How To Make Red-Eye Gravy Without Coffee In 2 Simple Ways

Do you want to know how to make red-eye gravy without coffee? In this article, we’ll explore two alternatives to coffee in red-eye gravy!

How to make red-eye gravy without coffee
Red-eye gravy is typically made with black coffee

Red-eye gravy, also known as poor man’s gravy, bird-eye gravy, bottom soup, cedar gravy, and red ham gravy, is a Southern comfort food typically made with black coffee and drippings of ham. It gets its name because the mixture looks like a red human eye during preparation.

While black coffee is traditionally used in red-eye gravy, you can still make it without coffee. However, bear in mind that it probably won’t taste the same without the coffee – nor will it have caffeine!

The coffee adds some bitterness to the gravy, which is part of its unique flavor profile. However, it still packs a punch without it.

Making red-eye gravy without coffee is easy and is not much different from making traditional red-eye gravy. All you need are some common ingredients in your kitchen! You might also be interested in our dead eye coffee guide.

Materials Needed

  • Sliced country ham
  • Two tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One and ½ cup soda
  • Chicory coffee substitute
  • Water
  • Flour
  • Bouillon cube (optional)

How To Make Red-Eye Gravy Without Coffee

We’ve put together two different methods for making red-eye gravy without coffee. You can choose either of the two methods and enjoy the sauce with your ham, biscuits, or grits.

Method 1:

Step 1: Brew The Chicory Drink

coffee vs. chicory: a cup of chicory in a saucer with chicory flowers and ground roots in the table
You can use a chicory coffee alternative

Instead of making a cup of coffee, use a chicory coffee alternative instead. Chicory often comes in powder or as small granules like instant coffee. You make a cup of chicory drink the same as you would make a cup of instant coffee.

Some kinds of chicory coffee alternatives need to be put through filter paper instead. If that’s the case, brew it like you would a regular cup of coffee. Be sure to read and follow the instructions on the product before brewing.

Step 2: Heat Up The Ham

Heat a skillet on a stove. Add the sliced country ham once the skillet is hot enough.

Cook the ham in its fat until it turns a light golden brown. This should take around five minutes. Once it’s cooked, remove the ham from the skillet. Keep the skillet on the heat.

Step 3: Melt The Butter

Melt some butter in your skillet on top of the existing ham grease that’s already in there. Next, add in some flour and sugar until it dissolves.

Step 4: Add The Coffee Replacement

With the melted butter, add in the chicory and hot water. Some recipes suggest adding a bouillon cube and some spices and this stage, but it’s optional.

Heat the mixture for approximately three minutes until the sauce begins to get thick. Make sure to stir with a spatula to loosen up any particles on the bottom of the skillet.

Step 5: Serve

Once you’re finished making the sauce, take it off the heat and pour it over ham. You can also serve red-eye gravy with biscuits or grits. Serve your dish, and enjoy! 

Method 2:

Step 1: Grab Some Soda

mountain dew
You can use soda instead of coffee or a chicory drink

Rather than using a chicory drink or coffee, you can make red-eye gravy with soda, ideally Coca-cola or Pepsi or a similar cola drink.

Step 2: Heat Up The Ham

Heat your skillet, and then add the ham when it’s hot enough.

Step 3: Remove The Ham

Cook the ham by itself – in its fat – until it turns the right color. When cooked, remove it from the skillet. Keep the skillet on the heat so it’s ready for the rest of the ingredients. The melted fat should still be on the skillet.

Step 4: Melt The Butter

Allow the butter to melt in the skillet.

Step 5: Pour In The Soda & Water

Add the soda and hot water to your melted butter on the skillet. These three ingredients will need to be heated for approximately three minutes until the sauce thickens.

Stir the mixture as it cooks. Make sure not to cook this for too long, as the sugar in the soda may start to caramelize.

Step 6: Serve Your Red Eye Gravy

Pour the finished sauce over ham, biscuits, or grits! Then enjoy your meal.


If you like this article, read our guide on how to make coffee ice cubes.

In this article, we cover making protein coffee.


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.