Buttermilk Biscuits with Turkey Sausage Gravy

Virginia Willis

Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome

JBF Award winner Virginia Willis makes a “better-for-you biscuit” by subbing out most of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat, and uses lean turkey instead of pork for the sausage-studded gravy.


Buttermilk Biscuits:

  • 1 1/4 cups White Lily or other Southern all-purpose flour, or 
cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for rolling out 
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits and chilled 
  • 3/4 to 1 cup low-fat buttermilk 
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil 

Turkey Sausage Gravy:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil 
  • 1 pound ground turkey sausage 
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped 
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour 
  • 2 cups 2 percent milk, warmed 
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage


Preheat the oven to 500°F. 

In a bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Combine the buttermilk and oil in a bowl. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour and butter and gently mix until just combined. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly, using the heel of your hand to compress and push the dough away from you, and then fold it back over itself. Give the dough a small turn and repeat 8 or so times. (It’s not yeast bread; you want to just barely activate the gluten, not overwork it.) Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out ½ inch thick. Cut out rounds of dough with a 2-inch round cutter dipped in flour; press the cutter straight down without twisting so the biscuits will rise evenly when baked. Press the dough together and reroll. (Your first pass should yield about 12 biscuits.) Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool just slightly. 

Meanwhile, make the turkey sausage gravy. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and season with salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into small pieces. Pour off any excess rendered fat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to combine and coat the onions. Add the warmed milk and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the sage, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. 

To serve, split the biscuits in half and serve hot topped with the turkey sausage gravy. 

Reprinted with permission from Lighten Up, Y’all, by Virginia Willis, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2015 by Angie Mosier. For more information, visit


20 biscuits