While Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s about spending time with family and friends and enjoying good food, it is also fraught with potential stressors if you need to eat gluten-free, precisely because of the focus on food. Depending on if your family and friends “get it” and how gluten-free your celebration is, it could be a minefield! Sharing all our best tips on how to navigate your Thanksgiving celebration safely and enjoyably if your Thanksgiving gathering is not 100% gluten-free.
The other day on Instagram Stories I ask if your Thanksgiving table was entirely or partially gluten-free.
Here were the results:
- Entirely Gluten-Free 29%
- Mostly Gluten-Free (maybe a dish or two with gluten) 26%
- Partly Gluten Free (one or two dishes gluten-free) 29%
- Only my plate was gluten free (make/ bring own food) 16%
With over 70% of the respondents having some gluten on the table, I wanted to share our tips for staying safely gluten-free and still enjoying Thanksgiving.
I already have a post with our Top 10 Tips for enjoying the holidays gluten-free which really talks to how to be proactive and have a plan.
That is still super important so a recommended read and we will touch on it a little be here but these tips are more specific to navigating the Thanksgiving table.
Our personal journey to mostly gluten-free.
Thanksgiving is a large gathering in our family with lots of aunts, cousins, grandparents and everyone brings food and cooks together on the actual day.
So our first Thanksgiving (11 years ago!) was the most fraught with anxiety. In the earlier days, when there were less gluten-free dishes and more people, we were more anxious and cautious about keeping my son safe.
Over the years, nearly every dish has transitioned to be gluten-free and my family completely understands the concept of cross-contact, so we’ve relaxed a lot!
But there is usually 1 stuffing that’s full gluten and some bread on the table that’s gluten so we still pay some attention…
Last year, it was just the four of us and I have to admit, a nice side benefit was that it was entirely gluten-free and stress-free!
You don’t realize that even when you know everyone “gets it” and you know nearly everything is gluten-free, that you are always “on alert” when there gluten and gluten-free dishes at the same table. This could also be because I’m a mom trying to keep her son safe… my son is much calmer than me! lol
Common Pitfalls/ Simple Solutions
1. Watch out for turkey that’s been stuffed with stuffing!
This was historically the biggest challenge at our table because my mother used to host and she always stuffed her turkey with regular stuffing. To be fair, my mother has been the most supportive mother and grandmother in my son’s celiac journey. She’s learned to cook just about everything gluten-free, understands cross-contact and she’s always worried about having safe food for my son…. but the turkey was something she felt strongly about stuffing with her stuffing. So we let her do!
Because we had such a large gathering of people and needed lots of food, our solution has always been to make a gluten-free roast chicken as well and my son we fine with that!
If that’s not an option for you, you could prepare yourself some chicken or protein the day before and just heat it up.
When we started hosting, we decided to fry the turkey for the first time and kept it entirely gluten-free! And it was so good!
But my mom stilled made her stuffing separately, so were weren’t 100% a gluten-free table.
2. Cross contamination via serving spoons and cooking utensils
When there are lots of dishes at a table and lots of cooks in the kitchen (literally!), it can be nerve wracking worrying about people using the same serving spoons or cooking spoons for gluten and gluten-free dishes.
Again, we’ve been lucky as we’ve only had a few gluten-full dishes at our table and were able to keep them on the other end of the table and with their own spoons.
The best things you can do is ask the host to use separate spoons for every dish and serve yourself first.
By asking the host to use separate spoons (and if possible speak with your host ahead of Thanksgiving– there is a lot going on day of, so they might be more understanding and helpful if you mention it ahead of time), you can explain the concept of cross contamination or cross contact and you immediately minimize your chances of getting gluten-ed!
To be extra careful, we always let my son serve himself first and we even set aside extras of this favorite dishes!
3. Avoid not having enough gluten-free options…. be proactive!
Sometimes it’s inevitable that you’ll be at an event or dinner or gathering where there are few safe gluten-free options. But for a holiday meal that’s planned in advance, the best thing to do is be proactive and look out for yourself!
Speak with your host ahead of time and explain your needs. Most people are understanding and want their guests to be happy and well-fed! Speaking ahead of time will help you get a sense of how much you need to do ahead of time and day of to make sure you’ll have safe gluten-free food.
Bring your favorite dishes –– at our table, everyone seems to have one or two favorite dishes that are must on Thanksgiving. Figure out what your “must have dishes” are and ask your host if you can make them gluten-free for everyone or bring some for yourself and enjoy extras later.
Don’t forget to bring a gluten-free dessert! You can’t have too many desserts on Thanksgiving! So again, talk with your host and ask if you can make something that you love and bring it to share!
If your host does not seem understanding of your needs, or the gathering is too large and you’re worried about having safe food, my last recommendation would be to make yourself some favorite dishes at home and bring your own plate. While it’s not ideal, at least you’ll have delicious food!
Our Menu Years past and Simple Swaps:
Cheeseboard — ask the host if you can bring gluten-free crackers to serve with the cheese. If there are both gluten and gluten-free crackers, ask the host if they can be served in separate bowls so that the cheese is by itself and remains gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Crab quiche (my son loves this tradition and we make it with a store bought gluten-free crust, no one ever knows!)
Spinach Artichoke Dip (serve with gluten-free crackers. If it is served with gluten crackers, ask if you can serve yourself first and spoon some onto a plate to enjoy with your own gluten-free crackers)
Turkey (if stuffed with gluten stuffing, skip it! If it is a large crowd, roast a chicken additionally and keep gluten-free. If it’s a smaller crowd, bring your own turkey.
Mashed potatoes- should be gluten-free, just make sure they’re a separate serving spoon.
Sweet potato casserole with pecan crumble (there is flour in the crumble topping and we make it with gluten-free flour and no one knows the difference)
The BEST gluten-free stuffing (100% gluten-free!)
Cranberry sauce (naturally gluten-free)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (naturally gluten-free)
Salad (probably Radicchio & Arugula Salad with Dried Figs and Walnuts –naturally gluten-free)
Gluten-free Dinner Rolls (100% gluten-free !)
Plus quick breads… My family usually serves these at dinner time and then we have them for the weekend.
Cranberry bread (made gluten-free)
Pumpkin bread (made gluten-free)
pumpkin pie (use store bought gluten-free crust and no one knows the difference)
apple crisp (use gluten-free flour in crumble and no one knows the difference)
Leave a comment below and tell me about your Thanksgiving… How do you stay gluten-free?