Christmas gravy is a savoury sauce made from the juices of cooked meat, often thickened with flour and seasoned with herbs, spices, wine or stock. It is a traditional accompaniment to roast dinners, especially at Christmas time, when it adds moisture and flavour to the turkey, beef, lamb or other meat of choice.

Picture of a gravy boat - How to make Christmas gravyGravy is also delicious poured over mashed potatoes, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and vegetables.

But where did gravy come from and how did it become such a popular part of Christmas dinner?

And how easy is it to make gravy at home?

Here, the team will answer these questions and offer you some tips and advice for making different types of gravy for your festive feast. We will also share some easy and tasty recipes for turkey, beef and lamb gravy that you can try at home.

We’ve even added a special section just for red onion gravy – a great treat for the Christmas dinner table (we think!).

And we have a great idea from favourite Jamie Oliver to make your gravy ahead of the big day and freeze it. This could be a game changer!

The history of gravy

Gravy has a long and rich history that dates back to medieval times. The word ‘gravy’ first appeared in Middle English as ‘gravé’ and is believed to be derived from the French word ‘grane’, meaning ‘spice’.

In medieval cookbooks, gravy was a spicy sauce made from the natural juices of roasted meat, mixed with wine, broth, almonds and rice flour. Gravy was used to enhance the flavour of meat, fish and poultry dishes, as well as pies and pastries.

Over time, gravy evolved into a simpler sauce made from meat drippings, flour and water or stock. In the 17th century, sauces became more refined and varied in French cuisine, and the British adopted some of their techniques and ingredients.

For example, adding wine, herbs, spices or fruit to the gravy gave it more depth and complexity. Gravy also became thicker and smoother by using roux (a mixture of flour and fat cooked together) as a thickening agent.

In the US, gravy was brought over by the British colonists, who adapted it to their local ingredients and preferences. For instance, they used cornmeal instead of flour to thicken the gravy or added cream or milk to make it richer and whiter. They also experimented with different meats and flavours, such as pork, ham, sausage or bacon. Gravy became a staple of Southern cuisine, especially with dishes like biscuits and gravy or chicken-fried steak.

Today, gravy is enjoyed all over the world in various forms and styles. It is a common sauce for roast dinners in Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

It is also popular in Canada, where it is often served with fries and cheese curds in a dish called poutine. In Scandinavia, gravy is made with cream or sour cream and flavoured with lingonberries or cranberries.

How easy is it to make gravy at home?

Making gravy at home is not difficult if you follow some simple steps and tips. The basic method is to collect the juices and fat from the meat you are roasting in a roasting tin or pan.

Then you need to separate the fat from the juices by skimming it off with a spoon or using a fat separator jug. You can use some of the fat to make a roux with flour in the same roasting tin or pan over medium heat. Then you gradually whisk in the juices and some stock or water until you have a smooth gravy.

You can season it with salt, pepper and any herbs or spices you like. You can also add some wine, vinegar or lemon juice for some acidity, or some jelly or honey for some sweetness.


How to make your own gravy! – Tom Kerridge’s Ultimate Christmas Hacks

Here is famous chef Tom Kerridge showing us how to make our own gravy, courtesy of M&S.

And as Tom says, when it comes to Christmas, it’s all about the gravy.

He keeps the veg and turkey juices in the cooking tray and places that on a medium heat.

He then adds chestnut mushrooms – Tom says they add body and an earthy flavour. He also adds porcini mushrooms.

Then in goes bay leaves and thyme – and the option of sherry. Add honey for the sweetness, plus some soy sauce.

He then adds flour to help thicken the gravy before adding chicken stock.

Simmer this for a time before adding red wine vinegar and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

The final step is to sieve the mixture and pour into a gravy jug.

As with many of Tom’s recipes, this does involve adding more ingredients than other chefs would, but the final result is – believe us! – incredible.


Tips for making perfect gravy

Everyone wants to dish up for the perfect gravy for a roast Christmas dinner, and here are some great tips to do just that.

