Why use an alternative thickener in your vegan or meat based gravy this year? Most grains (if not handled, stored, and prepared properly) and primarily refined grains like white flour are considered to be anti-nutrients. This means that they interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. They can even get in the way of the digestive enzymes, which are key for proper absorption.
At the end of this post is my all time most favorite vegan GF gravy recipe. This recipe can easily be adapted to include turkey drippings, giblets, organ meats and any other animal based ingredients that you prefer. I use arrowroot powder as it’s not a grain, it’s Gluten-Free and Paleo friendly and I find it mimic the best consistency. Agar Agar is technically in the seaweed family and provides some unique nutritional benefits but is harder (without practice) to get the ‘thickness correctness’ thing down. Cornstarch is great too and easiest to capture perfect texture if you aren’t sensitive to corn or grains…however, all are wonderful alternatives over the highly allergenic and inflammation causing wheat flour.
Best gravy and sauce thickener alternatives:
Arrowroot Flour: 2 Tbsp. of Arrowroot flour = 1 Tbsp Cornstarch. Arrowroot is actually a starch from the tuber family. It contains very good levels of B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. Many of these vitamins take part as substrates for enzymes in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism in the body. Further, it contains moderate levels of some important minerals like copper, iron, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc…while being an excellent source of potassium. How to use: Transfer about 1 cup gravy base to a medium bowl and whisk in arrowroot (you’ll need 2 tablespoons arrowroot for every cup of gravy base). Just before serving, return arrowroot mixture to gravy base and whisk until thickened and smooth.
Agar Agar: 1 Tbsp. agar agar = 2 Tbsp. Cornstarch. Agar Agar is an algae form the sea and is rich in iodine, trace minerals, fiber, calcium, and iron. Other benefits associated with agar are its ability to reduce inflammation, calm the liver, and bring relief to the lungs. Agar agar is also considered a mild laxative and not recommended for those with weak digestion or loose stools. How to use: Measure 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for each 1 tablespoon of agar flakes called for in the recipe. If you’re not following a recipe, measure 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for every cup of liquid you want to thicken. Prepare the recipe and heat the liquid you want to thicken to a simmer. Whisk the cornstarch into an equal amount of cold water or stock.
Ingredients: Makes about 2 cups
4 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, finely minced
1 1/2 cups boiling veggie broth or water (or nutrient rich bone broth for animal based version. Your co-op sells homemade 72 hour bone broth in the frozen section if you need a source)
¼ cup GF tamari or soy sauce
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
3 Tablespoons. nutritional yeast
1/2 cup fresh crimini, shiitake or oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (thyme, sage, marjoram or rosemary – or a mixture)
2 Tablespoons organic cornstarch (see sub quantities for Arrowroot and Agar Agar above)
Mineral or sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the garlic, onions, mushrooms in coconut oil until they begin to brown. Coconut Oil is the best cooking fat to use for vegan sautees and store fries as it does not oxidize (create carcinogens) at high temperatures whereas olive oil, sunflower oil, etc. all have a lower temp smoking point. Add all liquids and herbs and let simmer for about five minutes. Slowly add in your choice of thickener. Use a whisk to blend in the flour. Add more to adjust thickness. Keep warm until serving. It goes great over field roasts, vegan stuffed seitan roasts, traditional turkey roasts, biscuits, veggies and mashed potatoes!