Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving

This make and freeze gravy is so easy, and saves tons of time and stress on Thanksgiving Day! No more running around while the turkey gets cold, trying to skim fat and whisk out lumps while everyone stares at you because you misjudged your time and they are starving. (Oh, is this just me??) 

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving from The Food Charlatan

Sometimes when I’m in public I pretend to be a more concerned mother than I actually am. Like when Truman falls and bumps his head and the ENTIRE populace of Starbucks stops in its tracks to make sure he’s okay. And what I say out loud is, “Aw, yeah, poor guy, he hit his head!” But what I really want to say is, come on people, this happens every day, let’s not get choked up here. 2 year olds have heads made of STEEL.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving from The Food Charlatan

It was actually kind of awesome. Truman fell from a barstool and hit the back of his head going down. Before I could maneuver myself to a position where I could pick him up, an Asian man came out of nowhere and swooped Truman up in his arms, then handed him to me. I wish more strangers would do this kind of thing for each other! It was so refreshing.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving from The Food Charlatan

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving from The Food Charlatan

It reminded me of this video Eric showed me about a Japanese reality TV show that films kids as they complete their first errand. Apparently in Japan, parents start sending their kids on short errands when they are very young, like 3-5 years old. This would be impossible here in the US because 1) there are no stores close enough to walk to and 2) children are taught to mistrust adults they don’t know. It’s the opposite in Japan. Kids there are taught that they can trust adults, even if they are strangers.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving from The Food Charlatan

I think this is how the world ought to be, personally. Our culture has taken the distrust so far that I can no longer leave my sleeping son in the car for 5 minutes while I pick up some milk without worrying that someone will take a video and turn me in to the police. We were all raised not to trust each other, and so we don’t. A bystander doesn’t trust that I’m not negligent, and I don’t trust a bystander not to turn me in. It’s so sad. I would much rather teach my children that MOST people are kind and well-meaning, with a few who aren’t, instead of the other way around.

So I really just love it when a random stranger (a MAN, no less, not a fellow mother-warrior) has the guts to scoop up my kid when he falls down, even if it goes against the American “mind your own business” culture. It fills me up when I see people taking care of people. Do you have any opinions about this? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving from The Food Charlatan

Who loves making gravy at the last minute on Thanksgiving? I just love pulling that bird out of the oven and frantically pouring off the juices to whisk up my homemade gravy. Said no one ever! I feel like gravy is the most stressful part of the entire meal. You need the turkey juices to make it (pray there is enough!), but you can’t get the juices until the turkey is done, and then your turkey sits getting cold while you whisk like mad over a hot stove. It’s kind of a nightmare.

Enter make-ahead gravy! My mother-in-law Kris has been using this recipe for years and she just told me about it. You use turkey wings and whatever other parts you can find (neck, thighs, whatever), roast them, boil them, and then make a gravy from those drippings. Then you stick it in the freezer and forget about it until a couple hours before you want to eat. You could literally make this gravy TODAY and have one less thing to do on the big day. Mine’s already in the freezer ready to go!

Do you guys give up? Or are you thirsty for more?
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Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving

Yield: Makes 4 cups gravy, or about 12 1/3-cup size servings


  • 4 turkey wings or other parts (4 to 5 pounds total)
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 cups chicken broth*
  • 1-2 chopped carrots
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth*
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, more to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet. (I used foil in the photo above out of habit, but there is no need.)
  2. Place wings and other turkey parts on the pan. Scatter the onions over the pan.
  3. Roast at 400 for 1 hour, up to an hour and 15 minutes. Make sure the parts are browned on top.
  4. Remove the turkey parts to a large stock pot.
  5. Place the baking sheet over two burners on your stove and turn both of them up to medium. Add 1 cup water and use a wooden spoon to stir up all the browned bits. When the bottom of the pan is clean, scrape the water into the pot with the turkey.
  6. Add 6 cups chicken broth (or 6 cups water and 6 teaspoons turkey base.) Add the chopped carrots and the thyme.
  7. Simmer uncovered for about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  8. Remove the turkey parts and set aside. (You can pull off the meat and save it for something else, but I found that it was pretty tough.)
  9. Pour the remaining onion and carrot mixture through a colander into a bowl. (You can discard the veggies or snack on them).
  10. At this point I stuck the bowl in the freezer for about 20 minutes so that it was easy to skim the fat from the top.
  11. Pour the broth back into the pot. Bring to a gentle boil.
  12. Whisk together the flour and 2 cups broth, making sure to get out all the lumps.
  13. Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the broth. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring. Stir in butter, pepper, and salt.
  14. Taste it and see what you think. You can add more salt, pepper, thyme, or up to 1 teaspoon of turkey base.
  15. Let cool and freeze in ziplock bags. Let the gravy thaw in the fridge overnight, or just stick it in the microwave.
  16. If you are making a turkey on the day you plan to serve this gravy, add the fat-skimmed pan drippings to the gravy!


