Skillet Burgers with Tomato Gravy

Throw out the bum! Oh wait, not the bum, the "bun" – the burger bun, that is. These burgers are cooked right in the skillet in a bed of "tomato gravy" that's become my answer to homemade marinara sauce. (Yep! You can even skip making the gravy and just use your favorite jarred marinara sauce.) And ... consider this recipe a definite supper saver. This one's a man-pleaser and so yeah, okay, a woman-pleaser too.

Skillet Burgers with Tomato Gravy ♥, bun-free and on the table in an hour with pantry ingredients. Low Carb. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly.

Real Food, Hearty & Filling. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Great for Meal Prep. Low Carb. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free.

Supper Savers.

Is that what you call the dishes that you can make – in a flash – almost without thinking, with always-on-hand pantry ingredients?

Most of my Supper Saver recipes start with eggs. “One of us” (that would be me) could eat eggs for supper one night after the next but the “other of us” (that would be him) sees it otherwise.

So with a freezer full of beef – paid-for if not free protein – I’m collecting recipes to have at the ready when energy and ambition run low just before supper.

The first time “we” (that would be him, I was writing on deadline) made this easy supper dish, we started with a jar of marinara from the grocery store. Very good!

The next time “we” (that would be me, he was feeling puny) made this, I started off with my own Tomato Gravy, a homemade marinara, the recipe I’ve been making mine for awhile now. The results? Just excellent!

Tomato Gravy is my kind of “Homemade Pantry” – something that can simmer away with little attention, letting me keep busy elsewhere in the kitchen while the house fills with supper’s-in-the-oven smells.

But Is It Really Tomato Gravy? Or Is It "Homemade Marinara Sauce"?

"Tomato Gravy" just has a ring, doesn't it? We first made this recipe way back last spring but I didn't pay attention to the "tomato gravy" in the inspiring recipe's title, perhaps because for a long while, I'd been working to find "my" homemade marinara sauce and was so happy to find a tomato combination that works for me.

Then a couple of weeks ago, a long-time reader (hello Walter!) asked if I'd ever made tomato gravy. I'd never heard of it! Google provided some quick answers and I put Tomato Gravy on my to-make list for next year when summer tomatoes are again in season.

So call this what you like, Tomato Gravy or "Homemade Marinara Sauce" albeit with a small kick from the chile that I don't think is typical in the authentic Italian recipes. But I do make and use it like cooks make and use marinara. Just this month I made a double batch, used some in Cast Iron Meatloaf and then froze the rest. It's so great to have on hand! Maybe it'll be "your" Homemade Marinara Sauce too!

What Makes This Recipe Special

  • Homemade comfort food, hearty and satisfying.
  • No burger buns? No problem.
  • Not only a supper saver but a pantry meal, just ground beef + pantry ingredients.
Skillet Burgers with Tomato Gravy ♥, bun-free and on the table in an hour with pantry ingredients. LowCarb. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly.


Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to table: 65 minutes
Makes seven smallish but filling burgers or four larger burgers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed but left whole
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 small dried chile
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved, cut in thin half rings
  • Water, if needed
  • Fresh herbs, for garnish

TOMATO GRAVY In a large heavy Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add garlic and let sizzle just until beginning to turn color. Add the tomatoes (be careful, they’ll sizzle). If needed, turn the heat down to avoid burning the tomatoes along the edges. With a potato masher, mash the tomatoes right in the pan.

Add the water, chile, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer for about 15 minutes, reducing the gravy by about a quarter.

Remove the chile and garlic.

SKILLET BURGERS Heat oven to 425F/220C.

In a large bowl, use your hands to combine ground beef, egg, salt and oregano without working the mixture too much. Form into four or six burgers.

In a large, heavy oven-safe skillet with a cover, heat the olive oil until shimmery. Add the burgers (they should sizzle) and brown well on both sides; set aside. Leave the drippings in the pan, add the onion and let brown, stirring occasionally and adding water if the skillet is dry.

Stir in the Tomato Gravy. Nestle the burgers in the gravy, then use a spoon to drizzle some gravy over the burgers.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes.

Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes.

TO SERVE If you like, serve with White Rice and a fresh salad. Tis a feast!

ALANNA’S TIPS People rave about San Marzano tomatoes but at least in the canned versions, I taste little much difference between them and other canned tomatoes. I did compare San Marzano tomatoes to a can of “plum tomatoes” from Trader Joes: those TJ plums had an icky metallic taste, not recommended. In summer, when fresh herbs are free for the picking from pots on the patio, I add a whole sprig of something, basil, oregano, tarragon, basil, etc. and let the oils infuse the marinara. For aesthetics, do brown the burgers quite well. They’ll finish cooking in the oven but the brown color makes for a better appearance. MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Make the Tomato Gravy a day or two ahead of time. Some times I make a double or triple batch, it freezes beautifully!
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Burger, Serving 7/Serving 4: 212/371 Calories; 12/21g Tot Fat; 3/6g Sat Fat; 72/126mg Cholesterol; 715/1251mg Sodium; 9/15g Carb; 2/3g Fiber; 5/8g Sugar; 15/27g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 5/8 & PointsPlus 5/9 & SmartPoints 5/11 & Freestyle 5/8 & myWW green 5/8 & blue 5/8 & purple 5/8 CALORIE COUNTERS ½ burger + sauce = 109 calories (9g protein)
NUTRITION INFORMATION Tomato Gravy Only, Double Batch Makes 5-1/4 cups, per Quarter Cup: 37 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 218mg Sodium; 4Carb; 1g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 1 & Freestyle 1 & myWW green 1 & blue 1 & purple 1
Inspired by Swiss Burgers in Tomato Gravy from Southern Living, here published on My Recipes. This recipe has been "Alanna-sized".

Burger Mania!

~ burger recipes ~
Oil Tanker Burgers, another special summer burger ♥, extraordinary burgers from ordinary condiments. Weekend Easy, Weekend Special.

Green Chile Burgers ♥, authentic green chile burgers, a specialty from New Mexico.

Chicken Burgers with Fresh Spinach, Feta and Garden Tzatziki Sauce ♥, Greek-style chicken sandwiches served with an updated Greek tzatziki sauce. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly.

Spinach Burgers, another healthy veggie burger ♥ A Veggie Venture. Moist & Juicy. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. Gluten Free. Whole30 Friendly. Paleo Friendly. Low Carb. High Protein.

Good Burger = Good Eats

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Minnesota Sloppy Joes Hamburger Casserole Hamburger Soup
~ more beef recipes ~

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(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ beef recipes ~
~ tomato recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Anonymous10/16/2014

    This sounds really good, and I should have thought of it. We make something similar called porcupines. Raw rice added to the meat. Make into balls place in casserole dish. Add tomato gravy and bake covered. I never thought of making without the rice. Going to try your way tonight. A change is always interesting.

  2. Anonymous ~ Thank you! And -- y’know, I didn’t make the connection but you’re right! In fact, I’ve made those “porcupine meatballs” -- the recipe is here -- but with spaghetti sauce. And your note is a good reminder that meatballs would be an easy adaptation here too, in fact, looking back at my notes, I see I did make meatballs with this recipe at least once but then went with the burgers for less fuss. Thanks so much for writing!

  3. Happy Saturday! Just letting you know I featured this recipe in my monthly round-up of 25 Deliciously Healthy Low-Carb Recipes from October 2015. Hope a lot of my readers will come over here and try it!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna