Last updated on May 15th, 2023
Learn how to make sawmill gravy in minutes. Simple and easy to prepare, this creamy sausage gravy is a breakfast staple in the South.
Visit any breakfast spot below the Mason-Dixon line and more than likely whatever you order will come with a side of grits and gravy. Many Southern dishes are rooted in providing a filling meal without a lot of ingredients or money. Sawmill gravy is no exception.
What is sawmill gravy and why is it called that?
In its most basic form, sawmill gravy is a white cream gravy made from pan drippings (usually leftover grease from sausage or bacon), flour, and milk. Its origin dates back early American logging camps. Originally the gravy was made with cornmeal instead of flour. It was thick and course and the loggers used to accuse the cooks of substituting the cornmeal for sawdust.
You may be more familiar with its derivative – Southern sausage gravy – which has pieces of cooked breakfast sausage mixed in. It’s commonly served over biscuits. This dish, known as biscuits and gravy, is a Southern breakfast staple.
How to make sawmill gravy
If you can master biscuit making, then throwing together a creamy pan of gravy should be no problem. Drippings from a recently fried pan of breakfast sausage or bacon (I never said this was healthy) are preferred. Be sure to keep an eye on the gravy and stir, stir, stir. Once you add your liquid, it will begin to thicken rapidly.
Start by cooking ½ pound (8 ounces) of roll breakfast sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Break up sausage into pieces with a spoon and cook until it is no longer pink. Remove sausage from the skillet. Be sure to reserve 2-3 tablespoons of grease.
If there isn’t enough grease from the sausage, I’ll add a little bacon grease to the pan. I keep a jar of bacon grease in my fridge. Doesn’t everyone? If you don’t, that’s okay. Use some cooking oil instead.
Add three tablespoons of flour to the grease, one tablespoon at a time. Whisk between each addition to combine the flour with grease and remove any lumps. Cook for 2-3 minutes to remove any raw flour taste, but you don’t want your flour to brown.
Gradually add 1-1 ½ cups of milk, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken to desired consistency. I like to use whole milk for a creamier taste and texture, but skim or reduced fat milk will also work.
If the gravy starts to thicken too quickly, reduce the heat to medium low or low and add more milk, a little at a time, to thin it out. Stir the reserved sausage back into the pan.
I’ve received comments that there is too much sausage in the gravy shown in the picture. Y’all, this is how my family likes their gravy. If you don’t like that much sausage in your gravy, then by all means use less sausage. No need for drama.
Once you’ve added the sausage, season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste. The sausage itself is pretty salty, so you may not require much additional seasoning.
If you timed it right, your homemade buttermilk biscuits should be ready to come out of the oven just as you finish stirring the gravy. Pile a biscuit or two (or twelve) onto a plate, pour the hot gravy over top, and dig in.
How to store leftover sawmill gravy
Leftover sausage gravy needs to be refrigerated within two hours in a lidded, airtight container and eaten within four days. The gravy will continue to thicken, so you will likely need to thin it out by whisking in some additional milk as you reheat it.
Because sawmill gravy is cream-based, it does not freeze well. It will separate and become gritty.
- 1 pound pork sausage
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Break up sausage into pieces with a spoon and cook until it is no longer pink. Remove sausage from the skillet. Be sure to reserve any leftover grease.
- Add flour to the grease, one tablespoon at a time. Whisk between each addition to combine with grease and remove lumps. Reduce heat to medium.
- Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken to desired consistency.
- Stir sausage back into the pan.
- Season gravy with salt and pepper.
- Serve hot.
Just found this on pinterest!! Going to make it tonight. Breakfast for Dinner!! Mmmm
I am writing a book on American History for my ESL (English as a Second Language) History class. I am including sections on food. I have been searching the web about gravy today. I came across “sawmill gravy” and have read from several web sites. I am very familiar with Southern (U. S. A.) cooking and am a cook myself at times.
I like your recipe very much. It is the same as mine but I just call it cream gravy.
Everyone I have read is missing something about sawmill gravy. How did the word sawmill get into the name? I know. You have a good cream gravy recipe but you missed the key ingredient to make it “awmill”. My ancestors grew up in the tall timber and were lumberjacks. In a sawmill camp or sawmill town one thing that was missing was milk. No one had time to keep and milk a cow, hence, no milk for the gravy. Then Gail Borden came along with canned condensed milk. If you don’t use diluted canned condensed milk, instead of regular milk in your gravy, it is just white cream gravy.
One can put a lot of things in white gravy, including bulk sausage, bacon bits, onions and peppers (hot or mild). The basic recipe for white gravy should not include these things. There should be an add-ons follow-up. Some people quickly whip an egg into their gravy. That is a bad idea. If you put an egg in it, you should have “done gone and made a puddin’ ”; so put some sugar and vanilla extract in too.
I have a question? The lumberjacks ate cathead biscuits. Mamma just made very large biscuits (the size of a cat’s head), and called them cathead biscuits. Is that a cathead biscuit? I feel there should be more to it.
Sawmill gravy huh? You learn something new everyday! Here in Tx we always just called it “gravy” or “milk gravy” when it comes on chicken-fried steaks. Biscuit gravy just cries out for sausage! 😉
Love this too, thank you. I’ve always wanted to try this too. Looks great and I can’t wait to try it when I’m in need of some comforting food 🙂
Given that I was born and bred in the north, I’ve never really gotten on the biscuits and gravy bandwagon…but this looks so good that you might just have convinced me to hop on!
I keep bacon grease in the fridge just for this kind of thing. There are some recipes where a substitution just won’t work. I haven’t used it in ages though. I’m tempted to do it this weekend. Your biscuits and gravy look wonderful!
There is nothing better than biscuits and gravy! It is by far my favorite breakfast…I’m going to try your recipe! I never cook them on my own…I always order them in restaurants!
There are few things I love more than biscuits with crispy edges and soft Middlesbrough soaking up delicious gravy. Then I’m not doing anything the entire rest of the day as I recooperate.
this looks delightul and a far better offering than i would produce!
You’ve reminded me how good this is! I think it will be on the menu here this weekend. Yum….
I like to make enough biscuits to serve one with coffee after the gravy course, with honey butter…. What a perfect breakfast.
(minus all the fat & the calories & such!) 🙂