Keeping gluten off the dinner table on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the one day each year when it’s acceptable (and expected) for people to leave the dinner table with unbuttoned pants and bulging stomachs, but for many Americans, an allergy to a large component of many Thanksgiving Day foods poses a problem.

Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and other grains. Gluten not only helps dough rise and keep its shape, it gives most foods a chewy texture that people are drawn to. Unfortunately, more and more people are discovering an allergy to this commonly-found composite.

So, if you’re on a gluten-free diet or have gluten intolerance, how do you leave the table full and satisfied like everyone else?

The answer is simple: substitution and careful planning.

Gluten-free cornbread and bacon stuffing (

Substitution 1: Make your own stuffing. 

Stuffing is one of the most popular side dishes placed next to the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly, many boxed stuffings have large amounts of breading, which contains gluten.

Making your own stuffing seems like the most logical alternative if you run across no gluten-free stuffing in the store. There are plenty of stuffing recipes online that either uses no breading or substitute breading with gluten-free bread or cornbread.

When making recipes, keep in mind that some spices can contain gluten in order to keep it from clumping and should be checked thoroughly for gluten additives; many health store offer gluten-free baking products.

Substitution 2: Make your own gravy

With turkey comes mashed potatoes, and with mashed potatoes, there is always gravy.

However, many types of gravy — especially the packaged varieties — are thickened with flour, which is one of the most avoided products when on a gluten-free diet. A great gluten-free gravy thickener is cornstarch rather than gluten-filled flour products.

As with the stuffing, gluten-free gravy can be found in many health stores and it never hurts to look in common grocery stores. Many recipes can be found on the internet as well, so don’t be afraid to experiment — you never know when you could end up as the life of the party at a gluten-free dinner table.

Traditional pumpkin pie. Gluten-free options can be found online or in stores. (

OK, but what about pies?

Who can deny the long table of different pies after the turkey has been put away?

For gluten-free Thanksgiving goers, it’s important to remember that pie crust contains gluten, and even some pie fillings and canned fruits do, too. So, don’t think you’re off the hook by just eating the filling!

To be sure a pie is gluten-free, try substituting canned fruits and filling by using mashed fresh fruit — go ahead and thicken it with as much sugar as you think it needs — and try making your own pie crust.

You may have to go to a health food store, but there are some options for making your own gluten-free flour blends.

Finally, check labels

What if you are eating Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s dinner table?

When you aren’t the host and aren’t in charge of the baking, ask if you can bring a couple dishes to pass. Most hosts love when they can cut down on their cooking!

You could also ask the host for the labels on the food they cooked or used for baking. When taking this route, be sure to check for flour and wheat ingredients.

Remember …

A gluten-free Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a drag and you don’t have to leave the dinner table hungry. Don’t go without at the feast of the year! Many people make homemade dishes for Thanksgiving dinner, so why not add your own gluten-free twist?