Fall flavors come with their fare share of controversy. We argue about candy corn’s inherent evil and debate the merits of pumpkin-spiced anything. For some, marshmallows are a quintessential part of sweet potato casserole, while others recoil at the idea, believing the white fluffy stuff only ruins yams. Heck, we can’t even agree on that vegetable’s name. But the one fact upon which we can all agree: Thanksgiving is not really Thanksgiving without gravy.
Whether it’s turkey or mashed potatoes, stuffing or green beans, any and every Thanksgiving dish is made more delicious with a heaping dollop of gravy. If you’re like me, every year a family member will helpfully remind you that gravy is not a beverage.
But not all gravies are created equal; some are lovingly made from scratch while others are more easily made from a packet. Ah, the wonders of science. So what are the differences between homemade and instant gravy? Perhaps more importantly, will anyone appreciate the extra effort? Will they even notice if you take a shortcut? The short answers are yes and hell yes. Here’s why:
Texture & Color
Although we’re taught not to “judge a book by its cover,” that’s precisely what we do because it’s in our nature. Appearance matters.
Many of our favorite homemade gravies have a smooth, creamy texture. However, strong case can also be made for chunky mushroom gravy.
When it comes to instant gravy, “smooth and creamy” is exactly what you’re aiming for. If you miss that mark, the jig is up. Whether it’s too thick and gloopy, or too thin and runny, it’s a dead giveaway and your guests will know it came from a packet.
Instant gravy is more homogenous in color, while homemade gravy has more depth and variety thanks to fresh herbs and pan drippings. If the color is too consistent, it’s reminiscent of school lunches and fast food.
Believe it or not, there are some good instant gravies on the market. The best ones are flavorful and can *almost* pass for homemade. But beware: There are plenty of packet gravies that are either too bland or simply taste artificial. When it comes to flavor, there is really no comparison between authentic, homemade gravy and its imitation.
It should come as no surprise that packet gravy is much easier to make and takes a fraction of the time, which is great if you’re whipping up some mashed potatoes for dinner and are pressed for time. But if you’re in charge of the gravy this Thanksgiving, it’s worth the extra effort to make it from scratch. Don’t be intimidated; you can do this and your guests will certainly notice and appreciate the difference. To help you get started, here’s a roundup of some of our favorite recipes. If you’re feeding a few vegans and vegetarians, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Take your turkey from good to great with our tried and true Easy Turkey Gravy recipe. This is easy enough for anyone to try! According to the recipe, the fresh herbs are optional but we highly recommend using them. One taste and you’ll be convinced the drippings from your roasting pan are worth their weight in gold.
If you’re looking for a poultry-free option, this Vegetarian Gravy recipe is a great choice. Made with veggie broth, minced garlic and finely chopped onions, this gravy will delight vegetarians and carnivores alike.
If you love mushrooms, try this fantastically easy recipe for Mushroom Gravy! You won’t need pan drippings for this one, as it calls for beef broth, but you will be able to pour this on whatever is on your Thanksgiving plate. Fair warning: You may be tempted to eat this gravy like soup from a bowl.
For many of us, Thanksgiving Day is spent with family and often, with family members that you only see on holidays. The best complement to a heaping dose of quality family time is often a healthy dash of booze. With that in mind, try these recipes to make your gravy extra tasty and a wee bit tipsy.
First up is our delicious Bourbon Cream Gravy. Pan drippings and real Kentucky bourbon are the keys to unlocking the sweet and savory flavors of this recipe. And if you are frying your turkey this year, look no further: This is exactly the gravy you’re looking for.
Vegans can also jump on the boozy gravy train with this hearty and delicious recipe for Drunken Mushroom Whiskey Gravy. Book a one-way ticket to vegan nirvana by simmering cremini mushrooms in this whiskey-spiked broth, with a dash of soy sauce and some liquid smoke.
Finally, whether you bravely face the madness of Black Friday or avoid it like the plague, there is no better comfort food on Friday than Thanksgiving leftovers. And while your fridge may be full of turkey, mashed potatoes and a variety of casseroles, leftover gravy is a very rare thing. For a super simple solution to this conundrum, we suggest this easy, three-ingredient recipe for the Perfect Gravy Without the Bird. It calls for broth, butter and an ingredient you may not be familiar with: browned flour. This is recipe is not quite as easy as gravy from a packet but we promise it is oh-so-worth the extra bit of effort! This tasty recipe will inspire you to add gravy to more than just your holiday meals.
Header image courtesy Shutterstock and Chowhound.