Since tomorrow is a day many folks will be cooking turkeys, I wanted to share my favorite way to approach gravy. Very simply, it’s to make it the day before. When the turkey comes out of the oven, the last thing I want to deal with is extra dishes, straining, scraping and whisking on the fly. There are many cooks who don’t mind this, and sometimes I daydream about being one of them. But the truth is, if it can be done ahead of time when there’s a lot going on in the kitchen, that’s exactly what you’ll find me doing. I’d rather be snacking from the cheese and veggie platter, tidying up the kitchen or pouring guests’ drinks.

However you cook your turkey, I would recommend not letting any of the drippings go to waste. You can easily scrape them with a heatproof rubber spatula to a container and use them to make a soup over the next couple of days.

For this recipe, you really have a few options: You can follow this recipe as is; you can make this recipe using only the turkey neck (usually found in the inside cavity of most birds) and then whisk in turkey jus from the roasting pan after the turkey comes out of the oven; or you can make this gravy vegetarian by leaving out the turkey and using vegetable broth, which is delightful on top of mashed potatoes.

Make Ahead Caramelized Onion & Red Chile Gravy

Makes: 6 cups;

total time: 2 hours

For the turkey stock:

2 turkey wings

2 turkey legs

Turkey neck if it’s inside your turkey

1 red onion, quartered

2 large carrots, quartered

1 head of garlic, cut in half

Handful of fresh herbs (any combo of sage, rosemary, parsley and/or thyme)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Crack of sea salt and pepper

8 cups of chicken or turkey broth

For the gravy:

8 tablespoons butter

1 large red or yellow onion, diced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour or arrowroot powder

1-2 teaspoons red chile powder, depending on heat and preference

Prepared turkey stock (around 6 cups)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dry turkey legs and the wing and neck (if you found one inside your bird) with a paper towel and place them in a deep Dutch oven-style pan. Add the onion, carrots, garlic, herbs, olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Toss everything together and roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reads 165 degrees. Carefully move Dutch oven to the stove top over medium heat. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any and all caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. Let this simmer for 30 minutes. Using tongs, remove the turkey leg and wings for snacking and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer.

To make the gravy, keep the dutch oven on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Melt the butter and add the onion. Let the onion cook in the butter until it’s caramelized, around 20 minutes. Whisk in the flour (or arrowroot) and chile powder. Take a minute or two to whisk this mixture (also called a roux) over the heat. While continuing to whisk, pour in the prepared turkey stock. I stay close to the stove at this point and continue to whisk frequently as the gravy comes to a simmer and thickens. Let the gravy simmer for around five minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature before transferring to a container in the fridge. When ready to serve, warm gravy in a saucepan over medium heat.

Marianne Sundquist is a chef and writer who in 2020 co-founded Stokli, an online general store. Find her on Instagram @chefmariannesundquist, and email her at

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