Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Meal Made Easy

For people that do a lot of cooking, eating gluten-free at home is not exceptionally hard.  At least in my humble opinion. You eat less processed food, which is a good thing, and you have several smaller bags of flour, rather than a gigantic ten-pounder.

  • But what about when you’re trying to follow gluten-full family recipes?
  • How do you substitute?
  • Do you tell people they’re eating gluten-free, or not?

These are the dilemmas that I’ve wrestled with as I prepare to cook a Thanksgiving meal for 10. Luckily, they’re all excited about the idea of a GF Turkey Day, but I was still worried.

My three main bits of advice are:

  1. Start as early as you can.
  2. Experiment prior to the big day.
  3. Use products you trust.

Below are items I had to really think about for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m including this list to give you an idea of what you might be up against when you start shopping. I’ve included the watch-list items in red. You’ll need to pay attention to those.

  1. Dessert: Apple, Pecan, Pumpkin pie (pie crust, Libby’s pumpkin filling is gluten-free, as is Carnation’s evaporated milk, or you can just use a “pie pumpkin” – many stores sell them).
  2. Turkey: Check out the rub if you use one, stuffing must be gluten-free.
  3. Cranberry Fluff: all fruit is GF, but my recipe also contains marshmallows.
  4. Stuffing: Contains croutons, bread in some form, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, cornbread and vegetables like celery and onions.
  5. Sweet potatoes: they’re gluten-free. BUT many families use marshmallows on top.
  6. Mashed potatoes: Naturally GF. If you stir in chicken broth, be sure it’s gluten-free.
  7. Green Bean casserole: you must watch both the cream of mushroom soup and the fried onions.

You also have to watch out for a lot of barbecue sauces and all regular soy sauce. They are likely to contain gluten. Everything else on your menu will be gluten-free: relish trays of vegetables, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, fruit.

What I found with the list above is that many required some looking up and advanced planning on my part. Like I said, the earlier you start the better.

Believe it or not, #7 is the hardest because if you LOVE green bean casserole, you have to figure out how to make it sans gluten. Here is a recipe if you want to make the fried onions yourself. Also, you must find a GF cream of mushroom soup you like.

I’ve been cooking with the Gluten Free Cafe cream of mushroom soup because I can order it from Amazon and have it delivered right to my house. However, the consistency of the Pacific Food Cream of Mushroom soup is much better. And it’s now available from Amazon and most Wal-Marts.

My go-to Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Broth!

If you use chicken broth in your recipes, you need to check your brand to be sure it’s gluten free. Many of the Swanson’s aren’t. I know for sure their beef broth is NOT. I use the 100% Natural Chicken Broth from Swanson’s because (a) it’s GF and (b) I can get it at Costco.

Stuffing wasn’t as hard to deal with as you might think. I can buy gluten-free croutons at the stores mentioned above, along with GF bread (Udi’s is my favorite).

Again, all of this can be shipped to you from Amazon but you’re running up against a time crunch at this point. But yes, you can get Udi’s from Amazon. 🙂 I believe their white bread will work best for stuffing.

Besides the green bean casserole, the items that gave me the most angst were the pies. I’m not worried about the ingredients, I’m worried about the crust. For the girl who always just rolled out the Pillsbury, making my own crust is a big deal. I’ve had the best luck flavor-wise with Pamela’s mix and with the pre-made crusts from Fabe’s.

Last but not least, here are the products I have found to be 100% reliable  regarding my “watch list” above:

  • Marshmallows: Jet-Puffed brand from Kraft – marshmallows are inherently GF, but many brands dust them with flour.
  • Libby’s canned pumpkin: I’ve tried this and it works great.
  • Evaporated Milk: Land o’ Lakes and Carnation/Nestle are both gluten-free.
  • Eagle Brand condensed milk is gluten-free.

My stuffing also has cornbread mix and there are many options here too. I chose Bob’s Red Mill again because it’s reliable. You could also use cornmeal (which is GF) and then use gluten-free flour instead of regular flour.

