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Turkey Gravy Without Drippings (Make Ahead from Scratch)

A homemade ‘from scratch’ turkey gravy without drippings has deep rich flavor that will make your gravy the crowning glory at a Thanksgiving dinner. The best part is that you can make it ahead and avoid the last minute pressure. 

This classic turkey gravy is a labor of love. It takes time and several steps, but definitely worth it if you’re a gravy lover. Most of the time is hands off at least.

turkey gravy in gravy boat

To me, a rich, velvety gravy is the key to a great Thanksgiving dinner which can be stressful because there are so many dishes to make, keep warm and serve at the same time. In fact, here are some great strategies for keeping foods warm for dinner parties. 

Years ago, I decided to take some pressure off and make the gravy ahead of time instead of fussing at the last minute with turkey drippings, deglazing etc while my counters were full and I had to deal with a giant Thanksgiving turkey.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

turkey wings, carrots, onions, celery in roasting pan
Ingredients: turkey wings (or legs), celery, carrots, onions PLUS broth, thyme sprigs, flour, butter, seasoning (not shown)

Turkey: I use turkey wings, but thighs or legs will work fine too. If you can’t find turkey parts, use chicken wings or legs. Roasting turkey parts adds tons of flavor and makes up for not using pan drippings (the juices and fat produced when roasting meat).

Vegetables: Use carrots, celery and onions. Feel free to add parsnips as well for earthy sweetness.

Broth: If you can get turkey broth use that. I usually can’t find that, so I use chicken broth. Even water will work. Or use water and Better Than Bouillon paste (or a bouillon cube). Broth will add extra flavor to the gravy.

Fresh herbs and seasoning: Thyme if my favorite for this gravy. And, of course, salt and pepper. I also add a bay leaf and sometimes poultry seasoning.

Roux: A roux is a paste made of flour and butter (or oil or fat drippings). It’s the first step in making a gravy and used to thicken it.

How to make turkey gravy from scratch

The gravy is a 3 step process. Roast turkey parts and veggies. Use them to make a rich broth. Make the gravy from the rich broth.

turkey wings, carrots, onions, celery in roasting pan

Season wings and roast them with celery, carrots and onions until nicely browned.

roasted turkey wings, veggies and broth in pot

Place roasted wings in a large pot with broth and seasonings. Simmer uncovered for about an hour to concentrate the flavors.

turkey juices and fat in a fat separator on counter

Discard wings and veggies (except carrots – see tip in recipe). Pour broth into a fat separator (or separate bowl).

roux in pot

Make a roux with flour and butter or oil. You can also use the grease from the broth that floats to the top instead if you like.

turkey gravy in pot

Slowly add broth while whisking and cook for a few minutes until thickened. It will be quite thick on purpose. You can then add some turkey juices to thin it out while reheating it before serving.

turkey gravy in gravy boat with gourds behind

Pour into a gravy boat or, better yet, into a coffee thermos to keep it hot.

Tips

Shortcut

You can save time – about 90 minutes – by making the turkey broth in an instant pot. This eliminates the roasting of the wings and veggies as well as the simmering down of the broth on the stove top.

Basically, make this instant pot turkey soup recipe. Then remove the turkey and veggies after it’s cooked and set the function to SAUTE. Cook down the broth until you get a deeper more concentrated flavor, about 10 minutes. Then continue the recipe from there.

You won’t get that roasted flavor, but it will still be a delicious gravy.

How to keep gravy hot for hours

To keep the gravy piping hot, pour it into a gravy or coffee thermos. It will stay hot for hours so you can warm it up on Thanksgiving day and put it on the table well ahead of time.

Make ahead, store, freeze

  • The gravy can be made several days ahead and kept in the fridge in an airtight container or ziploc bag (if you need the room in your fridge). Reheat it on the stove over medium-low heat. If too thick, add more broth.
  • To freeze, place the cooled gravy in a sealed zipper lock bag or airtight container and freeze it for up to 4 months. Defrost before using. Frozen gravy may separate – just whisk it vigorously and it will smooth out when reheated.