  • Use good quality stock or broth for more flavour. You can use chicken, beef, vegetable or even turkey stock if you have it. The alternative is to use stock cubes.
  • If you don’t have enough juices from the meat, you can add some water to the roasting tin or pan and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. These bits are full of flavour and will enrich your gravy.
  • top tip: When making a gravy or a roux, always use a whisk rather than a spoon for quicker and less lump results!
  • If your gravy is too thin, you can simmer it for longer to reduce it or add more flour mixed with water to thicken it. If your gravy is too thick, you can add more stock or water to thin it out.
  • If your gravy is lumpy, you can strain it through a sieve or use a blender or immersion blender to smooth it out. We would also recommend using a whisk rather than a spoon for making gravy to help avoid the lumps.
  • If your gravy is greasy, you can skim off more fat from the surface or chill it in the fridge until the fat solidifies on top. Then you can reheat it before serving.
  • If your gravy is bland, you can add more salt, pepper or other seasonings to taste. You can also add some Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or mustard. Don’t forget too that you can add gravy granules to thicken and add taste to the gravy.
  • top tip: If your gravy is bland then it is time to get the turkey or chicken gravy granules out to rectify this. Just add a few teaspoons to get the richness and flavour you want.

Different types of gravy for different meats

Depending on what meat you are serving for your Christmas dinner, you may want to make different types of gravy to match it. Here are some suggestions for different meats and the ingredients you can add to your gravy to make it more suitable – but be careful not to add too much and ‘drown’ the gravy flavours.

pic of turkey and gravy christmas dinner - How to make Christmas gravyFor turkey: Add some sage, thyme, rosemary or poultry seasoning to your gravy for some festive flavour. You can also add some cranberry sauce or orange juice for some sweetness and tanginess.

For beef: Add some red wine, port or Madeira for some richness and body. You can also add some horseradish, mustard or Worcestershire sauce for a little bit of heat and spice.

  • For lamb: Think about adding mint, rosemary or oregano for some freshness and aroma. You can also add redcurrant jelly, honey or pomegranate molasses for some sweetness and tartness.
  • For pork: Apple cider, apple juice or sauce will deliver fruitiness and acidity. You can also add some sage, fennel seeds or caraway seeds for a herby creation.
  • For ham: This meat benefits from pineapple juice, brown sugar or maple syrup for a tropical and caramel flavour. You can also add some cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg for some warmth and spice, or you can do like the French do and add apple.
  • For chicken: The meat flavour is enhanced with lemon juice, white wine or cider vinegar. You can also add some tarragon, parsley or chives for some green colour and flavour.

Easy recipes for turkey, beef and lamb gravy

Here are some easy recipes for turkey, beef and lamb gravy that you can try at home. Each recipe makes enough for 8 servings.

A recipe for turkey gravy


  • 60g butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 940ml turkey stock (or chicken stock)
  • 60ml turkey drippings (or water)
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh sage – or 1 teaspoon of dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme – or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.


  • In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes until golden and bubbly.
  • Gradually whisk in the stock and the drippings, bringing it to a boil before reducing the heat and simmering, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until it thickens.
  • Add the sage and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir.
  • Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve if desired and serve hot with sliced turkey.


Jamie Oliver’s ‘Get-ahead gravy’

Here is a great Jamie Oliver Christmas gravy recipe that we think is fab!

As Jamie says, gravy can make or break a meal.

So, his tip is to prepare your gravy ahead of time, and just warm it up in your turkey pan on Christmas Day.

This gravy is a real game-changer for your Christmas dinner. You can make it in advance and freeze it,   but DON’T FORGET to remove it from the freezer so it can defrost in time! Freezing gravy means you don’t have to worry about it on the big day. It’s packed with flavour from roasted chicken wings, vegetables, herbs and spices. You can also add the juices from your turkey or chicken to make it even more delicious.


  • 2 kg chicken wings/legs
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into big chunks
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped into big chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of fresh sage
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 star anise
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons cranberry sauce
  • 2 litres water


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4. Cut the chicken wings or legs into three pieces with a sharp knife and put them in a large roasting tray. Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme and star anise. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss everything together and spread out in an even layer.
  • Roast for 1 hour, or until the chicken wings/legs are golden and crisp, turning them halfway through.
  • Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large pot and place over a medium-high heat. Sprinkle over the flour and stir well to coat everything. Cook this for several minutes, stirring until the flour is lightly browned.
  • Add the cranberry sauce and water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off any excess fat from the surface.
  • Strain the gravy through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing the solids down with a spoon to help extract as much of the flavour as you can. Throw the solids in the sieve away and transfer the gravy to a clean pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • You can either use the gravy straight away or let it cool completely and freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the gravy in a pot over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot and bubbling. If you have any juices from your roasted turkey or chicken, you can add them to the gravy for extra flavour.

