The Healthiest Way to Thicken Gravy (plus video)

by Sarah Broth, Stock, and Soups, Holiday Cooking Tips (aired on NBC), VideosComments: 43

gravy boatWhen it comes to thickening gravy, most people are missing the, uh, boat entirely!

Cornstarch is the most common gravy thickener, but this is a terrible choice as it is most likely made from unlabeled genetically modified corn unless you make the effort to buy organic.  GM corn has been linked to organ failure and tumors in animals.  Do you really want this stuff to be included with your holiday meal?

Even if organic, cornstarch is basically devoid of any nutrition or flavor and not worth the price.

Why not add both nutrition and extra flavor by using a nutrition rich thickening agent that is a bit time consuming to make yourself, but is now conveniently available for purchase:  sprouted flour.

I prefer sprouted einkorn, spelt, or kamut flour myself, but if you are gluten free, you can use buckwheat, rice, or any gluten free flour of your choice.

Benefits of Sprouted Flour

Sprouting a grain before grinding into a flour increases the nutrition of the grain substantially.  For instance, vitamin C is produced by sprouting grain, but it is absent in the unsprouted form.  Vitamin B content is increased dramatically by sprouting as are carotenes.  Irritating substances in the hull of the grain are inactivated by sprouting as well.  These inhibitors (phytic acid) have the potential to neutralize the enzymes in our digestive tract and block mineral absorption, so sprouting exponentially increases ease of digestion as well as nutrient absorbability.

Much media attention has been focused recently on the problem of aflatoxins in grains.   Aflatoxins are potent carcinogens and are present in high quantities in highly processed foods such as crackers, cookies, chips, and cereals.     Sprouting inactivates aflatoxins, which is just another reason to follow the wisdom of traditional peoples in grain preparation!

How to Make or Buy Sprouted Flour

If you want to make sprouted flour yourself, it is very easy but will take a bit of time and you will have to plan ahead so you get it done before your holiday meal.   Click here for a video how-to.

If you want to purchase sprouted flour, you can buy sprouted wheat berries like I do so that you can grind yourself for the freshest and most nutrient dense flour, or if you don’t have a grain grinder, you can purchase sprouted flour.

** Click here for the vetted sources I recommend and buy from myself when purchasing sprouted grains.   At least one of these companies is offering free shipping through December, so this is a great time to stock up!

Below is a video clip I filmed for the News Channel 8 Today show which aired yesterday on many NBC affiliate stations around North America.   Please click over and like Gayle Guyardo’s Facebook page, as she is the co-anchor of the show and was responsible for getting this important Traditional Cooking information on TV.

To view all the Holiday Turkey Tips I filmed for the NBC News Channel 8 Today show, click here.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Comments (43)

  • Donna

    I read the comments, but I didn’t see the exact ratio for subbing sprouted flour for regular white flour or for corn starch. I know you only need half the corn starch as white flour (at least that is how I have always thickened my soups and sauces). Would sprouted flour be subbed tablespoon per tablespoon for white flour in thickening? Thanks!

    September 11th, 2015 5:31 pm Reply
  • Melanie Florentino

    Hi there, I am planning to make a scallopped sweet potato casserole that has a thickened milk sauce in it… It calls for 3 Tbsp of regular white flour… using sprouted, do I use the same amount? (3tbsp?) thanks

    December 23rd, 2014 5:20 pm Reply
  • Julianne Zoviar Clunne via Facebook

    you are a truly wonderful educator ! my daughter and I live a 1000 miles apart ..she put me onto your site …our irregular phone calls are often about raw milk etc via your info …so thanks xx

    November 22nd, 2012 6:17 am Reply
  • Irene

    As we are grain-free, I am most interested in trying egg yolk thickening idea. Up to now, we’ve had pretty runny gravy as I didn’t know what on earth I could thicken it with. It seems a mite tricky and maybe more time intensive in the midst of the rush of trying to get the food on the table?

    November 21st, 2012 2:59 pm Reply
    • Ann

      Irene–thickening with egg yolks isn’t tricky–you just have to take care not to cook the egg too quickly with the hot broth/sauce you are adding it too. To do that, you have to temper the egg by adding a small amount of the hot liquid slowly to the egg yolks while beating constantly. If you see chunky egg bits forming (like curds), that’s a signal you’ve added too much hot liquid too quickly. The idea is to gently and slowly warm the yolks by adding the hot liquid. After you’ve added at least as much hot liquid as you had yolk volume, you can slowly, while whisking the broth constantly, add the now tempered yolks to your broth. The broth should not be boiling, but just below a simmer. If you boil the broth, you’ll curdle the egg (not good eats). It isn’t hard, just go slowly until you get the hang of it.

