Five Last-Minute Tips for a Happy Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s one of our favorite holidays here at Aurochs–food, family, beer, and football. What more could you ask for?

Despite adhering to a gluten-free diet, my Thanksgiving feast always includes the staples: turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, peas, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, a greens salad, pumpkin pie, and a crustless crab & mushroom quiche (maybe not a staple, but my personal favorite). All of the credit goes to my mother, who while I was growing up with Celiac Disease would search, experiment and try new and delicious ways to make my Thanksgiving the best day of year. So here are a few last-minute tips for anyone celebrating or hosting a gluten free Thanksgiving:

  1. The Bird is the Word: When you stuff a turkey with stuffing that contains gluten, the turkey is contaminated. You won’t have to quarantine it–you just won’t be able to eat it. My suggestion would be to stuff the turkey with gluten-free stuffing, that way everyone can enjoy it. If you’re skeptical bake the stuffing separately and cook the bird by itself (Pro Tip: For more variety, make two versions of stuffing, one in the bird and separately. That way you have a ton extra–see point #6).
  2. Use Replacement Ingredients: Thanksgiving dishes can easily be made without gluten by substituting some of the standard ingredients with gluten-free alternatives (without sacrificing taste or consistency). Leave gluten free breads out overnight and add seasoning, it makes for great stuffing (Pro-tip: Gluten-free cornbread makes a great, slightly sweet stuffing). Use a gluten-free all purpose flour, almond flour or cornmeal flour to thicken homemade gravy. Buy a gluten-free roll mix or go with one of the frozen options. With a little homework, nearly all dishes can be made celiac safe without anyone even noticing.
  3. Watch for Hidden Gluten: Don’t assume a sauce, a seasoning or casserole is gluten-free. This time of year, lots of unique sauces and seasonings are used. Be sure to read the ingredients and contact the manufacturer when in doubt. If you are still unsure, find another brand that offers a gluten-free alternative. If someone makes a sweet potato soufflé or a chicken and rice casserole, don’t assume because you can eat sweet potatoes or chicken and rice that it’s probably fine. (Pro Tip: If a friend or relative brings over some weird casserole you’re not eager to try, just tell them “Hey, sorry, might have gluten in it” and then eat all the good stuff).
  4. Pies & Sweet Stuff: You can make one from scratch but why not take advantage of one of the many amazing gluten free bakeries sprouting up in your area. In Pittsburgh, I can visit Naturally Soergels and order a pumpkin pie, pumpkin rolls or pumpkin gobs from Gluuteny or enjoy an order pumpkin roll or a four pack of giant pumpkin muffins from Gluten Free Innovations. Again, there is great stuff out there and in your area. (Pro Tip: If you like your own homemade baked goods but want to support your local bakeries, try buying some of their gluten-free cookies, like ginger snaps, and mash them up to make crusts and crumbles).
  5. Drinks: Wine or cider is an easy (and delicious) gluten-free option with dinner, and try a gluten-free Aurochs beer to wash down the food and the football. For something a little stronger, try mixing rum (after you’ve checked that it’s gluten free) with warm, spiced cider or add some Baileys to your hot cocoa after the sun goes down.
  6. Feed yourself: Don’t be afraid to eat before your attend, bring some of your own food as back-up, or bring gluten-free alternatives to share with guests. No one will mind and it might give you a chance to educate others on your dietary restrictions without seeming ungrateful. Sharing (knowledge and food) is caring.
  7. LEFTOVERS!!!! Always make more than you think you will eat on Thanksgiving. I could (and do) live off Thanksgiving leftovers for a week, but I usually find a way to fit 7 days worth of leftovers into a day and a half’s worth of serious eating. (Pro-tip: Put some turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy between two gluten-free slices of bread for one of the greatest sandwiches ever).
  8. Be Thankful: Not just for your friends and family (or the food), but be thankful for the host that’s doing their best to provide a gluten-free spread. Even if it’s not perfect, give them an big thank-you for making an effort and trying new recipes.

Now go eat, drink (craft beer), and have a great Thanksgiving!