Red Eye Gravy

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Classic Southern Red Eye Gravy is made with just 2 ingredients – coffee and ham drippings. It’s great served with ham, grits, and biscuits.

Red eye gravy poured over ham on plate.

As a true Southern girl, born and raised in North Carolina, my heart is with Southern cooking. Red eye gravy is as Southern as it gets here in the U.S.

My grandma taught me how to make this because it was what she grew up on. Her mom made it for the family during the great depression. During that time families had to work with limited ingredients and fat was the fuel to keep people going.

Red eye gravy is nothing more than the fat from cooked ham deglazed in a skillet with strong coffee. It’s wonderful over grits and ham served alongside a biscuit.

Unlike traditional country gravy or sausage gravy, Red eye doesn’t call for a roux. It’s quite thin and liquidy instead of being what you’d consider gravy-like.

Why This Recipe Works

  • It’s simple and requires only 2 ingredients.
  • I’ve seen some recipes sweeten the gravy with honey, brown sugar, or molasses. These are not traditional recipes. We are sticking to the roots here!
Ham steak and cup of coffee.


For the ingredient measurements and the entire recipe, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the blog post where the recipe card is located.

  • Ham steaks: You can purchase sliced ham steaks at the market. We used one large steak that was around 1.5 pounds. Look for a lot of marbling. The drippings from the fat is essential to the recipe.
  • Coffee: Strong black coffee is all you need.

Step by Step Directions

For the full recipe instructions, scroll down to the bottom of the blog post to the recipe card.

  1. Fry the ham steaks in a cast iron skillet until browned on both sides. Remove the steaks and keep warm.
  2. Deglaze the pan with black coffee. Cook while scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all those bits that stuck to the pan.
  3. Serve the gravy over the ham along with grits and biscuits.

Tips For Success

  • If your ham steak is lacking thick strips of fat, melt some butter in the pan before cooking the ham.
  • Simmer the gravy longer to thicken it more if desired. But do keep in mind it will not be thick like a traditional gravy.
  • Use a strong coffee but avoid flavored coffee. And stick with black coffee – no added sweeteners or sugars.
Ham, grits, and biscuit drizzled with red eye gravy.

Red Eye Gravy

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Red eye gravy poured over ham on plate.
Classic Southern Red Eye Gravy is made with just 2 ingredients – coffee and ham drippings. It’s great served with ham, grits, and biscuits.
Sauce Fanatic
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Serving Size 4


  • 1 ½ pounds ham steak
  • ¾ cup strong black coffee


  • Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the ham steak and cook until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes, flipping several times. Transfer the ham to a plate and keep warm.
  • Pour the coffee into the skillet and bring to a boil. Scrape any bits of ham off the bottom of the pan.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until the liquid reduces to about ½ cup. Serve the gravy piping hot.


  • Ham: Ham steaks can be found in most supermarkets. Look for steaks that have a good amount of fat on the edges and through the center.
  • Coffee: Use black, strong brewed coffee. Avoid flavored coffee.
  • Storage: Store any unused gravy in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat when ready to use. 


Serving: 2tablespoons | Calories: 32kcal | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 6mg | Potassium: 22mg | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 0.01mg

The nutrition information provided is for convenience and as a courtesy only. It is not guaranteed to be accurate because nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator and input the exact ingredients and brands you used in the recipe.


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