8 Ways to Thicken Gravy Like A Pro

As a long-time southern cook, I’ve been making gravy for at least 65 years and have always used flour, either plain or self-rising, to thicken it. But, over the years, I discovered many different ways to thicken gravy, some healthier than others.

The 8 most well-known ways to thicken gravy are with flour, cornstarch, gelatin, arrowroot, tapioca, potato starch, pureed vegetables, and xanthan gum, the healthiest of which would be the pureed vegetables.

Let’s discuss in more detail how each of the thickeners are used and the pros and cons of each method.

1. Flour

Flour is the most widely known and used method of thickening gravy. It’s the method I’ve used all of my life and to me is the easiest. I don’t just thicken the broth; I actually start with oil and flour to make a roux (pronounced roo), which is a mixture of equal parts oil and flour browned to different shades from light brown to the color of caramel for thickening different dishes to which broth or a combination of broth, meat drippings, and water are added to make gravy.

All you have to do is heat 1/3 cup of oil (my preference is canola) in a skillet and add to the oil ⅓ cup of plain or self-rising flour.

Stirring constantly, cook until the flour is a medium brown color. While still stirring the oil and flour, add hot broth of whatever flavor you prefer and, depending on what you are cooking, stir until completely incorporated.

If it thickens right away, add a small amount of water at a time until it is a thin gravy. Let it continue to cook until it “ripens” or reduces into a relatively thick gravy for maximum flavor. The process of what I call “ripening” will typically take 15-20 minutes.

This method of thickening makes the most flavorful gravy but adding oil, and flour has the downside of adding fat and calories to the meal and is not the healthiest option.

Here is a video of me using this method:

And here is what it looked like when finished:

Jelly Grandma's Homemade Gravy

Calorie Information For Homemade Gravy Made From Flour

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon

  • Calories: 25
  • Carbohydrates: 6

2. Cornstarch

Cornstarch is often used to thicken gravy because it is so easy to use. Because cornstarch is pure starch, a much smaller amount than flour is required to thicken a cup of liquid. A simple “slurry” of cornstarch and water is added to broth to produce a gravy that is fast and easy to make. 

All you have to do is add a tablespoon of cornstarch to an equal amount of water to dissolve the cornstarch entirely and form a slurry that will thicken a cup of broth, and it is then ready to add to a broth of any kind to make gravy.

This method, in my opinion, does not taste as flavorful as flour gravy, but it does not have the added fat and is healthier for you.

Calorie Information For Cornstarch Gravy

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon

  • Calories: 9
  • Carbohydrates: 7

3. Gelatin

Gelatin powder can also be used to thicken gravy by making a slurry of the powder and water and then adding the slurry to some type of broth or meat drippings. The ratio of gelatin to water used to make gravy is 3 tablespoons of gelatin powder to 1 cup of tap water. 

Prepare as follows:

  1. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of gelatin powder over 1 cup of tap water. Stir the mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved and then set aside for approximately 30 minutes to allow it to “bloom.”
  2. When the slurry is ready, bring 2 cups of broth and/or meat drippings to a boil and whisk the slurry into the boiling broth and/or drippings until combined.
  3. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer until thickened.

Gravy made with gelatin powder is not only delicious, but it is also a keto-friendly recipe that you will be proud to serve!

Calorie Information For Gelatin Gravy

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon

  • Calories: 16
  • Carbohydrates: .2 Grams

4. Arrowroot (Gluten-free Option)

Arrowroot is another substance available in powder form that can be used to thicken gravy. The arrowroot plant is a starchy tuber primarily grown in the Caribbean Islands, the Philippines, and South America.

This powder is used the same way cornstarch is used by making a slurry from the arrowroot powder and water, which can then be incorporated into broth to make gravy. The added bonus of using arrowroot powder is that it is gluten-free, high in protein, and can be made into a gravy which individuals with wheat sensitivity or celiac disease can use.

Just use 2-½ teaspoons of arrowroot powder to thicken 1 cup of cold liquid. Heat immediately before serving as it does not reheat well.

Gravy made with arrowroot flour is Whole30 and Paleo-friendly.

Calorie Information For Arrowroot Gravy

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon

  • Calories: 28
  • Carbohydrates: 7

5. Tapioca

This Whole30 Paleo gravy is a much healthier option for gravy that will taste amazing!

Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava root, a tuber native to South America, which is sold in flour, meal, flake, and pearl form that is most commonly used to make tapioca pudding. However, tapioca flour has more recently become popular as a substitute for wheat flour by persons with celiac disease and others on low-carbohydrate diets.