      You use the same technique to make egg custards and puddings.

      November 22nd, 2012 6:50 pm Reply
  • Joan

    I use an immersible blender and blend my stock vegetables to thicken gravy. Works with loads of sauces. My short ribs and sauce are quite famous – mushrooms are the secret there.

    November 21st, 2012 2:19 pm Reply
  • Dani

    Ive used arrowroot with success. Have any of you tried that? What did you think?

    November 21st, 2012 9:57 am Reply
  • Dee

    I’ve been using rice flour for a while now and it works fine. To get a darker brown colour to gravy made with any white flour I leave the skins on my organic onions when I make the stock…it’s a natural brown colouring!

    November 21st, 2012 5:36 am Reply
  • Kelley Chapman via Facebook

    This is going to be the first year that I can actually eat the gravy and not have to take a pain pill (I am not kidding) Thank you for your life changing/giving posts, videos, years of research-and not being afraid to go against the grain years ago even if you were the only one around you doing it.

    November 20th, 2012 10:20 pm Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    @Violet. If I mention one specific brand, it would be unfair to others that also have a great products. Here are the ones I recommend as they are vetted for quality (no “organic” brown rice from China for example):

    November 20th, 2012 9:21 pm Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    Arrowroot is tricky. If it is old, it doesn’t work. I’ve had it fail a number of times also which is why I just use sprouted flour now.

    November 20th, 2012 9:19 pm Reply
  • Jamil Avdiyev

    Hi Sarah:

    It was great meeting you at the conference.

    Grain growers doing high brix nutrient dense farming have found antitoxins presence is a sign of inferior quality in general. The more nutrient dense the grain is, the higher the specific gravity (the heavier it is), the less the probability of having antitoxins. High brix nutrient dense grains don’t contain them. Of course, they will still have enzyme inhibitors that need to be deactivated through something like spouting or fermentation.

    How about using kudzu root for thickening?

    November 20th, 2012 4:58 pm Reply
    • SoCalGT

      I have used kudzu and really like it. It is rather expensive though.

      November 20th, 2012 9:44 pm Reply
  • Violet Revo via Facebook

    I think I recognize the sprouted flour brand in the video, but could you tell us the name anyway?

    November 20th, 2012 5:51 pm Reply
  • Bonny Busch Reckner via Facebook

    I have not mastered the art of arrowroot. Tried to make pudding one time and it turned out a really gross consistency. Then tried to use it in some cookies and they didn’t turn out at all, either. Am I missing something?

    November 20th, 2012 3:02 pm Reply
    • Angelina

      I mix my arrowroot with a small bit of cold water before I add it to anything else…

      November 20th, 2012 5:03 pm Reply
  • Angelina

    Just a heads up – the links on your resources page do not work…at least for me.

    Personally I use arrowroot flour to thicken gravy – but I like this idea as well.

    November 20th, 2012 2:04 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      You have to make sure Javascript is enabled for your browser for the links to work. Try another browser perhaps.

      I have given up using arrowroot for thickening. It fails too many times and I like the additional flavor sprouted flour imparts. No comparison in my opinion.

      November 20th, 2012 3:28 pm Reply
  • Danielle

    Great info Sarah thanks! Do you have any articles to back up the claim that sprouting reduces aflatoxin in grains? Because If so I would love to share it with my nutrition professor who is also associated with the FDA and is currently working with the food industry in Nigeria to reduce food risks (and he specifically mentioned aflatoxin in corn).

    November 20th, 2012 2:00 pm Reply
  • Francesco

    I normally use some of my sourdough starter to thicken my souces, it also gives the final product a very nice bready/tangy aroma.

    November 20th, 2012 1:37 pm Reply
  • Angela Campagna via Facebook

    arrowroot is a great thickener for gravy & sauces too

    November 20th, 2012 1:19 pm Reply
  • Bonny Busch Reckner via Facebook

    I love using sprouted flour in my gravies! Would it also work to thicken sauce for a stir fry (with traditionally fermented soy sauce and homemade broth)? I don’t see why not…though my recipe calls for cornstarch.

    November 20th, 2012 12:38 pm Reply
  • Elizabeth J.

