a ramekin with a heaping scoop of mashed potatoes sits on top of two plates. gravy has been poured over the top and is dripping down the sides pooling in the plate below.

make ahead turkey gravy

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Like last week’s small batch turkey and stuffing, this make-ahead turkey gravy is another Thanksgiving shortcut I got from my mother-in-law. It’s a thick, aromatic, classic golden brown gravy that’s so good with slices of turkey and stuffing, spread onto sandwiches, and of course, poured over heaping scoops of creamy mashed potatoes.

I’ll give you two warnings up front: 1) This isn’t the fastest gravy recipe you’ll ever make, though it is quite low-effort and 2) it makes a loooooot of gravy.

Unlike the mini turkey and stuffing recipe, which is perfect for a small pandemic Thanksgiving, this recipe makes enough gravy for a Thanksgiving dinner where all the extended relatives are invited and show up with uninvited plus-ones.

That doesn’t mean you can’t still make it for a smaller Thanksgiving affair — just divide it up and freeze whatever you don’t need for later.

a glass measuring cup filled with 2 cups of turkey gravy. in the background you can see a ramekin with mashed potatoes and gravy poured over the top.

Why make your gravy ahead of time?

When you make gravy from your turkey drippings on Thanksgiving after the bird has come out of the oven, it’s almost time to eat. You’re tired. You’ve been cooking for a while and you’re probably ready for a break. People are getting hungry. The last thing you want to be dealing with is trying to make a roux and whisk it into hot turkey drippings.

a hand pours gravy from a small white porcelain pitcher over a scoop of mashed potatoes in a ramekin. the gravy is pouring down the sides of the ramekin and collecting in the plate.

Besides, what happens if you didn’t get as many drippings as you wanted? Or maybe you’re having a smaller Thanksgiving and you aren’t making a whole turkey. How are you supposed to make gravy if you don’t have a big enough turkey??

With make ahead turkey gravy, on Thanksgiving day you don’t need to do anything to have gravy on the table except heat it up and whisk it well.

a few quick tips

  • Finding turkey wings outside of November can be tricky, but I’ve had a lot of luck at my local Wegmans. They usually have a few cuts of turkey available all year round.
  • You need two medium-large (6-8 qt or larger) pots to pull this off. If one of your pots has a steamer basket insert, use that one as the second pot. The first pot you’ll use to boil the roasted turkey wings along with some herbs and veggies. Then you can use the steamer basket as a strainer to pour the broth into the pot you’ll be using to reduce and thicken the gravy, removing all the herbs and veggies quickly and easily.
  • Save the turkey meat from the wings — unlike when you boil chicken wings for stock and the chicken meat ends up bland and flavorless, the turkey wings are big and sturdy enough that boiling them for an hour and a half results in perfectly cooked, tender turkey meat that still has plenty of flavor. Shred the turkey meat and dip in the gravy to adjust for seasoning in the final step. Anything that’s left, well, I’d say “that’s just gravy” but it’s not — it’s turkey. And it’s very good in a sandwich.
  • Liquid expands when it freezes, so make sure you leave about half an inch of room between the gravy and the lid so it doesn’t pop off in the freezer.

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a hand holds the handle of a glass 2 cup measuring cup filled with 2 cups of turkey gravy

make ahead turkey gravy

The Practical Kitchen
This classic turkey gravy can be made ahead and frozen up to 3 months before you plan to serve it, meaning no more frantically whisking turkey drippings on Thanksgiving day to make gravy when what you really want to do is sit down and eat.
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 3 pints

Equipment

  • Roasting pan
  • Large pot
  • Wire mesh strainer, colander, or steaming basket that fits in your large pot

Ingredients
  

  • 3 lbs turkey wings (bone-in, skin on)
  • 2 medium onions (peeled and quartered)
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 cups chicken stock (divided — save 2 cups for the end of the recipe!)
  • 1 cup whole baby carrots
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 TSP dried thyme)
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt (+more to taste)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Pat dry turkey wings and arrange in roasting dish with onion segments. Roast for about an hour or until well browned (you may need an additional 15-20 minutes).
  • Transfer wings and onion quarters to a large pot. Use 1 cup water in the bottom of the roasting pan to help scrape up any brown bits and add them to the pot as well.
  • Add carrots and thyme to the pot with the turkey wings and fill with 6 cups of the chicken stock. Use additional water if needed to ensure the turkey wings are mostly submerged (it's okay if a few tips are sticking out above the water).
  • Bring to a vigorous boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer, uncovered, for 1½ hours.
  • Remove the wings and set aside — once they're cool enough to handle, shred the meat off to eat.
  • Strain the liquid into a smaller pot to remove the carrots and herbs, squeezing as much liquid out of them as possible. Those can be discarded. Return the pot of broth to the stove, skim any fat off the top, and bring back to a boil.
  • In a separate bowl or large measuring cup combine the remaining 2 cups chicken broth with the ¾ cups all purpose flour. Whisk well to combine and break up any lumps (you can sift the flour first to be really sure you won't get lumps, but you don't have to).
  • Whisk in the chicken broth and flour mixture into the turkey stock. Use a small wire strainer/skimmer/spider or spoon to remove any lumps of flour that float to the top. Bring to a boil and keep whisking for 3-4 minutes until quite thick.
  • Stir in butter, pepper, and salt. Dip shredded turkey meat into the gravy to taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  • Make ahead turkey gravy will stay good in the fridge for 1 week, or in the freezer up to 3 months. When reheating from fridge or freezer make sure to whisk well before serving.
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