5 Thanksgiving Gravy Recipes for Every Type of Cook

It's all gravy, baby.

October 24, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

It’s well known within food publishing that Thanksgiving photo shoots and recipe testing start early (and we mean early), and happen numerous times before the actual holiday even rolls around. This has made our Test Kitchen team experts in the field of all things Thanksgiving—particularly our Senior Food Stylist Anna Billingskog. She estimates that she’s cooked some form of a Thanksgiving dinner upwards of a dozen times in her five-plus years as a food stylist for Food52. This holiday season, she’s sharing her favorite recipes from all those meals.

Things aren’t always gravy when it comes to making gravy, you know? The mixture can separate, the lumps just won’t go away, or it simply isn’t flavorful enough. Lucky for us, Anna picked a few of her favorites that not only shine on camera, but will satisfy at the Thanksgiving table as well.

For the classic cook

“This gravy is my hallmark of gravies. It's a little sweet from the cider, while being very savory and herbaceous from the sage,” says Anna. Not only is it a quintessential gravy in flavor, it’s also exactly what your guests will want to see on the table this year. “It’s been my go to on set, with [its] gorgeous golden color. Poured over all, she’s a star.”

For the cook who loves a shortcut

After all the potato mashing and pie crust rolling, more cooking is pretty much the last thing on everyone’s list. If you’re forgoing the turkey this year, whether for time-saving needs or space-saving purposes (or you just prefer ham…I won’t tell anyone), this gravy can get you all the way there with flavor and heft without any of the turkey pan drippings.

“This has been a great back-pocket recipe on days when we are shooting several new gravy boats for the shop (because who wants to lug a turkey on the subway to work if they don't need to?” says Anna. “It's as close to having gravy on tap as you can get.”

For the cook with dietary needs

“Mushrooms, the generous and delicious workhorse of the vegetarian kitchen, are front and center in this crowd-pleasing gravy. When you’re hosting a mix of dietary needs on your guest list this gravy is a no-brainer,” says Anna on this vegetarian, but still flavorful recipe. “It comes together quickly, holds well, and—when poured generously over both animal and vegetable dishes—harmonizes with all the hallmark flavors of Thanksgiving.”

If you’re making this vegan (or just dairy-free, like I will!), swap out the butter and cream for olive oil and more stock.

For the cook who doesn’t really like gravy (but could learn to love it)

When it comes to making her own Thanksgiving plate, Anna isn’t a big gravy fan. But, who can blame her, after making endless Thanksgivings? So, I’ll let her explain this one.

“Are you not really a gravy person? (Hot take, I’m not.) This gravy lives somewhere between French onion soup and gravy,” Anna says. This recipe works for all dishes and all seasons too: “Keep this guy in your back pocket for year-round hosting—poured over a roast beef or lamb would be gorgeous. When we shot this one [for the site] a few years back, as part of our Thanksgiving menu, it turned me into a gravy convert.”

For the cook who’s been planning Thanksgiving for months

Sometimes, when you’re planning ahead, you just need to know the recipe you’re using just works. This recipe, with its ability to stay together without falling apart when made a day or so in advance, can be the hero of your Thanksgiving spread. According to Anna, “we have made this recipe countless times in the test kitchen where prepping ahead of a shoot day is your best friend. While she may not steal the show, she’s the gravy you know and love.”

gravy essentials

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Do you have a gravy go-to? Let us know below!
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Emily Ziemski

Written by: Emily Ziemski

Food Editor @ Food52