It’s the annual wintry cooking-skill conundrum: How to thicken gravy. As you start craving chilly weather dishes like robust roasts, mashed potatoes, and, of course, that annual holiday star, the Thanksgiving turkey, you may find yourself at the stove wondering: Why won’t my gravy thicken? We certainly don’t want you waiting until you have a table full of gravy-loving guests to learn how to thicken gravy—grab a whisk and get ready to become the ultimate gravy maven with these great how-tos.
How to Thicken Gravy With Cornstarch
Cornstarch isn’t just a handy all-around kitchen staple to keep in your pantry, it’s a gluten-free gravy thickener that saves the day for the gluten-averse. How much cornstarch is needed to thicken gravy? The ratio is an easy one to remember: use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per 1 cup of liquid for a perfect gluten-free gravy thickener every time. If you want extra-thick gravy, use 2 tablespoons per 1 cup of liquid (vegetable, chicken, or meat stock, ideally; a combination of pan drippings and stock; or water and bouillon). A good rule of thumb is to start with a single tablespoon—you can always add more.
To thicken gravy with cornstarch with smooth results, mix the cornstarch with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to make a liquid-like paste, or slurry. Another method is to strain the dry cornstarch through a fine mesh sieve, although using this method to thicken gravy may result in a more lumpy gravy.
Once you add the cornstarch to your hot liquid, use a whisk or wooden spoon to incorporate it, whisking or stirring constantly until it is well-incorporated and the gravy starts to thicken. Bonus: In addition to being a gluten-free gravy thickener, you need less cornstarch than other gravy thickeners to get the job done.
How to Thicken Gravy With Flour
Similar to cornstarch, the technique to thicken gravy with flour works best if you add a little water to your flour to create a liquid-like paste, or slurry (you may also use a fine-mesh sieve to strain the dry flour into the hot liquid). However, when using flour as a gravy thickener, you must double the amount—use 2 tablespoons of flour per 1 cup of liquid. Use a whisk or wooden spoon to incorporate, stirring constantly until you thicken the gravy to the desired consistency.
How to Thicken Gravy Without Cornstarch or Flour
What can you use to thicken gravy besides cornstarch or flour? There are lots of options (many are gluten-free gravy thickeners, too), you just need to get a little creative with your substitutions. One easy way to thicken gravy is to simply reduce the liquid. Add any pan drippings you have to a small or medium-sized sauce pan, measure out one cup of liquid, and simmer on medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces by at least a third and the flavors are more concentrated.
You can also try one of these ingredients to thicken gravy without cornstarch or flour:
Arrowroot—a powder derived from rhizomes of the Marantaceae family of tubers, this gluten-free gravy thickener is a great natural substitute. As with using cornstarch or flour to thicken gravy, make a slurry with your arrowroot powder by mixing 2 to 3 tablespoons with an equal amount of water. Add to 1 cup hot liquid with a whisk or wooden spoon, stirring until incorporated and the gravy thickens.
Tapioca—derived from cassava root, whisk 1 ½ teaspoons of tapioca starch into the hot liquid until well-incorporated and the gravy thickens.
Potato Starch—this gluten-free gravy thickener requires 1 tablespoon of starch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water to create a slurry. Whisk or stir into 1 cup of hot liquid, stirring constantly until the gravy thickens.
Pureed vegetables. Vegetarians rejoice! This economical way to thicken gravy allows you to use what’s in your veggie crisper. Roast any kind of potato, parsnip, beet, or carrot, puree in a blender or food processor, and stir into gravy until completely incorporated. (Just remember: vegetables have their own flavors, so you’ll be altering the taste of your stock base with whatever vegetable you decide to add.)