Daunting idea of Thanksgiving without gravy saved by this low-carb option

  • The finished gravy is ready for service

    The finished gravy is ready for service Courtesy of Don Mauer

Posted11/25/2019 10:52 AM

For most of us, it just isn't Thanksgiving dinner without gravy. Sure, many T-Day dinner items could be on that "just isn't" list like roast turkey along with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes or green bean casserole. More than half that list doesn't work without gravy.

This year, gravy is an issue for me since I'm steering clear of sugars, wheat flour and all highly-processed carbohydrates.


In years past, I shared my recipe for sugar-free cranberry sauce sweetened with stevia. Raw cranberries are already low in natural sugars (by comparison grapes deliver four times as much sugar as raw cranberries) and have nearly zero fat, sugar-free cranberry sauce or relish works for just about any food plan.

Gravy's another story. Most folks use wheat flour or cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Two tablespoons of flour deliver 12 carbohydrate grams; cornstarch 14.6 grams. Not good for anyone doing their best to reduce dietary carbohydrates.

I just about gave up the idea of having gravy with my T-Day dinner this year, planning to make a standard gravy for my dinner guests.

A web search for low-carb gravy turned up an idea for using nearly carb-free xanthan gum as a flour/cornstarch substitute. My familiarity with xanthan gum goes way back to my low-fat days when I was trying to make fat-free salad dressings, using it as a thickener.

If you're on a gluten-free food plan and you bake, I'll bet you're very familiar with using xanthan gum to make wheat-free baked goods. Look at wheat-free baking mixes, and in their ingredient list, you'll frequently find xanthan gum at the end.

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I started feeling excited that I may be able to create a carb-free gravy just in time for our Thanksgiving dinner (we're having eight guests this year). My xanthan gum research turned up some positive news. Cook's Illustrated's website stated that when they tested xanthan gum to thicken gravy, they found that it: "tasted more clearly of meat and vegetables ..." than one thickened with wheat flour that muted the flavors.

I headed to my kitchen and started to experiment. I added two tablespoons of unsalted butter to my saucepan and sautéed minced onion until golden brown, boosting the onion's flavor.

Brown the onions to a rich golden brown.
Brown the onions to a rich golden brown. - Courtesy of Don Mauer

My research showed me that it takes very little xanthan gum to thicken any liquid, so I was cautious about using too much and decided that 3/8 of a teaspoon to two cups of the broth should work. When I whisked the xanthan gum into the room temperature broth, little lumps of xanthan gum floated to the top. Not good.


I added Worcestershire sauce to my broth for color and flavor and then poured it into the saucepan with the browned onions. Then I took an immersion blender and used it to blend the mixture. Fortunately, the xanthan gum disappeared into the broth. Yes.

Next, I blended-in salt, fresh ground black pepper and garlic powder and brought my wheat-free gravy to a low simmer. My new gravy thickened-up beautifully, and the flavor was outstanding.

Not only was my wheat-free and cornstarch-free gravy now nearly carb-free, but it tasted better than any gravy I'd ever made with starches. I'm not going to tell my guests that this year's gravy is nearly carbohydrate-free and see if they can tell the difference.

Use an immersion blender to mix all the ingredients before serving.
Use an immersion blender to mix all the ingredients before serving. - Courtesy of Don Mauer

Don's Better Turkey Gravy

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons finely diced onion

2 cups turkey pan drippings (or turkey broth)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

3/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

Place a medium saucepan over medium/low heat and add the butter. When the butter melts, add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, taking care to make sure it doesn't over-brown.

While the onions cook, pour the turkey broth into a medium mixing bowl and add the Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and xanthan gum. Using an immersion blender at low/medium speed, blend to combine ingredients.

When the onions are golden brown, add the broth to the saucepan and, using the immersion blender at low/medium speed, blend until combined. Add salt and pepper, blend and taste, adjusting seasonings, if needed.

Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes or until starting to thicken; it will thicken more as it cools.

Too thick? Thin with additional broth. Serve warm.

Makes 2¼ cups.

Nutrition values per 2 tablespoons: 17 calories(73 percent from fat), 1.3 g fat(0.8 g saturated fat), 0.2 g carbohydrates, 0.1 g sugars, 0 g fiber, 0.2 g protein, 3.4 mg cholesterol, 68 mg sodium.

Suggestions: Skim the fat from the pan drippings and use it to sauté the onions instead of butter.

May be successfully doubled.

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