8 Ways to Quickly Thicken Gravy So It Has a Silky, Creamy Texture

published Nov 17, 2023
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Is there anything worse than runny gravy? When you’re digging into a delicious roasted turkey, one of the best things to do is to smother it in gravy — and the key to a truly satisfying gravy is the consistency. But when your gravy is looking more watery than creamy, all hope is not lost. Whether you’ve made your gravy from scratch on Thanksgiving morning or you’re reheating gravy, there are several strategies for thickening it up using things you most likely already have in the kitchen. 

Quick Overview

How to Thicken Gravy

If your gravy is looking watery, you can add a slurry (a mixture of cornstarch/flour and water) or a roux (a mixture of flour and butter) to thicken it up. Other pantry ingredients like Wondra (an instant flour), arrowroot, tapioca, and potato starch can also be used to thicken gravy to a deliciously silky consistency.

Here are eight easy ways to thicken your gravy — including one vintage pantry staple — so you can pour it over the turkey, drench your mashed potatoes, or even just sneak a taste right from the gravy boat. 

1. Cook the gravy longer.

Sometimes, we all just need an extra minute or two to be our best selves — and gravy is no different. If the consistency of your gravy isn’t what you want, try simmering the gravy a bit longer to help evaporate some of the liquids. If the gravy still hasn’t thickened to your liking after about 10 minutes or so, it’s now time to try a thickening agent. 

2. Thicken with a slurry.

A slurry is a concentrated mixture of starch and liquid that will thicken soups, stews, and, of course, gravy. (If you added flour or cornstarch directly into your gravy, it would be lumpy, bumpy, and completely unappetizing.) 

To thicken gravy with a slurry, do the following steps:

  • Measure out 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour or cornstarch into a small bowl. 
  • Add 1 tablespoon water or broth and whisk with a fork until combined. 
  • Whisk the gravy constantly over medium heat, slowly pour the slurry into the gravy, and cook until the gravy thickens. 

3. Thicken with a roux.

A roux is a building block of thick sauces, gravies, and stews, and is made with 1 part butter to 1 part all-purpose flour. Although many gravy recipes call for a roux to be made at the beginning, if your gravy isn’t thickening up the way you’d planned on, adding a roux in at the end can get it to the consistency you’d like. Here’s how to add a roux to thicken your gravy.

  • Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium-low heat.
  • Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and stir with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight motion until the flour has absorbed the butter. 
  • Cook until small bubbles begin to form and the mixture starts to smooth out, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  • While whisking the gravy constantly over medium heat, slowly add the roux 1 tablespoon at a time, letting each addition fully come to a simmer and see if it thickens before adding more. 

4. Thicken with Wondra flour.

Wondra flour is a very fine, pre-cooked instant flour that was invented in the early 1960s (it’s still packaged in a wonderfully vintage technicolor blue canister), and it can brilliantly be added directly to gravies and sauces to thicken them. Because it has such a fine consistency, Wondra can be added right into a sauce or gravy — without needing to make a roux or a slurry first — and it won’t introduce any unwanted lumps. 

To use Wondra to thicken gravy, do the following steps:

  • While whisking the gravy constantly over medium heat, whisk in 1/4 teaspoon Wondra. 
  • Cook, whisking often, for a few minutes and repeat until the gravy thickens to the desired consistency. (Warning: Resist the temptation to add too much too soon, as it could make the gravy too thick.) 

5. Try some alternative thickening agents.

Although flour and cornstarch are the typical ingredients used to thicken sauces, stews, and gravies, there are others that can be used if you have guests avoiding gluten, or if you’re in a pinch — like when you use all of the remaining flour for your pie crust and the stores are now closed on Thanksgiving morning. 

Here are some alternative thickening agents you can use in your gravy:

Arrowroot powder

Arrowroot powder (sometimes referred to as arrowroot flour or arrowroot starch) is a flavorless, white starchy ingredient that is often used in gluten-free baking. The powder is extracted from — you guessed it — an arrowroot, which is a tuber. 

To thicken gravy with arrowroot powder, do the following steps:

  • Mix 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder with 3 tablespoons water until dissolved for every 1 cup of gravy. 
  • While whisking the gravy constantly over medium heat, add the arrowroot mixture a little bit at a time. 
  • Cook, whisking often, until the gravy thickens. 

Tip: If you’re using arrowroot powder to thicken gravy, plan on not doing so until shortly before you eat because arrowroot can lose its thickening power if it’s heated for too long. 

Tapioca starch

Although you may know tapioca best from boba tea, tapioca starch is a flavorless, gluten-free flour that can be used to thicken gravies, sauces, and stews. Tapioca comes from the cassava plant, which has a brown cylindrical root. 

To thicken gravy with tapioca starch, do the following steps:

  • Mix 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of tapioca starch with 3 tablespoons water until dissolved for every 1 cup of gravy.
  • While whisking the gravy constantly over medium-low heat, add the tapioca starch mixture a little bit at a time. Do not bring to a boil.
  • Cook, whisking often, until the gravy thickens. 

Tip: Tapioca has a tendency to get stringy when overcooked, so be sure to remove the gravy from the heat when you start to see bubbles forming. 

Potato starch

Potato starch is made from very finely ground potatoes and is used to thicken sauces as well as provide a crispy coating to meats. 

To thicken gravy with potato starch, do the following steps:

  • Create a slurry by stirring 2 1/4 teaspoons potato starch and 3 tablespoons water together in a small bowl until the starch is dissolved.
  • While whisking the gravy constantly over medium heat, add the potato starch mixture a little bit at a time.
  • Cook, whisking often, until the gravy thickens. 

Puréed vegetables 

If you don’t happen to have any thickening agents on hand, turn to your veggie crisper to get your gravy to a thicker texture. 

To thicken gravy with pureéed vegetables, do the following steps:

  • Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. 
  • Dice up any starchy root vegetables you have on hand, such as parsnips, beets, potatoes, and carrots, into 1/2-inch pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt.
  • Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet until the veggies are browned on the bottom and are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. 
  • Wait for the vegetables to cool down for a few minutes, then process in a blender or food processor until smooth.  
  • Whisk the roasted vegetable purée into the gravy. Cook on medium heat until the gravy is thickened. 
  • Strain the gravy before serving. 


Is it better to use flour or cornstarch to thicken gravy?

Both all-purpose flour and cornstarch will thicken gravy, but when choosing between one or the other, you should note that cornstarch can make gravy appear shiny. Cornstarch also loses its thickening power if cooked for a long period of time. 

Does gravy have to boil to thicken?

Gravy doesn’t necessarily have to boil to thicken (and in fact if you are using thickeners like tapioca starch, you shouldn’t bring it to a boil), but it does need to heat long enough and at a high-enough temperature to make it a silky consistency. Not cooking it long enough is one of the biggest gravy mistakes you can make. 

Why is my gravy not thickening with cornstarch?

Cornstarch should thicken gravy in less than a minute when at a simmer. If it doesn’t thicken enough, it’s a sign that you need more cornstarch. Whisk in more cornstarch slurry a little at a time, and let each addition come to a simmer before adding more.