What's the best thickener to use? How do you prevent those dreaded lumps? We'll show you how to thicken gravy using flour, cornstarch and other methods.
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 cornstarch, 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. (Learn more about when it’s safe to eat cornstarch.)
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.
This is one of the best homemade gravy recipes for a busy day in the kitchen. You'll need only six simple ingredients and 15 minutes to whip up a rich gravy for the turkey and mashed potatoes.
My grandma made this gravy every Thanksgiving to drizzle over sliced turkey and stuffing. When I have leftover turkey and mushroom gravy, I chop the turkey into small pieces and add it to the gravy. I serve it over a piece of bread, open-face style. —Joy Mellwig, Naples, Florida
Perfect for a plant-based holiday meal, this savory gravy can easily be made vegan by using plant-based butter and sour cream. New to the world of vegan cooking? Be sure to check our guide to the best vegan butter brands.
Classic veggies, fresh herbs and bones from a home-cooked turkey make this heirloom gravy a keeper. At our house, we wouldn’t even think of sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner without it. —Nick Iverson, Denver, Colorado
Talk about traditional Thanksgiving gravy! This recipe uses fresh vegetables to infuse a homemade broth made from leftover turkey. Then, a cornstarch slurry helps thicken it to the right consistency, while herbs like sage and thyme amp up the fall flavor.
You might want to make a double batch of this rich apple gravy. Yep, it's sensational with beef, but you've gotta try it on mashed potatoes, chops and roasted veggies, too. —Kathryn Conrad, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wow your guests with one of our top-rated Thanksgiving gravy recipes. The secret ingredients that make this gravy rich and delicious? A quarter cup of apple brandy and an apple like Jonagold or Honeycrisp.
I make this recipe a day ahead so I can get the food on the table faster on the big day. The aroma while this cooks permeates the whole house and gets everyone ready for the feast. I save the turkey meat and use it in recipes that call for cooked turkey or chicken. —Isabelle Rooney, Summerville, South Carolina
Best made a day in advance, the aroma of this flavorful Thanksgiving gravy will put the whole house in a holiday mood. Keep the turkey meat for our best leftover turkey recipes of all time!
A traditional, from-scratch easy turkey gravy recipe will work for any roasted meat or poultry. Switch up the herbs to fit your preferences, or simply use what you have on hand. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
True to its name, this is one of the best Thanksgiving gravy recipes if you're short on time. Not only is our recipe ready in 20 minutes, but a single batch makes 16 servings and calls for six simple ingredients.
The key to this hearty Thanksgiving gravy recipe is finely chopped turkey giblets. The addition of fresh sage and white wine further enhance this flavorful recipe. No wine on hand? You can use chicken stock instead.
My family loves gravy, so I can never have enough of this make-ahead turkey gravy recipe on hand for a holiday dinner. The base is prepared with turkey wings and can be prepped in advance. —Linda Fitzsimmons, Fort Edward, New York
This is one of the best Thanksgiving gravy recipes for holiday tables that could never have too much gravy! You can bake the turkey wings and steep the broth up to two days in advance. Then, on the day of your feast, whisk in the flour and butter (a flat whisk is ideal for this task).
The star of this make-ahead gravy recipe is turkey wings. Simmer the wings in a stockpot with onion, fresh sage and broth for a rich gravy that pairs well with turkey and all of our favorite Thanksgiving sides.
This Thanksgiving gravy recipe makes a dry mix that's perfect for year-round gravy cravings. The mix is ready in 15 minutes and keeps well for up to six months. You can even add garlic powder or herbs de Provence for additional flavor.
This onion gravy recipe is so creamy and good I could eat it like soup. But it's best draped over mashed potatoes and other Thanksgiving fixings. For reheating the next day, if it's too thick, just stir in a bit of milk. — Mindie Hilton, Susanville, California
This gravy recipe packs a serious punch, thanks to the addition of cream cheese and apple butter. Drizzle it over mashed potatoes and other Thanksgiving side dishes for a truly decadent dinner.
Make your Thanksgiving or other special-occasion dinner easy with this can't-miss homemade gravy recipe. Use the drippings from your roasted turkey, and the gravy is done in just 20 minutes. —Edie DeSpain, Logan, Utah
Ready in 20 minutes, this recipe is truly foolproof. Don't skip the poultry seasoning or chicken bouillon granules—both are essential ingredients that make this Thanksgiving gravy recipe a keeper!
Looking for a unique gravy recipe for the holidays this year? This one is perfect! Fresh tarragon results in a rich gravy with a distinct flavor, while the orange juice lends a hint of sweetness.
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.