How to Make Gravy

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Learning how to make gravy is essential for serving up a flavorful sauce to complement any main dish. Use this stovetop method for making a quick pan gravy with or without pan drippings.

slices of turkey breast on a plate with gravy on top

Throw out those store bought cans of coagulated goop and easily make your own homemade gravy. In just a few minutes, you can have a sauce that instantly adds extra moisture and ties the flavors of an entire meal together. No roasted turkey dinner, mashed potatoes or biscuits would be complete without some of this luscious gravy drizzled on top.

You can make gravy from the pan drippings from any roasted or sauteed piece of meat, poultry, or fish. No drippings? No problem! A quick sauce can be whipped up by making a roux and stock. Very few ingredients are needed, but a basic understanding of how the science of thickening agents work will make you a pro. This simple guide will teach you how to make gravy in easy step-by-step instructions.

Thickening agents

Thickening agents are what gives gravy its rich texture and helps cling to food. The starches in these ingredients absorb moisture, swell up and turn a thin liquid into a voluminous sauce. Knowing how to incorporate them into the liquid is key. The most common thickening agents to make a roux are all-purpose flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot powder.

Collect the pan drippings

how to make gravy with pan drippings
The little bits of fond (browned particles), juices, and fat pooling at the bottom of the pan are loaded with flavor. Make sure to scrape the pan to remove the drippings. If it’s dried and stuck, you can add a small amount of water to help loosen things. Heating the pan over low heat helps accelerate this process.

Transfer the drippings to a fat separator or measuring cup. Giving the fat time to rise to the surface will make it easier to separate from the juices. For a medium-bodied gravy, use 1 tablespoon of fat (drippings, butter, ghee, or olive oil), 1 tablespoon of flour, and 1 cup of liquid (juice from a roast, stock, or broth). Double the fat and flour for a thick gravy.

Make a roux

whisk stirring pan drippings and flour to make a roux
To thicken the sauce, a basic roux is made with equal parts fat and flour. In this case, the fat collected from the drippings is used. If there is not enough fat, make up the needed amount with butter or oil. The fat adds richness to the sauce but also coats the flour to prevent clumping as the starches in the flour cook and thicken in the liquid.

How long you cook the roux and the color developed affects thickness and flavor due to Maillard browning reaction. The longer the roux is cooked, the more the starches break down which lowers the amount of gelatinization and thickness of the sauce. A white to blond roux takes about 1 minute to cook and is good for seafood, poultry, pork, and lean beef. A brown roux can take up to 10 minutes and pairs nicely with lamb and heartier meats.

Thicken the liquid

measuring cup pouring liquid into a pan with whisk stirring
Always use room temperature or cool liquid to add to the hot roux. Gradually add and continuously whisk to separate the starches and thicken the gravy. Bringing the mixture to nearly a boil, enables the starches to swell to their max potential. This process takes about 3 to 5 minutes.

Finishing the gravy

a spoon full of gravy being lifted over a pan
For an extra smooth sauce, you can strain to remove any particles from the gravy. It’s best to make the gravy right before serving because it with thicken more as it cools. It can be reheated but may lose some of its viscosity. Cornstarch and arrowroot based gravies do not reheat well. Seasonings like salt, pepper, chopped herbs like rosemary, tarragon, thyme, and oregano should be added at the end of cooking.

Bonus! Make Gravy without Pan Drippings

two side-by-side photos showing how to make gravy

There are times when no pan drippings are available and you want a quick and easy sauce to accompany a meal. A simple solution is to use butter, flour, stock or broth to thicken the gravy. Depending on the dish you’re planning to serve, any stock or broth can be used such as vegetable, fish, chicken, and beef.

I use unsalted liquids when available for more control of the salt levels in the gravy. Similar to gravy with pan drippings, gradually whisk the cool liquid into the hot roux over medium-high heat, until it thickens. To add more depth to the sauce, chopped garlic, shallots, reduced wine, a splash of balsamic vinegar, or soy sauce are tasty additions. These can be incorporated before adding the roux for more aromatic flavors.

whisk stirring a pan full of gravy

This gravy recipe gives the flexibility to add different flavoring agents tailored to the type of protein or vegetable being prepared. The sauce should lightly coat the back of a spoon so that when it’s poured it clings on to the food.

