Hamburger gravy over biscuits.
American, Southern

US Army Hamburger Gravy – SOS

Cooks in 25 minutes Difficulty Easy 23 comments This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn money from the companies mentioned or linked to in this post.

With fall approaching and dreams of cooler mornings, I’m thinking about one of my favorite things to make and eat when I was in the army – hamburger gravy over biscuits. Or, as we colloquially called it, “SOS” – “Sh*t On a Shingle.” Back in WWII when SOS was named “SOS,” it was made by serving creamed chipped beef gravy over toast. The toast was the shingle and the gravy was the “you know what.” People still call chipped beef gravy on toast, “SOS,” but when I was in the army we usually served hamburger gravy over biscuits. That was our SOS. You could probably call that “SOB,” but you might not get away with it, if you know what I mean.

You may have seen a hamburger gravy recipe that calls for draining the fat from the ground beef after cooking and replace it with butter. Just for the record, we did not use butter for hamburger gravy in the army. The roux for this gravy is created using the fat off the ground beef and flour. Now, if you want to use butter, go ahead, drain your beef and throw some butter in there before adding the flour. It’s perfectly acceptable to do it that way. That’s just not how we made it in the mess hall.

Military Comfort Food

There’s nothing better on a cold morning than hearty breakfast. A fluffy biscuit or two smothered in ground beef gravy eaten alongside 300 of your closest friends. It definitely satisfies the Southern half of my roots. SOS is perfect for camping, a forced march, or when you know you’re going to need a lot of energy to sustain you until later in the day. Honestly, though, I don’t do many forced marches these days. But, you never know, you may have to. That, or chop wood or chase the dog. Something like that.

I like to top my biscuits and gravy with two over easy eggs. My husband gets really crazy when I make SOS. He makes a big pile of biscuits and gravy which he smothers with grits. Then he adds eggs on top. He was in the army a lot longer than I was. So, he’s wild like that.

In the mess hall we made gallons of creamy ground beef gravy in a large stationary pot attached to the floor. The pot was so big, the shorter cooks had to use a step stool in order to be able to reach inside to stir the gravy. That we never had any SOS left over after chow is a testament to how much people loved it. Despite its less than respectful name, it really is military comfort food. Luckily, it’s much easier to make creamed ground beef gravy at home on the stove than it was in the mess hall. There are never any leftovers at home, either.

Do you have memories of SOS in the military? Have you made this hamburger gravy recipe? Let me know in the comments below. And, don’t forget to share this recipe with 300 of your closest friends.

How about some Southern Buttermilk Biscuits to go with your gravy?

Ingredients Needed for Creamed Ground Beef Gravy

Ground Beef
Beef Bullion Cube
Worcestershire Sauce

US Army Hamburger Gravy (SOS)

3 from 22 votes
Recipe by Kimberly Scott Course: Main, BreakfastCuisine: SouthernDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time





I made this SOS recipe more times than I can count when I was a cook in the army, albeit in much larger quantities. It’s always been a favorite of military, veterans, and civilians alike. It will quickly become a favorite of yours. It’s true comfort food.


  • 1 lb. ground beef

  • 2 cups milk (may need more)

  • 1/4 cup flour

  • 1 cube beef bouillon

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce


  • Crumble and cook ground beef in a large skillet on low medium heat until it is no longer pink.
  • When beef is cooked, do not drain. Sprinkle flour over the top of the beef and stir to coat meat evenly with the flour and soak up the fat in the pan.
  • Add milk and bouillon cube. Stir until milk has thickened and bouillon cube has dissolved and has been evenly distributed in the gravy. If gravy is too thick, add more milk a bit at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
  • Stir in Worcestershire sauce.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve hot over biscuits, toast, grits, hash browns, or whatever else suits your fancy.


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  1. Brad Erickson

    Thank you for the wonderful recipe for military grade sos.this is exactly what I remembered while serving in the 82 ABN DIV.ft Bragg NC. 7 was truly an honor to serve our nation….ooo ahhh airborne

  2. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Brings back great memories of good friends. Can’t think of a person who didn’t like this. One of my grand daughters makes this with assuage.

