When you need to thicken gravy but cannot use flour or cornstarch, there are actually several options to choose from. What you need might already be in your pantry. Learn how to thicken gravy without flour or cornstarch with at least seven ingredients everyone has at home.
Yes. You can thicken gravy without using flour or cornstarch. While flour or cornstarch is the most commonly used method, there are other ways to thicken gravy and sauces. Use items that, very likely, are already in your pantry.
The way it usually happens is that you’re in the middle of cooking a meal for a family gathering, and you realize the gravy is thin and watery. You reach for your go-to solution and discover you don’t have any flour. Or, maybe using flour isn’t even a good option because one of your guests is on a gluten-free or Keto diet. But, you’re out of cornstarch too. So, what do you do now?
Maybe you have plenty of flour and cornstarch on hand, but you simply want to switch things up a bit. Instead of the same old meat-dripping sauce that’s been passed down for generations, try one with a new texture or flavor.
Don’t make your family wait to eat because the gravy is too thin and not cooperating with your efforts to thicken it. Don’t worry! There are ways to thicken gravy without flour or cornstarch.
How to thicken gravy without flour or cornstarch
Instead of reaching for the flour or cornstarch to thicken that gravy, try using one of these ingredients:
- Dry breadcrumbs
- Grated/mashed potatoes
- Overcooked mashed beans or lentils
- Dried onion or vegetable flakes
- Eggs – method with egg yolks
Cooking gravy requires a long simmer. Let it simmer a little longer, and you may find that you don’t need any of the other ingredients. Cooking it longer often thickens up the sauce.
Typically, when using flour to thicken, you don’t just toss in flour and stir unless you want a lumpy mess. First, you make a roux. A roux is a combination of equal parts fat and flour. A roux is cooked over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Then, you whisk it into the liquid sauce slowly.
Another option is to first make a beurre manié. This may sound fancy, but it is simply ingredients mashed in a bowl with a fork until it forms a smooth paste. The difference between this and a roux is that a beurre manié does not require cooking.
A slurry is also used. A slurry is a liquid mixture of cold water or other liquid and a starch.
Here’s how to thicken up that watery gravy with these ingredient alternatives:
Dry breadcrumbs work great to add to any liquid to make it thicker. It works a lot like flour. After all, flour is the main starch used in bread crumbs.
First, grind up the breadcrumbs, and stir in a little at a time until the gravy is the thickness you want.
Potato flakes, grated, or mashed potatoes are a great alternative to flour for thickening a sauce. It works great to thicken without adding any harsh flavors.
Either cook and mash the potatoes, grate them, or use instant potato flakes.
Overcooked mashed beans or lentils
After you boil the lentils or beans, mash them or turn them into a thick purée. Add the pure into any gravy, and it will thicken without the use of flour or cornstarch. You can also mix the lentil purée with melted butter, garlic, mushrooms, and herbs to make an amazing lentil gravy.
Dried onion or vegetable flakes
Dried onions or vegetable flakes, such as mushroom powder, work much like flour for thickening. These dried foods will absorb even the thinnest of liquids and quickly thicken them up. Keep in mind, however, that when you use this method to thicken, it will change the texture and the flavor quite a bit.
Eggs – method with egg yolks
Eggs work best for thickening cream-based sauces. The main thing to remember when using eggs to thicken is to not add them in too quickly. If you do, you will get a scrambled egg mess.
To prevent the egg yolk from cooking before it does its thickening job, place the egg yolk in a bowl and slowly whisk in a cup, 240 ml, of the hot liquid sauce. Do this slowly until the egg mixture has become tempered. Then, pour it into the rest of the sauce and keep whisking until it’s blended to your liking.
What are less common alternatives to substitute flour or cornstarch in gravy
Some other less common alternatives to substitute flour or cornstarch in gravy include:
- xanthan gum
- psyllium husk
Arrowroot is often exchanged for cornstarch in recipes. A perk to arrowroot is that it is gluten-free. To use it to thicken, mix about 1 tablespoon for every cup, 15 ml for every 240 ml, of liquid to make a slurry before mixing it into the main sauce.
Tapioca starch comes from the cassava root and is a good thickening agent to add at the very end of cooking. It goes to work fast and doesn’t ruin the flavor. But, you won’t want to leave it cooking on the heat too long.
Xanthan gum is a bacterial byproduct that actually works great for thickening liquids. Mix xanthan with pectin to make a nice thick vegan sauce.
Psyllium husk is a soluble fiber that is often used to treat constipation. It comes from the plant Plantago ovate and is a fantastic Vegan option. When the husks are ground up, it forms a powdery substance that works great for thickening.
Other ingredients worth mentioning include:
- adding a pat of butter or gelatin that works nicely for thickening.
- reducing the liquid sauce by cooking it longer.
- pureed vegetables make an excellent thickening agent. Roast or boil the vegetables first, and then throw them into the food processor before stirring them into the gravy. Starchy vegetables work best.
- thicken it up with chickpea flour. Make a slurry with water, and whisk it into the sauce.
- some powdered spices such as mustard or ginger may work, but know that these will also change the taste drastically.
It’s important to know how to thicken gravy without flour or cornstarch. The next time you need to thicken up that watery brown liquid, opt for one of these ingredients and methods instead. Don’t wait until you’re in a pinch or cooking for an important dinner party to try them out.