Gravy is nothing more than flour-thickened stock/photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

People freak out about gravy. I don’t know why. Gravy is easy as pie. Actually, a hell of a lot easier than pie. All it is, is a delicious, rich stock thickened with flour. In cooking school, they call it velouté, French for velvety. You take a great stock and give it a velvety texture.

Flour-thickened sauces got a bad name when bad “French” restaurants served heavy terrible sauces. Properly prepared, flour-thickened sauces are light, flavorful, and refreshing. I prefer them to heavy reductions which, prepared thoughtlessly, are gluey with protein and make the tongue stick to the palate.

The key is dispersing the flour uniformly through the sauce. We do this by combining the fat (butter, rendered chicken or turkey fat) so that the granules of flour are each coated with fat to prevent their clumping together. We accomplish this by adding flour to the fat and stirring. But we want to do more than just coat the flour. We want to cook it, too, so that you don’t taste any raw flour. Four can be cooked pale (it will smell like pie crust), or it can be deeply browned which gives it a wonderful nutty flavor but reduces its thickening power. I should do a quick plain roux video to show how easy it is, starting with equal parts by volume fat and flour then adding more flour till you have a thin paste (3 parts flour, 2 parts fat is ideal if measuring by weight, but for small quantities, by eye is fine).

The below gravy is simply minced onion cooked in the rendered chicken fat; flour is added, cooked; stock is added and brought to a simmer as the flour absorbs the liquid and expands in the heat to thicken the sauce. Skimming foam is key for a good for smooth velvety finish (that’s one of our new offset spoons in the last photo, for basting tasting skimming!). Flavor it any way you want.  Sage? Chopped giblets? Sautéd mushrooms? Go for it. White wine always a good idea for acidity and flavor. Season to taste with salt and a few drops of lemon or vinegar.

You can make this any time of the day, keep it on a low burner or do it the night before and refrigerate. But the most important thing? Make loads—it’s one of the best parts of the meal and it helps to keep the food hot! Many a dry turkey breast has been saved by delicious gravy. (But I’ll write about how to avoid the dry turkey breast on Monday with a cool dual roasting method.)

Easy Turkey Gravy with Onion

  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the onion and fat over medium heat and cook until the onions are completely tender and just beginning to brown (if you want to brown them, go ahead), about 5 or 10 minutes.
  2. If you want a thin gravy, add 4 tablespoons of flour, for a thicker gravy, add 6 tablespoons. Continue to cook the onions with the flour till the flour lightly browns and loses its raw smell.
  3. Turn the burner to high and pour in the stock, whisking continuously as you do.
  4. Keep cooking until the gravy comes to a boil and thickens.  Season with salt to taste.  Skim and discard any foam that collects on the side of the pan. Add a few drops of lemon juice or white wine vinegar.
  5. Taste.  Does it need more acidity or salt? Add it. Would you like to put pepper in it? Go ahead, it’s your gravy. Fan of giblets? If you roasted the gizzard and heart with the turkey, chop those up and add those. Too thick?  Add a little more stock from the cool cooking method I’ll post on monday. Too thin? Either make a quick roux of fat and flour and add that or a slurry of corn starch and water. When it’s perfect, it can keep warm for ages, covered, while you work on the rest of dinner. Serve piping hot.

If you liked this post on turkey gravy, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


32 Wonderful responses to “Turkey Gravy Recipe For Thanksgiving”

    • ruhlman

      well, i’d recommend it over serving no gravy at all. but why don’t you roast your family a chicken tonight or tomorrow, do my easy chicken stock from the carcass and you’ll have the basis for better gravy? can fortify with turkey neck and turkey wing tips, roasted. just a thought. cooking for the family is the most important part.

  • Mantonat

    Gluten-free gravy can be a bit of a challenge as most of the thickening ingredients taste a little funny when used in large enough quantities to thicken a big batch of gravy. Corn starch is OK when used sparingly; tapioca starch is definitely out as it adds a slimy texture; I’ve had pretty good success with a combo of potato flour and sorghum flour, but I need to work on the ratios. The interesting thing about the potato flour is that it browns almost instantly in hot oil and adds a french-fry flavor to the gravy – pretty tasty but maybe not very traditional. To avoid this it may be better to create a slurry with the potato flour and stock and then add it after making a roux with the fat and sorghum flour.

    • jeff

      what about using xanthan gum? i have used it a bit, and the tiniest amount thickens tremendously…

    • v

      I tried using sweet rice flour in equal parts with butter. Not too shabby, and had the look I wanted after I strained it.

  • Mark Ballogg

    Michael, Are you still planning on posting your turkey recipe today? I recently purchased Ruhlman’s Twenty and am happily working my way through it. If your recipe is as revelatory as your book my family will be in for a real treat this Thanks. M.

  • Tracy

    I remember my mother always dissolving some flour in water, whisking it up with a fork and then adding it to the pan. Of course, that could explain why the gravy was always lumpy…

  • Allan Suddaby

    I agree that reduction sauces with their sticky mouthfeel can be off-putting. Someone needs to break the hegemonic control they have over restaurant kitchens.

  • Livia

    This is how my mother always taught me to make gravy.

