This is the Turkey Gravy recipe that converted me. Rich, ultra smooth, complex, and blessedly easy, it’s the one and only brown gravy made with drippings that I will cook.
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Why You’ll Love This Old Fashioned Turkey Gravy Recipe
- It Has the Perfect Texture. When it comes to gravy, flavor and texture can quickly make or break it. The secret to a good gravy texture is to use plenty of flour and really take your time stirring and cooking it in butter before whisking in the drippings and stock. It’s hard to be patient, but this luscious, perfect gravy is WORTH IT.
- The Flavor is Superb. Stop looking for the best store bought turkey gravy, this recipe is SO much better (especially if you start with the most flavorful turkey recipe aka my Thanksgiving Turkey)! This recipe coaxes every bit of flavor out of butter-cooked onions, brandy, turkey drippings, and sage, giving it a level of depth and richness that far exceeds anything from a store.
- It Can Be Used in Many Ways. If you’ve avoided making turkey gravy in the past because you don’t want to be stuck with oodles of leftovers, get ready to change your mind! You can use this gravy on so much more than just roasted turkey. It’s scrumptious over Crockpot Turkey Breast, Baked Fried Chicken, Air Fryer Turkey Breast, and even Drop Biscuits (count me in for a breakfast of sausage, biscuits, and gravy!), and more.
How to Make Turkey Gravy
Turkey gravy comes together in 4 basic steps. You can remember them as S-S-S-S.
- Separate the fat from the drippings.
- Sauté an onion, butter, and the thickener (flour or cornstarch).
- Slowly whisk in the drippings and stock.
- Simmer until thickened.
Separate Fat from Drippings
If you don’t separate the fat from the drippings, your gravy will be greasy.
By far the easiest way to remove fat is with a fat separator like this. I finally bought one last year and the frustration saved is worth it.
To separate turkey pan drippings without a fat separator, use a turkey baster or a ziptop bag:
- Turkey Baster. Let the drippings rest for several minutes until the fat rises to the top; suck out the fat with a turkey baster.
- Ziptop Bag. Place a gallon-sized ziptop bag in a large bowl. Carefully pour the drippings into the bag and seal. Let stand for several minutes, until the fat rises to the top. Lift the bag over a cup or bowl, cut a small hole in the corner, and strain the de-fatted liquid into a liquid measuring cup with a spout. Stop pouring when the fat almost reaches the bag opening. Discard solids (aka the remaining fat).
Sauté the Onion with Butter and Flour
Gravy is like making a roux, and that starts with cooking butter and flour.
I like to add an onion for more complexity.
To make sure your gravy has great flavor:
- Take your time sautéing the onion. Let it get nice and soft. You can do this while the turkey is still in the oven, or even earlier in the day.
- Cook the flour for AT LEAST 1 full minute. Seriously, set a timer. Raw flour taste will ruin your gravy.
SLOWLY Add the Drippings
You’ll need 2 cups of liquid to make turkey gravy.
- Start by measuring the drippings (if you follow my Thanksgiving Turkey recipe, you’ll have lots of yummy wine in yours!), then top them off with stock until you reach 2 cups. If you are making a Spatchcock Turkey, you will have fewer drippings.
- Splash in the drippings a little at a time, whisking CONSTANTLY.
- Slow addition and lots of whisking will make sure your gravy is smooth.
- If your gravy is lumpy, see “Troubleshooting Gravy” below for a fix.
Flour vs. Cornstarch
You can thicken gravy with either flour or cornstarch.
- Flour gravy better holds its consistency as it sits and when it is reheated, making it my preference for turkey gravy. Unless you have a guest who cannot have gluten, use flour to make gravy, not cornstarch.
- Cornstarch does work for gravy (and will make the gravy gluten free), but gravy made with it tends to thin out when it cools and is reheated. If this happens, whisk in a cornstarch slurry to thicken it back up.
- If you want to know how to make turkey gravy with cornstarch instead of flour, reduce the amount of cornstarch by 1 tablespoon, as cornstarch thickens more powerfully than flour does, because it is a pure starch.
- Or, you can swap flour for the same amount of a 1:1 gluten free flour blend like this.
Let the gravy simmer at a steady pace, but not a rolling boil, adjusting the heat as needed.
Whisk very often to make sure the gravy is smooth (some say to whisk constantly, but I find that I can take little breaks to ready other things in the kitchen while it cooks, as long as I check in frequently to give it a stir).
How thick or thin you’d like your gravy is up to you.
For a rich, creamy gravy that is still easy to spoon, simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
While you need little beyond onion, flour, butter, and turkey drippings to make stellar gravy (especially if you are using the drippings from my roast turkey with wine), I like to add two bonus ingredients to take my gravy over the top.
- Sage. A classic Thanksgiving herb that tastes yummy with everything at the table.
- Brandy. A splash or two gives the gravy a well-rounded complexity.
- Your Gravy is Lumpy. To fix lumpy gravy, puree it with an immersion blender in the pan or in a regular blender until smooth.
- Your Gravy is too Thin. If your gravy is thin, slowly whisk in a cornstarch slurry (2 tablespoons water mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch). Heat, whisking constantly, until thickened. If it’s still too thin, add another cornstarch slurry. DO NOT add dry cornstarch directly to hot gravy or it will seize.
- Your Gravy is too Salty. If your gravy is too salty, add more liquid. Unsalted stock is ideal, but if you don’t have it, water will work in a pinch (do not use regular stock, which will make it even more salty). This will thin out your gravy, so if needed, whisk in a cornstarch slurry (see “My Gravy is Too Thin” above for guidance). You can also add some acid, such as a squeeze of lemon juice or a teaspoon of white wine vinegar, to help rebalance flavors. Add slowly so you don’t accidentally overpower the gravy.
- To Store. Refrigerate gravy in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. You can also reheat gravy in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Love the idea of having perfectly-portioned gravy on demand? Freeze your leftover gravy in the wells of an ice cube tray or mini muffin pan (if you have silicon liners). Pop out the cubes of frozen gravy, and store them in an airtight storage container or ziptop bag. Then, you can thaw and enjoy the gravy as desired.
- Pork. Try it on Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin (Roasted Carrots would be perfect on the side).
- Meatballs. Cranberry Turkey Meatballs + gravy = perfection!
- Stuffing. Make Leftover Stuffing Cakes extra special with some gravy.
- Poutine. Turn leftover gravy into a major crowd-pleaser by pouring it over some cheese curds (or diced Mozzarella) and Baked French Fries or Air Fryer French Fries. Try it with leftover turkey too.
What to Serve With Turkey Gravy
- Turkey. Of course! Thanksgiving Turkey and Spatchcock Turkey are my favorites. (Don’t forget the Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Green Beans too!)
- Chicken or Pork. Air Fryer Fried Chicken, Air Fryer Chicken Tenders, and Smothered Pork Chops are extra scrumptious with gravy on top.
- Steak. Top your Air Fryer Steak with turkey gravy for a crowd-pleasing meal.
- And More! Don’t stop with meats! This gravy tastes delicious served over a Baked Potato, Sweet Potato Hash, and Grilled Portobello Mushrooms.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Saute Pan. Perfect for making turkey gravy.
- Whisk. This small whisk helps mitigate splashing.
- Fat Separator. A worthy purchase for those who plan to make gravy again in the future.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Use Whatever Herbs You Have. If you have other herbs on hand that you’d like to use instead of the sage, you can swap them. I think a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary, parsley leaves, or a bay leaf would be tasty.
- Separate the Fat. Don’t forget this step when making turkey gravy from drippings! If you neglect to remove the fat, your gravy will end up greasy. See the “Separate Fat from Drippings” section above for tips on how to do this.
- Whisk it Real Good. One of the keys to making sure you end up with a lump-free gravy is by whisking it frequently. Make sure you’re whisking when and how the recipe suggests to ensure a smooth, luscious gravy.
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- 2 cups de-fatted turkey drippings* add chicken or turkey stock if you don’t have enough drippings to make the full 2 cups
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour use 1:1 GF AP flour substitute to make gluten free
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons brandy optional
- 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage optional
- In a large (10 to 12-inch), deep saute pan, cook the butter and onion over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned—don't shortcut this step as it gives the gravy phenomenal flavor.
- Sprinkle the flour over the top, then stir in the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring continuously, for 1 full minute.
- Gradually add the turkey drippings, whisking the entire time so that no lumps form.
- Add the brandy and sage.
- Bring to a simmer and let bubble gently, stirring often, until the gravy thickens to your liking, about 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully taste (it's hot!) and adjust seasoning as desired. Enjoy hot with everything.
- *To de-fat turkey drippings (separate the fat), the easiest way is to use a fat separator like this. That said, it isn’t the only option! You can let the drippings rest for several minutes until the fat rises to the top, then suck out the fat with a turkey baster. Or, place a gallon-sized ziptop bag in a large bowl. Carefully pour the drippings into the bag and seal. Let stand for several minutes, until the fat rises to the top. Lift the bag over a cup or bowl, cut a small hole in the corner, and strain the de-fatted liquid into a liquid measuring cup with a spout. Stop pouring when the fat almost reaches the bag opening.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate gravy in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. You can also reheat gravy in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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Frequently Asked Questions
You can remove turkey drippings from the pan using a ladle or turkey baster (be careful not to accidentally squeeze any out during the transfer). Once the liquid level is lower, you can simply pour the drippings straight from the roasting pan into whatever vessel or strainer you’re using.
If you’re in charge of bringing the gravy but aren’t making the turkey, you’ll need to follow one of my tips listed above in the “Gravy without Drippings” section. Or, you can politely ask the turkey maker to save you some drippings if you feel comfortable making it right before at the location of your meal. (Or make Mushroom Gravy and don’t worry about drippings at all.)
If your onions are stuck to the pan after you brown them, don’t panic! This is actually a wonderful thing. The browned bits from the onions and butter are packed with flavor that will make your gravy extra tasty. Use a wooden spoon to loosen as many as you can, then any remaining pieces will remove easily once you deglaze the pan with the drippings.
You’ll need 2 cups of liquid to make gravy. Use as many drippings as you have, then for the remainder, add turkey stock or chicken stock until you reach 2 cups.
Brown gravy is made using meat drippings and stock, along with fat (butter) and a thickening agent (flour or cornstarch). Thus, turkey gravy is a brown gravy. You can also make brown gravy with the drippings from other kinds of meat, such as a roast or chicken.
White gravy is made with milk, fat, and a thickening agent; white gravy is made without drippings, and with sausage added is popular for biscuits and gravy.