Southern Tomato Gravy Recipe

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Fresh, hot tomato gravy is the best way to top off any meal! This viscous, bright red sauce is made with a smooth roux and simmered down to soak up the tangy tomato flavors and savory bacon fat. It’s thick, bold, and ready to go in just 20 minutes!

closeup: a plate of biscuits covered in tomato gravy with bacon

Old-fashioned tomato gravy is a versatile red sauce that’ll add a bit of Southern flair to almost any dish! 

I start with thick, crispy bacon and use that savory fat to make the roux for the gravy. I’d like to say it’s because that’s the “traditional” way… but the real reason why I do that is because it’s absolutely delicious! 

And, for the sake of flavor, I do veer away from the traditional method of using water as the gravy’s base. Instead, my Southern tomato gravy recipe is made with chicken stock — usually my own homemade stock.

overhead: ingredients needed for my Southern tomato gravy recipe

One question that a lot of people ask is if tomato gravy is supposed to be served with breakfast or with dinner. And the answer is both! It’s just as good on eggs and biscuits as it is spooned thick over some cheesy grits, meatloaf, and rice.

Tip From Kevin

Fresh Tomatoes

If you don’t have or want to use canned diced tomatoes, feel free to use fresh! I substitute the can for 3-4 roma tomatoes or regular of equal weight. Just dice them up with the juices and about 1/3 cup more chicken stock.

closeup: lifting a spoonful of tomato gravy out of the skillet

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

(Be sure to check the recipe card for a full list of ingredients and quantities)

  • Bacon – Use thick-cut bacon so that you have plenty of flavorful fat drippings in the skillet to make the tomato gravy. 
  • All-Purpose Flour You can make a roux with any flour. I use all-purpose, because I always have plenty sitting around, but you can easily substitute it with a gluten-free or other substitute that suits your own diet best. 
  • Chicken Stock – The liquid used as your base is really customizable. The traditional recipe is made with plain ol’ water. I use chicken stock or broth, but you could use beef stock or broth, or vegetable broth. Some recipes even use milk or cream instead for a very fatty, creamy gravy. The choice is yours! 
  • Diced Tomatoes Use diced, peeled tomatoes with plenty of liquid if you do go the store-bought route. My preferred brand is Hunts, but it’s entirely your choice. 
  • Salt & Pepper – Season as desired. I like to be light with other seasonings to enjoy the natural flavors in the sauce, but some other recipes include dried herbs as well — don’t be afraid to play around with other spices and seasonings!
side view closeup: a plate of biscuits with my Southern tomato gravy recipe on top

How to Make Tomato Gravy

  1. Slice the Bacon. Cut strips into roughly ½ inch pieces — they don’t need to be exactly the same size. 
  2. Render the Bacon. Add the bacon to your skillet and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove cooked bacon to crumble on finished gravy later. Leave the grease in the skillet.
  3. Make the Roux. Gradually add the flour to the skillet along with the bacon grease, whisking all the while. Cook until the flour browns and gives off a nutty aroma. 
  4. Add the Stock. Now, pour the chicken stock into the skillet, whisking until the mixture is smooth. 
  5. Add the Tomatoes, Thicken, & Season. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes longer, stirring regularly, until the sauce is nice and thick. Season to taste with more salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Serve hot, right out of the skillet with crumbled bacon on top over biscuits, eggs and grits.
  • Skillet A cast iron skillet is perfect for making homemade gravies, especially when you’re starting off by rendering meat to build those delicious pan drippings. 

Storing and Reheating

Store your homemade tomato gravy in the refrigerator. It will last for up to 5 days if kept refrigerated and is extremely easy to reheat. Just throw it back into a saucepan or skillet and warm over medium heat, stirring frequently.

And, if desired, it can be frozen for up to 6 months. You can reheat it from frozen or let it thaw overnight in the fridge for easier, quicker reheating the next day.

closeup: biscuits with tomato gravy and bacon on top

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is tomato gravy the same thing as red eye gravy?

Red eye gravy’s main ingredient isn’t tomato, nor is it bacon. It’s strong, black coffee! 

That coffee is cooked down in a skillet with pork fat, usually from a country ham, into a very unique, salty, and strong-tasting sauce. It’s almost exclusively served at breakfast time.

Where did the original Southern tomato gravy recipe originate?

In the heart of Appalachia! 

Plenty of regions claim to be the home of the original Southern tomato gravy recipe. What we do know is that it became popular as an alternative to milk and meats in homemade gravies during times of financial hardship.

It became popular because it was inexpensive, easy to make, and versatile — today it’s popular because it’s just so tasty!

Can I make tomato gravy with fresh tomatoes?

You can, but you’ll need to make some other changes to get the same viscosity and taste. 

The canned, diced Hunts tomatoes that I use for this Southern tomato gravy recipe contain some very useful, very delicious liquid that helps to build this gravy’s rich, acidic flavor. Additionally, the tomatoes themselves are peeled.

If using fresh tomatoes, peel them and compensate with a little more chicken stock — or plain water — to get the right consistency.

closeup: a plate of biscuits with my Southern tomato gravy recipe with bacon on top
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Southern Tomato Gravy Recipe

Tangy tomato gravy is a truly Southern recipe made with bacon fat, simmered until nice and thick, and served over meat, grits, or biscuits.
Servings: 8
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes



  • Cut the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces.
  • In a skillet over medium heat, render the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside, leaving the hot grease in skillet.
  • Whisk the flour into the hot bacon grease. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour just starts to brown and smells nutty.
  • Whisk in the chicken broth, stirring until smooth. Add the undrained tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook 3-5 minutes until thickened, stirring often. Season to taste.
  • Serve with crumbled bacon on top over biscuits, eggs and grits.


Calories: 158kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 403mg | Potassium: 206mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 73IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: breakfasts, Sauces
Cuisine: Southern
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): southern tomato gravy recipe


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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