Cream Sauces and Gravies

Basic Recipe at bottom.

The first couple of times I made a cream sauces or gravy, I used a recipe. But now, unless the recipe is very specific, I don’t really need one. I taste and add as I go. Once you get down a few sauce skills, you will see how easy it is and make your own too!

The key to fantastic sauces and gravies is flavor, concentrated flavors.

When making my cream sauces and gravies, I like to error on the side of not enough flour vs too much. If you start with too much flour, you will have to dilute the sauce too much, thus making it too bland and kinda tasteless. On the other hand, if your sauce or gray seems to thin, all you need is a little more cooking time, which to the benefit of the sauce, adds more flavor.

What kind of flavor are you looking for? You will choose your ingredients for your gravy or sauce by the flavor profile you want to achieve. Is it Southwest or Asian? Is the sauce going to be sweet or savory? Knowing and prepping ahead of time comes in handy.

If you have been following me long, you know I highly suggest using organic spices and here’s why. If you don’t know if your spices are safe, contact the company. You can also buy whole and grind your own. I find an electric coffee grinder works perfect. (It’s best to have one set aside for just this purpose, you don’t want your coffee tasting like Cumin!) Below is a list of ingredients I routinely use in sauces and gravies.


  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Tarragon
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Parsley


  • Black Pepper
  • Cheyenne Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Chili Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Curry
  • Turmeric
  • Paprika
  • Smoked paprika
  • Chipotle
  • Ginger
  • Coriander
  • Nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • clove

Other ingredients

  • Salt
  • Vinegars
  • Sesame Oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Miso
  • Soy Sauce
  • Smoke flavoring
  • Lemon
  • Milk or Substitutes
  • Butter or substitutes
  • Cream or substitutes
  • Broth
  • Flour
  • Thickeners, corn or tapioca starch (Non GMO)
  • Fruits or fruit juice
  • Vegetables

A word of caution. Don’t use fresh herbs in the beginning cook of your sauces. They will inevitably turn the sauce or gravy a color you do not want it to be. The only exceptions I have found is thyme and dill. But to start with use dried herbs until you become more familiar with the ingredients. Save the fresh for the end process or a garnish. But by all means, once you feel comfortable start to experiment with flavors and fresh herbs!

Which is it, sauce or gravy? The answer is yes! Ha ha ha. Here is a great article that talks about the two. Whether you call it gravy or sauce the big question is, what are you using it for? Will it be a pasta sauce, a gravy for a meat or mashed potatoes or a drizzle or ladle for the top of a dish? Each one has it’s own characteristics and purpose. I have found some gravies and sauces need a thickener, and pasta sauces usually don’t. The flavors in a drizzle or ladle sauce are more concentrated and thus take longer to prepare (But oh, how it’s worth the wait) In this post we will cover your basic cream sauces and/or gravies. For a drizzle or ladle sauce/gravy find it here. Pasta sauces will be covered individually.

The basic cream sauce or gravy starts with a roux. (Equal parts fat and flour) Here is a guide for making Roux.

If I am using fresh onions, garlic or peppers. I saute them in the oil/butter first before adding flour. I add the salt and what ever spices and/or herbs I will be using after my liquid has diluted my roux. If you want a more intense flavor, more liquid and a longer cooking time will be needed.

Recipe for basic pepper cream sauce/gravy

In a pan or skillet make a roux. On med/low heat melt 1 Tbls butter or oil. Sprinkle 1 Tbls flour over melted fat. and stir to combine. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, don’t over brown. Add milk or milk substitute a little at a time stirring constantly to work out lumps. Cook fora minute or two to see how thick it becomes. Continue to add milk and cook to desired thickness. *Note It’s easier to dilute than it is to thicken. If your sauce/gravy is too thin, DO NOT add more flour. (this will give your sauce/gravy a nasty uncooked flour taste) Either continue to cook on low to evaporate the liquid or just start over. As the gravy is thickening add 1/2 tsp pepper and salt to taste. Serve immediately. *Note If you are making this vegan, you may want to add some additional flavor i.e. garlic powder, soy sauce. This can be refrigerated for up to a week, but may need more liquid to smooth it out. Reheat in pan on stove top on low.

Sources: All Recipes, Difference, Kitchen Stewardship

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