(Make-Ahead) Homemade Gravy

Gravy is one of my favorite components of Thanksgiving dinner. I like to drown my turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and countless other things in its decadence. And then of course I use my dinner roll (more accurately, my 2nd or 3rd dinner roll) to soak up any leftover gravy and bits of food on my plate. (Quick aside – I do this all the time, use bread to wipe/soak up any remnants on my plate. I’ve been told by others it’s an Italian thing. True?) Okay, back to gravy. LOVE gravy, but hate making it with drippings. With everything else going on as soon as the turkey comes out of the oven, I feel like getting the gravy finished unnecessarily heightens Thanksgiving stress levels worldwide. Enter this awesome recipe for a thick, creamy and flavorful gravy but without having to wait for the turkey to come out of the oven. It’s another recipe I discovered last Thanksgiving, and now it’s a staple.

You can go about this two ways: (1) If you are resourceful and you used the scraps from last year’s turkey to make homemade turkey stock and have it stashed away in the freezer, you can definitely put that to use here. (2) If you’re like me and don’t want to do one more ounce of work after the table is cleared (a.k.a. you didn’t make homemade stock last year), you can buy turkey or chicken stock from the store for this recipe. Since the stock is ready, you can go ahead and whisk together this gravy right before serving the meal or (my preference) make it the day before, let it cool, refrigerate it, and then warm it up in a saucepan when you’re ready to serve dinner. (You may have to drizzle in a little extra stock to thin it out if it got too thick in the fridge.) Additionally, you could make it even further in advance, say this week, and instead of refrigerating it, put it in a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze. Take it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the day before Thanksgiving, and then proceed with the heating up/thinning out as I mentioned above.

I LOVE gravy, but I don’t love the headache and stress of whipping it up while everyone is waiting to eat. This recipe is the perfect solution, and did I mention delicious?? Perfectly seasoned and a great accompaniment to the turkey and all the trimmings.

One year ago: What Are You Thankful For?

Homemade Gravy

Yield: 3 cups

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes


Β½ cup unsalted butter
1Β½ cups finely chopped yellow onion
ΒΌ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Β½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups turkey or chicken stock, heated
1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy (optional)
1 tablespoon heavy cream


1. In a large (10- to 12-inch) saute pan, cook the butter and onions on medium-low heat for 12 to 15 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. (Don't rush this step; it makes all the difference when the onions are well cooked.)

2. Sprinkle the flour into the pan, whisk in, then add the salt and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock and Cognac, and cook uncovered for 4 to 5 minutes, until thickened. Add the cream and serve. (Alternatively, you can cool the gravy and transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and warm up over low heat before serving. Add a splash or two of chicken or turkey stock to thin out, if needed.)

(Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style)


46 Responses to “(Make-Ahead) Homemade Gravy”

  1. Linda on November 15, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Last year I made a balsamic, red wine gravy. It was vegetarian so no turkey needed.


  2. Kate Koger on November 15, 2011 at 1:11 am

    I totally agree with you. Making gravy of any sort from scratch is a nightmare well except if its made by my mum. Hubby loves gravy when we have a roasted joint of meat (lamb, beef, chicken) but I just don’t make it. Hmmm…..maybe I might mid have to! πŸ˜‰ Thanks heaps brown eyed baker!!!


  3. Brandon on November 15, 2011 at 3:43 am

    Cleaning your plate with bread in Italy is called Scarpetta. I went to Italy a few years ago and we were staying with friends and the mother was very pleased when I did this. I guess it’s a very strong positive comment on the cook’s abilities.

    Nice looking gravy!


    • Kayle (The Cooking Actress) on November 15th, 2011 at 9:46 am

      Cleaning your plate with bread is def. such an Italian thing-I feel like it must be in our blood! My whole family (Italian side anyway), and my boyfriend’s always have used bread to clean our plates (esp. if it’s pasta) and it took us awhile to realize that it was an Italian thing. That and talking with our hands are just unavoidable I guess! Lol


    • Cat on November 18th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      Scarpetta, and I was raised on it. When I was in France, I noticed it was common practice there, as well. I neglected to ask, however, what they call it.


