How to Make Delicious Low-Carb Gravy

A couple easy tweaks to your favorite gravy can make it low-carb

low-carb gravy
Low-Carb Gravy Recipe. Lew Robertson/Getty Images

One of the best things about a low-carb diet is that it's typically higher in protein and fat, meaning you get to enjoy delicious foods such as beef, chicken, and turkey (ideally alongside a hefty serving of vegetables!). However, when it comes to dressing cuts of meat, you might feel stumped. If you were to make a gravy, wouldn't you have to use a lot of carb-heavy wheat flour? Not necessarily.

First of all, there are many thickeners available on the market these days with far fewer carbs than flour—you just need to know a bit about them and how to use them.

Secondly, one tablespoon of flour adds only 6 grams of carbohydrates and it's enough to thicken one cup of gravy. So, ¼ cup of gravy thickened with flour has about 1½ grams of carbohydrate. This might not make that much of a difference on your low-carb diet at the end of the day. But if you're really keeping your daily carb count low, there are many ways to avoid flour.

Consider Making Gravy "Au Jus"

The three basic ingredients in every gravy are pan drippings, a liquid, usually stock or broth but some use milk, and a thickener. The easiest way around using flour as a thickener is skipping the thickening step altogether. This is called "au jus," or gravy without the thickener. When it comes to chicken or turkey gravy, the drippings provide a certain amount of gelatin, which thickens the sauce in its own right. Just boil the sauce down until it is the thickness you want (instructions on that coming below).


Pick a Substitute Thickener

Here are some of the best alternatives to using flour in your gravy (you can use these ideas when making other low-carb sauces as well). 

Cornstarch: Cornstarch has a little over 7 grams of carb per tablespoon, which will thicken about 1½ to 2 cups of gravy. The gravy won't be as opaque and will be glossier.

Another nice thing about thickening with cornstarch is that it doesn't need to be cooked; you can whisk it or shake it in a closed container with some water (a slurry), and then just drizzle it into the gravy as it simmers.

Arrowroot: Arrowroot has the same carb count as corn starch, and about a teaspoon will thicken a cup of gravy. Again, the sauce will be clearer and glossier.

Reduced Cream: Recipes such as this wild mushroom turkey gravy by George Stella use cream to thicken, and then the mixture is reduced. Cream has 6.6 grams of carb per cup.

Sour Cream: Some low-carb recipes suggest whisking in sour cream to thicken the gravy. Sour cream has about 10 grams of carbohydrate per cup.

Vegetable Gums: Xanthan gum, guar gum, and proprietary products made from them, such as Dixie Diner's "Thick it Up", are thickeners with no carbs (and they contribute fiber). You have to use the plain xanthan or guar gums with care because you can easily go too far and get a sort of slimy mess. If you sprinkle it slowly and stop at the right time, however, gums can be effective.

Remember: the Drippings Are the Stars of the Show

Drippings are what's left on the bottom of the pan when you're done roasting a piece of meat.

They include the fat from the meat, juices left from the meat and vegetables cooked along with the meat (if any), any basting liquid used in the process, and, most importantly, the brown stuff stuck on the bottom of the pan. If there aren't drippings, it isn't "real gravy"—it's technically just a sauce.

How to Make a Low-Carb Gravy

Here are simple instructions on how to make a gravy that doesn't break your low-carb diet. 

  1. Remove the meat and vegetables from the roasting pan.
  2. Pour off the drippings, ideally into a fat separator. My favorite one has a strainer on top that sifts out larger pieces, which you wouldn't want in the gravy.
  1. If you can put your roasting pan on the stove, this is ideal. Heat it and deglaze the pan with chicken broth or stock, stirring to dissolve all the brown bits. If you are using flour, add it now (add equal parts flour and fat from the drippings; one tablespoon of flour has 6 carbs, so keep that in mind and use your discretion regarding how much to use). Stir for 1 to 2 minutes. 
  2. Whisk in the rest of the drippings (not the rest of the fat, which would make the gravy too greasy). A whisk helps avoid lumps.
  3. Whisk in more broth or stock, if needed. If you want to use one of the alternative thickeners, this is the time to add it.
  4. Bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, or longer if you want to reduce the gravy more.

    The gravy will contain salt and seasonings from the meat, but you may want to add more to your taste.