Turkey gravy is one of the key components of a classic turkey dinner. While simpler is often best, the right seasonings can greatly improve the dish. Here are some of the best spices for turkey gravy.
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The onion is one of the most widely used seasonings in the world. Onions can bring a nutty sweetness to your turkey gravy along with a savory herbaceousness.
There are multiple varieties of this member of the Allium family and pretty much all of them will work in turkey gravy. In fact, almost all turkey gravy recipes will include onion in one form or another. The ones that you will most often see in recipes are yellow onions, green onions or onion powder.
Like onions, garlic is a common Allium and adds sulfurous pungency and savory earthiness. Garlic (as fresh garlic or garlic powder) is essential if you want to give your food an unmistakable umami character, which is exactly what you want from gravy.
Depending on your seasoning preferences, you may want to use garlic in moderation when making a turkey gravy since it can overpower other flavors. It doesn’t show up in all turkey gravy recipes but it does play an important role in some of the most flavorful ones.
A key element of gravies, celery is essential to broth-focused dishes. It brings a savory grassy quality that is unique and that complements perfectly the other ingredients. The celery flavor can come from the celery herb but some recipes use celery salt. The celery may be simmered with other aromatics when making a turkey broth at the start of the cooking process.
One of the three herbs that show up in many turkey gravy recipes, thyme is a member of the mint family. It has an earthy camphoraceous quality with a hint of mint and clove. In moderation, these flavors enhance the flavors of rich and fatty foods like gravy.
Both dried and fresh thyme will work in turkey gravy and will pair well with the foods that typically accompany it like potatoes and vegetables.
Another popular turkey gravy herb, sage has a strong association with poultry in various parts of the world and a particularly strong one with turkey in the United States. It is one of the main elements in the traditional Thanksgiving turkey flavor profile. Sage brings a complex blend of flavors that includes notes of citrus, mint, and eucalyptus.
As with thyme, you will want to go easy when using the herb to avoid over-flavoring the gravy and possibly ruining it. Sage is a great addition to any fatty foods as its flavor profile helps to cut through the fattiness.
Another mint relative, rosemary is the third herb that is common in turkey gravy recipes. Its piney, resinous flavor profile sets it apart from other common seasonings and can easily dominate the flavor of your gravy if you don’t use it in moderation. When used lightly, it can enhance the flavor and aroma of your turkey gravy and give it a distinctive sweetness that will complement other seasonings.
Bay leaves come from the bay laurel tree and give turkey gravy a savory camphoraceous flavor and a mild bitterness that intensifies its umami character. Bay leaves require a long cooking time to fully release their flavor, so you will want to add them at the beginning of the process. Use it in the broth that will be the basis for the gravy.