Keeping the Gluten Out of Thanksgiving

For people who do a lot of cooking, eating gluten-free at home is not exceptionally hard.  Truly, there are tons of options these days. Plus, I eat a whole lot less in the way of processed food than I used to. I do miss beer on tap, restaurant bread, great bagels and ravioli. I don’t miss the migraines at all.


  • What about the holidays, 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 wrestle 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 still a struggle that’s all too common in today’s environment of food allergens.

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. Someone just told me the Progresso Cream of Mushroom is GF but I haven’t verified that personally.

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 (if so, what are your tricks)? 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!


For my American friends… Have a fantastic Thanksgiving!! I’m not sure if I’ll post again this week, so I wanted to take a moment to tell you how thankful I am for your fun and your friendship. I love a gorgeous holiday table, so please DO share your pictures with me on Twitter or Facebook!

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!
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17 Responses to Keeping the Gluten Out of Thanksgiving

  1. CristineGzr says:

    My dear husband is allergic to milk, his brother is lactose intolerant and his mother can’t eat nuts. I can completely understand the creative search for alternatives. We went on a exclusion diet and I was thrilled to find gluten not a problem, so my heart really goes out to you! It is very frustrating to find all the places milk is hidden! I applaud you for taking the time to share this with others, it can make life so much easier when we have others to help out especially this week when there is enough going on without searching for solutions!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Cristine, I have two online pals who can’t do dairy and I know they’ll share their secrets! Kristen Lamb and Kait Nolan. I’ll ask them to swing by. 🙂


    • Kait Nolan says:

      This is actually my first dairy free Thanksgiving. We’ve been doing things gluten free for quite some time for my husband. This year we found out that I was allergic to casein. Joy. I live in a small town, so I make pretty much everything from scratch or what I can order from Amazon (yay Prime!”). So, first up,

      Butter: I use Earth Balance soy free spread for all butter replacement. It works in every application I’ve tried.

      Cream of soups: I just used this recipe with unsweetened organic soy milk in my cornbread dressin.

      Buttermilk in the cornbread for the dressin’: I find that soy milk, soured with a bit of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar (my recipe for cornbread takes 1 3/4 cups of milk, 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar)

      For the mashed potatoes (which we don’t eat for Thanksgiving but I know a lot of people do), I use Earth Balance and either soy or almond milk. Cashew milk might be a good neutral milk too.

      Condensed milk is a real challenge. I have successfully used this recipe for a lemon icebox pie, though you have to watch because it tips from condensed milk and into caramel territory very quickly. I think you could use the same concept with any of the more neutral non dairy milks. But it’s a pain in the butt and very time consuming, so I’d just pick a different pie that’s naturally dairy free.

      That hits the big ones, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenny, I often read your FB page about your battle to find the perfect GF world. I have a good friend whose daughter needs to use GF only and she is a wonderful cook. She prepared an entire GF Turkey Day. She also shops at Whole Foods as they have a complete line of GF prepared baked goods or the ingredients to use to cook and bake yourself. I don’t have the need, but I wouldn’t mind a bit. Creative cooks can make anything taste great and I think you have become one of those. Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Florence, the gluten issue wouldn’t be so bad if people understood cross-contamination. Since they don’t, there’s challenges when we are out and about. Still, I’ve been pretty blessed, especially for the fact that I cooked a lot before my surgery in June. I’ve only had one really bad gluten migraine since the surgery, and that’s with going out several times.

      You don’t realize how much migraines impede your daily living until you DON’T have them anymore. At least I didn’t.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you to, my friend!


  3. I really like Glutino cornbread stuffing mix. I add extra sauteed onions and celery (don’t know if that makes a real difference though). I love how the top gets so nice and crispy. Also, my fave ready made GF pie crust is at Whole Foods. 🙂
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ooooh, I haven’t tried that, Coleen! I believe I’ve been working MUCH too hard. I just modified my family recipe so I’m making what I’ve always made, but without gluten. The biggest challenge each year is finding awesome GF croutons.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Have an amazing Thanksgiving Jenny and all the other More Cowbell fans!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Have an awesome gluten free Thanksgiving Jenny!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kit Dunsmore says:

    Our way of dealing is to let go of the traditions and work with what we’ve got. I have so many things beyond gluten that I can’t eat any more (all grains, dairy, and legumes, plus sugar) that it’s easier to focus on foods I can have (turkey! baked sweet potatoes, baked apples, broccoli) than trying to find replacements for the older dishes (like pie and bread stuffing). Plus, I tend to find the replacement foods that are pretending to be the food I used to love don’t taste all that great. I don’t want GF bread. I want bread. With wheat. But that’s just me. Fortunately, I have a very tolerant husband, and my family goes ahead and makes the dishes they really can’t do without, and I just pass on them.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been using the Progresso mushroom soup for casseroles and stroganoff for a couple of years now, Jenny. It’s pretty good. Of course, I hate mushrooms, so I strain those out. 😀

    But marshmallows???? I’ve never seen wheat listed on the ones I buy. I hope it’s not one of those hidden ingredients. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  8. markbialczak says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Jenny. Have a great holiday with hubby and family. Your GF recipes sound quite yummy. I do not have to eat gluten free, so here’s how I’ll answer your query. If somebody coming to dinner asks you if your meal will be gluten free, tell them yes. But I don’t think you have to volunteer the information to all. Don’t ask, don’t tell!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well all I can say is, I’m so glad this isn’t a problem for me. Sounds like a lot of work. I’m glad you’ve found things that work for you and you have a family who understands your needs and supports them.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving my friend!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


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