Hosting a gluten free Thanksgiving dinner this year? Whether it’s your first time or your fortieth time, here are some recipe suggestions and cooking tips to made your holiday a success!
Thankful, but Anxious?
It’s that time of year. Time to start planning you gluten free Thanksgiving dinner! However, it’s also a time of anxiety for those of us who have diseases where certain foods are our enemy. I’ve already seen the anxious comments on message boards, people afraid their families will not understand about cross-contact, or have friends who say that “a little wheat” won’t hurt.
My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the idea that everyone comes to the table. “Family” includes more than just those united by blood, but also those united by love. Some people (rightly) may still not feel safe eating at another person’s house due to dietary concerns. However, I wanted to share some options that can make things easier for those who are newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease, or those who care for them.
Here’s my list of ways to let everyone come to the table, from Appetizers to deZZert. (A-Z, get it?)
Gluten Free Thanksgiving Appetizers
These appetizers are not only easy, but they’re relatively healthy as well. Here are my top 3 ideas.
1) Hummus and vegetables – I LOVE hummus. Seriously, what’s not to love?! Full of fiber and heart healthy fats, it should be at every dinner party. While I usually make my own from scratch, it is okay to buy store bought if you’re under the gun. Sabra and Tribe brands are gluten-free, and most brands of hummus are naturally gluten-free.
(Sesame allergy? – Hummus is made with tahini, which is ground up sesame seeds. If you have a sesame allergy, I suggest trying to make your own hummus with unsweetened Sunbutter.)
2) Cheese and Crackers – BYOC.
As someone with Celiac Disease, we always know to bring our own crackers. My favorite crackers are Schar Table and Entertainment crackers. However, make sure you keep cheese and gluten free crackers on a separate platter from wheat based crackers. If wheat based crackers are on the same plate as the cheese, the cheese is no longer safe for those Celiac Disease, because of the cracker crumbs.
3) Chex Mix – Store Bought Contains Wheat
Chex has a PLETHORA of fun gluten-free Chex mix recipes on their website! I’m super intrigued by this Cranberry Orange Chex Party Mix. If nut allergies will also be present at the dinner table, you can try subbing pumpkin seeds.
The Old Bird and her accoutrements
1) Turkey – On message boards every year, it’s the same question. “Which turkeys are gluten-free?” You’d think the answer would be “all of the above,” but not necessarily. Because turkeys can be injected with flavorings and marinated in brines, some are these birds are on the “No-fly list.”
Luckily, Butterball brand proudly proclaims their turket and gravy packets contain no gluten! Honeysuckle White whole turkeys are also GF, as are Jennie-O. You can find even more brands of gluten free Turkeys on my Gluten Free Thanksgiving Products post.
2) Gravy– Truth- Homemade gravy is not that hard to make. Take the drippings from the bird, transfer them to apot, and cook it with a slurry made of cornstarch and water. (If you prefer using flour, I suggest Bob’s Red Mill Rice Flour.)
But if the thought of making gravy from scratch leaves you feeling week in the wings, you can make Full Flavor Foods Turkey Gravy in just a few moments. This Michigan-Made product is made in a gluten-free, nut-free facility, and this particular gravy is dairy-free as well. Find more gluten free gravy options on my Gluten Free Thanksgiving Products post.
3) Cranberries – When I was a kid, I abhorred cranberry sauce. I think it’s because I’ve only had it from a can. Homemade cranberry sauce is a cinch to make and just tastes better. If you prefer dishes that are refined sugar free, you’ll love this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. Just remember it’s made with REAL maple syrup, not pancake syrup.
The (Gluten Free) Side Show
1) Stuffing – That’s right, I’m putting Stuffing as a side. The quickest way to break a gluten free eater’s heart is to put regular stuffing inside the bird when you cook it. Not only is the stuffing off limits, but now the bird is too, because of cross-contact.
If you’re nervous about making stuffing from scratch, there are many companies that are coming to your gluten free Thanksgiving Day rescue. The big excitement this year is that Aldi has their own Chicken and Turkey boxed stuffing mixes. Just melt butter, add water and bring to a boil. I also like Aleia’s GF stuffing. For more gluten free stuffing brands, visit my Gluten Free Thanksgiving Products article.
2) Green Bean Casserole – For so many years I thought I would never enjoy this dish again. And once more, Aldi has come to my rescue. With their new gluten free French Fried Onions, we can again savor every creamy and crunchy bite.
This dish would NOT be possible without Pacific Organic Cream of Mushroom Condensed Soup. It is the Holy Grail of cream soups, the same texture (and better taste!) as Campbell’s but without any flour. Just use your favorite recipe and sub the soup. Reminder- If your recipe calls for soy sauce, make sure that it is gluten-free! (Campbell’s launched a gluten free Cream of Mushroom soup in 2023.)
3) Mashed Potatoes – Mashed potatoes were my first love after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I could eat them plain, drizzled with butter, and often covered in ketchup. (I know, my weirdness level is off the charts.)
The great thing is that mashed potatoes, unadulterated, are safely gluten free. I love to make mine from scratch, with bits of skin still on the potatoes, whipped with butter and plain Greek yogurt. A splash of milk for added creaminess, with dashes of salt, pepper & garlic powder. Have an Instant Pot? Use this mashed potato recipe from Wheat by the Wayside, this year.
This dish is pretty allergy friendly until you start adding dairy. For dairy free folks, I again suggest using Earth Balance buttery sticks. No one will know it’s not butter, trust me.
Our Daily Bread
Oh that awkward look when we say, “I can’t eat bread.” It’s like we’re speaking a foreign language or we must be from a different planet. And there’s the ever comforting comment, “Oh my, I’d die if I couldn’t eat bread.” Well lucky for us all, there are many delicious gluten-free bread varieties. Here are some suggestions that everyone will love.
