There are few savoury dishes that can’t be enhanced with lashings of gravy, but this nectar of the dinner gods isn’t always as easy to make as it should be.
In most cases, you’ll almost certainly want to begin by stirring some flour into the base fat once you’re done frying your meat and/or aromatics, which will help create the nice thick consistency you’re after. But what if you misjudge the amount of flour, or simply forget this crucial step? Adding flour later on is a guaranteed way to spoil the gravy with lumps. Or what if you need to make gluten-free gravy, whether for yourself or celiac guests?
Fear not. There’s no need to resign yourself to flavoured water and a soggy dinner.
The good news is there are a number of ways to thicken gravy without flour. Here we’ll show you how.
How to make and thicken gravy without flour
Here we’ll cover 3 methods of thickening gravy. They are:
- Pureeing vegetables
- Using a starch
For the starch method, we’ll explore 4 different types of starch you can use:
- Corn starch
- Potato starch
- Tapioca starch
- Arrowroot starch
But before we can thicken anything, let’s start by making a basic gravy without flour. What follows is our suggestion, but you can use any gravy recipe of your choice (just skip the flour if called for). If you fancy a particularly delicious challenge, click here for the gravy making techniques of Michelin-star chefs Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay, and Marco Pierre White.
Basic gravy recipe
¾ cup stock of your choice
¼ cup onion, diced or minced
1 tbsp cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Fry the onions in the oil over medium-low heat until they turn translucent.
- Pour over ¼ cup of the stock and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated. This will soften the onions further.
- Add the rest of the stock and salt and pepper to taste.
- Now thicken with one of the methods to follow.
TIP: Although this will be far too watery for serving at the dinner table, it will make for a comforting hot drink should you decide not to thicken it.
How to thicken gravy with starch
To thicken a sauce such as gravy with starch, the first thing you will need to do is stir the starch into a small amount of cold water. Adding even more liquid to your gravy might seem counter-intuitive, but this step is essential for minimising lumps. By stirring the starch into cold water first, you are breaking up the powder before heat can cause it to quickly clump together.
As previously mentioned, there are 4 types of starch that are recommended for thickening gravy. They will require slightly different amounts, which, for the recipe above, are as follows:
- Corn starch – 1 teaspoon
- Potato starch – 1.5 teaspoons
- Tapioca starch – 1.5 teaspoons
- Arrowroot starch – 1.5 teaspoons
Once you’ve mixed the starch into a small amount of cold water, simply pour it into the pot with the gravy, stir it through, and allow it to simmer. It should only take a couple of minutes to thicken, so keep an eye on it and be sure that it doesn’t boil over.
Note that tapioca and arrowroot starch might produce a few small lumps, so if that’s not OK for you, stick with the corn or potato starches, or just prepare to strain the gravy before serving.
Of course, if the gravy still isn’t as thick as you would like it, you can simply add a little more starch. Or else you could finish the gravy with one of the following methods.
How to thicken gravy without starch
There are two main methods for thickening gravy without starch, but don’t forget you can also combine different methods if you prefer.
The two non-starch methods are as follows:
- Reduce. This is arguably the easiest method of thickening sauces, especially if you don’t need your gravy to be that much thicker. However, we say arguably because it can also be quite time-consuming. Plus there’s always the risk of the gravy boiling over if you don’t keep an eye on it. But the technique is simple: just keep the gravy simmering over the hob, stirring frequently, until the necessary amount of excess liquid has evaporated.
- Puree vegetables. Another easy method – and a self-explanatory one too. Simply puree your choice of vegetables in the food processor and stir the thick paste into your gravy thoroughly. Of course, the vegetables you decide to use will affect the taste of the gravy, so it will require some thought, but this can be as much an advantage as a disadvantage if you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, stick with the easy ones: potatoes and carrots.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for an easy lump-free gravy recipe with flour, try this one here. Then have a go at this delicious sausage and mash recipe for something to serve it with.
How to thicken gravy with flour
Sometimes, however, there’s no substitute for adding flour. Even gravy in recipes like sausage and mash with onions can often benefit from the addition of flour to further thicken it or speed the thickening process. Gravy can begin with flour, as with a roux (equal parts butter and flour, heated until all flour is absorbed), or can later help form a base with meat and juices, as in this recipe for biscuits and gravy. But if you’ve almost finished your gravy and just need to reduce it and/or thicken a bit more, try adding a little flour at a time, a teaspoon or tablespoon depending on the amount of gravy, and incorporating with a whisk or spoon. Keep the heat on high/medium high when adding, as this will help reduce the liquidity and assimilate the flour faster. Stop adding flour once the gravy has reached the desired consistency. Flour can also be combined with a little water and made into a paste beforehand for faster incorporation into the gravy.
Still looking for more takes on a flourless gravy? Check out these recipes by some of the world’s top chefs, perfect for any occasion.