The Dos and Don’ts of a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Written By: Elizabeth Barbone


For someone on a gluten-free diet, the Thanksgiving table can look like one large buffet of “do not touch.” However, with a little work and cooperation from family and friends, the meal can be something you’re truly thankful for.

First, let’s start with the good news!

Here’s a list of foods that are usually gluten-free:

  • Turkey (check with the producer to ensure that wheat-based gravy or stuffing hasn’t been added to the turkey.)
  • Cranberries and cranberry sauce
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • White Potatoes
  • Fresh, roasted, or steamed vegetables without sauce (sauces often contain wheat)
  • Brown, white, and wild rice (be sure they contain no sauces or wheat-based seasonings)
  • Chestnuts

Here are foods that usually contain gluten:

  • Vegetable dips
  • Salad dressing (many but not all pre-made salad dressings contain wheat)
  • Stuffing/dressing, including cornbread stuffing.
  • Gravy
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Pie Crusts
  • Any vegetable dish with a thickened sauce
  • Any dish containing soy sauce.

Dos and Don’ts of a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving—for a gluten-free eater (if you’re hosting someone on the gluten-free diet for Thanksgiving, there’s a list below for you, too!)

  • Do…call your host before Thanksgiving. Discuss your needs and how you plan on handling them.
  • Do…serve yourself first. If you aren’t bringing your own food, be sure to serve yourself before everyone else does. I know this sounds rude and selfish. However, it’s the only way to prevent potential cross-contact with gluten-filled foods.
  • Do…bring yourself something you love. If your host is unable to accommodate a part of the meal you love, such as rolls, bring them yourself.
  • Do…ask for brands and ingredients that will be used to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. Remind your host about “hidden gluten”–such as soy sauce or flouring cake pans or gluten in prepared foods.
  • Do…plan for the best but expect the worst. Even with the best planning things sometimes go wrong. Remember to ask questions before the meal. Thanksgiving is a hectic day and sometimes things can change at the last minute.
  • Do….familiarize yourself with dishes that might contain gluten so you’ll know to avoid them.
  • Don’t….serve yourself a dish with a “shared” serving spoon. If people are scooping wheat-based stuffing and then using that same scoop to serve Brussels sprouts, the vegetables are no longer gluten-free. Take care to avoid any food that has come in contact with wheat/gluten.
  • Don’t…forget about small amounts of gluten. If the gravy was thickened with “just a little” flour or the vegetables contain “just a little soy sauce” or the dessert contains “just a little” non-gluten-free oats, avoid them. Remember, gluten can be obvious and not-so-obvious. When in doubt, ask questions or skip the dish.
  • Don’t…cheat. It might be tempting to cheat but don’t. Your good health is worth staying on the gluten-free diet. By doing a little pre-planning, you can avoid gluten and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Dos and Don’ts of a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving—for a non-gluten-free host

  • Do…talk to your guest about what you’re making. Talk about ingredients and brands that are safe, and not safe, for someone who eats gluten-free.
  • Do…understand that even a small amount of gluten can make someone sick. Your gluten-free guest isn’t trying to be picky. They are trying to stay healthy.
  • Do…prepare gluten-free foods first. After that prep is done, prepare foods made with wheat. Doing this limits the chances of cross contact with wheat occurring.
  • Do…keep gluten-free and gluten-filled food on separate ends of the table or buffet. If possible, use note cards to mark which foods are gluten-free and which are not.
  • Do…change things up a little. Perhaps prepare a naturally gluten-free rice stuffing or swap your pie crust for one that’s gluten-free. Lots of little changes make a big difference.
  • Don’t…assume a food/ingredient is gluten-free. Gluten can be found in unlikely places, like in prepared chicken broth. In the days before Thanksgiving, go over your shopping list and contact manufacturers with any questions about the gluten-free status of an ingredient.

To help with your meal, here are some gluten-free recipes for classic Thanksgiving dishes.

Gluten-Free Gravy

Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole

15 Recipes for a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

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