Homemade Turkey Gravy is a must for your holiday table! Learn how to make it from scratch and how to make it ahead of the big day!
This make ahead turkey gravy is so easy, and you can store it in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Perfect for getting organized before Christmas or Thanksgiving.
To get the rich turkey flavor before the big day, we are going to use turkey wings (or drumsticks) to give you a delicious turkey stock and some great drippings. These mixed with butter will give you a wonderful flavor packed prepare ahead gravy that is smooth and delicious.
A splash of heavy cream at the end gives the gravy an incredible richness, perfect for serving with your turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing!
Making gravy without roasting a whole turkey
Most people know that roast turkey drippings make great gravy, but making the gravy while the turkey is resting is just one more last-minute thing you have to do.
I am all about stress-free cooking! I want my gravy to be locked in, finished, and ready for the table. That way, while that turkey is resting, I can get on with other last-minute items like Brussel sprouts (actually, I have a few tricks coming for a make-ahead sprouts recipe later this week!)
BUT I don't want to sacrifice flavor! Enter turkey wings! They are a cheap cut of turkey that give your turkey gravy the roasted turkey flavor, without the stress of cooking the whole bird!
If you can't find turkey wings, then turkey drumsticks will be a great substitute.
Using turkey wings for broth and gravy
Turkey wings are the perfect option if you want to make the gravy ahead of time. They are also perfect if you are serving a smaller group and are perhaps just roasting a turkey breast, which won't give off a lot of drippings. Or maybe you are buying a pre-cooked turkey joint? However you cut it, gravy with a rich turkey flavor made ahead of time is a winner!
To get the roasty toasty turkey flavor, you will want to cook the turkey wings first. To do this, place them on a large high rimmed cookie tray/sheet pan; you want a dish with high sides as the turkey is going to release plenty of drippings, and we don't want to waste that!
Drizzle the wings with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC, cover with foil, and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for a further 30 minutes. Carefully remove the wings from the oven and transfer them to a plate to cool slightly. Pour all the drippings into a jug for later, but don't wash the tray!
Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the tray and scrape all the bits off the bottom of the tray (those crispy bits are flavor bombs, and we want them in our gravy!)
Once the tray is almost clean, pour the turkey water into a large stockpot or saucepan ready for our wings.
Now the wings have cooled slightly you can strip some of the meat off the bones and use it for soups or stews. (I have a few leftover turkey recipes that would be perfect for the wing meat! Turkey Ramen and Fried Turkey Waffles.) Leave some of the meat on the bones as it adds to the flavor of the gravy.
Place the turkey wing bones and some of the skin (It adds a richness to the gravy) into the stockpot and pour over 2 cups of storebought chicken/turkey broth - this gives our final gravy even more flavor.
Bring everything to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes. Strain through a wire mesh sieve, and you have a rich turkey stock ready for the gravy. You should have about 3 cups of broth. Don't worry if you have less, your heat was probably a little higher, and some of it will have evaporated, what you do have left will be more intensely flavored so we can use extra water if needed later.
Making Turkey Gravy
Now we have everything ready we can make the BEST gravy ever!!!!
Start by melting ¼ cup of butter in a large saucepan, once melted pour/scoop any fat that has collected on the jug of drippings. Once this has all melted together, add ½ cup of plain all purpose flour. The mixture will turn into what looks like wet sand! This is perfect. Cook this over medium heat until it is starting to smell like toast. At this stage, slowly whisk in a cup of your hot turkey broth, the mixture will get thick and claggy, don't panic. Keep whisking and add in another cup of the turkey broth. Repeat with a third cup of broth (if you don't have enough broth left, top up your cup with boiling water). The gravy should now be smooth and very thick. Slowly whisk in any remaining drippings along with ½ teaspoon of ground sage.
At this stage, I like to add about 1 cup of boiling water, but I do this just a small amount at a time, so I don't end up with thin gravy.
Remember, it is much easier to thin a thick gravy than thicken a thin gravy, so add boiling water slowly until the gravy is at your desired thickness.
Give your gravy a taste. It should be rich and taste of turkey! We are going to add a splash of cream just before serving it, so it will be AMAZING when served. Don't add the cream at this stage - that is best added just before serving.
At this point, the gravy can be cooled and stored in an airtight container. It will keep for three days in the refrigerator or four months in the freezer.
You can see from the photo below that as it cools, it will thicken up, don't worry, once reheated it will go back to the fabulous consistency you want.
To reheat and serve the gravy
If the gravy is frozen defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
To reheat, I prefer a pan, but I know that stovetop space is at a premium on the holidays so you can use the microwave.
You want to reheat the gravy until bubbling - I find this takes about 5-7 minutes over medium heat. I stir it from time to time, to stop it sticking. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and pour in 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Check the seasoning and then serve the gravy with your turkey and stuffing. But save some for leftover turkey sandwiches!
For more holiday recipes why not try:
- Slow Roast Turkey
- Prepare Ahead Roast Potatoes
- Christmas Spiced Braised Red Cabbage
- Cheesy Rutabaga and Carrot Casserole
For more gravy and sauce ideas:
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Make Ahead Homemade Turkey Gravy Recipe
- 4 lb turkey wings - see note 1
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 cups broth - see note 2
- 2 cups boiling water
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ cup AP flour
- ½ tsp ground sage
- 3 tbsp heavy cream
Making the stock
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC.
- Place the wings on a large high rimmed cookie tray/sheet pan.
- Drizzle the wings with one tablespoon of olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon of salt and a ¼ teaspoon of pepper.
- Cover the tray with foil, then roast the wings for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for a further 30 minutes.
- Carefully remove the wings from the oven and transfer them to a plate to cool slightly.
- Pour all the drippings from the tray into a jug for later.
- Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the tray and scrape all the bits of roasted goodness off the bottom.
- Once the tray is almost clean, pour the turkey water into a large stockpot or saucepan.
- Once the wings have cooled slightly, strip some of the meat off the bones and store for future use.
- Place the turkey wing bones and a small amount of skin into the stockpot with the tray water.
- Pour over 2 cups of broth into the pot and bring everything to a simmer. Cook the bones for at least 25-30 minutes, then strain through a wire mesh sieve.
Making the gravy
- Melt a ¼ cup of butter in a large saucepan, once melted pour/scoop any fat that has collected on the jug of drippings.
- When this has melted together, add ½ cup of plain all purpose flour. The mixture will turn into what looks like wet sand! This is perfect.
- Cook this over medium heat until it starts to smell like toast.
- At this stage, slowly whisk in a cup of your hot turkey broth, the mixture will get thick and claggy, don't panic. Keep whisking.
- Add in another cup of the turkey broth.
- Repeat with a third cup of broth (if you don't have enough broth left, top up your cup with boiling water).
- The gravy should now be smooth and very thick. Slowly whisk in any remaining drippings along with ½ teaspoon of ground sage, then simmer for 5 minutes.
- Depending on how you like your gravy slowly whisk in up to 1 cup more of boiling water. Go slowly, adding a small amount at a time until you have the desired thickness.
- The gravy can now be cooled and stored in an airtight container. It will keep for three days in the refrigerator or four months in the freezer.
- As it cools, it will thicken up, don't worry, once reheated it will go back to the fabulous consistency you want.
To reheat and serve the gravy
- If the gravy is frozen defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
- To reheat, empty the gravy into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- You can also do this in the microwave. Depending on the power rating, it will take 3-5 minutes.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and pour in 3 tablespoons of heavy cream.
- Check the seasoning and then serve.
- You can use turkey drumsticks if you can't wing turkey wings.
- Turkey broth or chicken broth are great options here.