This ham gravy recipe is the perfect accompaniment to a stunning baked ham. Get ready to impress your loved ones with a flavorful sauce that will have them coming back for seconds!
Table of Contents
This easy ham gravy recipe comes together in minutes and takes juicy ham slices to the next level. Our family loves it with mashed potatoes and homemade biscuits! It starts by collecting the flavorful pan drippings. Don’t worry if you don’t have them. I’ll share plenty of substitutions to achieve a delicious sauce.
The fat and the juices are separated to make measuring simple. A classic roux is created to help quickly thicken the liquid. I use whole milk for richness to make the sauce even more luxurious. This homemade ham gravy reheats well to add to leftover ham the next day.
- Ham Drippings: Collect the juices, fond, and fat after baking a ham. They are full of flavor and add incredible dimension to the gravy. Depending on if the shank (fattier) or the sirloin/butt is selected, there will be more or less grease.
- Flour: The flour helps to thicken the consistency when combined with the fat from the drippings.
- Milk: The milk will create a rich and velvety consistency in the sauce. Half-and-half or heavy cream can be added for a heavier gravy.
- Seasoning: Black pepper adds a subtle lingering heat. Add salt to taste, but the ham drippings tend to be savory on their own.
See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).
Collect the drippings
Step 1: Whether you made a Crock-Pot ham or a baked ham, chances are you’ll have delicious drippings in the bottom of the pan. Scrape off any browned bits of fond and dissolve them into the drippings. You can always add hot water to help release it. Depending on if you made a ham glaze or used sugar, it will yield a unique-tasting gravy.
If you don’t have drippings, you can make a ham stock using the leftover bone or a ham hock to serve as the juice. Use butter or rendered bacon grease to swap out the fat from the drippings. Use the same amount as called for in the recipe.
Separate the fat
Step 2: Strain the drippings into a measuring cup or fat separator. I typically transfer the container to the freezer to quickly chill the drippings. The fat will rise to the top, and the gelatinous juice will be on the bottom. This step can be done in the refrigerator, but will take longer.
If the layers get cold enough, they will solidify. This makes it easy to measure. Once you can see the layers separate, measure out ¼ cup of fat and 1 cup of juice. If you don’t have enough of each, add butter or chicken stock to reach the required volume.
Make a roux
Step 3: In a saute pan, warm the separated fat over medium heat, then add equal parts of flour. Whisk the mixture to cook the raw wheat taste for about 1 minute. This should create a blonde paste. The lighter the color, the more power it has to thicken the sauce.
Thicken the gravy
Step 4: Once the roux is formed, turn up the heat to medium-high. The flour requires being heated to almost boiling temperatures to thicken the juices fully. Gradually add the juices, continually whisking to prevent lumps from forming. Now, slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. The process will take about 3 to 5 minutes to thicken the sauce.
This old-fashioned ham gravy is thick to cling to the meat. Feel free to add more water or stock to thin it out. Season with black pepper, and adjust the salt level if needed. If desired, strain the sauce for a smoother consistency or add some chopped ham for texture, similar to making a giblet turkey gravy.
Now you know how to make a delicious gravy for your next ham dinner! Here are some exciting ways to switch up the recipe:
- Herbs: Add freshly chopped thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, or oregano at the end. If using dried herbs, add half the amount. I would start with 1 teaspoon of fresh or ½ teaspoon dried.
- Spices: Add smoky paprika, earthy coriander, cumin, spicy cayenne pepper, or chili powder. Add warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves. Try my Cajun seasoning for a spicy and herbaceous flavor!
- Alliums: Saute minced garlic and diced onions with butter before adding the roux.
- Liquid: For a lighter sauce, use low-fat milk. Add heavy cream at the end to finish for a more decadent sauce. Plant-based milk can be used instead for a dairy-free gravy.
- Acidity: Add in apple cider vinegar or Dijon mustard for pungency. Reduce some dry white wine for an oaky finish. Orange or pineapple juice adds tanginess and a hint of sweetness.
- Sweetness: A small amount of brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup will balance the savory taste of the sauce.
- Savory: A teaspoon of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce adds a deeper umami taste.
Frequently asked questions
Store the gravy in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator or 4 months in the freezer. Add more liquid if needed to thin the consistency when reheating.
You have another option if you don’t want to wait for the dripping to separate into the fat and juice layers. Melt ¼ cup of butter, then mix with the flour. Whisk in the drippings, plus water or stock needed to reach 1 cup, and then add the milk. The gravy will be heavier with the extra fat. However, you can thin it out with water.
You can incorporate a cornstarch slurry instead of a flour-based roux for a gluten-free ham gravy. Simply heat 1 cup of drippings and 1 cup of milk until almost boiling. Combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch and ¼ cup water to make a slurry. Whisking constantly, add in the slurry. Cook until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Make the gravy without drippings
To achieve a ham flavor without drippings, you have a few options. Make a ham broth or stock for the best taste to replace the juices. Alternatively, use chicken stock or broth. To substitute the fat, render the fat from bacon or use lard to achieve a similar salty and smoky taste. Butter would be the second choice. Add chopped ham or bacon to the gravy to infuse flavor into the sauce.
- ¼ cup reserved fat from ham pan drippings
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup juices from ham pan drippings
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Collect the Drippings – After cooking the ham, scrape the browned bits (fond) stuck to the bottom of the roasting pan, and use the juices to help dissolve the drippings. A small amount of water and heating the pan over low heat can help loosen the fond.
- Separate the Fat – Pour the juices, fond, and fat drippings into a measuring cup or fat separator. Allow it to sit and separate until the fat rises to the surface. Refrigerate or freeze to speed up the process. Measure out ¼ cup fat, discarding or saving any remaining for later use. Measure out 1 cup of the juices. Use additional store-bought chicken stock, broth, or water to reach the required volume.
- Make a Roux – In a medium saute pan, add the reserved fat and flour. Heat the pan over medium heat, whisk, and cook for 1 minute.
- Thicken the Consistency – Turn the heat up to medium-high. Gradually whisk the juices into the pan, whisking continuously to break up any clumps of flour. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook until the gravy is smooth and thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. For a thinner sauce, add some water.
- To Finish – Whisk in the pepper, then taste and adjust seasonings as desired. For a smoother consistency, strain the sauce. Serve hot, and rewarm if needed.
- Recipe Yield: 2 cups
- Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
- Fat Alternative: If ham drippings are not available, use ¼ cup of unsalted butter, lard, or rendered bacon grease. Add in chopped ham or bacon to flavor the gravy.
- Juice Alternative: Use ham or chicken stock or broth instead of the juices from the ham.
- Substituting Cornstarch or Arrowroot Powder: If using cornstarch or arrowroot powder to substitute flour, heat the drippings and milk first until boiling, and then whisk in the starch slurry. Cornstarch Slurry: Combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and ¼ cup of water. Whisk into the hot liquid until thickened, about 30 to 60 seconds. Arrowroot Powder Slurry: Combine 3 tablespoons of arrowroot powder combined with 6 tablespoons of water. Whisk into the hot liquid until thickened, about 1 minute.
- Make it Dairy-Free: Use almond, cashew, or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- Freezing: Store in a resealable bag or container for up to 4 months. Defrost and reheat.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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