I like to refer to my hometown St. Louis as “South-adjacent” with Southern influences in food and culture, even as most natives refer to themselves as Midwesterners. So it probably comes as no surprise that I adore both casserole dishes and Southern staples like biscuits and gravy. The combination makes a perfect breakfast or brunch dish for a large crowd!
If you’ve never had biscuits and gravy before, they’re a delight! Imagine light and fluffy biscuits smothered in a creamy sausage gravy that is often seasoned with sage, thyme, or black pepper. There’s a reason why it’s a Southern classic.
How to Make Biscuits
I make my biscuits from scratch, and the trick is not to overwork the dough. I roll out these biscuits relatively thin, as the casserole has a layer of biscuits on the bottom and the top.
I opt for a flaky style biscuit, which means there’s a little bit of folding of the dough to create layers.
This probably sounds more complicated than it is—don’t be scared! It comes together fairly quickly and easily, and the leftover scraps are used to line the bottom of the casserole dish, so you only have to cut out the biscuits once. The less you mess with them, the lighter they taste!
WHAT KIND OF FLOUR SHOULD I USE FOR BISCUITS?
Making biscuits is easy, but the flour can make a difference. Southern biscuits are light and fluffy in part because of their use of the regionally popular White Lily flour. Before the advent of the Internet, it was hard to find it north of the Mason-Dixon line.
White Lily is made from soft red winter wheat, resulting in a flour with lower protein and gluten percentages. Most flour brands are made from hard winter wheat, which has a higher gluten content.
Because of the lower gluten and the fact that White Lily is a bleached flour, the soft, almost powdery light flour will lead to a lighter, pillowy biscuit. White Lily is also a little more neutral in flavor than a regular unbleached all-purpose flour. Biscuits made with all-purpose flour tend to be a little heavier and more robust in texture and flavor. White Lily flour-based biscuits are a great carrier for the flavors of the topping of your choice, whether it’s sausage gravy, jam, honey, or just plain butter.
Since White Lily is still hard to find outside the South, I developed this recipe with regular all-purpose flour. To help achieve a lighter biscuit with this regular all-purpose, I swap out a little bit of the flour for cornstarch to lower the gluten content.
The resulting biscuit will still taste ever so slightly more wheat-like than if you had used White Lily, but the lower gluten will help keep the biscuits from becoming too dense. Of course, if you have access to White Lily flour, omit the cornstarch and increase the White Lily all-purpose flour to 2 1/2 cups.
How to Assemble the Biscuits and Gravy Casserole
This casserole comes together pretty fast, even when you’re making the biscuits from scratch. As the bottom layer of biscuits bake up a bit, you make the sausage and mushroom gravy on the stovetop. Then you spoon the gravy over the bottom biscuits, layer the top biscuits over the gravy, and bake. And 20 minutes later, you have biscuits and gravy for a crowd!
What Kinds of Substitutions Can I Make?
- To make this casserole vegetarian, substitute the pork sausage with a veggie breakfast sausage. Keep in mind that veggie meatless sausage often has extra seasonings in it for flavor, so you may need to adjust the spices and salt in the final recipe. Start by using half the seasoning amount in the recipe while making the gravy; then taste it, and add more to your own preference.
- Another vegetarian option is to omit the sausage completely and just increase the mushrooms to 1 1/2 pounds. Continue to cook the mushrooms and onions an additional five minutes, or until they are cooked through and the mushrooms are tender. You may want to adjust some of the seasonings too (like adding a 1/2 teaspoon of ground sage and/or more salt and black pepper), as breakfast pork sausage has a lot of built-in seasonings that flavor the gravy.
- Store-bought biscuits! Buy two cans of uncooked store-bought biscuits—you know, the kind that “explode” when you open up the cardboard! Avoid using the extra-large Grands biscuits though, as they tend to be very thick when baked and will lead to a biscuit-dense casserole that is more heavy than if you were to make the biscuits from scratch or use regular-style biscuits from a can.
What You Can Make Ahead
You can prep the components ahead of time if you want!
- Make the biscuit dough; cut out the biscuits, and store the rounds and scraps in a resealable plastic bag in your refrigerator up to 24 hours. Dust them lightly with flour so they don’t stick together.
