Reducing a sauce or gravy allows it to naturally thicken as the flavors concentrate. When you roast or sauté meats, poultry or fish, the bits of cooked meat and drippings in the pan form the base for a rich gravy. Add a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar and cook over low heat as you scrape up this food. Add a little broth and cook down until the gravy has a denser texture. Finish with a pat of cold butter, which – as it melts – further thickens the gravy.
Pureed vegetables naturally thicken gravy. Be sure to use low-carb options, such as steamed cauliflower – with 1 gram of net carbohydrate per 1/4 cup – or butternut squash with 4 grams of carbs per 1/4 cup. Cauliflower is relatively bland and will take on the flavors of the ingredients in the gravy, while butternut squash is slightly sweet and nutty. Experiment with other veggies, too. Steamed eggplant and zucchini are relatively mild and appropriate for gravies with a tomato base.
Thick dairy products, including sour cream, cream cheese and cream, add richness to a low-carb gravy. Cream cheese has a noticeable, tangy flavor but does a great job of thickening with 1 gram of net carbohydrate per tablespoon.
Sour cream is tangy and can curdle if added during the cooking process. Add it to warm gravy that you’ve removed from the heat for less than 1 gram of net carbohydrate per 2 tablespoons.
Cream mellows out the flavor of a gravy. Add it as the sauce cooks down – cream thickens considerably when reduced, more so than most other liquids. One tablespoon of cream has trace carbohydrates.