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How to Have The BEST Gluten-Free Thanksgiving and a Recipe Roundup

The last thanksgiving
Whether you’re newly gluten-free or a seasoned veteran, there is always something new to be learned in this lifestyle.  Being gluten-free certainly keeps you on your toes, whether its the sudden (and unannounced) ingredient changes in processed foods or the serious concerns over cross-contamination of naturally gluten free grains.  Nope, the gluten-free diet is FAR from boring, especially when it comes to all the delicious food you can make!

My underlying approach to this blog is to show my readers how to make ingredient substitutions for any dietary need.  You give someone the necessary tools for successful {whatever-free} cooking and baking and you give them the world.  I can share my family’s favorite Thanksgiving recipes (and I will), but more importantly, I want to share the individual ingredient substitutes that my mixed-diet family really enjoys, so you can modify your family’s favorite traditional recipes in a way that everyone will enjoy them (gluten-free or not).  Thanksgiving is about coming together, enjoying great company and delicious recipes…that’s what tradition is all about!

My first gluten-free Thanksgiving six years ago, was nothing short of a fiasco; the dressing was mushy, the gravy had the texture of something that belonged in a Kleenex tissue and the green bean casserole was, well – suffice it to say, inedible.  The situation was so bad, I did the worst thing imaginable…I cheated (which was easy to do since the rest of my family was eating the gluten-filled versions of my copycat failures).

Whatever you do, Do. Not. Cheat. (little sister, I’m talking to you specifically).  Even if you don’t feel any outward symptoms of being glutened (like myself), it is critical you understand that even the tiniest crumb of gluten has the power to ignite an immune response within your body that can take 4 months or longer to calm down.  Is one meal really worth that kind of serious damage?  Absolutely not!

That being said, life is too short to eat bad tasting food, so riddled throughout this post are my cooking tips, recommendations for ingredient substitutions and Thanksgiving favorite recipes from myself and my fellow bloggers (including recipes that are free from: corn, dairy, eggs, grains and refined sugar).  Last but certainly not least, we’ll share tips for navigating this holiday season’s social gatherings.  Are ya with me?  Good!  Now go grab yourself a warm beverage and let’s get to it! 😀

Let’s Talk Turkey

First, you need a turkey.  Sounds simple enough right?  Well, as with all things gluten…it has a funny way of sneaking into things.  Remember to read labels and if wheat is a hidden source of an ingredient, it must be listed on the label.  Barley and Rye however, do not need to be listed because they are not one of the top 8 allergens.  In my six years of being gluten-free, I’ve never come across any “hidden” rye, but barley is a different matter.

Hidden Sources of Barley

Malt or Malt Flavoring

Caramel Coloring (usually made from corn but *could* be made from barley and barley does not have to be listed on the ingredient list since it’s not one of the top 8 allergens (but companies will often disclose if barley is the source).

Read more about Barley Malt Ingredients in Labeled Gluten-Free Foods, Barley Enzymes in Gluten Free Products and from Tricia Thompson, MS, RD over at Gluten-Free Dietician.

Another important note is that the Sandwich ELISAs used for determining gluten content in food cannot adequately quantify gluten that has been highly hydrolyzed and one of the tests can underestimate barley protein. Read more from Tricia Thompson, MS, RD here.

That all being said, I’ve never come across a Turkey that wasn’t “gluten-free” but cross-contamination is always a possibility.   I think the bigger concern are the gravy packets included with some turkeys.  I would recommend throwing that out and make your own gravy instead, it’s really quite easy and tastes so much better.

I grew up on Butterball turkeys (you can read Butterball’s gluten statement here, question #4), but last year I made the switch to Mary’s Free Range Turkeys because there aren’t any flavorings, preservatives, irradiation, growth hormones or other funky ingredients to worry about.

Gluten-Free Turkey List

K.C. over at G-Free Foodie shared a comprehensive list of turkey manufacturers, their gluten-free status (if available) and company contact information, be sure to check it out.

To Brine or Not to Brine, That is the Question

If you go with a mainstream turkey, such as a Butterball or Honeysuckle White, you won’t need to brine the turkey because water and flavorings have already been added to the bird.  Should you decide to go with a free-range turkey however, it will be VERY IMPORTANT for you to brine the turkey before roasting it, otherwise it will turn out drier than the Mohave desert.  And free range turkeys aren’t cheap my friend, so be sure to brine that turkey!