- Make the gravy ahead of time, and store it a glass or plastic container, covered, overnight in the refrigerator.
- Bake the first layer of biscuits directly from the fridge, and let the top layer of biscuits warm up a bit on the counter while the first layer bakes.
- Warm up the gravy on the stovetop or the microwave so it’s hot when you ladle it onto the first layer. Top with the remaining biscuits and bake as directed.
LOVE BREAKFAST? LOVE CASSEROLES? TRY THESE!
Biscuits and Gravy Casserole Recipe
The cornstarch in the biscuit dough reduces the gluten content to help keep the biscuits light and fluffy.
If you have White Lily Flour, use 2 1/2 cups of White Lily flour instead of all-purpose, and omit the cornstarch.
For the biscuits:
- 2 1/4 cups (315 g) all-purpose flour (see Recipe Note)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
- 1 cup buttermilk, cold
For the gravy:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 cup chopped yellow onions
- 1 pound breakfast pork sausage
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 cups milk, preferably whole
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2 Make the biscuit dough: Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch chunks and sprinkle it over the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, a butter knife, or a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until most of it is the size of peas. Don’t overwork it; you want to leave some of the butter in chunks.
Add the buttermilk and toss the mixture with a spatula until it starts to look shaggy, and most of the buttermilk has been absorbed. It won’t form a dough yet; that’s OK.
3 Bring the dough together: Turn out the contents of the bowl onto a clean surface dusted with a little flour. Gather the dough together with your hands into a mound, then roll it out until it is about 10-inches wide. Again, don’t worry if the dough is crumbly!
4 Fold the dough to create flaky layers: Use a spatula (like the kind you use to make fried eggs) or bench scraper and flip 1/3 of the dough over from the left to the center. Then flip the other side over that side. You’re basically folding the dough over like a letter.
Rotate the dough 90-degrees and roll it out again to about a 10-inch square. It will start to feel more like a dough and less crumbly at this point, but there will still be some loose chunks. Just press them back into the dough if they fall out, and resist the urge to add more liquid.
Repeat the process of rolling out and folding two more times. By the fourth time, the biscuit dough will hold together and feel like actual dough.
5 Cut the biscuits: Roll out the dough to a 10-inch square that’s roughly 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out 16 circles. When you press down to cut out the dough, don’t twist the biscuit cutter, which will “seal” the edges of the dough. Instead, just cut straight down, so the biscuit will rise and be as flaky as possible.
5 Bake the bottom layer of biscuits: Set aside 12 of the biscuit rounds. Place the remaining 4 biscuit rounds on the bottom of a 2-quart glass or ceramic casserole dish. Cut up the remaining scraps of dough and jigsaw-puzzle the remaining dough into the bottom of the casserole dish, making sure to cover the bottom in a single layer.
Place on a rimmed baking sheet (for ease of removal from the oven and to catch any drips). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the top of the biscuits start to look dry but not brown at all. (There might be a slight darkening around the edges, but don’t be alarmed if the biscuits still look pale white.)
6 Meanwhile, make the gravy: While the bottom biscuits are baking, make the gravy by placing the oil, mushrooms, and onions in a large sauté pan. Cook on high heat, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms start to soften, and the onions start to look translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula, and cook until the sausage starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
Keep the heat on high, and add the flour, sage, black pepper, nutmeg, and salt to the pan. Stir until the ingredients are absorbed. Pour in the milk, reduce heat to medium, and cook, continuing to stir until the liquid has started to bubble and thicken, about 3 to 7 minutes. You’re now ready to assemble the casserole!
If the first layer of biscuits isn’t done baking, lower the heat on the gravy to a simmer until the biscuits are done. If you still need time to finish the gravy, but the biscuits are done—remove the casserole dish from the oven, and let it sit on the counter or stovetop while you finish the gravy.
7 Assemble and bake the casserole: Once the gravy has thickened and the first layer of biscuits is done baking, pour or spoon the gravy over the biscuit layer in the casserole dish. Place the 12 reserved biscuits over the gravy and brush the top of the biscuits with the melted butter.
Return the dish to the oven and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and the gravy is bubbling and thick, about 18 to 23 minutes.
8 Cool and serve: Let cool 10 minutes before serving warm from the casserole dish.
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