A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving dinner is a popular holiday that’s typically centered around a multi-course meal enjoyed with family and friends. The intricate menu planning, breaking bread with family, and teaching children to bake homemade favorites are cherished traditions. For many, Thanksgiving dinner will serve gluten-free and gluten-eaters alike. But don’t worry: Thanksgiving is a celebratory meal where gluten doesn’t need to play a central role. 

If you need to avoid gluten, almost everything on the traditional Thanksgiving table can be made gluten-free.  

Not sure where to start for a Thanksgiving feast that’s free of gluten? Here are some tips: 

  1. Go for a fresh turkey. If you can, order a fresh turkey in advance. Be cautious with packaged or frozen turkeys. Some may be injected with broth to make them juicy – avoid unless you can confirm it is gluten-free.  
  2. Make your own gravy. Make gravy using homemade stock so you can be sure no gluten ingredients are in it. Add the stock slowly to a roux made from equal parts butter and cornstarch and/or gluten-free flour. Or, start with the drippings from your cooked turkey for another way to get great flavor. Note that traditional gravy is thickened with flour, which doesn’t affect the flavor at all. Replacing this ingredient with gluten-free flour or cornstarch is just as effective. If you choose to buy a packaged gravy, select one that is clearly labeled gluten-free. We can only vouch for food that is GFCO-certified. 
  3. Give veggies a starring role. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, and Brussels sprouts are all naturally gluten-free. A simple vegetable dish can be colorful, flavorful, and easy to prepare. Fresh veggies are a great choice, but if you are using canned or frozen, read the labels to ensure that any sauces or seasonings are safely gluten-free. 
  4. Watch the stuffing and dressing. Regular stuffing (cooked inside the turkey) and dressing (made in a pan) start with dried cubes of bread. Gluten-free bread is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Cut slices of gluten-free bread into cubes, and let it dry out, either overnight or in a 200-degree oven. The great flavors in stuffing come from “add ins” like sautéed onions, celery, bacon, or sausage. Add a touch of sweetness with dried cherries. 
  5. Don’t scrimp on delectable desserts. Wow your guests with homemade, gluten-free pies. To make things easier, use a GFCO-certified gluten-free pie crust mix or pre-made crust. Experiment with holiday baking a few weeks before the big meal to make sure you’ve got the gluten-free recipe down. Confirm that any packaged desserts are gluten-free by looking for a certification mark, gluten-free label, or reading ingredients. 

Tips for Planning Ahead 

A general tip that will help things go more smoothly, especially when you’re making a big meal, is to plan with time to spare. 

Plan the menu at least a week in advance. Shop right away to make sure you’ve got all the needed shelf-stable ingredients on hand – and that the gluten-free options you want are not sold out. Get your vegetables and other fresh items several days in advance. 

Do your prep workdays in advance. Chop vegetables, cut up bread for stuffing, portion out ingredients into individual containers and label them – anything you can do to make the cooking more streamlined. 

If you’re making things from scratch, cranberry sauces can be made days in advance. Pies and other desserts can be baked a day or two ahead.   

All this preparation works well if you are the Thanksgiving dinner host, but what if you are an invited guest and feeling stressed about staying gluten-free at someone else’s home?  

Call your host well in advance to let them know about your dietary needs. Offer to help with the planning and the food prep work. Most dinner hosts will want to accommodate their guests and any special food needs. Being prepared – and good communication between hosts and guests – will help relieve any worry about eating gluten-free this holiday season.  



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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