Gravy is a staple part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Whether it’s ladled over turkey or spooned onto mashed potatoes, this thick, savory sauce transforms your plate. But a good gravy is the perfect balance between thin and thick, and it must be smooth without any lumps. So how do you thicken gravy so it turns out just right? You can use flour, cornstarch or an alternative.
Psst: Are you making any of these mistakes with your homemade gravy?
How to Thicken Gravy: Flour vs. Cornstarch
What is the best thickener to use when making gravy? Taste of Home Senior Food Editor Peggy Woodward prefers to use flour to thicken her Thanksgiving gravy. Making a roux with flour and butter “boosts flavor and gives the gravy a silky texture and rich flavor,” she says. Flour also gives the gravy a traditional opaque look, she adds, whereas cornstarch will make the gravy shiny and clear.
It’s also important to consider whether you’ll be reheating your gravy, as flour-thickened gravy is much better for reheating. “This is important if you like to make your gravy ahead (like me) or if you love leftovers (also guilty),” Peggy says. Cornstarch-thickened gravy will have an uneven consistency when reheated.
That said, cornstarch is gluten-free, making it the ideal choice for a gluten-free Thanksgiving meal. It doesn’t need to be cooked in advance, so cornstarch is a good option if you’re running short on time.
How to Thicken Gravy with Flour
To thicken gravy using flour, start by making a roux (a combination of equal parts fat and all-purpose flour). You can make your roux in advance if you want to save time.
For a medium-bodied sauce like gravy, start by heating 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, reduce the heat to medium and add 2 tablespoons of flour. Cook for about five minutes, whisking continuously until the roux becomes smooth and no longer smells of raw flour. Slowly add one cup of broth, whisking as you pour the liquid into the roux to prevent any lumps. If you have more than one cup of broth for your gravy, then increase the amount of flour and butter accordingly.
You can adjust the consistency of the gravy by adding additional liquid if it’s too thick or simmering the gravy to reduce it if it’s too thin.
How to Thicken Gravy with Cornstarch
To thicken gravy using flour, you’ll want to start by making a slurry (a combination of water and cornstarch).
For this method, start by heating a cup of broth until it reaches a simmer. Meanwhile, combine a tablespoon of cornstarch with onr to two tablespoons of water in a small bowl to create the slurry. Make sure there are no lumps of dry cornstarch before you move on. Then, slowly pour the slurry into the simmering liquid, whisking continuously to prevent any lumps. Continue simmering the broth until it thickens and the cloudy appearance clears up—about two minutes.
If the gravy is too thin, make a second slurry of cornstarch and repeat the process above.
How to Thicken Gravy Without Flour or Cornstarch
There are other ways to thicken sauce that don’t involve flour or cornstarch, and they can be applied to making gravy.
You can substitute gluten-free alternatives like arrowroot or potato starch in equal parts to cornstarch (1 tablespoon cornstarch = 1 tablespoon arrowroot or potato starch). Like cornstarch, you’ll want to start by making a slurry and adding it to the simmering broth. Tapioca works well here, too, although you’ll want to use half as much (1 tablespoon cornstarch = 1-1/2 teaspoons tapioca starch) when you make your slurry.
Of course, you don’t have to use any thickeners at all. You can reduce the pan juices by simmering them until enough liquid evaporates, thickening the juices into a gravy-like substance. It won’t have the same silky mouthfeel as thickened gravy, but it’ll do the trick in a pinch.
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