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Planning Your Gluten Free Thanksgiving
Whether this is your first gluten free Thanksgiving or your 10th, planning a gluten free meal for friends and family can be a daunting task. I remember my first Thanksgiving after going gluten free – I was so worried that my favorite holiday would be ruined by my new dietary restrictions. I got by that year with crustless pies and a few naturally gluten free dishes like turkey and mashed potatoes, but every year I worked at my Thanksgiving recipes more and more and eventually landed on a menu that even the pickiest relatives love. In this guide, we’ll share our favorite gluten free Thanksgiving recipes, and walk you through how to plan your own Thanksgiving from start to finish!
What to Consider When Planning Your Gluten Free Thanksgiving Menu
- How many people will be attending? This will determine how much you need to make and how big of a turkey you’ll need.
- Will you be assigning out any dishes? If so, which ones? When thinking about which dishes to assign to others, think about what would be most helpful to you. For example, if you’re not a baker, ask your guests to bring desserts!
- Think through your available oven space. You want an even spread of dishes that need to be made in the oven, on the stove, or that can be made in the Instant Pot/slow cooker. This will ensure you can keep all of your dishes warm on the big day.
- Do any of your guests have dietary restrictions? If so, try to keep them in mind while planning your menu. Many of our gluten free Thanksgiving recipes also have modifications for dairy-free and grain-free needs!
- Don’t overcomplicate it! It can be tempting to make a huge menu for Thanksgiving, but if you are making everything yourself, we recommend keeping it as simple as possible. Stick with a simple appetizer (think: store-bought or have your guests bring it), the turkey, 3-4 gluten free side dishes, and 2 gluten free Thanksgiving desserts.
What dishes are gluten free?
Which Thanksgiving foods are gluten free?
The good news is that plenty of Thanksgiving dishes are gluten-free to begin with, no adjustment needed! Even if you’re not making anything for Thanksgiving, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find plenty to eat at Thanksgiving.
Is Thanksgiving turkey gluten free?
Turkey is typically gluten free, but you want to make sure it isn’t filled with stuffing if you have Celiac disease or are super-sensitive. Luckily, most people make their turkeys unstuffed these days! Also know that gravy is typically thickened with flour, so steer clear of it or make your own by swapping a 1:1 gluten free flour like this one.
Where can I find a free-range all-natural turkey?
- ButcherBox: If you’re looking for an all-natural, free-range turkey, you can currently get one shipped to you for free when you sign up with ButcherBox. ButcherBox is a monthly service that delivers high-quality, grass-fed and pasture-raised proteins to do your door. Order by 11/17 to get your turkey!
- US Wellness Meats: US Wellness Meats is another great source for a free-range Thanksgiving turkey! Order by 11/15 to ensure you have enough time for shipping.
Is ham gluten free?
If your family has ham at Thanksgiving, know that it is usually gluten free as well! Be sure to double-check the ingredients on the glaze packet before making it, or make your own glaze.
Is cranberry sauce gluten free?
Yes! Both homemade and canned cranberry sauce is totally gluten free, though we are definitely partial to the homemade stuff!
Are there other naturally gluten free Thanksgiving side dishes?
In addition to cranberry sauce, a few naturally gluten free Thanksgiving sides are mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top (skip the ones with the pecan topping – it contains flour!), salads, fresh sauteed green beans, and roasted brussels sprouts.
Now that you know which Thanksgiving foods you don’t need to adjust, let’s dive in to our favorite gluten free Thanksgiving recipes!
We love putting out an appetizer or two for people to nibble on before the big meal. This is especially helpful for keeping guests busy if you’re running a little bit late or need more time to reheat food that your guests have brought. Here are our favorite simple appetizers.
These festive drinks are perfect for Thanksgiving, and many can be made in big batches so you aren’t stuck playing bartender all night!
A nice green salad or some simple sautéed or roasted veggies are a great way to break up the creamy, hearty sides on your Thanksgiving plate.
Gluten Free Stuffing
I don’t know about you, but stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner! Below you’ll find 4 gluten free stuffing recipes that are perfect whether you prefer a traditional stuffing, a cornbread dressing, or if you’re looking for a grain-free paleo version!
Gluten Free Thanksgiving Sides
Below we have all of your favorite gluten free Thanksgiving side dishes! From gluten free green bean casserole to perfect potatoes to cranberry sauce, you’ll find everything you need to complete your Thanksgiving menu.
Gluten Free Thanksgiving Main Dishes
Just because the sides and desserts get all of the love doesn’t mean that the main dishes aren’t also delicious in their own right! Below you’ll find options for smaller Thanksgiving main dishes, plus our favorite honey butter ham.
Gluten Free Thanksgiving Desserts
Dessert is possibly the best part of Thanksgiving, I mean, who doesn’t love an excuse to eat 4 kinds of pie in one sitting?! Below you’ll find our favorite gluten free desserts for Thanksgiving. From gluten free pecan pie bars to no-bake cranberry cheesecake, these desserts are guaranteed to be a hit at your Thanksgiving table.
After I went gluten free, I found out quickly that the easiest way to guarantee a safe and delicious Thanksgiving meal was to host Thanksgiving myself. If you’re new to hosting Thanksgiving, don’t fear! We’ve got you covered with a full timeline below that you can follow for the big day. Planning ahead will help save you a ton of stress on the days leading up to the event!
3 Weeks Before
- Order your turkey. Once you’ve determined how many people you’re hosting, it’s time to order your turkey! You’ll want to make about 1 1/2-2 pounds per person. Ordering your turkey early ensures you have plenty of options.
2 Weeks Before
- Make sure you have all of the kitchen equipment you need. This includes things like a turkey baster, in-oven thermometer, roasting pan, casserole dishes, and carving knife. Scroll down below for our full list of kitchen must-haves!
