How Allan Benton Makes Redeye Gravy

A Southern-classic recipe from a Southern-classic curemaster

red eye gravy allan benton

Photo: Brennan Wesley

Appalachia’s redeye gravy packs a punch. Lean and salty, its key ingredients are meat drippings—often rendered ham fat—and coffee. It’s a timeless topping for a bowl of grits or a ham biscuit.

Who better than revered Tennessee curemaster Allan Benton, whose Smoky Mountain Country Hams are hot commodities among culinary cognoscenti, to tell you how to make it? Here, in his own words, is his recipe:

“The secret to making good redeye gravy is having plenty of grease in your frying pan. First I look for a ham with a little fat on it. I trim that fat off and render it for a few minutes over medium heat. Then, when the fat is hot, I lay slices of ham in it and cook them for just about forty seconds on each side. After I take my slices out, I add a half cup of brewed coffee and a pinch of brown sugar. I turn the heat up a little higher and reduce it—almost to where it was before I added the coffee. Pour that up and it’s a pretty fair redeye gravy.”