I use this turkey brine recipe and we love it (only I use Kitchen Basic’s Turkey Stock in place of the vegetable broth).  What I like about that turkey brine recipe is that it doesn’t call for any sugar (unlike many brine recipes).  After the brine has cooled, I pour it into a clean 5-gallon bucket (which you can buy at a hardware store) and place the thawed turkey in, breast side down.  Once that is all set up, I place the bucket in the refrigerator that I have in our garage (after I’ve removed a few of the shelves) and allow the bird to soak for 2 to 3 days.  If you don’t have the refrigerator space, you can also use a cooler, just be sure to monitor the temperature and keep it at 40° F. (add ice as needed) to prevent spoilage.  For another method, check out How to Brine a Turkey over at Savory Sweet Life.

Roasting the Turkey

I’ve been following Alton Brown’s recommended method for roasting a turkey for the past couple years and it not only makes the most perfectly browned skin, it caramelizes the turkey drippings, so you get a darker gravy.

Flip the Bird!

After cooking the turkey at 500° F. for 30 minutes and adding the aluminum foil triangle as Alton recommends, I do one other thing: I reduce the heat to 325° F. and flip the bird over (breast side down) on the roasting rack so the fat and juices from the bottom of the turkey trickle down to the breast meat (I picked up that idea over at

Gluten-Free Dressing/Stuffing

Once you have your turkey situation square, it’s time to move on to the dressing/stuffing.  Remember, if you have the right substitutions, you can make anything you want and never feel deprived.

Gluten-Free Ingredient Substitutions

There are two products that I have found to be essential in recreating my family’s Thanksgiving recipes:

1) Ener-G Light Tapioca Loaf

2). Tom Sawyer’s Gluten Free Flour

Ener-G Light Tapioca Loaf is actually the bread I used to eat before Udi’s and Canyon Bakehouse came along.  Warning: this bread is not edible straight of the bubble wrap it’s packaged in (makes a great prank on unsuspecting gluten-eaters though, LOL!).  You must toast this bread before eating it!  Even though Udi’s and Canyon Bakehouse make some awesome gluten-free sandwich breads but I’ve found that they don’t do as well in dressing recipes. At least not in my recipes which call for a good amount of liquid to be added and the gluten-free “sandwich breads” tend to breakdown and become mushy and grainy in texture.

Heidi’s Gluten-Free Sage Dressing  

Heidi’s Gluten-Free Southern Cornbread Dressing  **for a CORN-FREE version of this recipe, try substituting mock cornbread

Gluten-Free Stuffing With Apples, Sausage, Pine Nuts from Cook IT Allergy Free

*GRAIN-FREE Options: This will be my first grain-free Thanksgiving, so I’m going to try making the sage dressing (a small batch for myself, since my little one is allergic to eggs) using one of my friend Elana’s bread recipes over at Elana’s Pantry: either her Paleo Bread or Gluten-Free Bread 2.0.  Elana’s Cranberry Apple Stuffing looks delicious too.

Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy

When it comes to turkey gravy, I’m terribly biased: How to Make the BEST Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy

*GRAIN-FREE Options: You can always use arrowroot to thicken the gravy, but I’m not a fan of the texture of starch-thickened gravy (just be sure to make a slurry with water or stock first!)  My plan is to try Elana’s creative recipe for Herb Gravy over at Elana’s Pantry.

If making your own gravy ain’t your cup of tea, you can read my 2009 reviews of a few gluten-free store bought gravies.

Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls

Crescent Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free

Also check out Jeanne’s Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls over at The Art of Gluten Free Baking.  Jeanne is my go-to gal for all things gluten-free baking.   (Jeanne was the inspiration behind the gluten-free powdered donuts and her Tres Leche Cake is to die for…speaking of which, I really need to try making that cake dairy-free!)

Mashed Potatoes

Wanna know the simplest trick for making the BEST mashed potatoes ever?  Find out in my post for Eventually Instant Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes!

Don’t eat potatoes?

Try Sunny’s Twice Baked Vegan Mashed Paleo Potatoes over at And Love It Too!

Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole

If you are newly gluten-free, I’ll just take a guess at what you’re craving most: Green Bean Casserole!  Yep, I did too.  So much so, I OBSESSED over finding the perfect gluten-free condensed mushroom soup recipe for TWO YEARS so I could have my beloved green bean casserole again.  2009 was the first (and last) year I’d had “real” green bean casserole since my diagnosis in 2005 and guess what?  My kids wouldn’t touch it, they wanted green beans almondine instead, LOL!  How weird is that?  Turns out, they don’t dig “foods that touch.”  BUT if I really wanted it, I could still have it and that is the point, right? Right!

Gluten-Free Ingredient Substitutions

I Can’t Believe it’s Gluten Free! Condensed Mushroom Soup

*For Dairy-Free: I definitely recommend trying the recipe in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook (Alisa’s recipe is not gluten-free, so just be sure to use your favorite gluten-free flour blend).  This is the recipe I’ve been using since we went dairy-free and it’s delish, you can see a picture of it here.

