10 Powdered Gravy Mixes, Ranked Worst To Best

Despite its modest appearance, there's no denying that gravy is the understated champion of holiday meals. Even the most perfectly cooked bird or roast feels lacking without the company of a rich, savory topping. Still, making gravy from scratch can prove frustrating. After all, once you've spent hours tending to various dishes, it's hard to muster the motivation to do much else. Worse, homemade gravy may fall prey to a multitude of mishaps, like dreaded lumps.

Fortunately for those with an aversion to making scratch gravy, there are several varieties of instant gravies that can be served as-is or with simple fixes to impress guests. The only problem? There are so many that it can be challenging to narrow down the choice. We selected 10 popular instant sauces from store shelves in an effort to answer the question: which are the best (and worst) powdered gravy mixes?

We looked for brands sold in major retailers across the country. We wanted to highlight gravies that could suit anyone's needs, considering factors such as budget, dietary sensitivities, and taste preferences. And we chose to incorporate many flavors, including chicken, brown, and mushroom gravies, for various preferences. 

Our ranking order was based on several criteria, including flavor, consistency, and ease of use. Each gravy sample was tested on taste, paired with a piece of chicken, and on its own. Furthermore, we ensured that no gravy in our lineup faced flavor contamination by so much as a drop of another sample.

10. Stonemill Turkey Gravy Mix

Stonemill is just one of many house brands carried by international supermarket darling Aldi. Given a cult following and myriad of viral products like Aldi's red bag chicken, there were high hopes for this little mix. Upon slicing open the package, the powder's herbal aroma was intriguing, but we quickly noticed that it didn't dissolve fully when met with water.

After fully incorporating the mix and allowing it to thicken, the aromatic scent of herbs all but faded away, replaced by a strange, gamey odor. We can't say that this was particularly enticing, but nevertheless, we soldiered through. A pour test revealed that the set gravy had taken on a thin, runny texture replete with lumps. At first taste, there was an overwhelming punch of saltiness, followed by a wave of gaminess similar to its scent. What really stood out about this gravy was just how repulsive its overall flavor was.

Despite being relatively bland, it actually managed to make meat taste worse — the exact opposite of gravy's intended function. In fact, the Stonemill gravy was so unappealing that we struggled to sample it on its own. While Aldi may carry some exceptional seasonal offerings, its take on instant gravy should be avoided at all costs if you have any respect for your dinner guests.

9. Knorr Classic Brown Gravy

When hedging bets on which gravies would come out on top, this gravy was a favorite pick. The Knorr company has been perfecting the art of dehydrated sides for nearly 200 years. Its iconic green packets are a trusted choice when it comes to dinnertime shortcuts. So when we poured out its Classic Brown Gravy, we were surprised. If you've ever made a superfood smoothie so strikingly ugly that you felt ashamed to consume it in public, then you probably know what we were confronted with as the dust hit the saucepan. The Classic Brown Gravy dry mix was steely grey, giving us the most unusual first impression of all the gravies tested.

We watched with great relief as the concrete-tinged powder rapidly shifted to a milk-chocolate hue with the addition of water. Some minor lumps developed despite aggressive and continuous whisking. After giving it ample time to set, it took on a beautiful dark brown color and beefy scent similar to au jus.

Our first indication of something wrong was consistency. It had been prepared with great care but never reached the ideal gravy viscosity. Instead, it was thin and rife with visible, dark lumps. If only this were where the disappointment ended. The gravy's taste was weak and brothy but relatively inoffensive, making it a perfect candidate for subtle doctoring. However, the sheer glut of jelly-like globules swimming throughout ruined the experience entirely, rendering it inedible on its own or as an accompaniment.

