Apple Cider Gravy is easy to make and absolutely delicious for Thanksgiving dinner or other other meals when gravy is welcome. This version is a low calorie recipe that still uses pan juices for wonderful flavor. If you thought you weren't a gravy maker, you will be after making this Apple Cider Gravy recipe.
This gravy is super easy to make and you don't need a Thanksgiving turkey to make it! Though the pan drippings give it the classic Thanksgiving gravy flavor, we have some variations to make it other times too (and don't need to cook a bird either). The gravy isn't heavy or full of floury flavor; It's light and delicious, perfect for a holiday meal (especially when on a lower calorie diet plan).
The star ingredient of this low calorie turkey gravy is the apple cider. It adds a subtle sweet flavor and spices that take the gravy up a notch. So if you have always felt gravy is the boring part of the meal, give this a go!
No giblets or turkey neck are used. The gravy can be made in a roasting pan after roasting a turkey or on the stove top. Can also be made after cooking turkey in the Instant Pot with the cooking liquids (or chicken). It's very flexible and great any time of year.
What makes this skinny?
Using defatted pan drippings. Instead of just using what is in the pan you’ll remove the fat which leaves a wonderful turkey flavor without all the fat calories in regular gravy.
No butter or cream used. We added some apple cider to perk up the flavor. Along with the defatted pan drippings the gravy is delicious.
Cornstarch instead of flour. Both are used as thickeners in gravy. Flour has more calories and it can sometimes be tasted in the gravy (and needs to be fully cooked for safe consumption). Using cornstarch makes a silky smooth gravy with fewer calories.
Recipe Ingredient Notes
Low sodium chicken stock. This will be the base of the gravy. If you have turkey stock you can use that instead!
Apple cider. This adds a punch of flavor to the gravy recipe that replaces the need for giblets or lots of fat. You can use fresh apple cider, filtered or unfiltered regular apple cider. Be sure to use apple cider not regular apple juice. Cider has a stronger apple flavor and spices.
Turkey pan drippings. If you are making the gravy from drippings after roasting a turkey you'll need to defat them before using. See the section below on using a gravy separator (also called a fat separator).
Cornstarch. We love this for a thickening agent because it has fewer calories than all purpose flour, adds no flavor as flour can and you don't have to worry about it being cooked (flour is not safe to consume unless it has been properly heated first).
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. For seasoning.
How to use a Gravy Separator
A gravy separator also called a fat separator is a 'must have' kitchen gadget for making gravy or other sauces. They work by effortlessly separating fats or oils from other liquids.
So for pan drippings it will separate rendered fat from the roast turkey skin and any other fats added during basting, from the non-fatty liquids.
It keeps the flavor without the fat. There are a few types of fat separators and any will work. Some have a pour spout (like the one shown in this recipe; photo 1 below) and others release the strained liquid from the bottom.
Just pour drippings into the separator, give it a minute to separate the fat from the liquid then pour the liquid into a measuring up to make ½ cup.
How to make Apple Cider Gray - Two ways
Stove top (not using roasting pan)
Combine ¼ cup chicken stock with the cornstarch. Whisk to make a slurry (photos 2-3). Set aside.
In a large saucepan combine the remaining stock, apple cider and turkey drippings (photo 4). Bring to a boil, allow to cook at a low bowl until it is reduced by half (to 2 ½ cups).
Whisk in the cornstarch slurry (photo 5). Bring to a boil again then reduce to simmer. Allow to thicken (photo 6).
Add a pinch of salt and pepper or to taste. If the turkey drippings included solid bits, pass the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer before serving (if desiring smooth gravy).
If using the turkey roasting pan
- Prepare the cornstarch slurry as described.
- Pour the pan drippings into a fat separator or skim any visible fat from the drippings. Return ½ cup to the roasting pan.
- Place the pan over a stovetop burner on medium heat. Add the apple cider and remaining stock. Bring to a simmer, stirring and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until it has reduced by half (to 2 ½ cups).
- Add the cornstarch slurry and continue to simmer until the gravy thickens. Salt and pepper to taste, pass through a strainer and serve (discard solids).
How to make it without pan drippings
Add an extra ½ cup of stock and 1 tablespoon of butter. Melt butter before adding to the other ingredients. This will add a bit of fat to the recipe which will give it more flavor.
You can use the cooking juices from Instant Pot. If making a turkey in the Instant Pot, use the cooking juices instead of pan drippings. Put them through a fat separator and use ½ cup.
Freezer trick. If you don’t have a fat separator place the pan drippings in a bowl or liquid measuring cup and place in the freezer. As the mixture chills the fat layer will become solid on the top. Skim it off and discard. Using the remaining liquid for the gravy.
For more gravy; lessen the reduction. Reducing the liquids intensifies the flavor. But if you don’t want to make a double batch for a larger group you can simmer the liquids to only reduce it by one third (to about 3 ¾ cups).
For thicker gravy. Use more cornstarch. Increase the amount of cornstarch to 3 tablespoons and add an extra 1 tablespoon chicken stock to the slurry (just subtract is from the remaining stock).
Add some fresh herbs. If you want the gravy to have more aromatic flavors add some fresh sage, bay leaves, or fresh thyme sprigs when simmering. Strain and discard before serving your homemade gravy.
Don’t add cornstarch directly to the gravy. The reason we make a slurry with the cornstarch and a little bit of liquid is to allow the cornstarch to dissolve before it’s added to the gravy mixture. If added directly it will clump and not thicken the gravy properly.
Whisk any lumps in the slurry. Be sure the slurry is smooth and lump-free before adding to the gravy.
How to Store
Store it in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Allow it to cool. Then store in a freezer safe airtight container for 4-6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
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