For some folks, the ideal Thanksgiving gravy is built on pan drippings from a roasted turkey. But there are times when the pan drippings need to go into other dishes, or the drippings are too salty for gravy, or we just need to make our Thanksgiving gravy before the big day and reheat it before eating. You might need a vegetarian gravy to satisfy all of your guests, or maybe you just need extra gravy for eating up Thanksgiving leftovers. This gravy is a basic recipe you can make anytime, built from a flavorful mix of onions, a simple roux, and broth seasoned with fresh herbs.
Fond for Flavor
Since traditional gravies are built on the back of flavorful drippings made by roasting meat slowly in the oven for hours, the intricate taste of roasted drippings are hard to replicate. Instead of roasting more meat or frying bacon to cheat our way to pan drippings, caramelize an onion slowly over medium heat. Let the onions cook long enough to create a deeply brown sticky base of flavor in the pan — this is what professional cooks know as fond. When the broth is added to the gravy, use your spoon or spatula to scrape these tasty bits off the bottom of the pan.
How to Make a Pan Roux
Roux isn't a new kitchen concept for anyone who has made gravy before. A mixture of flour and fat, roux thickens gravy by releasing the starchy power of all-purpose flour. Roux can be a thick paste kneaded together before cooking gravy, or it can be a thin slurry added to already-cooking liquid. You can also make a roux as you're cooking by sprinkling a pan that already has fat in it (butter, oil, bacon fat, doesn't matter which) and then cooking the flour slightly before adding the gravy liquid. For gravy without drippings, building a pan roux is another way to add roasted flavor. Let the flour brown a bit, adding even more caramelization to the onions, their fond, and the final gravy.
Learn more about roux: Building Blocks: How To Make a Roux
Customizing This Gravy for Guests
This gravy makes a smaller portion than most because it's built to be fully customizable for every guest at the table. Make a small boat for each of the following friends and become the most revered host of all.
- For the vegetarian: Use vegetable stock instead of chicken or turkey stock.
- For the vegan guest: Substitute more oil in place of the butter called for and use vegetable stock.
- For the allium-averse: Skip the onions and sauté a handful of chopped celery and carrots instead.
Need a gluten-free gravy? Try this instead: How To Make Gluten-Free Gravy
This gravy freezes incredibly well. Yes, you can cool and freeze this gravy before the holidays. Just thaw the frozen gravy in the fridge overnight before reheating the gravy slowly over low heat. Whisk the gravy regularly to avoid separation as it reheats.
How To Make Gravy Without Turkey Drippings
What You Need
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups turkey, chicken, or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup finely chopped herbs, such as thyme and sage
Measuring cups and spoons
Immersion blender (optional)
- Caramelize the onions: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and light golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Some bit of onion will stick to the pan and get very dark, and this fond will add tons of flavor to the gravy.
- Make a pan roux: Add the butter and let it melt a bit before sprinkling on the flour. Once the flour is added, stir and scrape the pan until the flour no longer appears dry and the mixture has a nutty aroma, about 2 minutes.
- Add the stock: Carefully add the stock and quickly stir and scrape the pan to prevent any lumps and to raise up the lovely fond created from the onions. Bring the mixture to a simmer to thicken.
- Purée (optional): For a super-smooth gravy, you can purée the mixture off the heat with an immersion blender.
- Season and serve: Add the soy sauce and herbs and stir to combine. Remove to a gravy boat or Thermos to keep warm for serving.
- Make ahead: Cool the gravy slightly, then pour into a freezer-safe container or zip-top freezer bag and freeze. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat over low heat, whisking to recombine.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months.