Prepackaged gravy is known for having a canned, sometimes chalky aftertaste. More often than not, it’s bland. However, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of preparing everything from scratch for any number of reasons. Thankfully, there are several tricks you can use to make canned gravy taste much better!
You will note that most of the ingredients listed below do not include measurements. That’s because this isn’t technically a recipe, and all canned gravies will taste slightly different. View all of the ingredients as suggestions, and try adding some or all of them to taste. Remember one of the most important rules in cooking: it’s easier to add than to subtract!
Things You’ll Need
Prepackaged gravy, preferably low sodium
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh mushrooms, sliced or quartered
Yellow onions, diced
Fresh garlic, minced
Dry white wine, brandy or cognac
Chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade
Add Sautéed Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a quick and easy way to add savoriness and depth to gravy, instantly improving the flavor. Any mushroom variety will work. Button, baby bella, and shiitake mushrooms are are excellent options. To add mushrooms: Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add a splash of extra virgin olive oil (just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan). Add the mushrooms, and sauté until caramelized and reduced in size. Add to the gravy.
Add Sautéed Aromatics
As with mushrooms, sautéed onions and garlic can dramatically improve the flavor of canned gravy. In addition to yellow onions, shallots are an excellent choice. Garlic has a more subtle effect than onions, but it is still a worthy addition. Cook aromatics using the same method described in Step 1. You can use the exact same pan if adding both mushrooms and onions.
Adding a splash of white wine, brandy or cognac can definitely improve the flavor of canned gravy. If you’re adding it directly from the bottle, start with 1 teaspoon and see how it tastes. For best results, I recommend using the alcohol to deglaze the hot mushroom and/or onion skillet instead of adding it directly to the gravy. This will give the liquid a chance to reduce down slightly, and it will also infuse with the caramelized brown bits that are stuck to the skillet. You can then scrape them up using a spatula and stir both the alcohol and brown bits into the gravy. If you’re deglazing a hot skillet, you can try using a few tablespoons of alcohol. If it seems like too much liquid in relation to how much gravy you’re working with, let it reduce in the skillet for several minutes.
Adding chicken or turkey stock can improve the taste of canned gravy as well. It’s best to use homemade stock if you’re going to do this. While certain low sodium brands will improve the flavor of gravy, some commercial stocks have the same flavor issues as canned gravy. Therefore, you run the risk of compounding the problem if bad stock is used.