Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy


Say goodbye to last minute holiday stress with our simple make-ahead turkey gravy! Friends and family will be asking for the recipe for days to come, and you'll be patting yourself on the back for planning ahead.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Why You Need Make-Ahead Gravy

A typical Thanksgiving scenario: The turkey is out of the oven and you’ve just finished making the mashed potatoes. Now you’re scratching your head, trying to remember exactly how Mom made her gravy (Mom cleverly took off for the Caribbean this year. Insult to injury: she took Granny with her).

Meanwhile, the entire family is milling around the kitchen asking how they can help, even though that ship sailed about four hours ago.

This year, however, you’re on top of it! No running around with your hair on fire: The gravy you made weeks ago is in the saucepan heating on the stove (or in the microwave!) thanks to a little foresight.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

How to Make Gravy Ahead of Time

I wanted to pack just as much flavor into this make-ahead gravy as you’d get if you were making it after roasting your Thanksgiving turkey, so I started by roasting some turkey wings with onions, carrots, and celery in the oven. This gives the stock you’ll make next, and the resulting gravy, a deep, roasted flavor.

After roasting, transfer the wings and vegetables to a stock pot, deglaze the roasting pan with chicken broth, and simmer with more broth to make an ultra-rich stock for your gravy.

While it definitely takes some time to roast the vegetables and make this stock, you’ll be rewarded with the most flavorful gravy you’ve ever made. Also, this whole process is more hands-off time than actual work — in other words, you can catch up on binge watching your favorite show while the stock is simmering.

After cooking down the stock, you can either leave it to chill overnight so the fat solidifies, or skim off the fat immediately and proceed to make the gravy.

How Long Will It Keep?

You can refrigerate your finished gravy for up to 4 days, or freeze it for up to 4 months.

How Do You Reheat the Gravy?

When ready to serve, just reheat the gravy in a saucepan. There’s no need to thaw: frozen gravy can be reheated on the stovetop, covered with a lid, over low heat. And the good news: Frozen gravy made without milk or cream like this gravy should not separate upon reheating.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

Why Use Bone Broth?

Let’s be clear: this isn’t just any gravy. When you use turkey parts in combination with bone broth, the resulting gravy is rich, dark and silky, with a glorious deep brown sheen.

While many people love sipping on nourishing bone broth, it’s also great to add to your favorite soups, stews, and gravy thanks to the impressive depth of flavor.

What to do With Leftover Stock?

This method makes 1 to 2 cups more stock than you will need to make 6 cups of gravy. If you want to make less gravy, adjust the proportions of stock to flour and fat according to your needs, but make all of the stock.

The extra stock can be frozen for up to four months, or refrigerated for up to 5 days. It also comes in handy for last minute gravy or stuffing adjustments.

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Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 cups


For the stock:

  • 2 large turkey wings (about 4 pounds), or 4 pounds bone-in turkey thighs
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 medium carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts chicken or turkey broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 fresh sprigs parsley
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf

For the gravy:

  • 1/2 cup reserved turkey fat
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups turkey stock (above), plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • few grinds fresh black pepper


1 Roast the turkey wings and vegetables: Preheat the oven to 450ºF. In a roasting pan, combine the turkey, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sprinkle with the oil, and toss with your hands to coat with the oil.

Roast the turkey and vegetables, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat and vegetables are well browned.

Make Ahead Turkey GravyMake Ahead Turkey Gravy

2 Make the stock: Transfer the turkey, onions, carrots, celery and garlic to a large pot.

Pour 2 cups of the bone broth into the bottom of the roasting pan and set the pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir with a flat wooden spoon to scrape up and release the brown bits.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

Pour the broth, including any accumulated fat from the pan or vegetables that stuck to the bottom, into the pot with the turkey and vegetables. Add the remaining bone broth, water, parsley, thyme and bay leaf.

Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat. Adjust the heat so the stock maintains a gentle simmer. Simmer for 2 hours.

3 Strain the stock: With tongs, remove the turkey wings and discard the skin and bones. (If the meat is not too dry, you can refrigerate it and use it in soup later.)

Set a large strainer over a large container, and strain the stock into it. When the stock settles, skim off the fat with a ladle, transfer it to a bowl, and reserve it for making the gravy.

Alternatively, if time permits, refrigerate the stock overnight. The fat solidifies and is easier to remove. Also, don’t be surprised if your stock turns into jelly overnight in the fridge. That’s a good thing!

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

4 Make the gravy: Reheat the stock if you have refrigerated it overnight.

Spoon 1/2 cup of the reserved turkey fat into a large saucepan and set the pan over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour, and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes to cook the flour.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

Slowly add 4 cups of stock while whisking the roux. Simmer, whisking often, until thickened, another 2 to 5 minutes. Thin with additional stock if desired.

Add additional stock, if you like, to bring the gravy to the consistency you prefer. Add the salt and pepper and taste. Add more salt, if you like.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

5 Freeze or refrigerate the gravy: Let the gravy cool for about 30 minutes and transfer it to a storage container.

Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 4 months. Reheat in a saucepan when ready to use. Frozen gravy made without milk or cream like this gravy should not separate upon reheating.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

More from Sally

7 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Jennifer

    Recipe calls for 2 quarts bone broth. The directions indicate add the remaining bone broth, water, parsley, thyme and bay leaf. The directions do not show how much water to add. Can you please clarify. Thank you

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  2. Wanda


    Thanksgiving is absolutely my favorite holiday, but associated food prep and timing is challenging. So…this recipe immediately caught my eye because anything that can be done ahead of those last 20 or so minutes while the roasted turkey rests is a bonus.

    That said, I lost the thread in the “For the stock” section of the recipe. The 8th ingredient in the list is “2 quarts” of what?? Based on the “Method” section’s instructions to “pour 2 cups of bone broth into the bottom of a roasting pan” and the subsequent instruction to “Add the remaining bone broth, water, parsley, thyme and bay leaf,” I assume that is 2 quarts/containers of Pacific Foods Organic Bone Broth, but I would very much appreciate confirmation/correction of this recipe’s directions.

    Thanks in advance!

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  3. Lynn

    Really looking forward to trying this, but wondering about roasting the turkey wings at 450 for 1-1/2 hours? Is that correct?

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Make Ahead Turkey GravyMake-Ahead Turkey Gravy