Whether you are the host or a guest, in this post I’m sharing all my tips, insight, and favorite recipes so you can enjoy a gluten-free Thanksgiving along with the ones you love most.
You’ll find everything from what dishes to look out for, what dishes are fair game, and how to create some incredible gluten-free sides and recipes that will have everyone coming back for seconds.
Can You Have a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving?
Just because you, a family member, or a guest needs to eat gluten-free; it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the classic recipes you have made for years. You can still celebrate the holiday with a variety of delicious and cozy comfort foods without having to purchase expensive specialty ingredients.
When my family first went gluten/grain-free, I wanted to keep our favorite recipes in our meal rotation, including holidays like Thanksgiving.
To my surprise, I found that this wasn’t as hard as I initially thought. With a little creativity and ingredient swapping, I was able to recreate our favorite dishes to taste exactly like the original recipe, without the need for gluten, and yes, this includes the classic stuffing!
What is Gluten
If one of your guests recently mentioned that they are gluten-free or that they have celiacs; your first question might be, “how serious is it and what do I cook now?” It’s serious; as in life-threatening for many people.
But don’t worry, I’m going to walk you through the basics and everything you need to know so you can cook up an amazing menu and keeping mealtimes safe.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is most commonly found in grain-based items such as bread, pasta, and crackers. However, its binding ability makes it a popular additive to many foods such as salad dressings, condiments, and box mixes.
And the fact is that many of the traditional Thanksgiving recipes include ingredients with gluten; especially the mixes sold at the store that we often purchase as a shortcut -think stuffing, cornbread, seasoning, and gravy mixes!
Which Thanksgiving Foods are Naturally Gluten-Free?
If you’re planning a gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, it can be tough to know which foods are gluten-free and which ones you’ll need to swap out. The great news is that many (most foods actually) are naturally free of gluten.
Are Thanksgiving Turkeys Gluten-Free?
Turkey meat is a naturally gluten-free food; however, some of the seasoning packets included with many turkeys sold at the store to season the bird can contain gluten.
If the turkey from the grocery store comes with a seasoning packet that includes gluten, you can easily make your own turkey rub for your Thanksgiving turkey or use the Simple Thanksgiving Turkey recipe inside my Giving Thanks eBook.
Which Thanksgiving Foods are Not Gluten-Free?
Now it’s time to point out which Thanksgiving foods are not gluten-free.
This is not an exhaustive list, and all recipes are different, but these are popular thanksgiving dishes where you’ll usually find gluten. But don’t worry! Keep reading to find easy gluten-free swaps for these festive Thanksgiving favorites.
- green bean casserole: gluten is in the breadcrumb topping.
- dinner rolls: unless you’ve purchased or made rolls with gluten-free flour these are not gluten-free.
- gravy: uses flour as a thickening agent.
- mac and cheese: not only does the pasta contain gluten, but often, the cheese sauce is made with a roux that includes flour.
- most casseroles: recipes can include toppings made with breadcrumbs or flour and canned soups that contain gluten.
- stuffing or dressing: usually made with wheat-based breads.
- pie crust: unless it’s made a gluten-free crust, it likely has flour or graham crackers which contain gluten.
- vegetables dips: wheat is often used as a thickener in store-bought appetizer dips. Look for the gluten-free symbol on the packaging or assume there is gluten in the dip.
- any dish with a bechamel or cream sauce: similar to cheese sauce, these are started with a flour-based roux.
- beer and wine coolers: a common part of holidays that’s secretly wheat or barley-based.
- ice cream: unless it’s homemade, not even ice cream is safe. Most commercial ice creams contain wheat flour to make it thicker or barley malt syrup as a sweetener.