Need a quick gravy instead? (8 minutes)

If you don’t have time for the homemade turkey gravy, you can still get excellent results with a quick make-ahead gravy. Here’s our chicken gravy recipe without drippings. If you can find it, use turkey stock or broth instead of chicken broth. This is good gravy that only takes 8 minutes without all the fuss.  

turkey gravy in pot

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turkey gravy in gravy boat
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Turkey Gravy Without Drippings (Make Ahead From Scratch)

Gravy is the crowning glory at a Thanksgiving dinner. A homemade 'from scratch' turkey gravy without drippings has deep rich flavor that will make your Thanksgiving turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing shine. The best part is that you can make it ahead and avoid the last minute pressure. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins
Course: Sauces and Gravies
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8 -10
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

For Roasting

  • 2 pounds turkey wings (or legs, thighs)
  • 4 carrots, peeled, cut into big pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into big pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled, cut into large pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and black pepper for sprinkling

To make turkey broth

  • 5 cups chicken broth or chicken stock (or 1 liter box plus 1 cup water)
  • handful of fresh thyme sprigs (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 peppercorns

To make gravy

  • 3 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter (or use vegetable or olive oil instead)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup juices from roast turkey (or extra broth)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400F/204C. See Note 2 for shortcut.
  • ROAST WINGS AND VEGETABLES: Place vegetables on a pan lined with parchment paper or foil sprayed with oil. Drizzle oil on vegetables and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place wings on top. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour or until wings are golden brown and vegetables begin to caramelize.
  • MAKE THE BROTH: Place roasted wings and vegetables in a pot. Scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan and add them too. Add broth, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes. The broth will reduce to about 2 to 2 1/2 cups. Discard the wings and vegetables (or nibble!), reserving half cup of the cooked carrots if desired. Strain the broth into another container and set aside. I transfer the broth to a fat separator that allows you to pour off the broth with only the grease remaining at the bottom. If you don't have a separator, just skim the grease off the top of the broth when if floats to the top.
  • MAKE THE GRAVY: In a separate medium saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. Add flour and whisk to make a roux 'paste'. Cook the roux while stirring for 2-3 minutes until it just starts to turn light brown. Don't let it get too dark or burn. Add half of turkey broth and whisk until smooth. Add remaining broth and stir until thickened and smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, thyme or poultry seasoning as needed. Gravy will be fairly thick – on purpose, allowing you to add another cup of juices from the turkey on the day of serving. Note 2 to enhance or deepen flavor. Note 3 for troubleshooting problems.

Notes

  1. Shortcut: You can save time – about 90 minutes – by making the turkey broth in an instant pot. This eliminates the roasting of the wings and veggies as well as the simmering down of the broth on the stove top. Make this instant pot turkey soup recipe. Then remove the turkey and veggies after it’s cooked and set the function to SAUTE. Cook down the broth until you get a deeper more concentrated flavor, about 10 minutes. Then continue the recipe from there. You won’t get that roasted flavor, but it will still be a delicious gravy.
  2. Ways to deepen or enhance flavor:
    • For extra sweetness and color (optional): I often blend in a half cup of the soft cooked carrots using an immersion blender
    • Cook down broth longer to intensify flavor
    • Add more seasonings such as: a bouillon cube or teaspoon of bouillon paste, more thyme, poultry seasoning, onion powder, salt, pepper, sage or a little bit of worcestershire sauce (1/2-1 tsp_. 
  3. Troubleshooting problems:
    • Gravy is too thick: add more broth
    • Gravy is too thin: mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water, then add to the simmering gravy to thicken it. Repeat if necessary. 
    • Lumpy gravy: Whisk vigorously until smooth. If that doesn’t work, either strain the gravy through a fine mesh sieve or blend it until smooth with an immersion blender. 
  4. Make ahead or leftover gravy:
    • The gravy can be made several days ahead and stored in the fridge in an airtight container or ziploc bag (if you need the room in your fridge). Reheat it on the stove over medium-low heat. If too thick, add more broth.
    • To freeze, place the cooled gravy in a sealed zipper lock bag or airtight container and freeze it for up to 4 months. Defrost before using. Frozen gravy may separate – just whisk it vigorously and it will smooth out when reheated.
Nutrition values are estimates.  

Nutrition

Calories: 74kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 154mg | Potassium: 138mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin A: 136IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.5mg
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2 Comments

  1. I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now. We are a family that loooooves gravy. I make the broth in the instant pot after roasting everything because an hour makes turkey bone broth. After I’ve made the gravy if it looks too pale, I add a bit of Kitchen Bouquet to achieve the right colour. Somehow pale gravy looks unappetizing to us. I usually serve this with dinner. After dinner I make more gravy in the roasting pan with all the drippings, then I mix the two gravies together. Since I send leftovers home with my kids, I need a LOT of gravy! I too make my own stuffing and cranberry sauce. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Boy are you organized! I agree – you need a LOT of gravy for dinner and leftovers. We love gravy too. Great idea about making the bone broth in the instant pot. I make turkey soup in the instant pot too. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!