Stories from the South

Chocolate Gravy & Biscuits: A Southeast Tennessee Heritage Food

Chocolate gravy is a warm pudding-like sauce served over homemade biscuits.

Chocolate gravy is a warm pudding-like sauce served over homemade biscuits.

Chocolate gravy is known to those deeply rooted in Southern culinary culture. Back in the day, beloved grandmothers throughout parts of the mountainous South—particularly in Tennessee and Arkansas, it seems—enchanted many a youngin with this warm, chocolate pudding-like concoction poured over homemade biscuits.

Considered a breakfast food, not a dessert, the origin of chocolate gravy is somewhat of a mystery. “The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America” credits chocolate gravy’s beginnings to the trading network between the Tennessee Valley and Spanish Louisiana. The encyclopedia also suggests that it could have been preserved from Spanish colonies on the East Coast in the 16th and 17th centuries by the ethnic group known as the Melungeons.

Simpler theories pin its origins to country cooks who were resourceful with Hershey’s cocoa when it first appeared on shelves in rural areas.

Tellico Junction Café serves chocolate gravy each Saturday as part of the breakfast buffet.

Tellico Junction Café serves chocolate gravy each Saturday as part of the breakfast buffet.

Regardless of its rich cultural heritage, chocolate gravy is merely a memory in many a kitchen and restaurant today. However, there is still at least one place to experience chocolate gravy in its full glory—Tellico Junction Café in Englewood, Tennessee, which serves it each Saturday as part of the breakfast buffet.

“I grew up with chocolate gravy—my grandmothers on both sides of my family made it,” said Candi Huckabey, daughter of Tellico Junction Café owner Dianne Kinser. “We served it one Saturday morning, and it kind of snowballed—everybody was asking for it—so we added it to our regular Saturday breakfast buffet.”

The family-owned restaurant, which opened in 2005, based its chocolate gravy on a recipe from an old church cookbook. “The woman who makes it for us each Saturday doesn’t have to measure anything—she just knows what to do,” Huckabey said.

Tellico Junction Café is located at 17 E. Main Street in Englewood, Tennessee. Restaurant hours are Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 423-887-7770.

 

If you would like to make chocolate gravy and biscuits at home, here is a recipe from “A Skillet Full” by Lodge Cast Iron:

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups milk

Directions: Melt butter in skillet. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add vanilla and milk to dry ingredients. Pour into skillet with melted butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. Serve with hot biscuits. Makes 2 cups.