8. Pioneer Roasted Turkey Gravy

As we navigated countless store shelves in search of worthy opponents, there was one brand we couldn't escape: Pioneer. This brand prides itself on being "a leading manufacturer of gravy." Unlike other gravies, Pioneer holds home chefs to a higher standard, technically speaking. Most dry gravy mixes simply call for water, medium heat, and a few stirs. Pioneer, however, asks users to boil a pot of water, whip up a separate gravy slurry, and incorporate the two. We trusted that these additional measures would be worth the effort, resulting in fewer lumps.

The slurry's rich, golden brown color was impressive; at first glance, it melted seamlessly into the water's rolling boil. But sadly, our excitement was short-lived, as the gravy matured into a stodgy mess reminiscent of poorly-prepared instant pudding from a box. And in an unexpected twist, the odor wafting from the hot gravy's fumes could only be described as wet dog food.

Here's the thing: although Pioneer's scent was decidedly vile, it barely escaped the lowest-ranking positions. While its appearance was extra thick, bordering on gelatinous, its possessed a velvety mouthfeel. And what it lacked in seasoning was made up for in the presence of true turkey flavor sans gaminess. As an aside, Pioneer was the only gravy to include bits of rehydrated dark-meat turkey, which may have been responsible for its positively bizarre smell.

7. Great Value Turkey Gravy Mix

Ringing up at just under a dollar per packet, Walmart's Great Value brand gravy certainly takes home first place in terms of affordability. We chose to sample the Turkey Gravy Mix to see how the most humble generic would fare against heavy-hitting name brands in the poultry arena.

Cracking on with preparation, it became evident that Great Value's mix was among the palest and least aromatic. Early on, there was some concern regarding potential lumps, as the gravy took on a remarkably gloppy texture and tended to stick to the bottom of the pan. But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this desiccated poultry product was reborn by the end of the cooking process.

Aside from its flat color and somewhat thin consistency when served, the Great Value Turkey Gravy actually tasted fairly decent. Did it taste homemade? No. It bordered on excessively salty, and the presence of cornstarch in the mix was unmistakable. However, any signs that this came from a turkey were absent. Instead, there was an indistinct poultry flavor that could be mistaken for chicken, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your preferences.

6. McCormick's Mushroom Gravy

When it comes to matters of seasoning, McCormick is arguably one of the most dependable options around. As the only mushroom gravy on our list, we clearly put a lot of faith into the spice company to deliver excellent results.

Peering into the mushroom gravy packet, a curious element emerged. Like space ice cream, mysterious, powdery chunks stared back at us from the aluminum-lined package walls. The freeze-dried chunks of mushroom tumbled alongside the powdered mix, filling the air with a strong portobello smell. When hydrated, the gravy took on a lovely amber color, punctuated by pale pieces of fungi.

On the upside, this gravy had no lumps — in fact, it maintained a relatively thin texture overall. But the delightful, peppery scent of the mix that enticed us was deceptive. It didn't quite deliver umami, mushroomy goodness. Instead, there was an overtly earthy, bitter taste in its place, almost bordering on mustiness. The occasional hint of McCormick spice came through, but the prevailing flavor was peculiar. Although this gravy leaves something to be desired in its original state, it would greatly benefit from a touch of butter and wine.

5. Pioneer Roasted Jalapeno Gravy

Another Pioneer product was simply too good to pass up. While there are many instant sauce packets providing varying degrees of heat, from stew bases to marinades, gravy is another story. Searching for any extra spice in powdered gravy mixes is a fruitless exercise. So imagine our surprise when the "new" Roasted Jalapeno Gravy appeared during our hunt.

In its early stages, this mix could easily be mistaken for the batter of a Southern biscuit recipe. Notes of cumin and jalapeno fill the air during the cooking process, and it quickly thickens up to a substantial gravy texture. The tiny green chunks of pepper deliver a piquant, spicy bite, and the sauce itself is palatable enough. It pairs quite well with sliced chicken and would likely elevate other dishes in a pinch. But, just as McCormick's Mushroom Gravy confused us with its discordant flavor, Pioneer's Roasted Jalapeno Gravy is texturally muddled. It's hard to say which lumps are the fault of the chewy jalapeno bits or the mix itself. Still, unlike the blobs that marred Knorr's Brown Gravy, the texture of this gravy isn't completely abhorrent. Although the execution of this spicy sauce falls a bit short, it's a notable contender in terms of flavor and versatility.

