southern breakfast classic is a simple way to give your biscuits a little extra flavor and a little extra jolt, and thanks to this simple red eye gravy recipe from food blogger and recipe developer Erin Johnson, you too can enjoy this simple and delicious gravy with your ham and biscuits or your breakfast food of choice. "This is so simple it's barely a recipe, and uses the coffee you're probably going to be drinking at breakfast anyway," Johnson says.

Wait, coffee? While the name "red eye" might seem to refer to the gravy's caffeinated character, legend has it that red eye gravy came to be called that because Andrew Jackson asked his hungover cook for gravy as red as his eyes, according to Atlas Obscura. Regardless of how red eye gravy got its name, it's extremely easy to make, tastes great, and the recipe requires a mere three ingredients. Let's get started!

Gather your ingredients for red eye gravy

To make this gravy, you'll need 8 ounces of strong black coffee, 1 country ham steak, and ½ teaspoon of brown sugar. "Brown sugar is the ingredient I like to add that isn't always typical, but it helps to cut the bitterness of the coffee and works well with the ham," Johnson says.

"This is not a typical gravy. It is very thin and more of a pan sauce," Johnson also notes. "If you want to add body, you can add some butter or thicken slightly with a slurry."

Fry the ham

Heat some cooking oil in a large skillet and fry the ham steak for 4 minutes on each side, or until it is browned and the fat is rendered. 

Make the gravy

Pour the coffee into the skillet. Stir the coffee into the rendered ham fat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet to remove all the fond, or caramelized leftover pieces of ham. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and stir it into the skillet until it is dissolved.

Serve the red eye gravy

And that's it! Your red eye gravy is done and ready to eat. "I serve this by pouring it directly onto the ham steak," Johnson says. "Alternatively, you can pour it over biscuits." This gravy should last up to 3 days in the refrigerator, and Johnson does not recommend freezing it.

Classic Red Eye Gravy Recipe
5 from 25 ratings
This red eye gravy is super easy to make, but it's sure to upgrade any breakfast.
Prep Time
Cook Time
breakfast with red eye gravy
Total time: 15 minutes
  • 1 country ham steak
  • 8 ounces black coffee
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  1. Heat a little bit of oil in a large skillet and fry the ham steak for 4 minutes per side, or until the ham is browned and the fat has rendered.
  2. Remove the ham and set it aside.
  3. Pour the coffee into the skillet, stir and scrape along the bottom to remove all the fond. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the brown sugar to the skillet and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Serve the gravy immediately, over the ham or over biscuits.
Calories per Serving 168
Total Fat 7.1 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 59.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 0.6 g
Dietary Fiber 0.0 g
Total Sugars 0.4 g
Sodium 2,292.0 mg
Protein 23.7 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe