Gluten-Free Safe Entertaining

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It’s a holiday or a special occasion or simply a casual dinner party at your place with family or friends. If you’re living gluten-free, how do you and your gluten-free guests stay safe when you’re also entertaining people who eat gluten? 

Prepare All Gluten-Free for Ease 

The simplest way to entertain and ensure there is no gluten getting into gluten-free meals or snacks you’re serving is to decide from the outset that you’re preparing only gluten-free food. People less familiar with gluten-free eating might think you have to go with specialty foods and limited choices, but that is not the case. Going exclusively gluten-free might seem limiting at first – or even off-putting for gluten-eaters – but it doesn’t have to be. 

Start by choosing appetizers and meal courses that are naturally gluten-free – like a salad with homemade dressing, roast chicken with roasted vegetables and rice, and baked apples topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Tortilla chips and salsa or a homemade dip with cut raw veggies are easy, naturally gluten-free appetizers.  

You could take this opportunity to showcase your favorite gluten-free dishes and introduce your friends to the wide array of gluten-free culinary options. If you’re cooking and baking for your get-together, go for recipes you’ve tried before with great success rather than experimenting with something new. This can help reduce stress so you can serve your gluten-free offerings with confidence.  

Pasta, bread, and baked goods are the most common foods where you need to go with gluten-free versions. You could introduce guests to these gluten-free foods that will often be new to them. Offering these items may elicit a reaction from your guests, whether positive, negative, or surprised. This can be a good way to increase awareness and enter a conversation about eating gluten-free, but if you prefer to avoid this scenario, offering naturally gluten-free dishes is the way to go. 

But What if Gluten Food is Also Served?  

There are two main challenges when serving both gluten-free food and food with gluten at the same get-together: cross-contact during preparation and cross-contact when serving. Depending on how strictly gluten-free you’ve made your kitchen, prepping food with gluten may be easier if left to others. Invite others to bring dishes to share for the non-gluten-free invitees. Another option is to purchase pre-prepared food or have certain dishes delivered from a local restaurant. If your event is catered, work with a caterer who is knowledgeable about safe gluten-free food prep and serving and is capable of accommodating food restrictions. 

While buffet or potluck-style are common ways of entertaining, both present additional challenges for gluten-free guests. If you’re offering mixed fare, lay out your gluten dishes far from the gluten-free ones on entirely separate tables or even different rooms such as gluten-free in the kitchen and gluten-containing in the dining room.  

Make both gluten-free and gluten-containing tables or counters completely contained by equipping both with their own serving utensils, plates, eating utensils, napkins, etc. The less someone needs to go from one table to the next to fill their plates, the better.  

Put Out Signs and Labels 

Even if you establish clear guidelines – and spaces – for keeping gluten-containing food away from the gluten-free, it isn’t always easy in a party setting to be sure they are followed. No matter how many times you mention to people your rules about keeping gluten away from gluten-free, someone is bound to forget. Use signs and labels to clearly designate which table – or end of a table — is for which type of food as well as what is in each dish.  

Putting a little card next to self-serve dishes with a list of ingredients is helpful to anyone who needs to know. Get creative and print out menus for your guests with gluten-free designations or ingredient lists. Ask guests to label any food they bring as well to avoid any mix-ups. 


What if the Host/Hostess Gift Contains Gluten? 

Often guests bring a gift to thank the host or hostess of a dinner party or event. Try to make it clear when you send out the invitations that you eat gluten-free or are preparing a gluten-free meal. Not everyone understands what gluten-free means. What should you do if someone shows up with a loaf of warm, homemade bread, brownies, or pie that is not gluten-free? 

You have several acceptable options for how to handle a gluten-containing gift depending on the situation, your relationship with the person, and if you have a gluten-free home or not. 

  1. Thank them graciously and do not make an issue of it. If you are serving gluten-containing foods, place it on the designated gluten table for others to enjoy. 
  1. Thank them and set it aside in a safe location away from your gluten-free kitchen and food. Give it to a friend or neighbor later. 
  1. Thank them and explain that you eat gluten-free/your home is gluten-free for health reasons and politely decline. 

Educating and informing your guests prior to a get-together can help avoid awkward situations and those gluten-laden gifts. 



Check With Guests About Food Restrictions 

As you’re inviting guests to your home, a courteous thing is to ask if they have any dietary restrictions. As someone who is living gluten-free, you can probably relate to showing up at a dinner party or celebration only to find you can’t eat anything there. Always ask invitees if they have any restrictions. Adjust your menu, as much as possible, to accommodate them. Let them know if there will be some items present that are not safe for them to eat. Offer to prepare a separate dish or encourage them to bring along something they know is safe to eat. 

As you can see, preparation and communication can alleviate any possible concerns about getting “glutened” when entertaining and allows you to focus more on what matters: Being with friends and family and having a great time! 



GIG COVID Disclaimer:  

We offer tips that might mention cooking for multiple people or for holidays, events, and celebrations. As with any gathering, we suggest that you keep them small and limited to your immediate household. See the CDC’s current guidance on gatherings or refer to your local/regional health department guidelines.   



The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.  

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