Lighten your stress-load by making this Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy for your holiday celebration. It can be made a couple of days ahead of your meal using turkey wings.
Make Turkey Gravy Ahead of Time!
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a whole turkey to make gravy. However, you must slow-roast turkey to get good gravy. And now that so many us deep fry or cook our turkey in an electric roaster, we no longer have the drippings to make the gravy.
I have to admit I’ve witnessed some pretty seasoned cooks have complete breakdowns on Thanksgiving day, when it comes time to gravy making. There is just too much going on at that moment; the bird is out of the oven, they are trying to deglaze the pan, the side dishes are almost ready or are getting cold, there are too many people around…gravy anxiety is real.
The Secret To Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
All of this pandemonium can be eliminated with a little planning. The secret is turkey wings from the grocery store. Every store has them and they are so inexpensive. When you roast the wings with celery, onions and garlic, you have the makings of a perfect turkey stock, which you will turn into the perfect gravy. This can be done months or days ahead and frozen, taking out the stock when you need it.
On Thanksgiving you can make the gravy while the turkey is in the oven (as opposed to when it’s out), which many of you know is a very stressful activity.
So relieve your stress this year and make gravy ahead of time.
Turkey Gravy Ingredients
- Turkey Wings: The foundation for your flavorful turkey stock, offering a rich and savory base for the gravy.
- Celery: Adds a subtle, aromatic flavor to the stock and contributes to the overall complexity of the gravy.
- Onion: Enhances the savory profile of the stock, with a sweet undertone to balance the flavors.
- Garlic: Infuses the stock with a mild, aromatic flavor, complementing the other ingredients.
- Water: Serves as the liquid medium for creating the stock, extracting flavors from the turkey wings, celery, onion, and garlic.
- Butter: Introduces mouthfeel and silky texture to the gravy, enhancing the overall richness.
- All-Purpose Flour: Acts as a thickening agent, giving the gravy the right consistency.
- Whole Milk: Contributes to the creamy and smooth texture of the gravy, adding a hint of richness.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Infuses a subtle tangy and fruity note, balancing the savory elements of the gravy and gives a unique twist.
- Salt: Flavor booster.
How To Make Turkey Gravy Without Drippings
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to make this turkey gravy for Thanksgiving ahead of time. You can find the full, printable recipe at the end of this post.
- Preheat oven.
- In a large sauté or roasting pan (I use my large Dutch oven), roast (use a lower oven rack) turkey wings, celery, onion and garlic for 2 hours. (if you find they are getting too brown, cover with a piece of tinfoil).
- Remove from the oven.
- Add water to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil.
- Turn down heat and simmer on low for one hour, uncovered; stock will reduce.
- Strain the stock into a bowl with at least a 4 cup capacity.
- Place liquid into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight and remove the fat accumulated on top.
- In a large sauté pan, melt butter and whisk in flour.
- Cook, whisking constantly over medium heat for two minutes. This will cook out the flour taste.
- Whisk in defatted turkey stock and cook until thickened. (The gravy should coat the back of a spoon.)
- Add milk, cider vinegar and salt to taste.
- If by some chance you cannot get your gravy as thick as you like it, don’t panic. It’s always possible you measured something wrong.
- In an emergency, you can always dissolve 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in one teaspoon of cold water and SLOWLY add it to the gravy while whisking. It will be fine. Just remember, gravy often thickens up a bit when it’s off the heat and you want a nice pourable liquid for all those side dishes.
- Pour the gravy into a warmed gravy boat and Thanksgiving dinner is ready!
Strain for Smoothness: Strain the turkey stock before turning it into gravy to achieve a smoother texture. This step removes any solids, leaving you with a refined and silky sauce.
Seasoning Magic: Season with salt thoughtfully. Remember, it’s not just about making it salty but enhancing the overall flavors of the turkey and other ingredients.
Experiment with Herbs: Consider adding herbs like thyme, sage, or rosemary to the turkey stock for extra depth and aroma. Experiment to find your preferred herb combination.