1) Cornbread– While Jiffy mix cornbread is NOT gluten free, there are plenty of delicious and easy gluten free mixes out there on the market. I’ve long loved Bob’s Red Mill’s GF Cornbread Mix, but I’ve recently stared to enjoy Pamela’s Cornbread Mix. And cornbread muffins baked in liners are great for those with food allergies, because the liner provides another barrier of cross-contact from crumbs of muffins past.
But my favorite way to make cornbread is in my waffle maker. Seriously, folks it’s fast and easy and doesn’t take up room in your oven. The Pamela’s mix is much better for this. Remember, if you’re going to waffle your cornbread, it NEEDS to be done in a dedicated gluten free waffle maker. You have NO idea how stealthy gluten containing grains are and how much they love to hang out in your baking appliances.
2) Chebe – While this Brazilian Cheese bread is not a traditional flavor at a harvest feast, it is ridiculously
easy to make and the mix is free of the most 8 common allergens. You can use this dinner roll recipe on their website, or just follow the basic recipe on the back of the box.
3) Homemade bread – My husband’s family traditionally eats homemade bread for basically every meal. A gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner should be no exception. Try My Gluten-Free Kitchen’s recipe for Pull Apart Dinner Rolls, or GF Jules Gluten Free Artisan Bread Recipe. Find brands that make gluten free rolls in my Thanksgiving Products post.
And NEVER make GF bread in a bread maker that’s been used for non-gf items. Just don’t. Ever.
Life’s Short, Eat Gluten Free Thanksgiving Dessert First
1) All Things Pie– If you are having someone over for dinner that has a food allergy, just a quick helpful note – we cannot just eat the pie filling and leave the crust. The cross-contact possibilities here are huge. Luckily, making pie with a gluten-free and allergen-free crust is really doable and, daresay, easy.
Not only does Chebe make great dinner rolls, you can use their all purpose mix to make a really easy-to-work with crust. Last year Chebe challenged me to make a pie with their crust. It took a few tries, but I’m proud to say that my recipe has received great reviews.
Once you have the recipe for the crust down, you can make a homemade pumpkin, pecan or apple pie in a snap. (All traditional versions of these fillings are gluten free, to the best of my knowledge. If a recipe calls for flour as a thickener, I again suggest Bob’s Red Mill Rice flour.)
And if regardless of food allergies, the idea of making a homemade pie crust terrifies you and keeps you up at night, Wholly Wholesome GLUTEN FREE pie crust is free of dairy, egg, soy and nuts. Find more premade gluten free pie crusts in my Thanksgiving Products post.
Also, if you want to forego the crust, my family often makes the pumpkin pie filling by itself in a pie dish, and we call it pumpkin pudding. If you need a dairy free Pumpkin Pie, check out Minimalis Baker’s recipe for Vegan Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie.
More pie recipes –
2) Pumpkin Roll– Years ago my friend Linda Fedewa introduced me to this marriage of pumpkin, cake and cream cheese. Pumpkin rolls are delicious and beautiful, and at first daunting. Trust me, if I can manage to pull this Small Batch Pumpkin Roll, so can you.
3) Cookies and ‘Cream– Regardless of the time of year, I’m always up for ice cream. A bowl of ice cream as part of a gluten free Thanksgiving meal is no exception. Pair with your favorite gluten free chocolate chip cookies, and the night is made.
And if you’re dairy free, Coconut Bliss makes some of the best and most readily available dairy-free “ice cream.” If you can find it in yur area, Nada Moo is an excellent dairy free ice cream, as well.
Photo credit- foodsafetymagazine.com
DANGER WILL ROBINSON!
Gluten Free Thanksgiving Pitfalls to Avoid!
1) Cross-contact is a VERY serious issue. It only takes a crumb of gluten to make someone with Celiac Disease sick, or a hint of an allergen to send someone to the hospital. Make sure to thoroughly clean pots and pans well. NEVER swap serving utensils during dinner, and don’t cook allergen free items in the same location as allergen containing foods. Have a separate butter dish for those with food allergies, as crumbs from non-gf breads will inevitably hitch a ride back to the dish.
2) Timing is everything. Make allergen free items before making allergen “full” items. Do your allergen free baking and food prep a full day before everything else. Gluten containing flours can remain free floating in the air for 24 hours or more.
3) Communication is key. Discuss your proposed menu with those with food allergies in advance (and not just the day before.) Fully disclose what you’re making and where allergens may be hiding. (Soy Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce are the sneakiest!)
Don’t hesitate to ask those with dietary restrictions to bring a dish to pass. We’re eager to help out and love to wow our friends and family with our allergen-free dishes! And in the end if someone chooses not to eat, don’t take it personally. We are the only ones that can truly safeguard our health.
The Reason for the Season
And on the flip side, my food allergy friends, remember that this time is about togetherness. Find ways to focus on those you’re with and not the foods you’re without. Plan ahead- eat beforehand if necessary or bring safe snacks with you. And remember to laugh and have fun. ‘Tis the Season.
**Disclaimer- I am NOT paid in any way to mention the brands listed within this article. Chebe has sent me product to use from time to time, and many of these brands have been generous donors for our Celiac Disease camp or for the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference. I am in no way paid for any of these comments or views. **
Looking for more Thanksgiving ideas and recipes? Visit my friend Nicole, from Allergylicious, THE BEST Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Round-Up. Allergic Living wrote a post containing 50 Allergy Friendly Thanksgiving recipes free from gluten, and the top 8 allergens