Gluten-Free French Onion Rings

Now that you have the right gluten-free substitutes, you can just follow the recipe for Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole (we never added soy sauce growing up but if you do, just make sure it’s gluten-free soy sauce).

More Gluten-Free Side Dishes

Green Beans with Balsamic Onions from Simply Gluten-Free

Green Beans with Shallots and Mushrooms from Two Sisters Gluten Free

Heidi’s Candied Sweet Potatoes

Candy Carrot Coins from Gluten Free Easily

Cold Green Bean Shallot Salad from Cook IT Allergy Free

Cane Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce from Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen (this is what I make and it’s awesome).

Fennel and Red Onion Salad from Book of Yum

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

I hate making pie crust, even before going gluten-free.  Pie crust and Heidi Kelly definitely just don’t belong in the same sentence.  I’m the type of person who wants her pie crust to look Martha Stewart worthy and in order for that to occur, one must possess a certain level of patience.  Sadly, I do not fit the bill in that regard!  The few times I’ve actually tried making my own pie crust, I used this recipe for Gluten-Free Pie Crust by Bette Hagman and it was delicious…albeit very ugly. 😉

If dairy and eggs are allowed in your diet, Whole Foods makes a really good pre-made gluten-free pie crust and they also have a recipe for one on their website.  This crust would be great for someone who is making a pie for a friend or family member on the gluten-free diet, no flours to buy and a little less risk for cross-contamination.

Last year was my first year sans pumpkin pie (we were newly egg-free), but all was not lost once I discovered Elana’s Vegan and Gluten-Free Pumpkin Custard (my kids absolutely LOVE this stuff!).

More Pie Crust (and Pumpkin) Recipes:

Best Pumpkin Pie Ever and its Crustless, Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free from Gluten Gluten Free Easily

Pumpkin Pie Foolery from Lexie’s Kitchen (also dairy-free and egg-free)

Grain-Free Pumpkin Pie and Pie Crust from The Spunky Coconut (also dairy-free, egg-free and no-bake)

Grain-Free Almond Flour Crust from Elana’s Pantry

Gluten-Free Pie Crust from Johnna’s 52 Sweets

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Egg-Free Pie Crust from Allergic Adventures

Gluten-Free Pecan and Oat Crust from The Witchy Kitchen

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies from Beyond Rice and Tofu (these are melt in your mouth delicious).

Gluten and Grain-Free Pumpkin Muffins from Glugle Gluten Free (these would be great to nosh on during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!)

Don’t Like Pumpkin?

If you have an “Uncle Norm” in your family (I do: my dad), try one of these recipes instead!

Heidi’s Gluten-Free Cranberry Apple Crisp

Candied Apple Cranberry Upside-Down Cake from Cook IT Allergy Free

Toffee Pecan Apple Streusel from Cook IT Allergy Free

Pear Cranberry Almond Crumble from Simply Gluten Free

Helpful Dairy-Free Substitutes

Heavy Cream: use an equal amount of Cashew Cream, canned Coconut Milk, So Delicious Original Coffee Creamer or MimicCream

Whipped Cream: MimicCream Healthy Top this stuff is really good, reminds me of Cool Whip…but it contains corn and I’m allergic so now I make Homemade Coconut Whipped Cream

Cream Cheese: use an equal amount of Cashew Cream Cheese

Cream Cheese Frosting: Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting from No Whey Baby is spot on!

Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk from And Love it Too!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Dairy-Free Evaporated Milk
Recipe type: Dairy-Substitute
Prep Time: 
Cook Time: 
Total Time: 
  1. Combine both coconut milks in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the volume is reduced by half, or 14-ounces (the same amount as one can of dairy evaporated milk), about 1 hour.


Egg Replacers

Eggs are tricky to replace and there’s not one hard and fast substitute.  The type of egg replacer you use will ultimately depend on the recipe (and loads of trial and error).

Print out the comprehensive EGG SUBSTITUTE CHART over at Chef in You and tape it to the inside of your cupboard (that way it’s always handy when you need it).

My two favorite egg substitutes are the following (I used a combination of both to make an Egg-Free version of King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix):

Chia Egg Replacer

For each egg called for in a recipe (I’ve successfully replaced up to 3 eggs with this substitute):

1 tsp. ground White Chia Seeds

3 Tbs. Water

Combine and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until mixture thickens.

