Don’t want to mess with making gravy right before your holiday meal? Try Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy. You can make the gravy up to 3 days ahead, using flavorful homemade turkey stock.
It wouldn’t be a true Make-Ahead Thanksgiving without gravy. Rich, savory, and smooth – no holiday meal feels complete without gravy. And while I love classic gravy made with drippings from the roasting pan, it can add complication to the moments just before the meal. It’s hard to make gravy when everyone is hungry and staring at a roasted turkey.
As with most of my make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes, this method comes from my mom. She always makes turkey stock and gravy a few days ahead of the holiday. Not only does it save a step on the day of the big meal, but you get an extra day of the house smelling amazing thanks to the stock simmering.
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy starts with homemade stock. There are two ways to do it.
Two Ways to Make Turkey Stock without Roasting a Turkey
The foundation of turkey gravy is a flavorful turkey stock. Since you’re making it ahead of time, you won’t have a whole roasted turkey, so you have two options for making the stock:
- Neck and Giblets – If you have the turkey you plan to roast (i.e. if it’s defrosting before the holiday meal), remove the neck of the turkey from the cavity and the bag of giblets to use as the base of your stock.
- Turkey Wings or Drumsticks – Use 2 pounds of turkey wings or drumsticks.
Combine turkey parts with chopped onion, celery, and carrots in an oven-safe pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400°F / 177°C for 60 minutes. Transfer pan to stove top and cover with water. Add bay leaves. Simmer for 60 minutes. Strain out solids.
Turkey stock can be refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for 6 months.
Make Turkey Gravy (without pan drippings)
- Melt butter: Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet.
- Whisk in flour: Whisk flour into melted butter and cook until golden brown. This creates a roux and is the foundation of flavor for the gravy. Keep cooking the roux until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes.
- Add stock: Pour turkey stock over roux very slowly, whisking as you go.
- Simmer until thick: Simmer the gravy until it reaches your preferred thickness. This should take between 6 and 10 minutes with the lower end making a thinner gravy and the higher end making a thicker gravy.
- Season: Don’t forget to taste the gravy and season with some salt and pepper, if needed!
Store and Reheat Gravy
To prepare: Allow gravy to cool completely. Transfer to a container and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down gently so the plastic is completely touching the surface of the gravy. (This tight covering will prevent a skin from forming.) Refrigerate for for up to 3 days.
To reheat: To reheat the gravy, remove the plastic covering and transfer gravy to a saucepan. Warm over medium heat, whisking frequently. If the gravy is too thick after reheating, add some water or stock about 1 Tablespoon at a time to thin.
Adding Pan Drippings
If you make the gravy ahead and then later roast a turkey, you can whisk in about 1 Tablespoon of the drippings into the gravy as it reheats. It’s the best of both worlds. The gravy is ready ahead of time but still gets the classic flavor that comes from the pan drippings.
My Complete Thanksgiving Menu
- Simple Roasted Turkey
- Bacon Wrapped Dates with Brie and Balsamic Honey (to serve as an appetizer)
- 1-Hour Light and Buttery Dinner Rolls
- Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
- Turkey Gravy with White Wine and Sage
- Homemade Green Bean Casserole
- Focaccia and Bacon Stuffing
- Creamy Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole
- Cranberry Sauce (from Simply Recipes)
- Slow Cooker Pumpkin Cheesecake
Get more details and a complete Thanksgiving timeline here.
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
- Dutch oven
- Skillet or Saute Pan
- 2 lbs Turkey wings or drumsticks or giblets and neck from one turkey (see note)
- 2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
- 1 large Onion, sliced into large pieces
- 3 stalks Celery, chopped
- 2 Carrots, chopped
- Salt and Black Pepper
- 8 cups Water
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
- 3 cups Turkey Stock (see note)
- Preheat oven to 400°F / 177°C.
- Make stock: Pour oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large oven-safe pan with tall sides. Add turkey parts and then onion, celery, and carrots. Season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer to heated oven and roast, uncovered, until everything is starting to brown lightly, about 60 minutes.
- After roasting, transfer pan to the stovetop (be careful - the handles will be very hot!).
- Add water and bay leaves and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once the stock is boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 60 minutes. (Be sure to keep the stock at a low simmer to prevent too much liquid from evaporating.)
- Taste stock and season, to taste with some more salt.
- Pour stock through a fine mesh strainer (or any strainer, lined with cheesecloth).
- Make gravy: Heat butter over medium heat in a skillet or saute pan.
- When butter is melted and starting to turn golden, whisk in flour until no dry spots remain. Cook butter and flour together until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
- Slowly add stock while whisking.
- Bring to a boil and boil until thickened to your preferred consistency, 6 to 10 minutes.
- Taste and season with some more salt if needed.
- Refrigerate and reheat: Cover gravy with plastic wrap, pressing it down against the surface of the gravy. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- To reheat: When ready to serve, warm gravy in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking frequently. Add some more stock or water if needed to thin it out. Before serving, be sure to taste it once more and season if needed. (Note: If you have pan drippings from a roasted turkey, you can whisk in about 1 Tbsp of the drippings as the gravy reheats. This will add even more of the classic roasted turkey flavor.)
- If you have the turkey you plan to roast (i.e. if it's defrosting before the holiday meal), remove the neck of the turkey from the cavity and the bag of giblets (from the cavity or neck of the turkey). Remove giblets from the bag before cooking.
- If you don’t have the turkey you plan to roast, buy 2 lbs of turkey wings or drumsticks.
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