Food and Nutrition

3 Anti-Inflammatory Holiday Sauce Recipes That Will Infuse Major Flavor and Benefits Into Your Meal

Emily Laurence

Photo: Stocksy/Jen Grantham
One of the most dreaded comments to anyone who just spent hours making a meal is that it's "too dry." The horror! It's almost as bad as declaring a dish flavorless. Both comments are especially unwelcome during a meal like Thanksgiving where the stakes are high—like, real high.

Homemade sauces can help on both fronts: They're an surefire way to infuse both moisture and delicious flavor into your holiday meal. Gravy is already a must for most people who are adding turkey or mashed potatoes to their plates. The right sauce can similarly be used to add another layer of taste to other dishes on the Thanksgiving table, too. America's Test Kitchen's new book The Complete Autumn & Winter Cookbook ($22) has three Thanksgiving sauce recipes that are not only bursting with flavor, but are also made with herbs well-known for helping to prevent chronic inflammation. Here, Sara Mayer, a senior editor at America's Test Kitchen's cookbook team, shares the full recipes and what Thanksgiving dishes they pair particularly well with.

3 anti-inflammatory Thanksgiving sauce recipes

1. Gluten-free turkey gravy recipe

Turkey gravy can be high in sodium and is often made with all-purpose flour, which can be inflammatory to those who are sensitive to gluten. This recipe is made using a gluten-free flour and instead of relying solely on salt for flavor, anti-inflammatory herbs thyme and garlic are incorporated. Thyme is full of antioxidants, which help defend against free radicals—unstable molecules produced by the body that contribute to aging and disease. Garlic is known for supporting the liver, immune system, and heart.

Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of garlic:

"We recommend using either King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour ($7) or Betty Crocker All-Purpose Gluten-Free Rice Flour Blend ($5)," Mayer says. "These are our favorite blends out of all the ones available on the market." She also advises against using an alt-flour made with beans for this recipe, because it could give the gravy a strong bean flavor—not ideal here. Besides your alt-flour and herbs, the other ingredients you need to make this gravy include your turkey trimmings, broth, onion, carrot, celery, parsley, and a few staples. Get the full recipe below:

Serves 12 to 16 (Makes 4 cups)

Ingredients
6 cups chicken broth, divided, plus extra as needed
Reserved turkey neck and giblets
Reserved turkey trimmings, cut into 1-inch pieces (1/3 cup)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 Tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/4 cup defatted turkey drippings (optional)

1. Bring two cups broth, reserved neck and giblets, and reserved trimmings to simmer in Dutch oven over high heat. Cook, adjusting heat to maintain vigorous simmer and stirring occasionally, until all liquid evaporates and trimmings begin to sizzle, about 20 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until dark fond forms on bottom of pot, two to four minutes.

2. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add onion, carrot, celery, parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, garlic, pepper, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, eight to 10 minutes.

3. Stir in wine and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Add remaining four cups broth and bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for one hour. Strain stock through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl; discard solids. (You should have three to four cups stock. Turkey stock can be refrigerated for up to two days.)

4. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add gluten-free all-purpose flour and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is deep golden brown, five to eight minutes. Reduce heat to low and slowly whisk in strained stock, scraping up any brown bits and smoothing out any lumps. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Simmer until thickened, about five minutes. Add drippings, if using, and thin gravy with extra broth, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. FYI: Gravy can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to two weeks. To reheat, bring to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

2. Spiced apple chutney recipe

Mayer says a warming spiced apple chutney also tastes delicious with turkey, a sweet alternative to gravy. (Or, hey, try them both!) She says you can also pair it with potato latkes, vegetable fritters, smoked salmon, pancakes, waffles, chicken, and tenderloin roasts, so it's worth saving some to use in other meals as well. There's a trio of anti-inflammatory herbs in this recipe: ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This is in addition to the apples themselves, which of course have their own nutritional benefits including being good for cardiovascular health.

"You really can't mess this recipe up," Mayer says. She adds that if you'd rather the consistency be more sauce-like than a chutney, just cook it longer until it resembles a thinner applesauce texture.

Serves 32 (Makes 2 cups)

Ingredients
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup apple jelly
1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook apples until lightly browned, about five minutes. Stir in shallots, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in apple jelly and vinegar, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened and let cool completely, about two hours. (Chutney can be refrigerated for up to one week; allow to come to room temperature before serving.)

3. Grapefruit-basil relish recipe

Some people—particularly those in the Coastal New England states—incorporate seafood in their Thanksgiving meal, something this bright relish is perfect for. "It goes very well with lighter dishes like fish or oysters on the half shell," Mayer says. "You can also have it with pound cake for dessert!"

Grapefruit, which is in season during winter, is high in vitamin C, which supports the immune system. (Definitely on everyone's mind this time of year.) It's also good for your bones because it contains calcium and phosphorus. The recipe also calls for basil and shallots, which are both directly linked to lowering inflammation. The only other ingredients you need are lemon juice and olive oil (full of heart-healthy fats). "This relish is super simple and doesn't even require cooking," Mayer says. Like the apple chutney, it's another one you really can't mess up.

Serves 16 (Makes 1 cup) 

Ingredients
2 red grapefruits
1 small shallot, minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper, and sugar, to taste

1. Cut away peel and pith from grapefruits. Cut grapefruits into eight wedges, then slice crosswise into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Place grapefruits in strainer set over bowl and let drain for 15 minutes; measure out and reserve one tablespoon drained juice, and oil in bowl. Stir in grapefruits and let sit for 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. (Relish can be refrigerated for up to two days.)

Making your own sauce means you have complete control over the ingredients and can minimize the amount of sugar and sodium. Using fresh herbs, veggies, and fruits also makes them more nutritionally-rich. But the real win here is in the taste. When it comes to elevating Thanksgiving dishes, the secret really is in the sauce.

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