    Be careful not to sprout sorghum, also called milo. I was about to start sprouting it when I happened on an article that this grain produces cyanide when sprouted!
    From what I gather, that’s the only grain of concern.

    November 20th, 2012 12:31 pm Reply
  • Mike MacDonald

    I haven’t tried it, but I’d imagine chia seed meal would probably be just about the best (and healthiest) gravy thickener you could ask for. It has that great gelatinous quality.

    November 20th, 2012 12:08 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Since chia seeds aren’t typically sprouted (they are low in anti-nutrients so no need to), I don’t believe that they would be healthier than a sprouted grain (grains are seeds too). Also, sprouted flour adds a lot of flavor that chia seeds would not.

      November 20th, 2012 12:16 pm Reply
      • Maggie

        Yes sarah you right

        November 20th, 2012 11:50 pm Reply
  • Lucy

    What type gravy could you serve a vegan, anyway?!

    November 20th, 2012 12:00 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      You would have to use a different base instead of bone broth. You can use miso as a base (this is what I use as a base for soups for vegan friends) but it would have to be very diluted else it would be too strong tasting.

      November 20th, 2012 12:10 pm Reply
  • David Naylor via Facebook

    coconut flour is great as a thickener

    November 20th, 2012 11:59 am Reply
  • Linda

    What is a good way to thicken soup, to make it creamy and opaque rather than broth-y and translucent? Is arrowroot a good choice? (Gluten is not a problem in my case.)

    November 20th, 2012 11:57 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Arrowroot works ok but I have to say that I prefer thickening with sprouted flour over everything else I’ve tried.

      November 20th, 2012 12:08 pm Reply
    • Christine

      If you have potatoes in that soup, just take a couple pieces out when they’re soft, mash them and put them back in. Your soup will thicken nicely, especially as it cools.

      November 20th, 2012 12:29 pm Reply
  • Lyndsey Stark Stang via Facebook

    Never heard of this. Lots to learn! We use rice for thickening.

    November 20th, 2012 11:56 am Reply
  • Ann

    Healthier yet would be thickening gravy with egg yolks. Beat a couple of egg yolks in a one or two cup glass measuring cup. Gradually, whisking the whole time, add small amounts of the hot broth for gravy to temper the egg until you have about a cup of liquid with the egg yolks. Then pour the yolk/broth mixture back into the pan with the rest of the broth and continue to whisk until thick and smooth.

    November 20th, 2012 11:23 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      I wanted to show an easy and very nutritious way to thicken gravy that would suit anyone who might come over for a holiday meal. Many of us have vegan friends .. I know I do :)

      November 20th, 2012 11:49 am Reply
      • Fruitful

        This is a great idea, Ann. Thanks for sharing it. I’m not a vegan so this fits well with my grain free meal plan! Pastured egg yolks are much easier for me to find than sprouted grains too!

        November 20th, 2012 1:45 pm Reply
      • N

        I don’t know any vegans, but I’m assuming they wouldn’t be eating the turkey drippings/stock that the gravy is made from anyway, right? I think both are great ideas.

        November 20th, 2012 4:44 pm Reply
      • Paula

        You have vegan friends? Now I am surprised:)

        November 20th, 2012 5:13 pm Reply
        • SoCalGT

          I love that idea Ann! I’m always looking for ways to minimize the amount of grains in our diet. This not only does that but increases the protein too. This is how I will thicken our gravy this year. Thanks!

          November 20th, 2012 9:27 pm Reply
      • Holly

        Hmmm vegan gravy. Now THAT is a new one! 😉

        November 20th, 2012 10:45 pm Reply
  • Lisa

    Have you ever tried almond flour or coconut flour? Do you think that might work?

    November 20th, 2012 11:15 am Reply
    • Sabrina

      Hi Lisa,

      I have tried coconut flour in making gravy before. It does lend it self to a slightly sweet gravy. I have not tried almond flour. The most successful gluten free gravy I have made is with brown rice flour.(Yes, you can get organic sprouted brown rice flour on Amazon) The finished product is so similar to using regular flour that my family could not tell the difference. Of course using homemade broth helps too!

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      November 20th, 2012 11:45 am Reply
      • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

        Due to arsenic concerns with brown rice, I would not recommend buying it just anywhere which is why I recommend only the sources on my Resources page which have been vetted for quality and the rice doesn’t come from China.

        November 20th, 2012 11:53 am Reply

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