Ham with Red-Eye Gravy

The Southern husband and I had only been married a year or so when we spent one Easter at my sister-in-law’s beautiful beach house in South Carolina.  The morning after Easter, my Southern brother-in-law asked who would like eggs and ham with red-eye gravy for breakfast.  Every hand in the room shot up…except for mine, as I was still trying to figure out what red-eye gravy might mean.

I quickly found out that red-eye gravy is an eye-opening, good morning mixture of coffee whisked with ham drippings that is sure to get your attention.  My version adds in a little cream and brown sugar to sweeten things up a bit, poured over not only ham steaks but also a generous puddle of creamy, wonderful grits.  We don’t have a good source for grits up here north of the Mason-Dixon line, so I order mine from the wonderful Anson Mills online site.  I like the pencil cobb version, which are thick and creamy and perfect.

Lo these many years later, I have gotten pretty good at grits and okra and chicken-fried steak, but I have a special place in my heart for ham with red-eye gravy, which we tend to have for dinner instead of breakfast, although that long-ago breakfast is still one of my all-time faves.  East, West, North or South…you gotta try it.

Ham with Red-Eye Gravy
Serves: 3-4 servings
  • 1 pound cooked ham steak or steaks, about ½ inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add steaks and cook until they start to turn brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside, covering them with foil to keep warm.
  2. Add coffee, cream and sugar to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Stir around with the pan drippings, and simmer for about 5 minutes. This is a thin gravy...you are simmering it mainly to have the flavors come together, not to thicken it.
  3. Transfer ham to plates or a platter and pour some of the gravy on top. Pour the rest of the gravy into a heat-proof pitcher or gravy boat for folks who want even more! This dish is wonderful served over grits, but mashed potatoes would be great as well!

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible


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  1. ruthie says

    That looks gorgeous. I’ve got to try that, adapted for me with my coffee allergy. How about Coca Cola? Wouldn’t need sugar then. 😉 I do love ham.

  2. says

    When I moved to North Carolina 20 years ago my best friend said, “Please promise me you’ll never talk with a Southern accent!” I’m a native of New York City; I assured her it would never happen. And it hasn’t. But I can cook some Southern things now and this version is about the best recipe I’ve ever seen for red-eyed gravy. I might actually eat this one!

    Thanks for sharing all your great recipes, photos and views, Kate. That Southern Husband is one very lucky man. You can cook for *me* any time!! Trained Chef Maura Cooper in Charlotte, NC

    • Kate says

      Well, this comment made my whole day on so many levels! (And I’ll definitely read it to the Southern husband.) Thanks Maura!

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