An excellent gravy can make all the difference to a turkey dinner. Take some pressure off by making this richly flavored turkey gravy a day or two before.
To me, a rich, flavorful, velvety gravy is the key to a great Thanksgiving dinner. That, and homemade stuffing.
Thanksgiving dinners can be stressful because there are so many dishes to make, keep warm and serve at the same time.
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 turkey. I also make my stuffing and fresh cranberry-orange relish the day before as well.
How to prepare Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
This recipe is a labor of love, It takes some time, but mostly cooking time, where you don’t have to be standing there. In a nutshell:
- Roast a couple of turkey wings with vegetables (thighs or legs would be fine too)
- Simmer the roasted wings and vegetables with chicken broth (or even water), herbs and seasonings to make a rich broth.
- Make the gravy using a roux of oil (or butter) and flour then whisking in the broth.
- Optional, but great – blend in some of the soft cooked carrots for added sweetness, flavor and color.
The gravy comes out fairly thick so you can add an additional cup of turkey juices when you make the turkey and reheat the gravy before serving. To keep the gravy piping hot, pour it into a gravy or coffee thermos. Scrumptious!
Need a quick gravy instead? (6 minutes)
If you haven’t had time for the make ahead turkey gravy, you can still get excellent results with a quick gravy. Like the one found in our recipe for roast turkey breast with pear chutney (see the recipe notes) or roast chicken breast with gravy.
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
- 2 turkey wings (or legs, thighs) about 1.5-2 pounds
- 4 carrots, peeled, cut into big pieces
- 2 celery stalks, cut into big pieces
- 1 onion, peeled, cut into large pieces
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper for sprinkling
- 5 cups chicken broth (or 1 liter box plus 1 cup water)
- handful of fresh thyme sprigs (or 1/2 tsp dried)
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 peppercorns
- 3 tbsp oil
- 3 tbsp flour
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- ROAST WINGS AND VEGETABLES: Place vegetables on a pan lined with foil and 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 brown and vegetables begin to caramelize.
- MAKE THE BROTH: Place roasted wings and vegetables in a pot. Add broth, thyme (rosemary is good too), bay leaves, peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to 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. Strain the broth into another container and set aside. I transfer the broth to a 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.
- MAKE THE GRAVY: In a separate pot, heat 3 tablespoons of oil on medium heat. Add flour and whisk to make a roux. Cook while stirring for 3-4 minutes until it just starts to turn light brown. Add the turkey broth and stir until thickened and smooth. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, dried thyme or sage 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 1. Store gravy in the fridge until ready for use. Before serving, heat the gravy on low, add more broth or turkey juices as needed.
- For extra sweetness and color (optional): I often blend in a half cup of the soft cooked carrots using an immersion blender
- Make Ahead: The gravy can be made several days ahead and kept in the fridge in a sealed container. Warm on stove over low heat. To keep hot while serving, pour into a gravy or coffee thermos.