- Order any specialty gluten-free products. Are you planning on ordering rolls or pie crust from a local gluten-free bakery or making a special order for bulk gluten free flour for the holiday season? If so, now’s the time to place those orders!
Weekend Before Thanksgiving
- Grocery shop for pantry items and drinks. The grocery list for a large Thanksgiving dinner can be huge, so organizing two trips to the store can help cut down on stress. On this trip, we recommend stocking up on things like pantry items, butter, and other groceries that won’t expire. Leave the veggies, eggs, meats, and dairy for a few days before Thanksgiving.
- Make and freeze stock. If you’re planning to make your own stock to use in things like stuffing, gravy, and other sides, now is a great time to get ahead of the game! Make up a big batch, freeze it, and then you’ll have it ready to defrost on the big day.
- Defrost the turkey. You want to plan on one day to defrost every 4 pounds of turkey, and don’t forget that if you plan to brine your turkey you want it to be defrosted before you start the brining process!
Monday Before Thanksgiving
- Make pie crust. Get this one out of the way on Monday! Pie crust will keep in the fridge until you are ready to make your pies on Wednesday.
- Make your second shopping trip. This time, you’ll be picking up perishable items – eggs, milk, cream, veggies, and any meat you may be using.
- Make cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce holds up very well, so Monday is a great time to get this one out of the way.
Tuesday Before Thanksgiving
- Make any dressings, dips, or sauces. If you’re making any salad dressings, dips like hummus that you may be using for appetizers, or sauces like cream of mushroom soup that you are using for your casseroles. These refrigerate well and will be fine for Thursday!
- Prep veggies and appetizers. This is a good time to get ahead on your chopping! Prep and wash any veggies you’ll be using (think dicing onions, cubing sweet potatoes, washing green beans and trimming the ends), then store in the refrigerator. If you’re doing any charcuterie for appetizers, this is also a great time to slice the cheeses and meats you’ll be using.
- Make gravy. Make the gravy now, so you’re not hurriedly trying to finish it after the turkey is done. When you reheat it on Thanksgiving day, whisk in some of the turkey drippings to up the flavor.
- Prepare the stuffing. Today is the perfect time to make cornbread for your stuffing if you’re using it, and cube up the bread or cornbread you’ll be using. Between that and chopping the veggies, you’ll have very little work to do tomorrow!
- Set the table. Getting this out of the way early can be a huge load-off. Set the table and put out the dishes, silverware, and serving dishes you’ll be using. This is also a great time to double-check that you’ve got everything you need. Scroll down to the next section to see all of our Thanksgiving tablescape tips!
- Make a timeline for tomorrow. Before you go to bed, put together a timeline for tomorrow, including when you’ll put the turkey in the oven and when you’ll bake the remaining dishes. Having this all organized will help alleviate a lot of stress tomorrow.
Wednesday Before Thanksgiving
- Brine your turkey. Today is the day to brine your turkey, whether you’ve chosen a wet brine or a dry brine!
- Make the desserts. This is the perfect time to bake up all of your gluten free Thanksgiving desserts. Just make sure that any dairy-based pies, including pumpkin pie, stay refrigerated until it is time to eat them. Fruit and pecan pies can stay at room temperature.
- Prepare the gluten free stuffing and any other casseroles. Assemble casseroles and stuffing ahead of time, then cover and refrigerate them so they are ready to bake tomorrow. Leave off any crispy toppings, like breadcrumbs or fried onions, until you’re ready to bake.
- Make whipped cream. If you’re making whipped cream for topping pies or other desserts, make a batch the night before Thanksgiving and refrigerate.
- Bake the stuffing. Make a game plan for the stuffing, which can often take up to an hour to bake. If you have room, you can bake it at the same time as the turkey, if not, we recommend baking it in the morning then reheating before the meal.
- Refrigerate beverages. Put any beverages in the fridge. This is also a good time to put together any large-batch drinks like sangria.
- Bake the turkey. When thinking about when to put the turkey in, know that you want to budget about 20 minutes per pound, though this will vary depending on your cooking method so consult your recipe first! The second thing you need to think about is how much oven time you need to heat your remaining dishes. We recommend aiming to have the turkey done about an hour before dinner. This gives it time to rest while the sides are heating.
- Make the mashed potatoes and other sides. Once the turkey is in the oven, make the mashed potatoes, and any other sides that you’re making on the stovetop. You can keep these warm by transferring to your Slow Cooker (or make our Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes) and turning it to warm.
- Make the appetizers. Before guests arrive, it’s time to set out the appetizers and give the tables a final check.
- Reheat the sides in the oven and bake the rolls/bread. Once the turkey is out, get all of your side dishes, and the bread/rolls in the oven to reheat.
- Reheat the gravy. While everything is in the oven, reheat the gravy on the stove and stir in some of the drippings from the turkey.
- Carve the turkey and serve! Finally, all you need to do is carve the turkey, set all of the food out, and enjoy!
Below are a few of our favorite tips for decorating your Thanksgiving table!
- Use scent-free candles so they don’t compete with your amazing food (soy and bees wax are even better)
- Consider getting a fresh set of small kitchen towels in a neutral color as a way to plate with a rustic napkin that will be easy to wash/reuse
- Consider stemware and a water glass for everyone, and have a non-alcoholic festive sip ready for anyone opting away from wine/cocktails
- Decorate with TALL branches or leafy sprigs (free if you source from your yard!) so that dinner guests can see each other through the stems (vs having their view blocked by flowers). Consider placing them in large clear glass vases, again, to avoid obstructing view.
- Let the food do the talking! No real need for any other fancy table decorations if your food makes up the family-style spread