Storage Wisdom: If you’re making the gravy ahead of time, cool it completely before storing it. This helps prevent condensation, which can affect the texture. Reheat gently, stirring continuously for optimal results.
Can I use chicken wings instead of turkey wings for the stock? While turkey wings provide a distinct flavor, chicken wings can be a suitable substitute, though the taste may differ slightly.
Can I make the gravy dairy-free? Yes, you can substitute a non-dairy alternative for whole milk, such as almond milk or coconut milk, to make the gravy dairy-free. It just won’t have the same mouthfeel.
Any recommendations for herbs besides thyme, sage, or rosemary? Experiment with parsley, marjoram, or even a pinch of dried tarragon for more unique herbal notes.
How long can I store the gravy? Properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the gravy can last for 3-4 days. If frozen, it can keep for 2-3 months.
Can I reheat the gravy in the microwave? Yes, you can reheat the gravy in the microwave, but do it gradually and stir intermittently to ensure even heating.
Is there a way to rescue overly thickened gravy? Gradually whisk in additional liquid (water or stock) until you reach the desired consistency. Adjust seasoning if needed.
5 Star Reviews
- “Best gravy ever! I did the whole thing – cooking up stock myself, and then the gravy. Came together like a miracle by thickening up nicely. My only addition was some red wine in the roaster pan when making the stock, as the bottom was burning. I would make this again.”
- “Just made this today and it’s cooling before I freeze for Thursday. Comes out amazing every time!”
- “Made this recipe for Christmas. We smoked the turkey so we didn’t have the pan drippings from roasting it. It is a keeper. I will be making all my gravy this way.”
- “I was a little hesitant to make this bc most of the comments were only raving about how good it looked or what a good idea without actually trying it yet.. but since we were frying our turkey I gave it a go, and so glad I did! Really delicious and pretty simple!”
- “Just strained the wings & veggies and put the stock in the fridge to defat. It looks and smells amazing, a nice rich brown. 6 cups of water yielded 2.5 cups of stock. Thinking about making a second batch. Came back to say it all turned out amazing. New favorite.”
More Thanksgiving Day Recipes to Enjoy
- Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Pumpkin Spice Moscow Mule
- Pecan Pie Cobbler
- Pretzel Bread Stuffing
- Mayonnaise Turkey
- Mini Pumpkin Pies
- Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding
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Make Ahead Turkey Gravy
Turkey Gravy Ingredients:
- 2 turkey wings
- 4 ribs of celery, roughly chopped, use leaves too
- 1 onion, cut into chunks
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed with the back of a knife
- 6 cups water
- 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups turkey stock (the one you just made), strained and defatted
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- salt to taste
How To Make Turkey Gravy Ahead of Time:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large sauté or roasting pan (I use my large Dutch oven 7.5 quart), roast (on a lower oven rack) turkey wings, celery, onion and garlic for 2 hours. (If you notice your wings and veggies getting too dark, feel free to cover with foil.) Remove from oven.2 turkey wings, 4 ribs of celery, roughly chopped, use leaves too, 1 onion, cut into chunks, 4 cloves garlic, smashed with the back of a knife
- Add water and bring to a boil. (If you used a roasting rack, you will need to transfer the mixture to an appropriate vessel for the stove.) Turn down heat and simmer on low for one hour, uncovered. Stock will reduce.6 cups water
- Strain the stock into a bowl with at least a 4-cup capacity. Place liquid into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight and remove the fat accumulated on top.
- In a large sauté pan, melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook, whisking constantly over medium heat for two minutes. This will cook out the flour taste. Whisk in defatted turkey stock and cook until thickened. (The gravy should coat the back of a spoon.) Add milk, cider vinegar and salt to taste. Turn off heat.4 tbsp (1/4 cup) butter, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 cups turkey stock (the one you just made), strained and defatted, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, salt to taste
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