Creative Grain-Free Thickeners

Posted on December 3, 2012

Are you on a grain-free diet or working on reducing your grain consumption?  Are you thinking about all the ways in which grains are a piece in your cooking?  Are you contemplating how you can still make some of your favorite dishes without the grains?  Don’t worry; a grain-free gut-healing gal is here to help!

Upon implementing the GAPS diet for some major gut-healing, I remember my husband, Brian, saying “But what about gravy? What about making a roux?”  Not like we regularly made gravy, but it’s natural to first get stuck on what’s on the “don’t eat” list instead of focusing on the “to eat” list. 

Grain-free cooking definitely presents some obstacles, in many ways.  Fortunately along the way of my gut-healing journey on GAPS, I have discovered and used several methods to thicken sauces and create gravies without the use of gut-taxing grain-based flours. 

Here are a few ideas of how to thicken a sauce grain-free:

1)      Reduce the heck out of that homemade broth!  Use homemade bone broth as your base and reduce it down by simmering it for quite some time.  The liquid evaporates and creates a rich sauce.  This would be the first way to create a sauce.  You could just do this or do this and then also employ one of the subsequent methods. 

2)      Pureed vegetables –

  • One way is to steam (in order to soften) the vegetables (cauliflower, onions or mushrooms).  Then pulverize them with an immersion stick/blender or regular blender and add them to the sauce.  
  • Another way is to actually cook the vegetables in the sauce and blend it all together.  The recipe below will give you a good gravy idea using this method!

3)      Arrowroot powder - the dried root from the arrowroot plant, a perennial herb.  I don’t use this method very often but it is an option.  A few tips that I have read – “It is recommended that arrowroot be mixed with a cool liquid before adding to a hot fluid. The mixture should be heated only until the mixture thickens and removed immediately to prevent the mixture from thinning. Overheating tends to break down arrowroot's thickening property. Two teaspoons of arrowroot can be substituted for one tablespoon of cornstarch, or one teaspoon of arrowroot for one tablespoon of wheat flour.”  Please note - Arrowroot powder is not allowed on the GAPS diet.

4)      Coconut Flour – just whisk it into the liquid.  Due to the density of coconut flour, it can help with absorbing a lot of liquid.  See the recipe below to see how to incorporate it.

Now, I realize that cornstarch is regularly called for in sauce and gravy recipes.  Technically, corn is not a grain.  HOWEVER, cornstarch is a terrible choice since most likely, it’s made from unlabeled genetically modified corn.  There is organic cornstarch but organic or not, it’s still a high sugar ingredient.  So, best to stick with one of my suggestionsJ

So that you have a recipe to try, here’s what I made for my Thanksgiving dinner gravy last year.  Yum, it sure was tasty!


Grain-Free Onion Gravy

Recipe adapted from


  • ¼ cup ghee or broth fat
  • 1 quart chicken or beef broth (homemade is best!)
  • 4 medium to large onions
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1 sprig of thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • Melt ghee or stock fat in a medium size saucepan.
  • Add onions and cook until they soften and brown. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Stir in coconut flour and continue stirring until it thickens and slightly browns.
  • Add broth and thyme. Simmer gently until sauce begins to thicken – about 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Remove the thyme sprig if you are using the sprig. 
  • Blend carefully in a blender until smooth or use an immersion blender.  Or, don’t blend for chunky gravy – which is what my picture here shows. 
  • Add feshly ground pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

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