You can see in the photos that my roasting pan is lined with aluminum foil, but you don't need to worry about doing that since you want to scrape the browned bits anyway. I just did it out of habit. I used heavy duty foil and it worked out okay.

*Instead of chicken broth, I used Turkey Base from Better Than Bouillon. 1 teaspoon + 1 cup water = 1 cup broth. It has a really rich flavor and is perfect for making a very turkey-tasting gravy.

Source: my mother-in-law Kris, who adapted it from Woman’s Day

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving from The Food Charlatan

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving from The Food Charlatan

On the right is the broth after I froze it for 20 minutes. Make it easy to skim the fat.

More turkey-related recipes!

Turkey Stock from the Bones << this is so easy, such a shame if you don’t use your turkey carcass to make it!

Turkey Broth from the Bones from The Food Charlatan

Turkey Barley Soup: (this is a riff on Beef Barley Soup, one of my most popular recipes)

Slow Cooker Turkey Barley Soup from The Food Charlatan

Sage Butter Roasted Turkey << I’m making this turkey again this year!

Sage Butter Roasted Turkey from The Food Charlatan

Other great gravy recipes from around the blog block:

Apple Cider Gravy from Baked by Rachel
Turkey Gravy without the Drippings from Lady Behind the Curtain
How to Make Perfect Homemade Gravy from Our Best Bites





  1. says

    Funny you should mention this. At my son’s 4 year check up the dr told me that it was time to start teaching him stranger danger. I think it’s good kids to be aware but at the am time I’m having trouble telling him to be wary of everyone. I mean I smile and say hi to people while we’re out. So do I need to stop doing that too so he learns from me?
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  2. says

    It’s sad, really, how little we trust one another, how scared we are of our surroundings, how much we worry. It would be kind of awesome if Truman or Charlotte could run their little legs down to the store for those eggs or milk you didn’t realize you ran out of before starting a recipe (I hate to admit how often I do that). Love this gravy! Have a great holiday.

  3. Susan says

    Thanks for the gravy recipe – I’m making it tomorrow for next week! And funny you should mention that Japanese program about parents sending off their tiny tots on their first solo errands. Our son lives in Kyoto and he taped an episode of the program with his phone and sent it to us. You have to see it to believe it. But when we visited Kyoto, one of Japan’s bigger cities, we saw for ourselves very young school children riding the subway system to and from school on their own. There is almost no crime in Japan. It must be one of the safest places in the world! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family…

    • says

      Yay I’m glad you’re trying it out Susan, let me know how the gravy turns out! Since writing this post last year, a cousin of mine took a job in Tokyo with her family and she has mentioned the same thing that your son noticed. The culture is just different there. I’m jealous! The American culture of distrust makes me sad.

      • Susan says

        Just wanted to get back and say that, for the first time in my almost 50 years of making turkey dinners, we had plenty of gravy – AND, it was delicious! Thank you! With only two of us this year I roasted just a turkey breast,, so there were almost no drippings. It would’ve been impossible to make any gravy. I also made extra of the sides and we ate Thanksgiving dinner for four nights in a row, just because it was so good. There was enough gravy to cover the meat and the mashed potatoes, and I have some in the freezer. So good and so easy, and I loved that all I had to do was get it out and warm it up!

  4. Katie says

    Seeing if someone is ok when they fall or get hurt is just common courtesy. We complain when we see people indifferent to others suffering and yet we don’t even offer it to our own in the most basic of ways. Truly sad. No need to run over hysterically, but a “yo, dude, that was quite the tumble. Are you ok?” seems like the right and considerate thing to do. It has been proven that we are born with a certain amount of empathy when we are born (eg when one baby cries other babies join in), but then how we are raised determines whether our level of empathy increases or decreases.

    • says

      Hey Katie! No, you’re totally right. It is common courtesy. People just get even MORE concerned when it’s a kid. I’m not really complaining, I think it’s great. I just think it’s kinda funny. Maybe it’s the pessimistic mom in me :)

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