Insider’s Viewpoint: Making Thanksgiving Delicious and Gluten Free

If you’re not a savvy gluten-free shopper or cook, you may have feelings of anxiety when preparing Thanksgiving dinner for guests following a gluten-free meal plan. Make it easy! Simply choose dishes that are naturally gluten-free. The quickest, easiest way of doing this? Cooking with vegetables and fruits. They’re a win-win for your prep time, health and taste buds!

3 Steps to a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

  1. Choose ingredients free of wheat, rye, barley and non-certified gluten-free oats.
    These grains either contain gluten or become contaminated with gluten through cross contact as in the case of oats. Individuals with celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis and non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot digest gluten without reaction. It’s essential to ensure all foods they eat are free of any gluten-containing ingredients.

      Keep It Simple: Make fruits and vegetables the staple of your holiday dinner. Vegetables and fruits in their natural form (ie: without any added ingredients) are always gluten free.
  2. Keep dishes gluten free, when cooking.
    Be mindful of possible areas of cross contact in your kitchen while prepping recipes. Are foods that contain gluten stored above those that are not? Think of where you store your potatoes, butternut squash and onions. Are they at the bottom of your pantry shelf under flour, breads, pastas and cereals? Also, if you are cooking gluten-containing recipes, do so after preparing the gluten-free options, if possible.

    Don’t forget about the utensils, pots and pans you use! Ensure they are in fact free of microscopic gluten molecules by either using brand new tools, as in the case of casserole dishes, spatulas and cutting boards, or giving them both a good scrub with a brand new wash cloth and running through the dishwasher.

      Keep It Simple: When in doubt, ask guests attending your meal how they ensure their kitchen utensils remain gluten free. Some use only brand new items while others feel comfortable in the latter method of scrubbing and dishwashing before use.

    Note: When it comes to small appliances such as toaster ovens, it’s always best to stay clear of those already used with gluten-containing foods. Simply use a new, unused appliance or forego its use all together.

  3. Keep dishes gluten free, when serving.
    Watch out for possible areas of cross contact on the buffet and dinner table. Keep gluten-free options off to the side on their own, or simply go completely gluten-free with these tips:

    • Choose already seasoned, instant gluten-free stuffing mix for stuffing. Simply add in aromatic vegetables that enhance flavor such as celery, onions, shallots and garlic.
    • When preparing homemade stuffing, opt for gluten-free breads and bread crumbs.
    • Verify your turkey is not enhanced with solution containing gluten as a binder or thickening agent.
    • Bake desserts and create gravy with gluten-free baking mixes, flours and seasoning packets.
    • For appetizers, cube gluten-free breads for dip and offer gluten-free crackers and pretzels.
    • Make vegetables and fruits the base of your dishes— from crudités and dips to side dishes and desserts, the possibilities are as endless as your imagination!

    Looking for delicious, gluten-free inspirations? Look no further. The recipes below are my family favorites that your own family is sure to enjoy. Bon appétit!


    Chai-Spiced Orange-Cranberry Sauce from Yankee Magazine
    Yield: 6 cups


    • 1-½ cups water
    • 2-¼ cups sugar
    • 5 bags spiced chai black tea
    • 8 cups frozen or fresh cranberries (about 2 bags)
    • ¼ cup orange juice


    1. In a 4-quart pot over high heat, combine water and sugar.
    2. Cover and bring to a boil; then reduce heat to medium-low and add teabags.
    3. Simmer exactly 2 minutes; then remove teabags with a slotted spoon.
    4. Add cranberries and increase heat to medium-high.
    5. Simmer, stirring often, until cranberries soften and split their skins and sauce thickens a bit, 10 to 15 minutes.
    6. Remove from heat, stir in orange juice, and let cool to room temperature before serving (the sauce will thicken further as it cools). Or cover and refrigerate up to 4 days.

    Derived from an original recipe by Yankee magazine.

    Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake
    Serves: 8


    • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
    • 2 large apples, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick slices
    • ½ cup frozen or fresh cranberries
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil


    • Place squash into a large, ungreased microwavable baking dish or 7×11-inch baking dish.
    • Top with apples and cranberries.
    • Mix sugar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon together. Sprinkle on top of fruit.
    • Drizzle olive oil over mixture.
    • Microwave for 20 minutes, mixing halfway through, or bake for 50-60 minutes in a 350° F preheated oven. Test for doneness before removing from microwave or oven.
    • Based on a recipe from Sue Mazrolle, MSRD, LDN.

Carrie Taylor, RDN, LDN
Lead Registered Dietitian
Living Well Eating Smart Program
Big Y Foods
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