Enjoy your get-ahead gravy with your Christmas dinner!


A recipe for beef gravy


  • 30 ml vegetable oil
  • 30g plain flour
  • 940 ml beef stock
  • 60 ml beef drippings (or water)
  • 60 ml red wine (or port or Madeira)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  • In a large frying pan skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes until dark brown and nutty.
  • Gradually whisk in the stock and the drippings, and heat until boiling. Then simmer and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes until thickened.
  • Stir in the wine and Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve if desired and serve hot with sliced beef.

A recipe for lamb gravy


  • 30 ml butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 940 ml lamb stock (or chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 60 ml lamb drippings (or water)
  • 30 ml redcurrant jelly (or honey or pomegranate molasses)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh mint (or rosemary or oregano)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  • In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes until golden and bubbly.
  • Gradually whisk in the stock and the drippings, bringing the mix to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until thickened.
  • Stir in the jelly and mint and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve if desired and serve hot with sliced lamb.


Red onion gravy: A savoury sauce for any occasion

If you are looking for a simple yet delicious way to add some flavour to your meals, you might want to try red onion gravy. This is a type of gravy made with red onions, stock, wine and seasonings that can complement many dishes, such as sausages, roast beef, mashed potatoes, and more.

Here, we look at what red onion gravy is, where it comes from, and how to make it at home.

What is red onion gravy?

Red onion gravy is a sauce that is prepared by cooking sliced red onions in butter and oil until they are soft and caramelised, then adding flour, stock, wine, and other ingredients to create a thick and rich gravy. The red onions give the gravy a sweet and tangy flavour, while the wine adds some acidity and depth. The gravy can be seasoned with salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, or any other herbs and spices you like.

Where does red onion gravy come from?

Red onion gravy is not a traditional or regional dish, but rather a modern invention that has become popular in recent years. It is often associated with British cuisine, especially as an accompaniment to bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes) or toad in the hole (sausages baked in batter). However, it can also be found in other countries and cuisines.

The origin of red onion gravy is not clear, but it may have been inspired by other types of onion gravy that have a longer history. For example, onion gravy is common in the UK for use with roast meats and in some parts of the US.

How to make red onion gravy at home?

Making red onion gravy at home is easy and requires only a few ingredients and steps. Here is a simple recipe that you can follow:


  • 4 red onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 50g salted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 500ml vegetable stock (or beef or chicken stock if you prefer)
  • 1 small bunch of thyme tied with kitchen string.


  • Finely slice the onions and garlic.
  • In a medium saucepan, add the butter, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Put on a low heat to melt the butter.
  • Add the sliced onions and garlic, and cook for about 10 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the flour and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Gradually whisk in the stock and stir until boiling.
  • Add the thyme and simmer for about 20 minutes until the gravy has thickened and reduced by half.
  • The actual time for simmering will depend on your taste – some recipes call for just eight minutes while others say you should simmer for 30 minutes – we find that simmering for 20 minutes should deliver the tasty goods.
  • Remove the thyme and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Enjoy your red onion gravy with your favourite dish!


Make ahead Christmas gravy – Christmas Dinner Tips

Here’s another video that highlights the benefits of making gravy ahead of the big day, and this time it is Nicky from Kitchen Sanctuary.

As she says, you will be taking a weight off your shoulders by having a delicious gravy ready.

She starts by making a chicken stock using two leftover carcasses, adds carrots, celery, and onion.

Add water and let the combination boil away.

You will need to season with salt and pepper, three chicken stock cubes and any meat drippings.

This is simmered for up to five hours and then reduced to a rick stock – the cornerstone of the gravy.

Nicky then sieves the contents into a jug and then pours into a small pan.

After boiling, simmer this and add corn starch or corn flour and water until the gravy thickens.

She recommends gravy browning for those who want darker gravy.

And that’s it! The gravy is reheated on the day, and you can add turkey drippings too when it has been cooked to add more flavour.


How to make Christmas gravy – easy recipes to use at home

For many of us, gravy is a delicious addition that can make any roast dinner more special and satisfying. It is easy to make at home with simple ingredients and techniques.

You can also customise your gravy to suit different meats by adding different flavours and seasonings.

Whatever you try to do, you should be adventurous because gravy has some many adaptations that it is a difficult dish to spoil – and if things don’t work out how you had hoped, simply tell diners that’s what you were trying to achieve!