While originally written for Thanksgiving, this cooking guide works for any holiday or gathering – Christmas, New Year’s parties, Easter – where you are hosting a bunch of people!
I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in spring of 2006. Fall 2007 was my first Thanksgiving, and I was scared. Feeling sorry for me, my dad bought me an early Christmas present – my navy blue KitchenAid mixer. I still use it today. I also took a cooking class by Claudia Pillow, co-author of this book, which was incredibly helpful. The next years have been an exercise in trial and error. There have been successes and failures. Lessons have been learned along the way.
Because so many Thanksgiving standards contain gluten, I would bring my versions to our family’s big Thanksgiving celebration. That’s a lot of food to bring – stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, desserts. Over the years, I learned what I was willing to do on Thanksgiving – the modified standards that were a must-have – and those I could do without.
My family got the hang of it too. My grandmother now makes her candied sweet potatoes with gluten-free flour and thickens her gravy with corn starch.
While I don’t have the grocery budget or the time to cook Thanksgiving standards for all of you (sorry), I still wanted to give you tips for having a successful gluten-free Thanksgiving, especially if this is your first gluten-free holiday, or if you’re having a gluten-free guest over to your house this year.
- Are you brand new to the gluten-free world? Here’s my gluten-free starter guide.
- Read all the labels. Here are just a few foods you’d never guess have (or might have) gluten: canned chicken broth, ice cream, soup mixes, salad dressings, marshmallows, chewy candy like Twizzlers. Information on deciphering labels is on my starter guide.
- Whether you are the gluten-free guest for a large Thanksgiving gathering or you are cooking for a gluten-free guest on Thanksgiving, do not expect to have every dish gluten-free. The meat, a few sides and at least one dessert will be sufficient. If you’re hosting and cooking the food, then it’s easy to make everything gluten-free.
- Be thoughtful to make small changes that will easily make a dish gluten-free. Use tapioca starch in gravy or gluten-free marshmallows in candied yams, for example. If you’re cooking a turkey with a browning bag, use gluten-free flour in the bag – any gluten-free flour without xanthan or guar gum will do. I usually use brown rice flour.
- Hosts: never ever think “Oh, it’s just a little flour.” Just 1/8th of a teaspoon is enough for me and many of my fellow celiacs to have a full-scale reaction.
- Buy gluten-free rolls. Udi’s and Schar both make great rolls. Against the Grain makes a great baguette.
- Let the gluten-free guest serve him or herself first. Give them their own butter dish that is not contaminated by bread crumbs. Remind your guests to keep each serving utensil with its appropriate dish.
- Feeling crunched for time or intimidated about your first gluten-free attempt being on Thanksgiving? There is no shame in utilizing mixes and other shortcuts! My favorite gluten-free mixes these days are King Arthur flour, which are now carried at Target. You can read my reviews of King Arthur gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix and yellow cake mix here. Also, dress up gluten free store-bought cookies, like I did here.
- Speaking of shortcuts – gluten-free pie crusts are available at most health food stores. I love Whole Food’s gluten-free pie crust.
Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipe
Nothing says Thanksgiving like stuffing. Unfortunately, nothing says gluten like stuffing. Have no fear, you can modify your favorite homemade stuffing recipe into your new gluten-free standard. There are a few simple tips:
- Make a flourless cornbread recipe. You’ll find about a thousand variations online. They just use corn meal. Make two batches a day before you prepare the stuffing. Make sure your corn meal says gluten-free on the box, and don’t use white corn meal. (White corn has a small amount of natural gluten and some people including yours truly react to it).
- One of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving is Grandmommy drying cubed bread for her stuffing. She dries it overnight so it is dry and crisp and ready to be included in the stuffing. You do the same with gluten-free bread, but it takes substantially longer to dry out. Dry it out for a day, turning occasionally, but still be prepared to stick it in a hot oven while the bread crumbs truly dry out.
- A key to making great stuffing is starting out with a moist stuffing mixture. To get the gluten-free mix to the proper moistness, prepare to use two or three or four times more liquid than normal. This means keeping a very close eye on the level of saltiness. I usually dilute low-sodium chicken broth. Be prepared to use a lot more broth!
Here is my stuffing recipe. It’s really good, but you can also use the tips above to modify your favorite stuffing recipe!
- 1 batch gluten-free corn bread, two round nine-inch pans, baked, crumbled and dried out
- 1 loaf gluten-free bread (12 ounces), cut into cubes. I use Udi's White Bread
- 1 pound pork sausage, crumbled and pan fried - you can use sage, normal pork breakfast sausage, spicy Italian...really whatever kind of sausage you want.
- 4 tbs butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 pint sliced mushrooms
- 2 c. sliced celery
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp rubbed sage
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 c. pecans or hazelnuts
- 1 c. Craisins
- 4 - 6 c. low sodium, gluten-free chicken broth – enough to get it VERY moist
- * adjust the extra veggies, dried cranberries and nuts as you wish. I think I always end up putting more of everything. I like my toppings.
- Cube bread and dry in a 350-400 degree oven until they're dry and toasted, about 30 minutes, flipping occasionally. Crumble cornbread, let dry overnight.
- The day of: Cook sausage and crumble. Set aside. Use a tablespoon or so of the sausage drippings and butter to sweat (sautee, but so they're still crunchy) the onions, mushrooms and celery, adding in the spices and salt. Quickly toast the nuts in a dry frying pan.
- In a large bowl, mix the crumbled corn bread, bread cubes, sausage, sautéed veggies, nuts and craisins. Moisten the stuffing with chicken broth until it is thoroughly moistened. Think soggy. If you don't add enough broth, the stuffing will be dry and mealy. Be careful with chicken broth. Canned chicken broth many times has gluten. Check the label.
- Cover with foil and bake at 400 for 1 hour. This is a wonderful recipe. My favorite part are the Craisins! They add a sweetness and color.
Make a big naturally gluten-free salad! My fall salad with pomegranate hazelnut vinaigrette, lettuce, pomegranate seeds, green onions, pumpkin seeds and Parmesan cheese will have no one missing the gluten!
Make a roux just like you normally would, but use tapioca starch flour or sweet white rice flour.
Green Bean Casserole
Green Bean Casserole, oh how I miss you. I usually skip this side because it is a lot of work. I made it the first Thanksgiving after my sister was diagnosed with gluten intolerance because I wanted that Thanksgiving to be full of good memories for her. (Best big sister award, or what?!)
Here’s the recipe I use. It’s pretty good. It takes forever.
This dish is something that over the years I decided wasn’t a priority for me. I now prefer a simpler green bean dish with steamed beans and bacon. Because what’s better than bacon?
Candied yams or candied sweet potatoes are a classic, and easily modified to be gluten free.
- Marshmallow recipe: Use Kraft brand marshmallows or any others that say gluten-free. Kraft are, for sure.
- Brown-sugar topping recipe, which calls for flour in the topping: (Like this Pioneer Woman recipe that rocks my world): use a gluten-free flour mix without xantham gum. If you don’t make your own mix, I recommend King Arthur’s Multi-Purpose Gluten Free Flour Mix.
Quick Pumpkin Bread
Make this quick pumpkin bread!
One pack of gluten-free spice cake mix – I use Namaste
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin
Up to 1.5 cups of pecans and golden raisins, your preference.
Bake per the cake’s instructions.
Gluten Free Baking Classics by Analise Robers contains the world’s greatest pecan pie recipe ever. Buy it. Bake it. Love it.
Make my gluten-free banana bread. It’s a perfect breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. And it makes a great on-the-go breakfast for Black Friday, too!
Do you have any more questions, suggestions or advice? Put them in the comments section.