Making homemade gravy is one of the most daunting challenges that a new cook can face. Getting the thickness right, making sure there are no lumps and not scorching it are all hurdles. Once you’ve leapt those, you still have to figure out how to season your gravy. The best time to do that is while it is beginning to thicken. But there are literally hundreds of spices to choose from and not every spice goes with every kind of gravy. Don’t panic. Choosing gravy spices is a snap once you know the basics.
Season beef gravy with strong-flavored, savory herbs. Dried bay leaf, marjoram, sage and thyme add a rich depth to beef gravy. Grated nutmeg adds an unexpected grace note, and coarse pepper of any kind -- black, green, pink or white -- adds a tangy bite. Onion and garlic powder also work but these can easily overwhelm the other spices.
Spice up chicken and turkey gravy with lighter savory spices. Premixed poultry seasoning is the simplest choice. It usually contains oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme and pepper. Adventurous cooks can also experiment with ginger, marjoram, paprika and tarragon. Lemon pepper adds a fresh bite to poultry gravy.
Sprinkle generous amounts of strong-flavored spices into pork gravy to complement its richer flavor. Garlic and onion are best with pork, though these also complemented by oregano and sage.
Use a light touch when seasoning fish gravies to avoid overwhelming the delicate taste of the main dish. Lemon juice is best unless your gravy is cream-based. To avoid curdling the cream, use lemon zest or dried lemon peel. Curry, dill and mustard go well with fish, as do marjoram and paprika.
Season vegetable gravy according to the natural flavors of the produce in question. Strong, green vegetables like broccoli and kale can stand up to bold flavors like lemon, garlic and onion. More delicate vegetables like leeks and cauliflower do better with lighter curry, dill, cinnamon and parsley. Carrots and most squash are also complemented by cinnamon, allspice and other so-called baking spices.
Always use a light hand when adding spices to gravy because you can always put more in, but you can’t take any out.
Never over-salt gravy because it not only overwhelms the other flavors, but too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure.