Creamed chipped beef on toast (a.k.a. “shit on a shingle”) is a hearty, filling, stick to your ribs dish with a touch of nostalgia. A recipe that’s been around for generations and was as familiar then, as macaroni and cheese is today. This SOS recipe is great for dinner, but in our house, it was traditional breakfast fare.If you’ve never experienced creamed chipped beef, it’s just chopped dried beef stirred into a creamy white sauce and served over toast (that’s the shingle part). Learn how to make SOS, in 10 minutes flat.
Creamed chipped beef on toast origins
We have the U.S. military to thank for the popularity of this easy, economical dish. Creamed chipped beef on toast was in regular rotation on the menu for troops because it was cheap, filling, made with mostly shelf stable ingredients and served 100 men. Here’s the original recipe from a 1945 Navy cookbook.
Simple creamed chipped beef on toast fed the masses during World War II and most likely every soldier, marine, airman and sailor experienced this comfort food classic during their deployments.
I’m sure that at the time, they’d have given anything for Mom’s meatloaf and gravy, but looking back they hold a begrudging respect and I daresay a wistful craving when you mention creamed chipped beef.
This SOS recipe is one that my father ate frequently in his Navy days during the Vietnam war. However, even years after his service, my Dad would sometimes commandeer my Mom’s kitchen to make his special creamed chipped beef on toast. We loved it.
What you’ll need for SOS recipe
- Dried Beef
- Black Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper
- Half & Half (optional)
- Parsley (optional)
Everyone has their own “special touches” to their creamed chipped beef recipe. In this one, I’ve added cayenne pepper for a little heat and tingle, but if that’s not for you, feel free to swap it for some of these other popular additions.
Dry Mustard – A teaspoon added to the roux, gives a tangy quality to the creamy béchamel sauce.
Ground Nutmeg – Nutmeg is a classic spice in many white sauces. Normally associated with baking, nutmeg adds a nutty warmth that’s not dominant, but adds a soft background flavor. You only need a pinch of nutmeg, don’t over-do it.
Worcestershire Sauce – If you want to go deeper with umami flavor, Worcestershire Sauce is the answer. Just a few solid dashes (1/4-1/2 teaspoon) will flavor your chipped beef gravy.
Half and Half – For more richness I use half and half. If you don’t have any, or want a lighter sauce, substitute milk.
How To Make SOS
- Melt the butter in a heavy skillet with 2″ to 3″ high sides, over medium high heat.
- Add the flour, black pepper and cayenne and whisk together to form a paste (called a roux).
- Cook the roux for about one minute, stirring constantly to cook the flour.
- Whisk in the milk and half and half and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cook it for one minute until the sauce (béchamel) thickens.
- Pro Tip: You can adjust the consistency of the chipped beef gravy by adding more milk. If you want it to be thinner, whisk in extra milk about 1/4 cup at a time until you have the thickness you want.
- Stir in the chopped dried beef.
- Spoon creamed chipped beef mixture onto the toast. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
What about salt?
You won’t need to add salt to any SOS recipe, because the dried beef has plenty of sodium in it. In fact, it can be overwhelming sometimes.
Pro Tip: Taste the dried beef before adding it. If it is too salty, you can soak it in water for 10-20 minutes to remove some of the sodium. Pat it dry and then chop into small, bite sized pieces before continuing with the recipe.
What’s the best dried beef for SOS?
There are many brands of dried beef. Just look in the refrigerated deli section or close to where the canned tuna and vienna sausages are in your grocery store. Here are a few notable brands:
- Carl Buddig is a brand that’s popular and often used for chipped beef.
- Hormel also sells dried beef in jars and pouches.
- Armour has dried chipped beef in a jar.
- Carsons Dried Beef (which I used for this creamed chipped beef recipe) doesn’t appear to be formed and pressed, but rather is actually very thinly sliced dried beef. Fancy!
- Full Disclosure: My family would buy the economy, store brand, pressed dried beef in those plastic pouches from the deli section. Not to date myself, but I think at the time, you could buy 4/$1.00.
Why we need this now
Creamed chipped beef gravy takes us back. It isn’t fancy food, it’s comfort food. Nothing really sexy about it — and it’s certainly a challenge to photograph, but none of that matters.
This is sheer sustenance. The inexpensive, yet filling and satisfying meal that supported and kept folks going during lean times and war times. This dish, while maligned, nutritionally, fed the masses and is fondly remembered, still provoking an emotional trigger today.
As I look around at the state of our country, beaten down with pervasive inequality and injustice, divisive politics, a global pandemic and masses of people out of work, I can’t help but think that we could all benefit from a simple, home-cooked, comfort food meal like this.
After making this SOS recipe, I texted a picture to my Dad. One glance, elicited a wistful sigh, “Ahhhh… Creamed chipped beef on toast. I remember that.”
Old Fashioned Creamed Chipped Beef On Toast (SOS Recipe)
- 6 ounces dried thinly sliced beef roughly chopped into bite sized bits
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 4 slices bread toasted
- 2 teaspoons fresh parsley chopped, optional
- Melt the butter over medium high heat in a medium skillet with 2-3" high sides.
- Sprinkle the flour, black pepper and cayenne pepper over the flour and whisk until the flour is completely mixed with the butter and no dry bits remain.
- Cook, whisking constantly for one minute.
- Whisk in the milk and half and half and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook for one minute, again, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the skillet.
- Remove from heat and stir in the beef to mix well.
- Place a piece of toast on each plate and divide the creamed chipped beef over the toast. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.