Note: Piper Bayard swears you can substitute half GF Oat flour and half Almond Meal for the regular flour in any baking recipe and it will taste moist and yummy. 🙂

Are you gluten free? How would you feel about someone making your Thanksgiving dinner without gluten? Should they tell you or not tell you? What is your favorite thing to eat for Thanksgiving? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
This entry was posted in Food & Wine, Holidays, Recipes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Meal Made Easy

  1. Sherry Isaac (you may have heard a rumoUr that I know her) must eat gluten free.

    Some of the yummiest cakes I’ve had were gluten free and baked by Sherry. I’m blessed with a tummy that tolerates everything. But, I spent a small fortune funtastic week prepping my pantry for Sherry’s visit. The fact that I spent most of my time at Central Market, around lunch time, sampling their abundant freebies had nothing to do with the challenge. Really.

    I am, however, quite practiced at passing the same display multiple times, looking surprised to see it each time. Couple that with the art of chewing, tilting head from side-to-side, staring at a spot in the distance as if considering the taste — then, getting another sample because I’m obviously not yet sure — and it’s free lunch on Central Market. Woot!

    BTW, I gained five pounds reading the list of upcoming events. Hand me a spoon and a can of Eagle Brand.


  2. My step-dad is glutenfree. And he has a sweet tooth. We’ve actually found ways to make all sorts of things glutenfree over the years. A good stuffing option is a mix of quinoa and wild rice cooked with apples and raisins. He loves that. Another thing to be careful about is salad dressings. It’s amazing how many dressings add flour. We’ll be doing a 50/50 g/gf early thanksgiving on Sunday. Hubby will be making a gf chocolate pecan pie. Also, an FYI for anyone doing gluten free…La Choy soy sauce, though they don’t advertise it…is 100% gluten free and tons cheaper than the other brands that label themselves that way.


  3. Thanks so much for this post, Jenny! I’ve already printed it so I can use your suggestions as I shop today. This will be my first gluten-free (and dairy-free) Thanksgiving, which I know will be challenging. However, I’m not hosting the event this year. I’ll just have to provide my own food as needed. I’ve avoided all breads, cakes, and cookies since going on this diet, because I don’t like the taste of gluten-free bread. I should try baking my own desserts with the flour you suggested, though, and give it a chance. Oh, and thanks for the LaChoy soy sauce tip. Good to know!

    My favorite Thanksgiving food is turnips! Yup, plain turnips. Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂


  4. MonaKarel says:

    The real challenge is gluten free and low carb! All those yummy yummy multi grain breads have wheat in them, bummer. Which does save me from toast dripping with butter every day. If you can make a white sauce (and anyone can!) you can substituted for canned (???) condensed soup quite well, and control the amount of salt. Just add mushrooms in some form. I am not a creamed soup fan and the beans have never really done it for me, but oooh, those onions! I could eat a whole package of them, except I can’t bummer. I have found a cranberry tart with a crusted top that can be easily done as an almond/coconut flour crumble. Save the carcasses from the rotisserie chickens, when you have several make your own chicken broth, it’s sooo satisfying to slide that into conversations! LaChoy? Really, huh that’s good to know, thanks


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      My word, Mona…that IS a challenge! You’ll pretty much get turkey and veggies, which maybe some relish tray and sweet potatoes on the side. Still, you’ll remember that turkey for days. If you’re like me, you only make one turkey a year. 🙂


      • MonaKarel says:

        No sweet potatoes. If it was up to me, I’d stay home and think about cooking turkey breast. But my friends want me to come over, in two separate directions. I’ll probably take mashed cauliflower, and I’m thinking on trying those “spuds” with the mashed cauli…spoon or pipe onto a tray, dry in an oven, then fry a bit. Hmmm.


  5. On a non-gluten-free note, I think you may have just solved a mystery for me. Green bean casserole is an American thing, so I’d never even seen it until I went down to Virginia to spend my first US Thanksgiving with my husband’s (then boyfriend’s) family. I’m allergic to mushrooms and have had a mild reaction (bad migraine) every year after Thanksgiving dinner. Having never previously had green bean casserole, I didn’t know it used mushroom soup. Thank you! I can be migraine free this year simply by avoiding the green bean casserole 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yep, cream of mushroom soup is one of the main ingredients. You’ll definitely want to pass that by this year. 🙂

      I wish I lived near Virginia so I could pop over to see you while you’re in the States! Kathy Owen is there, you might want to see if you’ll be near her. (Lucky girls)


  6. K.B. Owen says:

    See, Jenny? You’re saving a lot of pain and aggravation for folks, one migraine and stomach cramp at a time. 😉 Thanks so much for the fab kick-off to our holiday recipe series! Yum! We still have room for other bloggers to participate in Holiday Yum – just let us know and we’ll put you in!

    Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!


  7. Most interesting! I suspect good cooks can make everything taste good. LOL Our trad dinner will include a turducken and I do love me some orange rolls. Looking forward to the yumminess incoming! Thanks to you all!


  8. I’m not only gluten free, but also egg, milk, and potato free, and try to keep the simple carb levels down, which makes Thanksgiving even more difficult. I have found some great recipes by searching on the internet. Last year I tried my old pie crust recipe with a gluten-free blend and it worked beautifully. I have also found that I can eliminate eggs from baked goods by adding a teaspoon of guar gum per egg to the liquid and mixing it very well, then letting it sit for a few minutes. I use coconut milk instead of regular milk, which adds a nice flavor (in my opinion, of course). Oh, and I am used to broccoli instead of the green beans, which is a good thing, since I’m allergic to the beans.


    • I guess that I’ve learned to just pass the things I can’t eat on to the person next to me and be grateful for everything I can eat! There’s usually so much at a Thanksgiving Day feast that’s wonderful and allergen safe that it’s easy to skip what’s not. The difficult thing for me is the rolls. I love rolls and haven’t found a good substitute.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Wowzers, Ann! You’ve got your work cut out for you, but it seems like you’ve experimented and made the change that works for you. And I’ll bet the coconut milk is an excellent substitute. 🙂


  9. This is a great idea, Jenny, and obviously you are passing on valuable info. Even though gluten is not an issue in our family, the more I read about it (mainly from you, thank you very much), the more I think it is something to which we should all give some thought. The Holiday Yum Blog Hop is a brilliantly delicious idea!


  10. My SIL makes the best GF noodle kugel in the world. Seriously. To die for. I’ll try to get her to share it with me so I can share it with you and Piper. And the rest of the GF world.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oooooooh! I love kugel, and that’s one of the items that’s been lost to me. I can’t wait, Renee…thanks! (and p.s. Happy Birthday!! I was right, you’re only 1 year older than me. 🙂 )


  11. I found a great vegan gf dinner roll recipe here and tried it out tonight to make sure it worked. I couldn’t keep my hands off of the rolls, they are so yummy.


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  13. Coleen Patrick says:

    Happy GF Thanksgiving Jenny!! 🙂


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  27. Great ideas, Jenny! Have you ever tried Schar GF breads? I think they’re better than Udi’s (and their table crackers are pretty good, too…no rice cake texture…yay!). Holidays and gluten-free can be a pain in the butt, but I keep experimenting. It will be sugar cookies this week, though I can tell you that I tried some with almond flour when I did low carb about ten years ago…they were delicious.

    As for pie crust…I’ve heard great things about Pamela’s bread mix, and will be trying that soon. I’ll have to check around for some Bob’s Red Mill biscuit mix though. All I’ve ever found is the all purpose GF flour mix.

    You scared me about the marshmallows, lol. While I don’t care for them alone, I do like to make the GF Rice Krispy treats once in awhile…and I LOVE marshmallow creme in my hot cocoa. 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I use Schar bread crumbs and love ’em. But I wasn’t a huge fan of their bread. I’ll use about anything for stuffing though.

      I’ll try Pamela’s! And for the rice krispy treats, they’re making GF cereal these days!! Wheeee…


      • Isn’t it funny how tastes differ? I did not like Udi’s much at all…but Schar is only good for toast, too (in my opinion they both pretty much suck, lol).

        I did want to add that Pamela’s bread mix makes pizza crust and mozzarella bread sticks as close to the real thing as I’ve had so far, so I’m assuming that making a loaf of bread with it will be better, too. But the crust and bread sticks…puffy and chewy. Almost like the stuff I used to get from pizzerias. I thought I was in heaven. I just wish I didn’t have to keep breaking out the bread machine to make it. 🙂


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  30. great ideas, in this list, Jenny. thanks.


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