Traditional gravy is a combination of stock, butter, drippings and either flour or cornstarch. It's rich and delicious, but it won't work for a lot of low-carb diets. The good news is that you can still indulge by substituting flour and cornstarch with low-carb thickeners.
Gravy on a Low-Carb Diet
Whether or not you can eat regular gravy on a low-carb diet depends on the type of diet you are following. There are all kinds of low-carb diets, ranging from fairly liberal — 100 grams or less per day — or very strict — 20 grams per day.
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The two most common thickening agents used to make gravy are cornstarch and flour. There are 7 grams of carbs in cornstarch and 6 grams of carbs in flour per tablespoon, according to USDA data. A typical store-bought gravy contains about 4 grams of carbs per quarter-cup serving, which isn't going to break the bank for more liberal low-carb diets, unless you eat more than one serving.
However, people on more restrictive diets, such as the keto diet, should keep reading. If you're getting by on 40 grams of carbs or fewer, that one serving of gravy is going to make up at least 10 percent of your daily carb allotment and possibly as much as 20 percent.
Otherwise, gravy jives perfectly with a low-carb diet because it's rich in fat. Make it with some high-quality grass-fed butter, and it's a delicious way to meet your fat quota for the day.
Read more: 6 Keto Diet Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
Nobody likes a thin gravy. You need a gravy that doesn't just slide off your piece of meat and end up in a pool on your plate. No problem, you've got a few options for low-carb thickeners:
Glucomannan powder: Also called konjac, glucomannan powder is a plant-based, water-soluble dietary fiber that absorbs liquid, creating a thicker texture. It's the best choice for thickening gravies and sauces, because it mixes in very smoothly and prevents separation when refrigerated and reheated again.
A little bit goes a long way. Start with one-half teaspoon per cup of water. While the gravy is cooking, sprinkle it evenly and stir well for one minute. Continue to heat the gravy and allow the glucomannan to thicken. If it is not to your desired thickness, add a little more in the same manner.
Almond flour: A distant second to glucomannan is almond flour. It doesn't thicken as well, and it may leave your gravy with a slightly grainy texture. However it's very low in carbs and packed with healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. If you want to thicken your gravy and pack in tons of nutrients, almond flour is a great choice. Per cup, almond flour only contains 3 grams of carbs, according to the USDA. The amount you need for one serving of low-carb gravy is considerably less than that. It's crucial to choose very finely ground almond flour for the best texture.
Pureed cauliflower: If you have made a pureed squash or pumpkin soup before, then you know from experience how well-pureed veggies can thicken a liquid. Cauliflower is a good choice because it's low in carbs and has a neutral flavor, but you can use any low-carb vegetable, including broccoli, mushrooms and zucchini. Simply steam the vegetables to soften them, then toss them in a blender and add to your gravy recipe.
Whichever substitute you use, you'll have to do some experimentation to make it work with your specific recipe. Start with just a little of the thickening agent, stir well, and add more in small increments to reach your desired consistency.
Other Options for Thickening Gravy
There may be a better way to thicken your gravy without needing to add any thickening agent at all. Reduction is a sauce-making method in which the liquid is cooked, uncovered, to allow some of the liquid to evaporate. This results in a thicker and more flavorful gravy.
Some people boil their sauces so they reduce more quickly; but simmering your sauce can prevent over-reduction and a burnt mess. If you have the time, go low and slow.
There are many different recipes and ways of making gravy, so how you reduce yours depends on those variables. But these are some basic steps:
- Pour your drippings into a wide skillet — the more surface area, the faster it will reduce.
- Set the heat to medium-high, and add your pan drippings and stock.
- Bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the gravy reaches your desired consistency.
Other Low-Carb Sauces to Try
Once your gravy game is strong, you might want to expand your repertoire. Many dressings and sauces are off the menu on a low-carb diet because they are either made with starchy thickeners or they contain sugar. But they don't have to.
Barbecue sauce is a good example of a sauce that many low-carb dieters think they have to kiss goodbye. With 9 grams of carbs per tablespoon, store-bought barbecue is a definite no-no. But simply replacing the molasses or brown sugar with a low-carb-friendly natural sugar substitute such as erythritol or monk fruit sweetener provides all the flavor but significantly fewer calories and carbs in the finished product.
You can also use glucomannan powder to replace the cornstarch or flour in your favorite barbecue sauce recipe. Or, use your newly acquired skills and reduce the sauce over low heat. You can also try adding pureed veggies. Pureed roasted red peppers can add a smoky flavor and bright color to your sauce — and a big hit of vitamin C.
Another tasty sauce for dressing meat is a classic French bearnaise, combining eggs yolks, dry white wine, lots of butter and tarragon. It's a rich and extra keto-friendly alternative to gravies.
Making bearnaise is definitely more advanced than gravy. You'll need your reduction skills, but you'll also need to learn how to temper eggs, which prevents eggs from scrambling when added to hot liquid. Most people will need a couple practice tries to get this just right, but once you ace it and take your first creamy bite, you'll know it was worth all the effort.
- StatPearls: "Ketogenic Diet"
- USDA: "Basic Report: 20081, Wheat Flour, White, All-Purpose, Enriched, Bleached"
- USDA: "Full Report (All Nutrients): 45135775, Savory Beef Flavored Gravy, Upc: 084253246019"
- USDA: "Full Report (All Nutrients): 45347709, Cornstarch, Upc: 039978015839"
- USDA: "Full Report (All Nutrients): 45085293, Super Finely Ground Almond Flour, Upc: 071012107018"
- USDA: "Full Report (All Nutrients): 45050184, BARBECUE SAUCE, UPC: 819239010519"
- USDA: "Basic Report: 11821, Peppers, sweet, red, raw"
- Journal of Obesity: "Safety and Efficacy of Glucomannan for Weight Loss in Overweight and Moderately Obese Adults"
- Bon Appetit: "Reduction Redux: How to Simmer Your Way to a Silky, Spoonable Sauce"
- Serious Eats: "Foolproof Béarnaise Sauce Recipe"
- Food Network: "How to Temper Eggs"