    A few years ago, however, I spent Thanksgiving with some more distant relatives, and my cousin advocated for sifting toasted flour into boiling stock. It seemed to work equally well and provide more flexibility for the fat content (works whether you strain fat from the stock or not).

    Is there any functional difference other than tradition?

  • BCW

    FWIW: I throw potatoes (along with carrots, onions, etc.) in with the turkey/chicken, then simply use the immersion blender to incorporate it into the stock. Strain it all through a fine sieve, and you’ll get a nice gravy – without flour. For those who are part of the no gluten thing, this is a great way to go. And because you are using the potatoes roasted along with the bird, the flavor is great. Give it a whirl.

    • Againstthegrain

      That’s a great idea! I love my immersion blender, and I prepare everything GF for my family, nearly always from scratch. But I don’t tend to keep an arsenal of GF flours on hand to cover every GF flour substitution situation. No need to get potato flour/starch when a regular potato will do.

  • Greg

    Great post Mr. Ruhlman. I am amazed at how many people are intimidated at the thought of making gravy. I am starting my turkey stock tomorrow. I make mine right in the roasting pan. It is a little harder to make sure the roux is cooked but you get all the fond in your sauce. I also like to add a bit of cream and sherry. You can’t make enough gravy as you mentioned it is great on sandwiches but I also make turkey pot pies and freeze. We enjoy that turkey well into the winter.

  • Greg

    One more comment but not about the gravy. Following your post on the butter poached shrimp I decided I had to invest in a copy of your new book. I recently graduated from a professional culinary program and would say this book is as instructive if not more so than Gisslen’s textbook. I am going to recommend this to our head chef.

  • allen

    Fuji apple infused bourbon, atsa my turkey day hoorah. Slice em up and let em sit a day in bourbon. Strain and drink. Hooochie mamma!! Hoooochie mamma!!!

  • Againstthegrain

    I cleaned out my freezers last night to make room for a bulk meat (bison) co-op purchase direct from a ranch. I had bags and bags of frozen roast chicken bones saved, so to make freezer space as well as prepare for our Thanksgiving dinner, the bones are now simmering in two large Dutch ovens on the stove, giving up their goodness to broth as they simmer throughout the day. I am completely with you on the push for homemade bone broth over factory made. Not only is homemade bone broth practically village-idiot-easy, but it’s essentially free if made from saved bone-in cuts, more flavorful, and über-healthful (full of soothing gelatin and bioavailable minerals) compared to the flavored rinse water that is lugged home from the store in aseptic boxes and cans.

    BTW, my favorite item for broth making is an Amco straining ladle but it does suffer from being a bit dribbly when pouring. I’d love to see you come up with an improved version for your Open Sky offerings.

  • v

    I made some roasted poultry stock earlier in the week, then made gravy the night before. This was my first time and I seriously cannot believe how simple it is. Removed so much stress from my early t-day celebration this weekend.

  • DiggingDogFarm

    I first learned about a roux from Cajun cook Justin Wilson, way back when I was a young teen.
    I’ve been making gravy (and other appropriate stuff) with a roux ever since.
    I miss Justin and his shows, he was hilarious!


  • Wilma de Soto

    C’mon! Throw the Nasty Turkey Bits, i.e. neck and whatever else is in the cavity bag, into with water salt, pepper onions, sage, thyme, rosemary, Bell’s Poultry Seasoning or whatever one uses to make a flavorful stock and simmer while the bird bakes.

    • Remove bones, etc. and chop whatever parts you wish for the gravy.

    • In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown some flour and turkey grease from the bottom of the roaster. Stir with a Whisk or a fork until well blended and smooth. Do NOT add broth or stock to lumpy flour and fat. Wait until smooth.

    • Add the hot turkey broth juice in slowly whilst stirring until it thickens. Lower heat.

    • Too thick? Add more stock. Simmer. Too thin, mix a slurry of flour and hot tap water in a bowl with a fork until smooth. Drizzle in whilst stirring with a fork or a whisk. Keep stirring until desired thickness. Simmer. Season well with pepper and salt and/or the seasonings one has used for the broth.

    • At my house tradition dictates “Bell’s Poultry Seasoning” when we make the Turkey Bits Broth and to season the gravy.

    Happy Gravy!

  • JP

    Can Wondra be used in place of the AP flour? Is there less chance of lumps by using the Wondra?

  • Brett

    Thanks Ruhlman. Made your turkey stock and now have the gravy out of the way. Used a little cider vinegar to brighten it up. Absolutely delicious. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • John Box

    Just in time for Thanksgiving. I was taking a look at the turkey recipe and boy, this just brightens my day. Can’t wait to taste your turkey with this gravy.

  • Patricia

    Why do you put vinegar into gravy? I have never heard of this, but notice that a lot of recipes call for it.

  • Theo

    A couple drops of acidity such as vinegar or lemon juice helps brighten the end product and makes it taste better.

  • Jodi

    love, Love, LOVE this! The slow oven-cooked stock is amazing, made The Best Gravy Ever, and we are gravy enthusiasts in this house. Not hard at all, just need to build in the time for the magic to happen. Wowwed them at Thanksgiving, recreating it today as chicken stock/gravy 🙂


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