Where to Watch Out for Hidden Gluten on Thanksgiving
Gluten can be kind of sneaky and show up in the least likely places. While the bread basket and dish of mac and cheese might be obvious, here are common Thanksgiving recipe ingredients that contain gluten:
- canned soups or “cream of” soups
- crispy french onions- used for topping
- pudding mix
- graham cracker crusts
- soy sauce
- Panko breadcrumbs
- bottled salad dressings
- beef or chicken bouillon
If you aren’t certain whether a dish is prepared with any of these items, don’t be afraid to ask your host. And if you are hosting Thanksgiving, try to avoid these ingredients or use a gluten-free version. You’ll find several examples of how to do this in the next section.
Gluten-Free Swaps for Thanksgiving
Here are simple ingredient swaps that you implement to make a recipe gluten-free. These options can be used as a 1:1 replacement and don’t require you to tweak or revise the recipe.
|Gluten-Based Ingredient||Gluten-Free Alternative|
|all-purpose flour||1:1 gluten-free all-purpose flour|
|soy sauce||coconut aminos or tamari|
|pre-packaged seasoning mix||homemade spice mix|
|cream of mushroom soup||gluten-free cream of mushroom|
While recipes that call for “canned cream of” can use my homemade cream of mushroom soup, that’s one more thing you need to make. I’ve found it much easier to switch from casseroles and recipes that call for such ingredients to veggie-based options like:
Choosing a Good Gluten-Free Recipe
If you are hosting Thanksgiving or are designated to bring a dish knowing how to select a good gluten-free recipe is a skill you need to know. While browsing the internet for a good gluten-free recipe, here are some things to look for:
Use recipes from websites with a LOT of gluten-free options
There’s a better chance a website or blog will be a source you can trust if most of its recipes are gluten-free. Recipes and posts that include tips on making the dish are also helpful and make you more comfortable with gluten-free baking/cooking for the first time.
When you click on a recipe from Pinterest, check out what other recipes the website has to offer. If you notice, it’s just a general site with various recipes, most of them not being centered on gluten or grain-free, you might want to keep browsing until you find a site with more experience cooking gluten-free.
Don’t go for recipes with more than two unfamiliar elements
When selecting recipes, try to go with options that include familiar ingredients. If a recipe looks incredible, but you notice the ingredient list consists of several items you’ve never worked with, it increases the chances of a #Thanksgivingfail.
Play is safe with the flour
If you’re used to baking with all-purpose flour only, now is not the time to try a recipe with grain-free flours such as almond, coconut, and oat flour. Many of the recipes that use these options use way more liquid, aren’t as forgiving, and don’t yield the same texture as the classic recipe.
So, if there’s a flour-based Thanksgiving dish you want to make gluten-free, choose recipes that use a 1:1 gluten-free all-purpose flour.
I applied this rule in my gluten-free thanksgiving menu for recipes like my Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and the Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Topping. The 1:1 gluten-free flour made it easy, and they turned out perfect, even if you’re brand new to gluten-free baking!
Easy Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, there’s no need to stress out about creating an entire gluten-free menu because I’ve already done it for you with my Giving Thanks: a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu.
It includes every recipe you need to make Thanksgiving a success, with zero gluten!
If you’re worried about your gluten-loving guests turning up their noses at these recipes – don’t stress! These recipes are full of classic flavors and beloved by all.
The meal plan provides no-fail, beginner-friendly gluten-free recipes that your guests won’t be able to distinguish from the more “classic” recipes they’re used to.
Some of the recipes included:
- roasted turkey
- cranberry sauce
- epic side dishes
- drool-worthy desserts
Also included in the Gluten-free Thanksgiving Menu PDF, you will find a comprehensive guide that maps out the process of prepping ingredients and recipes leading up to the big day, along with a cooking schedule that’s broken down by the hour for Thanksgiving day.
As a Thanksgiving host, I know how hectic this day can be, especially if it’s your first time including gluten-free options.
I created this downloadable eBook with all the recipes, prep-guide, shopping lists, and organization you need to celebrate a safe and headache-free gluten-free Thanksgiving.