4. McCormick Chicken Gravy

If there's one thing that McCormick gets right, it's consistency. There isn't anything fancy about its chicken gravy, but it does the job. Compared to other gravy mixes, this cornmeal-colored powder seems considerably finer milled and whisks into a silky sauce with no trace of lumps. Still, it's evident that McCormick's gravies run a bit on the thin side. Since it's a problem in both of the brand's mixes we tried, we suggest using slightly less water in the cooking process for a thicker texture.

It's not to say that this gravy is outstanding, but it's significantly better than the lower-ranking poultry products on the list. For a start, McCormick relies on more than just salt for flavoring. Beyond its savory base of chicken fat and yeast, there's a nutty sweetness from the spice blend and a dash of sugar. This gravy wasn't quite as delicious as we'd hoped, but overall, it's an adequate choice.

3. McCormick Gluten Free Brown Gravy

Despite the proliferation of gluten-free products over the years, it's still challenging to track down gravy mix that doesn't contain wheat. What's more, we wanted to test a gluten-free gravy that was widely available at various major retailers. While gluten-free turkey gravy is particularly tough to find — and believe us, we inadvertently met fellow shoppers on the same mission — the brown gravy is a fair compromise.

You might be surprised to learn that the best McCormick gravy of the bunch just happened to be gluten-free. In fact, it performed better than its fellow McCormick counterparts in virtually every category. This gravy's best feature was certainly its flavor, replicating all the deliciousness of a savory meat stew while being completely vegetarian. Its scent was similar to beef stock, accentuated by aromatics such as thyme, garlic, and onion. The texture was velvety and full-bodied, whereas other McCormick mixes leaned thin. While this gravy aims to please the gluten-free and vegetarian crowd, it's definitely tasty enough to satisfy anyone's palette.

2. Watkins Chicken Gravy

When it came to poultry gravy packets, there was one mix that reigned supreme. There's just one downside to speak of: Watkins isn't as widely-stocked as major brands like McCormick, so you may have to do some searching to grab a packet of your own through brick-and-mortar retailers.

After shaking the dry mixture into the pan, we were struck by how different it looked and smelled. In lieu of chicken gravy's typical brothy aroma, there was the unmistakable scent of cheese, likely stemming from the inclusion of dehydrated sweet cream. Once mixed with water, the gravy developed a milky hue, never losing its parmesan-tinged pungency. Was it vaguely reminiscent of a famous bunny-themed box of macaroni and cheese? Yes. But of all the poultry-based mixes, this was the clear winner. From its creamy consistency to its genuine roast chicken flavor, this peppery blend was difficult to stop sampling. Although this sauce was tasty enough to eat on its own, it would make the perfect base for a classic chicken pot pie recipe.

1. Better Than Gravy Brown Gravy

As avid fans of Better Than Bouillon, we weren't surprised that Better Than Gravy's Brown Gravy earned the top spot for the best-packaged gravy mix. Just like its sister product, Better Than Gravy performed beautifully in every way. Retailing at $2.49, this mix is slightly pricier than rival gravy packets, but it's worth every cent. 

The dry contents initially threw us off with the distinct scent of chicken — after all, isn't brown gravy supposed to be beef-based? But Better Than Brown Gravy incorporates chicken and beef extracts, and they work very well together. When water is added, the sandy-colored powder shifts to a silky, café au lait-colored mixture. There were no textural issues to speak of with this mix, which set to a perfectly fluid consistency. Thanks to the inclusion of spices like turmeric, there was a rich, stew-like flavor that made us go back for seconds and thirds. The gravy paired well with chicken and could undoubtedly complement a number of entrees, but we think it would be especially satisfying served over steamed white rice