  4. Becki's Whole Life on November 15, 2011 at 5:51 am

    This is great and I definitely think this is what I am going to do. Since you and Ina say it’s good, I am sold:-). Making Turkey from the bird does always taste great, but there is so much else going on in those last few minutes that not having to make gravy would be a very good thing.


  5. Katrina on November 15, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Love this idea! I need to learn this with a veggie stock since I don’t eat meat. Thanks!


  6. MonicaB on November 15, 2011 at 6:45 am

    I’m not Italian, but I use my bread to soak up all the lovely bits on my plate!! Thanks for the wonderful gravy recipe. What would you suggest to replace the cognac or brandy?


    • Michelle on November 15th, 2011 at 10:45 am

      Hi Monica, You can simply omit the alcohol if you prefer not to use it.


  7. katie @KatieDid on November 15, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Definetely an italian thing- my whole family does the same thing especially with pasta sauce. This is such a great idea to do ahead of time. Unfortunately I have to stear clear of gravy due to gluten, but maybe I will make my own this year (ahead of time!) to bring!


  8. Judy B. on November 15, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Being from the South, gravy is an important part of our meals. In fact, I’ve heard it said that “gravy is the wine of the South”. Down here we call it “sopping up the gravy” when you use your biscuit/roll to get the last remains of the nectar.

    Love your vintage gravy boat – I think the brand is called Jewel T.

    Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for the easy recipe.


    • Sally on July 8th, 2015 at 4:38 am

      My mom had some pieces of that pattern. Your mention led me to a little research. The pattern is Autumn Leaf and was distributed by the Jewel Tea Company and made by Hall China Company. It was offered as a thank-you gift for patronage. Jewel Tea was originally a home delivery service of coffee, tea, and grocery items and eventually became the Jewel grocery stores in the Chicago area.


  9. Sarah on November 15, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I love how you can make this recipe ahead of time!


  10. Barbara on November 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

    I let the turkey sit out for about an hour so that all the sides can cook in my one oven. It’s always plenty hot still (covered with foil). My mom always makes the giblet gravy but it does drive me nuts to have her in my small kitchen with me. If you cook the giblets in water you can use that liquid too. I baste the turkey with it but also use it for gravy liquid.


  11. Kayle (The Cooking Actress) on November 15, 2011 at 9:43 am

    You just saved my life with this recipe!!!


  12. Sanjeeta kk on November 15, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Time saver and a helpful prep when unwanted guest arrive πŸ™‚


  13. Melanie on November 15, 2011 at 10:45 am

    a) this is brilliant.
    b) I have recently discovered that my bread soaking obsession is most certainly based on my Italian heritage. Love it!


  14. Katherine Martinelli on November 15, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I love the idea of a make-ahead gravy! This looks delicious!


  15. Jen of My Tiny Oven on November 15, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Great idea! The gravy is always a pain, you have to try to make it when you are trying to get everything else on the table! Make ahead rocks!


  16. Mercedes (Satisfy My Sweet Tooth) on November 15, 2011 at 11:36 am

    This is so helpful! I usually make my own from the pan drippings, but I refuse to use it after that initial heating because of the gelatin consistency! This would be great to make with leftovers for the day after when the original gravy has solidified and in my opinion, become unedible!


  17. Alli on November 15, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Is it okay to say this may be life altering? THANKS!


  18. CouponClippingCook on November 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Sounds delicious! Love the idea of cognac or brandy to give it some punch. I generally use fat free milk only because it’s what I have in the fridge, but since you included heavy cream it just gave me the idea that’s what I’m going to use this year. It would be so much better with the cream.


  19. Christina on November 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Ughhh. I’ve been hiding from food blogs because I haven’t even started thinking about Thanksgiving dinner! But, we (my family) usually do make gravy in advance, though we haven’t frozen it before. We get a giant turkey leg that we roast for broth and make up gravy the day before. This cuts down day-of prep.

    Now I’m going to go make pie dough to put in the freezer for later. =(


  20. Jen on November 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    What a great idea! And it sure would help things go a touch smoother after the turkey comes out.


  21. Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes on November 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    This is a great idea to make thanksgiving a little less stressful when trying to make last-minute gravy. Thanks for the recipe! YUMMY!


  22. Carolyn on November 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you so much for this great idea! I am a really good cook but a HORRIBLE gravy maker. I used to rely on my Grandma to make it and have been resorting the the Heinz jar since she’s been gone. Without a doubt, I am going to whip up a batch of this gravy for this Thanksgiving. My family will faint dead away.


