The Ultimate Guide to a Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. An American traditional filled with gratitude, delicious food, and football. Most of us look forward to enjoying this day off, but those of us who are gluten intolerant (or just have other food sensitivities/intolerance) can be put in a difficult situation. My goal here is to identify what small changes need to be made to create a Gluten Free meal, and to suggest a few recipes that will help you “kick it up a notch” and bring a little more nutrition and health to your celebration!

If you have a family member or friend who’ll be joining you for the holiday, I’d suggest providing your full, exact recipe to them in advance – they will be able to cross reference and know if/what they’ll be able to enjoy. Many people with food intolerance will bring something to snack on with them to events, so don’t feel offended. It’s safer for their health to bring their own food, and it’s less inconvenience to the cook! Now let’s look at how we can easily modify your traditional Thanksgiving basics….

THE TURKEY

Turkeys don’t have any bread or pasta in them (which is what we typically think of when we think gluten free) but not all turkeys are created equal. Some turkeys are injected with flavorings/preservatives containing gluten, so make sure you read the label or contact the company in advance!

Here’s a great response from a popular grocery store brand, Butterball: “When there are dietary concerns, we advise purchasing Butterball Fresh Turkey and Butterball Fresh Breast of Turkey, which are all-natural and contain no added ingredients.  Individual ingredients (water, salt, sodium phosphate to retain natural juices, modified food starch [corn or potato source], dextrose and natural flavors — no allergenic ingredients) are specified on the labels of all Butterball Frozen Turkeys and Butterball frozen line extension products.”

THE GRAVY

You’ll need to make your own gravy from the turkey drippings, using corn starch or gluten free flour as the thickener.

THE STUFFING

The core ingredient in stuffing is dried bread, so this will need some gluten free modifications. Purchase a gluten free mix from a local gluten free bakery (like Apple Gluten Free Kitchen – tastes great)! You’ll also have to check for gluten in the stuffing’s sausage and get gluten free turkey stock (Kitchen Basic Gluten Free Turkey Stock is available at Jewel).

THE CRANBERRY SAUCE

I can’t promote the use of a sugar-filled, preservative-full fruit sauce that comes from a can. But what I can do is suggest a recipe for a homemade raw cranberry sauce below:

In a food processor, add 1 orange (remove peel and seeds), 1 lemon (remove peel and seeds), 4 dates (pitted and chopped). Slowly add 2 cups fresh cranberries and process until coarsely chopped.  If you like cranberry sauce that is less tart, add more dates! 

THE SIDES

The more fresh, colorful veggies the better! A green bean casserole contains soup (not gluten free) and onion toppings – substitute crumbled “funions” for the onion topping, and get a gluten free soup from your local health food store. In the Chicagoland area, Fruitful Yield will have what you need (including a complete green bean casserole mix)! If you’re serving bread/rolls, gluten free options are available at practically any store. But here’s a better recipe for Thanksgiving green beans:

Steam 1 lb. fresh green beans for about 8 minutes (about half-done). Meanwhile, prepare ingredients for your skillet: 1 tbsp. coconut oil, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 1/4 cup hazelnuts (finely chopped), zest of one lemon, 2 tbsp. chopped rosemary. Add those ingredients to the skillet, on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add green beans, coat, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve and enjoy! 

Here’s an easy, gluten free recipe for Butternut Squash I use all the time, but goes great with the Thanksgiving theme!

Ingredients: 1 butternut squash, 1 tbsp. coconut oil, 2 tbsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. raw honey

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place one half face down in a small glass baking dish with 1 inch of water. Microwave on high for about 6 minutes, to slightly soften the squash. Remove and cool. Remove outer skin of squash, and cut into 1 inch cubes. Add coconut oil to a pan, heat on medium. Add squash, cinnamon, honey. Cook until mostly soft and serve. 

Gluten Free Kale and Cranberries, borrowed from one of my favorite recipe sites ElanasPantry.com. Kale is a very healthy vegetable choice – it’s full of essential nutrients and vitamins, and is naturally low in calories.

Ingredients: 2 large bunches of kale, 1/4 c. pine nuts, 1/4 c. dried cranberries, 3 tbsp. olive oil

Steam kale until bright green. Meanwhile, toast pine nuts until golden brown. Allow both to cool, then mix together in a large serving bowl. Add cranberries and olive oil, serve. 

THE PUMPKIN PIE

The pie crust is not gluten free, so you’ll need to make some modifications here. I would suggest using crumbled gluten free graham crackers (or gluten free gingerbread cookies) as a substitute in a pie crust recipe. Or, pre made gluten free pie crusts are available at Whole Foods.

Want to try a new, healthier recipe that isn’t a sugar vehicle?  This one is borrowed from PaleoLifestyleDiet.com:

Filling Ingredients: 1 can pumpkin puree (or 1  3/4  c. fresh home made pumpkin puree), 2 eggs, 1/2 c. raw honey, 1/2 c. coconut milk, 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. fresh grated ginger

Crust Ingredients: 1 c. pecans, 1/2 c. hazelnuts, 4 tbsp. coconut oil, pinch of sea salt

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Process nuts in food processor until flour like consistency. In a bowl, mix nuts, salt, and coconut oil – then spread the crust mixture into a pie pan and bake for 10 minutes. Mix all filling ingredients in a bowl. Fill evenly into the baked crust and bake additional 45 minutes. 

Please remember to read each label carefully, and check for ingredients that are processed in a plant containing wheat. Best wishes for the Thanksgiving Holiday!

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