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The key to a smooth gravy

Make sure to add room temperature or cool stock to the hot roux. As you gradually add in the stock, vigorously whisk to keep the starches separate as they cook. Not stirring constantly creates a lumpy gravy. The sauce will thicken once the liquid reaches a boil, this takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

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How to Make Gravy

Learn how to make gravy to complement any main dish. Use this stovetop method for making a quick pan gravy with or without pan drippings.
Pin Print Review
4.19 from 32 votes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings 16 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Gravy (With Pan Drippings)

  • 1 tablespoon reserved fat, from pan drippings
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup roasting juices, from pan drippings
  • kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
  • black pepper, as needed for seasoning

Gravy (No Pan Drippings)

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted stock or broth, chicken, beef or vegetable
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

Gravy (With Pan Drippings)

  • After cooking the roast, scrape the browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan, using the juices to help dissolve the fond into the drippings. A small amount of water and heating the pan over low heat can help loosen the fond.
  • Pour the juices, fond, and fat drippings into a measuring cup or fat separator. Allow to sit and separate until the fat rises to the surface.
  • Measure out 1 cup of the juices from the roast. Use additional store-bought stock or broth if needed to reach the required volume.
  • Add 1 tablespoon fat and 1 tablespoon flour to a medium saute pan.
  • Adjust heat to medium and whisk together the roux, cook for 1 minute.
  • Turn heat to medium-high. Gradually pour in ¼ cup of the juice at a time to the pan, whisking constantly until a thickened gravy is achieved.
  • Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
  • Strain the sauce for a smooth consistency.

Gravy (No Pan Drippings)

  • Melt butter over medium heat in a skillet.
  • Add flour to the pan and whisk to combine. Cook until the roux is blonde in color, 1 minute.
  • Turn the heat up to medium-high.
  • Add ¼ cup of chicken stock at a time to the pan, whisking continuously to break up and disperse any clumps of flour.
  •  Cook and whisk until the gravy is smooth and thickened 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and whisk in salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Equipment

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 1 cup (240 ml)
  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon (15 ml)
  • The recipe can easily be doubled.
  • Thicker Gravy: Use 2 tablespoons fat and 2 tablespoons flour.
  • For Extra Flavor: Chopped herbs like thyme, rosemary, and sage can be added at the end of cooking.
  • Substituting cornstarch or arrowroot powder: If using cornstarch or arrowroot powder to substitute flour, heat the juices, stock or broth first until boiling, and then whisk in the starch slurry.
  • Cornstarch: For every 1 cup of liquid, use 1 ½ teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water to the slurry. Double the slurry for a thicker medium bodied sauce. Whisk into the hot liquid until thickened, about 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Arrowroot Powder: For every 1 cup of liquid, use 2 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder, combined with 5 teaspoons water for a thinner gravy. Use 4 ½ teaspoons arrowroot and 3 tablespoon water for a medium bodied gravy. Whisk into the hot liquid until thickened, about 1 minute.

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Nutrition Facts
How to Make Gravy
Amount Per Serving
Calories 22 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Cholesterol 1mg0%
Sodium 45mg2%
Potassium 25mg1%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Vitamin A 20IU0%
Iron 0.1mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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9 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy Caywood says

    That looks beautiful and I needed this badly Jessica. Mine always looks too thin. The texture and color on the photos looks perfect. Thank you.

      • Judy Caywood says

        Well until I had your recipe here I didn’t have a formula. I just tried to recall what my mom use to do which was to add some flour to the drippings in the pan and then when that was smooth looking I began to add water or milk. My milk gravy always turns out nice but I have never had a brown gravy that looked right to me in texture or an appealing color. I was surprised to see you add balsamic vinegar but when I read that it made perfect sense to me. You always help me be a better cook.
        xo

  2. Ronald F. Seto says

    Hi, I have been cooking a whole turkey every Thanksgiving for about 60 years, using a recipe passed down to me from my father who was a fabulous cook. The turkey has always garnered a lot of praise, so I am reluctant to change the recipe. This year, I want to try something new, since it is getting hard for me to spend so much time in the kitchen, preparing. Your roast turkey breast sounds like the ticket and I want to try it. The only concern I have is the amount of gravy I can get from only a breast ( I plan on cooking two breasts; I have about 12 people over for dinner). My family has other relations to visit for Thanksgiving, but they usually eat early in the day. I always serve dinner around 6:00 PM, so when everyone arrives for dinner, they are already pretty much filled up. I think two breasts will be enough, plus all the other trimmings. I was originally planning to do the breasts in a smoker, but there would not be any drippings for gravy, so it’s back to the oven. I usually add oyster sauce to my gravy for a rich brown color. After Thanksgiving, I will let you know how it turned out. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Ronald- I can’t wait to hear how it turns out! I love the idea of adding oyster sauce to the gravy! If there isn’t enough dripping from the gravy, I add some chicken or turkey stock.

  3. jacque hall says

    Thanks for the gravy recipe. There never seems to be enough gravy from drippings and a good recipe to add additional gravy is fabulous. BTW, I usually cook a turkey roast because my whole turkey’s always seem dry. However, this year I cooked a 20# unstuffed turkey. I added 1-1/2 cups of fresh savory, oregano, rosemary, thyme, (mixed), and 1 TBS of fresh garlic to the cavities. I slit the skin on the breast side 1″ and inserted 2-3 TBS of butter between skin and meat. Loosely wrapped in foil and baked at 375° for 5 hours. OMG, it was the moistest turkey I have ever had. Thanks for the gravy recipe.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      This prevents the starches in the roux from heating too quickly and clumping up. While whisking and gradually allowing the starches to swell, giving a smooth and thickened gravy.

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