Famous Red Eye Gravy Recipe


Red eye gravy recipe is a simple and tasty sauce that’s so easy to make! It can make your ordinary ham dish tasty and epic.

An American version of a British recipe, redeye gravy is made with bacon drippings, flour, water and coffee. To make gravy in the traditional way, bacon must be fried in a cast iron skillet until crispy.

After removing the meat, pour the fat from the pan (adding whatever scraps remain to the mix). Sprinkle flour over the grease and cook until a dark brown roux is achieved. Slowly whisk in hot water to achieve a desired viscosity. Finally, add any salt or cayenne pepper.

Origins of Red Eye Gravy

Red-eye gravy is named following its distinct red-colored appearance. Traditionally it’s made with coffee and grease of some sort (oil, butter or lard). The mixture or rather gumbo will form a heterogeneous consistency, with the coffee sinking to the bottom and the oil at the top resembling an eyeball.

The eye has been said to be resembling that of Andrew Jackson (or Andy Jack himself), who was rumored to eat a meal ever so often consisting of ham served atop gravy. Depending on how you see it, this dish may seem very gruesome (on purpose!) but all we’re saying for sure is that eating this dish won’t keep us up all night long! We hope!

Country Ham

Country ham is a type of ham that has been dry-cured with salt and preservatives over a long period of time. The curing process and appearance are similar to prosciutto.

country ham smoked
Country Ham smoked

A country ham ranges in color from pink to red, depending on how long it was cured. If you want to try this southern find, head south or find it online! Once purchased, uncooked country ham can be refrigerated for up to three months or frozen for up to one month. After it is cooked, you can refrigerate the leftovers for up to seven days.

Check out this Country Ham recipe


A nice fatty piece of ham is a great choice and will contribute flavorful fat drippings that will help you achieve the perfect blend of flavors.

When you have a leaner ham, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter or lard to the pan and melt the lard over medium-high heat.

If you find the gravy a bit too bitter or sour (from the coffee), add about one tablespoon of chicken broth and then a pinch of sugar to mellow out the flavors.

Also, when making a Southern ham biscuit sandwich, it’s common for diners to dip the biscuit’s cut sides into red-eye gravy before assembling their sandwiches. Some people enjoy mixing red-eye gravy with mustard while others prefer just having it on top of their biscuits.

How to Serve

Serve the red eye gravy on top of some corn grits or over a piece of cheese grits. If you want to spice it up, add some fried eggs onto your plate alongside. This will most certainly warm you up from the inside out when the temperature drops in the winter!

Looking for a little homemade winter treat? Cut open a biscuit and dip its insides quickly into this heavenly country ham gravy. Add jam and BOOM – if you wanted to use that as a dinner or start off your day with some “sweet” tea (tea sweetened with sugar instead of having sugar added to make it less bitter), then you now have both comfort food and dessert served all in one tantalizing bite!

Country Ham and Red Eye Gravy
Soul food breakfast of salt cured country ham with red eye gravy and biscuits.


Where Does it Come From?

The famous red-eye gravy is often seen in Southern regional cuisine. Apart from Southern fried chicken, this tasty gravy is also an icon in a Southern kitchen.

What Are Some Other Names?

Red-eye gravy goes by other names. It’s also referred to as poor man’s gravy, bird’s eye gravy, and red ham gravy, among others. Why is it called that? Well, it got its name from its appearance. When redeemed, the gravy forms a reddish circle of fat. 

Is it Healthy?

This sauce can be decadent and rich in fat despite its thin consistency. If you’re watching your blood pressure, consume with caution.

What is the Difference Between Red Eye and Sawmill Gravy?

Sawmill Gravy comes from milk, flour and pork drippings or pieces (like pieces of pork), while Red Eye gravy is made by adding country ham, black coffee and some other seasonings.

Famous Red-Eye Gravy Recipe
Nothing can be simpler than making a red-eye gravy sauce. You just need two ingredients - strong black coffee and country ham!
  • Ham - The quality of ham dramatically affects the taste of the gravy. Therefore, it’s best to use high-quality ham.
  • Coffee - As for the coffee, it depends on your preference. Go for a nice, strong coffee if you want that caffeine kick. Otherwise, you can choose a medium roast one for subtle coffee flavor.
  1. It's quite simple to whip up this tasty gravy!
  2. First off, grab a skillet and fry a slice of country ham over medium heat. Wait for the ham to turn brown (but don't burn it!). You should be able to see beautiful brown crisps on the sides.
  3. Remove the ham from the skillet, leaving the ham drippings on the pan. Add the ½ cup of black coffee to the ham drippings.
  4. Deglaze by scraping the sides of the pan to get those crusty ham grits.
  5. Serve over the ham, and devour!

Below is a video which illustrates a similar recipe to the above.

Where Can I Try This Gravy?

Here is a couple of places that are known for amazing Red Eye Gravy

Biscuit Heads


Husband and wife team Jason and Carolyn Roy opened Biscuit Head in Asheville NC to spread their love of southern cooking, travel, and local ingredients. The restaurant has been packed since day one and was praised by Bon Appetit, the New York Times, Food & Wine, USA Today, Garden & Gun, Paste and Eater.com. As of July 2015 there are three additional locations: Asheville NC, Greenville SC. Each location strives to have as light a carbon footprint as possible and regularly participates in charitable events.

Big Eds


Big Ed’s Restaurant is locally owned and has been for over 50+ years starting in 1958 by Big Ed Watkins and family. Because of this, they take pride in being an independently-owned business by the Raleigh community. It was here where Big Ed developed the original recipes his restaurant has been known to serve up in conjunction with his mom’s cooking! Now offering 3 locations, you can find them Downtown at City Market, Brier Creek Shopping Center (with Starbuck’s), or Midtown on Atlantic Avenue now open 7 days a week from 5am – 10pm!

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About The Author

In my kitchen lie my late grandmother's recipe books that have been covered with dust for too long. It's time to open these books and discover tasty food from a simpler life. I'd love for you to join me as I add to this collection some tried and true recipes from my grandmother's recipe books.

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