When using tapioca to thicken gravy, make a roux as follows: 

  1. Begin with heating some oil such as canola in a skillet or pan.
  2. Sprinkle in some tapioca flour and stir until golden brown.
  3. Heat broth and/or meat drippings before adding slowly to the roux.
  4. Simmer gravy until thickened.
  5. Stir or whisk constantly while making this roux.

Cool Fact: Tapioca is a good source of calcium and iron, supports weight gain, is easy to digest, is low in sodium, and is free of many common allergens.

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon

  • Calories: 28
  • Carbohydrates: 7

6. Potato Starch

Potato starch is another healthy alternative to wheat flour for making gravy. Like cornstarch, potato starch-thickened gravy is made with a slurry that is added to any kind of broth, meat drippings, and water.

Use the following method for making gravy with potato starch:

  1. Make a slurry of 4 tablespoons and ¼ cup of water.
  2. Bring 2 cups of stock to a simmer.
  3. Slowly add the slurry to the simmering stock, stirring or whisking constantly.
  4. Continue stirring or whisking the gravy until thickened.
  5. Season to taste.

Potato starch gravy will be less translucent than cornstarch gravy but less opaque than flour gravy. One downside to making potato starch gravy is that gravy made with starches, potato or cornstarch, will lose its thickness if allowed to come to a boil and overcooked. Also, this type of gravy does not freeze well.

Per Serving:

  • Calories: 21.1
  • Carbohydrates: 2.3 g.

7. Pureed Vegetables

Using pureed roasted vegetables to thicken gravy is a healthy and flavorful way to prepare gravy for that dinner party or other special occasion. The trick is to choose the vegetables wisely to get the flavor you are seeking. 

Here are the basics:

  1. Roast a pan of assorted vegetables, including root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, onions, and shallots. Add some mushrooms, cauliflower, and celery, along with any other vegetables you have on hand, and roast until tender.
  2. Remove the vegetables from the pan and place them in a blender or food processor to be pureed.
  3. Add ½ cup of white wine to the vegetable pan and heat to loosen the bits of vegetables that are stuck to the pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan, and pour the wine and pan scrapings into the blender with the vegetables.
  4. Prepare 3 cups of broth from a combination of meat drippings, broth, and water.
  5. Heat the broth in a large saucepan, add pureed vegetables, but not too many, season with salt and pepper to taste, let simmer until heated, and serve.
  6. If the gravy still isn’t as thick as you would like, make a slurry of cornstarch and water and slowly add a small amount to your gravy until it reaches the desired consistency.

The only downside to making this type of gravy is that the taste differs dramatically depending on your choice of vegetables that have been roasted and added to the gravy.

Per 2 oz. Serving

  • Calories: 30
  • Carbohydrates: Less than 3 mg.

8. Xanthan Gum

Xanthan Gum is better known as a food additive used as a thickening and binding agent in making gluten-free breads and other foods. But, it can also be used as a thickener in making gravy and differs from other thickeners in that it only takes half a teaspoon to thicken 3 cups of broth.

To make gravy thickened with xanthan gum, follow these directions:

  1. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet or saucepan.
  2. Add 3 cups of broth made from a combination of pan drippings, canned or homemade broth, and water and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk or stir ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum into ¼ cup of water to make a slurry.
  4. Whisk or stir the slurry into the hot broth.
  5. Let simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Strain the gravy to remove any lumps that may form from using xanthan gum as a thickener.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. If gravy becomes too thick as it cools, thin with additional broth.

Per ¼ cup Serving

  • Calories: 60
  • Carbohydrates: 0

Must-Read Thickening Articles

Final Bite

Of the substitutes for flour as a thickener, only tapioca is used to make a roux the same way flour is used. All the other replacements are made into a slurry used to thicken broth the same way cornstarch is used. 

The trick is that some of the slurries are added to hot broth while some thickeners like cornstarch, gelatin, arrowroot, and xanthan gum must be added to cold water to dissolve before adding to the broth, which is then heated to make gravy.

So, no matter what kind of diet you are following, chances are good that you can find a substitute for flour for making those gravies we all love that will be appropriate for the diet and will not leave you feeling guilty about having gravy with your meal.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, please check out How to Make Fluffy Southern Biscuits From Scratch (12 Steps).

Anne James

Anne James has a wealth of experience in a wide array of interests and is an expert in quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, mixing drinks (bartending), and making jelly. Anne has a professional canning business, has been featured in the local newspaper as well as on the Hershey website, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is. With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass. Amazingly, she doesn’t need to reference many resources due to her vast wealth of experience. She IS the source. Anne wants nothing more than to pass on her extensive knowledge to the next generations, whether that be family or anyone visiting her website, her YouTube channel, or survivalfreedom.com.

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