  23. Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos on November 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I love the idea of making it way ahead of time. I saw some turkey stock at Whole Foods earlier so I might have to drop by and pick up a couple boxes for the pantry now while I’m thinking of it.


  24. balvinder on November 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Hi Baker, stayed on your blog for quite a while. Your idea of weekend dish was something new for me. I liked it. Also loved your little pumpkins, the cran berry sauce, cranberry upside down cake and….. How many should I say there were 75 pages I have to come back again and browse. The gravy is a good idea to make ahead. I do it sometime, too. It was my pleasure visiting your blog and will keep coming.


  25. angela on November 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    The gravy is my one stress of the day. I don’t like gravy except for T Day, so I’ve no experience. The make ahead approach is the way to go.


  26. Alissa on November 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    It’s DEFINITELY an Italian thing! I do it too – and it started from when I was a kid sopping up that last bit of sauce from my plate of spaghetti and meatballs!


  27. LinC on November 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

    What a lovely gravy boat! It looks like an heirloom. What’s the pattern?


    • Michelle on November 18th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      They are! They belonged to my great aunt. On the back of the plates it says “Superior Hall Quality Dinnerware. Tested and approved by Mary Dunbar Jewel Homemakers Institute.” I just googled it and it looked like there are a ton on ebay.


  28. Shelly on November 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    This sounds great and I will definitely be trying a vegetarian version! We’ve been using the package version, and well, nuff said!


  29. Lea on November 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    My first year making homemade gravy.. love that I can make this ahead of time and freeze it! going to make a special batch using veggie stock for my vegetarian sister πŸ™‚


  30. Patty on November 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Great gravy recipe for getting it done in advance. I did make it with chicken stock and I thought it lacked something. Plus had a heavy onion tang. But once I reheated it and added about 3/4 cups of turkey juice it was great. Thanks.


  31. Laura B. on November 28, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Lesson learned:

    Do not use Jack Daniels new honey-flavored whisky if you plan to follow the rest of the recipe exactly. It will taste… not very good. My mistake. I should have skipped the alcohol entirely, or used brandy or bourbon. The honey flavoring in the JD is just too overwhelming.

    However. I was reluctant to throw out/start over with the gravy, so I had to think fast. I added about 2 tbsp garlic powder and a LOT of turkey drippings (from the roasting pan), and while the honey flavoring was still very strong, it tasted MUCH better. There were even many requests for gravy after there was no more gravy to be given, so that’s a good sign. My husband didn’t care for it, but he’s picky.

    Note to self: Follow this recipe exactly next time! πŸ™‚


  32. Sonya M on December 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I made this the day before Thanksgiving and it was a huge success!!! Absolutely delicious and made plenty of it! We used it on sandwiches afterwards and it made a great dipping sauce! I will definitely make this again πŸ™‚


  33. Jasmyn on November 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks for this recipe. It’s my first time making a thanksgiving meal by myself and i’m glad to have some stress put off of me.


  34. stellagirl on November 24, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Is there such a thing as a nondairy sub for heavy cream? We have 2 lactose intolerant guests.


    • Michelle on November 24th, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a nondairy substitute for heavy cream.


  35. Sara on November 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

    What brand of stock do you buy?


    • Michelle on November 16th, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Sara, I buy the store brand’s “gourmet” option, which is 100% natural.


  36. Robyn on January 18, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    I made this for Thanksgiving & everyone raved about it. I’d like to make some to have in the freezer now. Sorry if I missed this somewhere – but how long can you freeze this for? Thanks so much!


    • Michelle on January 18th, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      Hi Robyn, I would say 2 months. Enjoy!


  37. erik on November 18, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Oh my God! Cleaning the plate with the bread is such an Italian thing!! I’m Italian (born and raised) and I do that every time!! Sometimes I even toast my bread and prepare some tomato sauce only to get to do that πŸ™‚
    Gonna try your gravy recipe for Christmas this year!


  38. Julie Ketter on November 25, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    wow! I made this today for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow and it does not disappoint! I’ve never been a fan of gravy, but I was licking the spoon when I was finished. Thanks for sharing!


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