Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Total Time
Prep: 2-1/4 hours Cook: 10 min.
This make-ahead turkey gravy is a lifesaver when preparing multiple dishes for holiday gatherings and special occasions.

Updated: Jan. 31, 2024

Make-ahead turkey gravy is the unsung hero of a great Thanksgiving meal plan. It has all the flavor of a classic turkey gravy recipe, but it can be prepared totally independent of the turkey bird.

This gravy is made with turkey wings, not an entire turkey, so you can prepare it before the big day, and prep Thanksgiving in advance. Any recipe you can make ahead of time will help to relieve some of the stress that comes with last-minute details on the big day!

How to Make Gravy Ahead of Time

It’s shockingly easy to make gravy ahead of time. Simply prepare a concentrated turkey broth made from roasted turkey wings. By cooking the wings with onions in a high-temperature oven, you really capture the essence of drippings, those flavorful juices that accumulate at the bottom of the pan.

When it’s time to serve, you thicken the rich turkey broth with a little flour. The silky, smooth gravy comes together in under five minutes, but it tastes like you spent all day cooking it.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Ingredients

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  • Turkey wings: After roasting the turkey wings in a hot oven, you get delicious drippings with a robust flavor to use in the gravy. The wings also contain a lot of collagen, which adds a smooth, silken texture to the gravy. If you can’t find turkey wings, feel free to use turkey necks or legs.
  • Aromatic ingredients: Ingredients that add flavor and aroma to a dish are known as aromatics. In this make-ahead turkey gravy, we use onions, carrots, celery and fresh thyme. Feel free to add other fresh herbs like rosemary or parsley to the mix.
  • All-purpose flour: Instead of making a roux (a cooked mixture of fat and flour), here we whisk flour into cold broth. It’s one of our secrets for lump-free gravy. (Psst: Read on for more homemade gravy tips.)
  • Butter: A pat of butter adds a creamy texture and rich mouthfeel to the gravy. It’s a small step that takes the gravy to the next level.

Directions

Step 1: Bake the turkey wings

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Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the turkey wings and quartered onions in a greased 13×9-inch baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 1-1/4 hours, turning the wings halfway through cook time to promote even browning on both sides.

Step 2: Deglaze the pan

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Transfer the cooked wings and onions to a Dutch oven; set aside. While the pan is still warm, carefully pour in 2 cups of the chicken broth. Using a spatula, gently scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Pour the liquid into the Dutch oven with the wings.

Editor’s Tip: The browned bits on the bottom of the pan are called fond, a French word that roughly translates to “the bottom” or “the base.” Incorporating these bits into the broth is an essential step that adds color and flavor to your gravy.

Step 3: Simmer the broth

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Add 4 cups of the chicken broth to the Dutch oven, along with the carrots, celery and thyme sprigs. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.

Step 4: Strain and skim the broth

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Strain the turkey broth through a mesh strainer into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup. Discard the wings and vegetables.

Editor’s Tip: Everything up to this point can be made in advance. Transfer the broth to a jar, and store it in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Step 5: Skim the broth

Skim the fat from the strained turkey broth. Add enough chicken broth so the concentrated turkey broth measures 3-1/2 cups.

Step 6: Thicken the gravy

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In a large saucepan, whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup remaining chicken broth until smooth. Gradually stir in the concentrated turkey broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the gravy has thickened, about two minutes. Stir in the butter and pepper.

Editor’s Tip: If you have any leftover chicken broth, save it for another recipe using chicken stock.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Variations

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  • Make it gluten-free: Wondering how to thicken gravy using gluten-free ingredients? Try using cornstarch or arrowroot instead of flour. Just be aware that cornstarch can turn spongy when frozen, so it’s not the best thickener if you intend on freezing the gravy at any point.
  • Include a splash of lemon juice: A teaspoon of lemon juice or cider vinegar adds a nice depth of flavor to a rich gravy. This can also restore the flavor balance if your gravy turns out too salty.
  • Improve the color: Our make-ahead turkey gravy naturally has a golden-brown color, but you can add a dash of Worcestershire or browning sauce if you want it to be darker.

How to Store Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Let the gravy cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for three to four days. Reheat turkey gravy in the microwave, or warm it in a saucepan over low heat. Keep in mind that gravy will thicken as it chills in the refrigerator but then thin out again once it’s reheated, so wait until it’s reheated before you add extra liquid or broth.

Can you freeze make-ahead turkey gravy?

Yes, you can freeze our make-ahead turkey gravy! Let it cool, then transfer it into freezer-safe resealable bags, and squeeze excess air out of the bags to seal and store them flat (this makes them easy to stack). Store them in the freezer for four to six months. Thaw frozen gravy overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Alternatively, you can hack an ice cube tray, and freeze the gravy as individual cubes. This is useful if you want to reheat it later in small quantities. Once the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe resealable bag for storage. Gravy cubes don’t need to be thawed, so you can reheat them straight from the freezer.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Tips

What can I add to turkey gravy to make it taste better?

You can season your gravy with a pinch of salt and pepper if it tastes bland. A little salt goes a long way to creating a well-rounded sauce. Add fresh herbs like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme to your gravy for a pop of color and freshness.

Is turkey gravy better with flour or cornstarch?

Turkey gravy tastes great with flour or cornstarch; it’s a matter of personal preference. Flour provides a rich texture, while cornstarch creates a glossy sheen.

What should I do with leftover gravy?

Leftover gravy is great for reheating leftover turkey. It keeps the meat moist while it reheats. You can also make use leftover turkey gravy in recipes like poutine or stuffing muffins.

Watch how to Make Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Prep Time 10 min
Yield 4-1/4 cups.

Ingredients

  • 2 turkey wings (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 2 cartons (32 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery ribs with leaves, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Place turkey wings and onions in a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 1-1/4 hours, turning once.
  2. Transfer wings and onions to a Dutch oven. While 13x9-in. pan is still warm, carefully add 2 cups broth. Using a spatula, gently scrape any brown bits off bottom of pan; pour into Dutch oven with wings. Add 4 cups broth, carrots, celery and thyme to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, about 45 minutes.
  3. Strain; discard wings and vegetables. (Can be made ahead to this point and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.) Skim fat from cooking liquid. Add enough remaining broth to measure 3-1/2 cups.
  4. In a large saucepan, whisk flour and 3/4 cup remaining broth until smooth (if any broth remains, save for another use). Gradually stir in cooking liquid. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in butter and pepper.

Nutrition Facts

3 tablespoons: 61 calories, 2g fat (1g saturated fat), 12mg cholesterol, 234mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate (1g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.

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