This homemade turkey gravy recipe is quick and easy to make! Don’t let those delicious pan drippings from your Thanksgiving turkey go to waste.
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After spending hours in the kitchen, closely tending to the golden brown roast turkey, there’s one last critical step. Make the gravy! It’s always the perfect complement drizzled over slices of meat and mashed potatoes. This is a classic stovetop gravy recipe using incredibly flavorful pan drippings.
The savory concentrated juices and rich fat instantly boost the taste. A roux thickens the gravy, turning the liquid gold into a velvety sauce in minutes. This sauce is quicker than giblet gravy, and it’s easy to make and reheat before serving.
Collect the pan drippings
Pan drippings are the juice, fat, seasonings, and fond or caramelized bits of protein and carbohydrates from the roast stuck to the bottom of the roasting pan. If you’ve added vegetables, those sweet and savory ingredients infuse their flavor into the drippings.
The concentrated ingredient took time and care to develop and shouldn’t be poured down the drain. Scrape the pan, so the fond dissolves, and extract as much liquid as possible.
Separate the fat and juices
Pour the turkey drippings into a measuring cup or fat separator. If needed, place a strainer on top to help catch any big pieces of vegetables or fresh herbs. The goal is to separate the fat from the juices. This way, you can measure the proper ratios to make the gravy.
I like to refrigerate or freeze the cup of drippings to speed up the process. The fat that floats to the top will solidify, making it easier and faster to scoop off the top. If you don’t have enough reserved fat, add butter, coconut oil, or olive oil to the required amount.
Once separated, measure the amount of juice. Add store-bought turkey or chicken, stock or broth to bring the liquid up to four cups. Before using, ensure that the liquid is at room temperature and not hot.
Add a thickening agent
To thicken the turkey gravy, use equal parts of fat and flour by volume. This is a classic roux base used to make a thick sauce. I like to use a light-colored pan like stainless steel so that I can see the color of the roux change. Heat the flour and fat, and melt additional butter if needed over medium heat. Whisk constantly to disperse the ingredients, cooking out the raw flour taste.
When the sauce comes to a boil, the starches in the flour swell, turning the thin liquid into a sticky consistency. The color of the roux should turn from pale ivory to a golden blonde color. This will give a thick consistency once the liquid is added. Turn up the heat to medium-high so that the liquid can come to a boil.
Season the gravy
Slowly add the juices, whisking in about a ¼ cup at a time. Keep stirring to distribute the starches for efficient thickening. The process only takes about 5 minutes! Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper.
For a smooth consistency
If desired, you can strain the gravy for a smoother consistency. The recipe makes a large batch of sauce, plenty for guests, and leftovers.
To make a turkey gravy with no drippings, start with turkey or chicken stock. For additional flavor, saute chopped onions, shallot, carrots, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage. Simmer the stock in the caramelized vegetables for about 10 to 15 minutes before using.
Storing and reheating
The turkey gravy stores well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop right before serving. If needed, add some stock to make the consistency thinner. Alternatively, freeze the gravy for 4 months, defrost and reheat it before serving.
Gluten-free gravies using cornstarch or arrowroot powder don’t reheat as well. Reheating and agitation cause the thickening properties to break down, resulting in a thinner sauce. It’s best to make these versions on the day of eating.
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Frequently asked questions
Flour is better for a thick, opaque sauce that reheats well. Cornstarch is twice as strong as flour as a thickening agent because it’s pure starch. Half as much is needed. It gives a glossy shine and is gluten-free but will become thinner when reheated.
Turkey gravy uses drippings from the roast and giblets if desired. White gravy uses milk, giving a creamier texture. Brown gravy is made from meat drippings like beef.
A roux using flour and butter or turkey fat is the most common way to thicken the gravy. Alternatively, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, tapioca flour, or potato starch are good gluten-free alternatives. Each one has a different thickening power, so they must be converted before adding.
How to make gravy less lumpy
Lumpy gravy is due to the starches in the thickening agent, like flour, clumpy together. This happens when whisking isn’t constant when making the roux and adding the liquid. The starches need to be dispersed by gradually incorporating liquid. If not, they stick together and swell, forming lumps in the gravy. This is also caused by adding hot liquid to the roux, cooking the starches and proteins too quickly, making it hard to break apart. Strain the gravy to remove the lumps.
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How to Make Turkey Gravy
- ½ cup reserved fat, from pan drippings or unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups roasting juices, from pan drippings
- 4 cups turkey stock, or chicken stock, as needed
- kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
- black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- Collect the Drippings – After cooking the roast turkey, scrape the browned bits (fond) stuck to the bottom of the pan, using 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, about 10 minutes. Refrigerate or freeze to speed up the process. Reserve the fat and pour the juices into a measuring cup. Add store-bought turkey or chicken stock to reach a total of 4 cups.
- Make a Roux – In a large saute pan, add ½ cup of reserved fat and ½ cup of flour. If you don’t have enough fat, use butter. Heat the pan over medium heat, whisk, and cook for 1 minute.
- Season the Gravy – Turn the heat to medium-high. Gradually whisk the juices into the pan, cooking for about 3 to 5 minutes or longer for a thicker consistency. For a thinner sauce, add more juice or stock. Season gravy with salt and pepper to taste.
- To Finish – For a smoother consistency, strain the sauce if desired. Serve hot, and rewarm if needed.
- Recipe Yield: 4 cups (960 ml)
- Serving Size: ¼ cup (60 ml)
- No Pan Drippings: Use ½ cup unsalted butter and 4 cups turkey or chicken stock or broth.
- 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. The drippings and butter are not needed unless a small amount is added for flavor.
- Cornstarch: Combine ¼ cup cornstarch and ½ cup water to make a slurry. Whisk into the hot liquid until thickened, about 1 minute.
- Arrowroot Powder: Combine ⅓ cup arrowroot powder with 2/3 cup water. Whisk into the hot liquid until thickened, about 1 minute.
- For Extra Flavor: Chopped herbs like thyme, rosemary, and sage can be added at the end of cooking.
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- Freezing: Store in a resealable bag or airtight content 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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