What is Creamed Chipped Beef?

Creamed chipped beef, also known as SOS (short for “stuff on a shingle”), is a classic American comfort food made from dried, salted beef served in a creamy white gravy. This simple yet hearty dish has long been popular in diners, cafeterias, and military mess halls. If you’ve never tried creamed chipped beef before, here’s a complete guide explaining what it is and how it’s made.

What is Chipped Beef?

Chipped beef starts with raw beef that is salted, pressed, and air-dried or smoked until it reaches the desired texture. This process both preserves the meat and concentrates the beefy flavor.

The most common cuts used for chipped beef are round or sirloin, though chuck or brisket may also be used. Once cured, the beef is thinly sliced into flexible, small shreds or “chips”.

Chipped beef is sold refrigerated in small plastic pouches or glass jars. Popular brands include Armour Star® and Hormel®. It has a deep red color and intensely concentrated salty, smoky beef flavor.

Origins of Creamed Chipped Beef

Creamed chipped beef dates back to colonial times as a way to stretch inexpensive salted meats into a filling meal. The dish was adopted into military and boarding school cafeteria menus as an easy, economical dish to feed a crowd.

It earned the nickname “SOS” on military bases, thought to mean “stuff on a shingle” referring to the toast or crackers served underneath. It’s considered a nostalgic comfort food by many who grew up eating it.

How is Creamed Chipped Beef Made?

Despite its name, there are no cream or dairy ingredients in real creamed chipped beef. The “cream” comes from making a simple white gravy or béchamel sauce as the base.

To make it, butter and flour are cooked into a roux. Milk is whisked in and thickened into a creamy gravy. The chipped beef is then stirred in until warmed through.

The dish is classically served over white toast, but biscuits, mashed potatoes, rice, and noodles also make excellent bases for the gravy.

Creamed Chipped Beef Ingredients

Authentic creamed chipped beef requires just a few simple ingredients:

  • Butter – Butter provides rich flavor for the base gravy. Margarine is not recommended as a substitute.

  • Flour – All-purpose flour thickens the milk to create the creamy gravy.

  • Milk – Whole milk or half and half gives the gravy a rich, silky texture. Skim or low-fat milk may curdle.

  • Chipped beef – Generally 1-2 ounces per serving, rinsed and chopped.

  • Spices – Pepper, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, or herbs flavor the gravy.

  • Toast or biscuits – A slice of white toast or split biscuit is the classic accompaniment.

Step-by-Step Guide

Follow these simple steps for picture-perfect creamed chipped beef every time:

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute.

  2. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly until thickened.

  3. Add the chopped chipped beef and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes.

  4. Season with black pepper and other spices as desired.

  5. Serve piping hot over toast, biscuits, mashed potatoes, or rice. Enjoy!

Cooking Tips

  • Rinsing the salty chipped beef reduces the saltiness. Pat dry before adding to the gravy.

  • Over medium-low heat prevents scorching or curdling the milk. Whisk constantly.

  • Letting the dish rest off heat for 2-3 minutes helps thicken the gravy.

  • For convenience, make the gravy ahead and reheat with the chipped beef added.

Creamed Chipped Beef Variations

  • Use browned ground beef instead of chipped beef for a SOS/ground beef gravy hybrid.

  • Add chopped ham, crumbled bacon, or sausage.

  • Stir in sauteed mushrooms, onions, or peppers.

  • Top with melted cheese just before serving.

  • Drizzle with hot sauce or raspberry jam for sweet-spicy flavor.

  • Garnish with fresh parsley, chives, or a dash of paprika.

What Does Creamed Chipped Beef Taste Like?

When perfectly seasoned and made with quality ingredients, creamed chipped beef is rich, savory, and comforting. The creamy gravy has a peppery, beefy flavor from the chipped beef.

The salty savoriness of the meat paired with the creamy gravy makes for a deeply satisfying flavor and mouthfeel. It’s the ultimate hearty comfort food.

Nutrition Facts

A 1 cup serving of creamed chipped beef contains approximately:

  • 210 calories
  • 13g fat
  • 2g sat fat
  • 18g protein
  • 10g carbs
  • 1g fiber
  • 3g sugar
  • 740mg sodium

It’s high in protein and minerals like iron, zinc, and B vitamins. However, the sodium content is high, so limit portions for a healthy diet.

When is Creamed Chipped Beef Served?

Traditionally a breakfast or brunch food, creamed chipped beef can be enjoyed morning, noon, or night. It makes a hearty weekend breakfast but also works for lunch or a casual weeknight supper.

Some classic pairings include:

  • Breakfast – With eggs, hashbrowns, and coffee

  • Brunch – Alongside waffles, fresh fruit, and mimosas

  • Lunch – With tomato soup and a green salad

  • Dinner – Following a lettuce wedge salad appetizer

Where to Enjoy Creamed Chipped Beef

Look for creamed chipped beef in:

  • Diners – Classic breakfast diners often have SOS on the menu.

  • Mom & pop cafes – Homestyle local eateries may serve creamed chipped beef.

  • Military mess halls – SOS is still served on many bases.

  • Boarding schools – A lunchroom staple.

  • At home – Quick and budget-friendly for family breakfasts.

How to Store and Reheat

Properly stored, leftover creamed chipped beef keeps for 3-4 days refrigerated. To reheat, cook over medium-low heat, adding milk as needed to thin the gravy back out. Add additional chipped beef to the gravy, if desired.

Freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

Is Creamed Chipped Beef Worth Trying?

If you love savory comfort foods, creamed chipped beef is certainly worth tasting, at least once! It has a nostalgic, old-fashioned appeal and satisfying flavor profile. This creamy, peppery dish can be quite addictive.

However, the significant sodium content doesn’t make creamed chipped beef an everyday breakfast choice. Enjoy it on occasion as a treat alongside fruit, vegetables, and whole grains for balance.

So next time you see SOS on a diner menu, give this classic comfort food a try. Just don’t overdo the salty chipped beef too often.

Creamed Chipped Beef & Toast | Southern Living


What is chipped beef made from?

Also called dried beef, chipped beef is typically made from a leaner cut of meat, such as beef round. The meat is brined and left to cure for several days before being drained and air-dried. You can now also find chipped beef that’s been smoked while it dries, adding additional flavor to the meat.

Why is cream chipped beef called SOS?

Chipped beef is served in many diners and restaurants in the United States as a breakfast item. It is popular among the veteran community who generally refer to it by the dysphemism “Shit On a Shingle” or “S.O.S.” (when polite company and/or children are present, the acronym is said to mean “Same Old Stuff.”).

What is another name for chipped beef?

Dried beef, also called chipped beef, is beef that has been partially dried, salt-cured and thinly sliced. You can easily enjoy this cured meat as an appetizer, snack or meal. Dried beef has a rich past but is a relatively obscure meat product in most parts of the country today.

Is chipped beef like beef jerky?

Chipped beef is essentially a type of jerky. Which is light and shelf stable, and thus a good military ration for early 20th century technology. By making a gravy out of it, you could rehydrate it and serve it on toast, and you had a decent, nutritious, hot meal.

Leave a Comment