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16 July 2021

This red eye gravy recipe is a favorite in the southern U.S., with strong black coffee simmered in the juices of cured country ham. Great with ham, biscuits and grits!

We’re making Red Eye Gravy in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends! If you’ve never had red eye gravy, you’re missing out. Red eye gravy is a staple in southern cooking.

It’s a thinner gravy made by simmering country ham drippings with black coffee and a few other simple ingredients, typically served over ham with buttermilk biscuits and creamy grits. You may know it by other names such as red ham gravy, poor man’s gravy or bottom sop.

There are slight variations of the recipe, depending on the region and the cook, but the basic combination includes cured ham drippings and strong black coffee. I like to include a touch of extra butter in my gravy for richness, along with a teaspoon or 2 of honey for a touch of sweet, cracked black pepper for a complimentary flavor, and red chili flake for a touch of spice.

It’s very easy to customize and also easy to make, and so perfect for a quick southern breakfast.

Let’s talk about how we make red eye gravy, shall we?

Pouring extra red eye gravy onto thin slices of country ham

Red Eye Gravy Ingredients

  • FOR THE COUNTRY HAM
  • Butter. 
  • Country Ham Slices.
  • FOR THE RED EYE GRAVY
  • Black Coffee.
  • Water.
  • Butter. Or you can use bacon grease.
  • Honey. Or you can use sugar, brown sugar, or molasses.
  • Salt and Cracked Black Pepper.

How to Make Red Eye Gravy – the Recipe Method

Warm the Country Ham. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a pan over medium heat and add the country ham slices. Heat a few minutes per side at medium-high heat to cook ham, flipping once. A cast iron skillet is great here. I love a good pan fry. Remove the ham slices and add to a serving platter.

Country Ham slices in a pan

Add the Coffee, Water and Butter. To the hot pan, add the black coffee, water and extra butter. Bring to a boil and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any flavorful browned bits.

Simmer the Red Eye Gravy. Reduce the heat and simmer 8-10 minutes, to thicken and reduce the red eye gravy by half or more. Stir in honey and cracked black pepper to taste. 

Red Eye Gravy in a pan, simmering

Serve It Up! Serve over the ham. I like to serve pan fried country ham with red eye gravy with creamy grits and/or buttermilk biscuits.

Pouring Red Eye Gravy over slices of country ham

Boom! Done! Red eye gravy is pretty easy to make, isn’t it? Super simple, and huge on flavor. I like to sprinkle on some spicy red chili flakes because, hey, I like everything with a touch of heat and spice. Give it a go!

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Country Ham. You can find country ham steaks in most grocery stores in the southern U.S. They may be a bit harder to find in the northern regions. 
  • The Coffee. Strong black brewed coffee is traditional for making red eye gravy, though you can use your favorite coffee blend. I would avoid a highly flavored coffee. Go with black for the best results.
  • The Gravy. Red eye gravy is a thin sauce, not like a traditional gravy. I like to adjust mine a bit with extra butter and honey. You can thicken your gravy with flour if you’d like, but this is not traditional. To do so, simply mix a few tablespoons of the gravy in a small cup or bowl and add flour (1 teaspoon). Whisk it until there are no lumps, then simmer the mixture with the gravy in the pan, whisking constantly, until the gravy thickens up to your liking.

Country ham served up with red eye gravy and buttermilk biscuits

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy your red eye gravy recipe. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. Great stuff!

Sopping up Red Eye Gravy with a fluffy biscuit

Cookbook Recommendation

If you’re interested in southern cooking and cuisine, check out these cookbook for some great southern recipes and history. I’m learning quite a lot about southern food and barbecue from them. Definitely some great eating!

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Country ham on a plate with Red Eye Gravy

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Red Eye Gravy Recipe
Print Recipe
4.58 from 7 votes

Red Eye Gravy Recipe

This red eye gravy recipe is a favorite in the southern U.S., with strong black coffee simmered in the juices of cured country ham. Great with ham, biscuits and grits!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: coffee, gravy, southern
Servings: 4
Calories: 56kcal

Ingredients

FOR THE COUNTRY HAM

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Country Ham Slices 12 ounces or more as desired

FOR THE RED EYE GRAVY

  • 1/2 cup black coffee
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter or more as desired - you can also use bacon grease.
  • 1 teaspoon honey optional, for a touch of sweetness - you can also use sugar, brown sugar or molasses.
  • Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan and add the country ham slices. Heat a few minutes to warm them through, flipping once. Remove and add to a serving platter.
  • To the hot pan, add the black coffee, water and extra butter. Bring to a boil and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any flavorful bits.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer 8-10 minutes, to thicken and reduce the red eye gravy by half or more. Stir in honey and cracked black pepper to taste.
  • Serve over the ham. I like to serve country ham with red eye gravy with creamy grits and/or buttermilk biscuits.

Video

Notes

Serves 4.
Country ham is quite salty, so keep that in mind when seasoning your red eye gravy.

Nutrition

Calories: 56kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 51mg | Potassium: 15mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 175IU

NOTE: This recipe was updated on 7/16/21 to include new photos, video and information. It was originally published on 8/24/20.