Can’t Have Mashed Potatoes Without Gravy

How do you make a rich, smooth, delicious gravy without milk? Try our Cashew Nut/Sunflower Seed Gravy Base.

More years ago than I can remember, Gloria began making gravy from cashews. It was wonderful. We loved it. Our girls loved it. Everyone who sampled it, loved it. For a long time, however, she still made milk gravy too.

“It was the roux,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“I continued making milk gravy because of the the roux. You know the browned flour, oil, and salt mixture used to flavor and thicken the gravy.”

“I know what roux is,” I said. “But what does . . .?”

“When I was a child,” she continued, “I loved Mom’s biscuits and gravy. I always begged her to make a ‘little biscuit’ for me. By the time the biscuits were baked, the roux was ready for the milk. I opened the ‘little biscuit’ and she drizzled a bit of the roux onto it. When it was barely cool, I savored that delicious treat.”


Bowl of Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes

Her story and the subject of Cashew Nut/Sunflower Seed Gravy brought to mind a story I find hilarious. “I think of the time my Grandfather . . . “

“Yes!” Gloria said with a big, expectant grin. She knows that story and believes a good story needs repeating – many, many times.

“You see, my Grandfather had an odd habit. He never asked, ‘Please pass the peas’ or whatever. He simply held his open hand toward the desired dish. Being a stern, no-nonsense person, he always received the the dish he pointed towards.

“One day he held his hand out for the dish of mashed potatoes. My Uncle Steve nonchalantly scooped up a spoonful of mashed potatoes and dumped it into Grandpa’s hand. Then without missing a beat, my Uncle Mo smothered the potatoes with gravy.”

By that time Gloria was in a spasm of giggles, and I had no choice but to join her.

Back to Cashew/Sunflower Seed Gravy Base. In phone conversations, our daughter, April, talked of making sunflower seed milk and sunflower seed butter. When we visited her, she served the sunflower seed butter. Delicious! In the grocery store, I noticed the price of sunflower seeds – way less than cashews.

“Why not sunflower seed gravy?” I asked.

So I dutifully followed Gloria’s “recipe” for cashew gravy base and made a gravy base from sunflower seeds. With a little tinkering, I made a base that tastes about the same as hers for a lot less money.

At this point Gloria, eyebrows raised, cleared her throat empahtically.

“Yes dear,” I said, knowing she likes the cashew base better. “It’s flavor is a bit stronger, but it works well for a lot of dishes. For milder flavors, the cashew base is probably better.”

What is a gravy base? The essential liquid portions of gravy. To turn the base into gravy, we use a variety of flavors depending on our dish. Our favorites are my chicken seasoning or my vegetable “bouillon,” or soy sauce substitute. Gloria is using it to concoct some desserts. This base accepts any flavor we use with it.

The picture below shows our lunch from yesterday. To make the gravy, Gloria added one heaping teaspoon of our chicken seasoning to one cup of gravy base. That was drizzled on some of our sage seitan sausage patties and fresh mashed potatoes. Served too was a side of carrot salad and steamed broccoli. To drink we had apple-apricot nectar.


Mashed potatoes, gravy, sausage carrot salad and broccoli.
Yesterday’s Lunch

Our gravy cashew/sunflower gravy base can make an ordinary meal extraordinary.

Cashew or Sunflower Seed Roux
Author: Gloria and Major Stewart
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
  • 1 cup cashews or sunflower seeds
  • 2 cups water (3 cups for sunflower seeds)
  • 1/4 cup corn (or arrowroot) starch
  1. Sort and wash the nuts or seeds.
  2. Simmer in a saucepan with 2 cups water for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain and transfer to your blender. A high-power blender will help you get a smoother gravy.</li>
  4. Add 1 cup of the water.
  5. Blend until it gets too thick to easily stir, then add portions of the remaining water to keep the blender running smoothly.
  6. Test the mixture for smoothness. Stop blending periodically and rub a drop between your fingers until it feels smooth. When it does, place a drop on your tongue and check for smoothness. Your tongue is more sensitive than your fingers.
  7. Add the cornstarch and any remaining water. Continue blending until the starch is thoroughly mixed.
  8. Return to the saucepan. Stir over medium low heat, until the sauce thickens and just begins to boil.
The base can be flavored and used immediately. We often double the recipe and freeze the base in 1 cup packages.[br] [br]Most of the time, the base is too thick to use as is. It may require adding as much as 1/2 cup water for each cup of base to get a good texture. Add the water slowly and whisk the base to get the texture you wish.


We have used this base in a large number of recipes from a creamy macaroni casserole to calzones to desserts, as well as biscuits and gravy. These will all be the subject of future posts.


Gravy on a serving of mashed potatoes
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy

When you try our recipes, let us know how it goes for you.

See ya next time!

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