  3. Thanks so much for posting this. I grew up in the north and I never heard of the stuff when I was a kid. When I got to Fort Benning everybody complained about the food in basic training. Not me! This stuff was for breakfast often and I couldn’t get enough of it. Eventually Fort Bragg, and I was so happy to see that they had it there too. Even when I was in the middle east the spoons served it up often, and we love them for it. Great to remember those days and someways, and great to remember eating this On the ground, in the dirt, in the mud, in Panama, in Alaska, in Egypt with 300 of my best buddies

  4. Yes! You have the correct SOS recipe! It takes an Army cook. I’ve made it several times using your recipe. (Black Horse! ‘73-‘75. Fulda)

  5. Jerry Steele

    Shortly after I returned from from Vietnam my wife and I divorced and I was reassigned to Germany. I was assigned to HQ US Army Europe located in Heidelberg. This was during the era when Officers had a separate table in the mess hall and since I was newly single, I met my fellow junior officers in the HQ Company mess hall every morning @ 0600 hrs for breakfast.. My go to was SOS on toast with scrambled eggs—got me through some tough times.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jerry. I love reading about what a comfort SOS was to all of us. I was in Bad Kreuznach and visited Heidelberg often. Such a beautiful place and wonderful memories. Even the hard ones…

  6. My mom used to make this. We used to ask “what are we gonna eat?” She would exclaim….”SH*T ON A SHINGLE SON!” And we would laugh…that sh*t was delicious though. I made this and it taste just like mom’s. I had to tell my boys that they were allowed to say sh*t as long as they were talking about SOS…now they can’t wait for sOS on a Sunday morning. They sing, “we are having sh*t on a shingle” over and over…makes me laugh…good sh*t…thanks for the recipe!

  7. Isaac Torres

    How funny, I was just telling my wife what I had for breakfast in the Army everyday I was on active duty. I would get fried potatoes, gravy on top and 2 over easy eggs on top of the rest. Coffee and toast. I never got anything else for breakfast.

  8. Military brat here. My mom made this for us. It was my favorite breakfast!

  9. FT. Benning, Summer of 1990, was my go to breakfast when available while at boot and AIT, a big thumbs up, been looking for this recipe for decades. Thank you. It was my first time to try grits also! I’m from the Great Plains area so you get the idea.

  10. I loved SOS in the mess hall. Hash browns and scrambled eggs. I served for ten years and after I got out I tried to mock it. I have made it with half sausage and it wasn’t the same. I add chopped onions and green peppers. . wasn’t the same. Today I m going to follow your recipe. I hope it comes out as I remember. I should of been acook rather than a the way , do you have the recipe for the spice cake the mess hall made? Thanks so much for being here and providing the recipe.

    • You and me both! I liked mine on biscuits topped off with a couple of over easy eggs. OMG. Let me know what you think about the recipe. I think it comes REALLY close. The only thing missing is the MSG. You may want to experiment with the milk to get it to the thickness you like. I’ll see what I can do about the spice cake. I had forgotten about that. It was delish!

  11. Lawrence A McNealy

    I add dehydrated onion

  12. jackiem678

    My dad retired from the army. He was a Vietnam War Hero.
    He made it this way because my mom did not like biscuits. He would use a big pot to add water to a boil then add egg noodles medium or wide size and salt and oil as to not stick together.
    In a separate pan I fryed the ground beef. You can use all ground beef or 1/2 beef the other 1/2 turkey ground. 3lbs. all together.
    When done put aside until noodles are done. Don’t have them be gooey. Should be a little stiff due to it will continue cooking in pan. Drain noodles and cold water to strainer.
    Return pan with meat unto flame. Do not drain juice. Add noodles to it. Add 1 LG. can of cream of mushroom soup plus 2 small cans. Juice of meat will loosen cream of mushroom carefully stir all together. Put lid on cook on med or low heat for 10 mins. Enjoy with toasted sourdough bread.
    My dad never ever measured anything neither did my mom they eyeballed their recipe.

    This is what I used tonight:

    1 &1/2 lb. Ground Beef and 1&1/2 Turkey Ground.
    1 22.6oz. of cream of mushroom soup.
    2 10.5oz. of cream of mushroom soup.
    2 16oz. Extra wide egg noodles. Use 1 &1/4 bag. Noodles will shrink.

  13. William M Rowley

    In the late 70s #10 cans of powdered eggs were common issue to field mess halls and no matter what they did, the eggs tasted like pure Sulphur so SOS was great for killing the taste of the powdered eggs which also turned out rubbery.. In my company’s version of SOS there was a lot of chopped onion as well as bacon grease and diced bacon in the sauce. I still make it today as a fond memory.

    • Ah, the old powdered eggs. Luckily, we always had fresh eggs, but they still turned green in the warming cans. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to use bacon grease in anything, not even on fried eggs. Even though, we had a secret stash for people who wanted it. They didn’t want us to use any bacon fat on the grill in case there were vegetarians in line. Wouldn’t matter in ground beef gravy, obviously, but they said, “Whatever you eat here has to taste exactly the same as what you would eat in any other mess hall. So, no tinkering with the recipe!” Oh well… good times and good gravy. 😉

  14. Pingback: Creamed Ground Beef Gravy (SOS) – Army Style — Traveling In My Kitchen | My Meals are on Wheels

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