Water/Oil and Baking Powder “Eggs”

For each egg called for in a recipe (I wouldn’t recommend replacing more than 2 eggs with this substitute):

2 Tbs. Water

1 Tbs. Oil

1/2 tsp. Baking Powder

Combine water and oil in small bowl or measuring cup.  Right before you’re ready to add the “egg” to your recipe, dump the baking powder into the oil/water mixture and stir to activate the baking powder.  Use immediately and get your recipe in the oven A.S.A.P.


Last Bites

How to Cook for Gluten-Free Guests from The W.H.O.L.E. Gang

Five tips for a Safe Gluten Free Thanksgiving (or other group event) from Gluten Free Easily

Most Important Ways to Stay Healthy This Holiday from Cook IT Allergy Free

Do you have any tips for having a safe gluten-free Thanksgiving?
If so, please leave a comment!


  1. Wow! That is a lot of work for this post. I am impressed. Thanks for the link love, dear.



  2. Wow, what a great post that's packed full of resources! This will be our third Thanksgiving GF, so we're getting the hang of it, but it's still so convenient to have everything that I could possibly need organized into one post like this. Thanks so much, Heidi!

  3. This took so much time!!! Thanks, Heidi! You're amazing! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Moriah,

      I think this post was a 10-hour affair, but I worked on it over the course of a few weeks so no big deal!

      I do hope the tips and recipe links are helpful for everyone. I'm so worried that my sister will succumb to cheating this holiday season because she works many hours a week and just doesn't have time to comb the internet (unlike her big sister apparently, LOL!).

      I hope you and yours have a wonderful, safe and tasty gluten-free Thanksgiving!


  4. I love how thorough your posts are! There are so many wonderful ideas here… this will be my first grain-free Thanksgiving too (also nut and egg free), so I'm a bit at a loss and thinking I'll have to let go of my traditional ideas. But I'm determined to come up with a pumpkin pie substitute that I can have, and I think I'm almost there. 🙂 And for stuffing, I can't do eggs, but Brittany (Real Sustenance) just posted an awesome looking paleo stuffing recipe using coconut and almond flour.

  5. wow, wow, WOW! Great post Heidi – you put so much work into this. Thank you!

  6. You AMAZE me, woman! And that's each and every day, too. 🙂 What a totally awesome, comprehensive post. Thanks so much for the link love, too. Off to share this one for sure,and I'll be referencing it myself. 😉



  7. As I said before, you are amazing! As for your sister, she is so very, very lucky to have you as her sister, GFree coach, and supporter. I, too, hope she doesn't cheat – yet, somehow those few 'morning after' bellyaches are all too often part of the learning process. My 13 y/o daughter had her brother take her to the store to buy a fully gluten cake mix which she and her friend made and ate 1/2 the batter while i was at the doctor (sh'es also not to have eggs, corn, or cane sugar). I came home and she was just lying on the couch miserable. And was sick the entire next day. Of course, she was said she didn't know why….until i found the rest of the batter in a bowl in the refrig in the garage. While I was frustrated with her at the time, she learned on her own that she never ever wanted to feel that terrible again and she hasn't cheated since! 🙂

  8. Whoa, this is one complete post! I will definitely be passing this around cyberspace. What a great compilation of good recipes!! Thanks for all the work you do, Heidi-girl. This is amazing!


  9. I have that cartoon too. It's one of my favorites since our table looks almost exactly like that. No one is on macrobiotic, yet! Thank you for sharing my post on gf guests.

    The most important thing I can remind people of is to trust their instincts. If you think the person cooking for you really doesn't know all of the ins and outs, bring your own food. You'll feel good after the meal and your host will be happy you didn't get sick.

  10. WOWSA!! You are awesome!! This is one incredible incredible compilation of dishes! Our allergy friendly friends will be eating well this year! Thank you for all of the amazing link love in this baby as well! I love it!! All of your ideas are going to be so helpful for so many this year.

    Great job, girlie!!



  11. Wow! I think you hit it all! Thanks for the link love…I also have a super easy apple crisp recipe up now, the one I made for us all on Friday.

  12. WOW! What an amazing post, a great reference for the holidays. Thank you so much for putting this together.

  13. What a great, complete post! Love all the tips and tricks, and those crescent rolls look A MAZING!


  14. What a great line-up, Heidi! Thank you so much for incluing me on your list.

    With so many tips and tricks, this Thanksgiving is bound to be easier than before.

    Thank you thank you thank you!



  15. A heartfelt "THANK YOU" !!! Ton of helpful info, in ONE place….great for our first gluten free Thaksgiving! I want you to know how APPRECIATIVE I am!

  16. Heidi,

    You just made Thanksgiving a whole lot easier and happier for so many folks. Thank you!

  17. Lexie's Kitchen says

    You put a ton of work into this one. Much appreciated as I haven’t even started planning turkey day yet! Aggh …. love the comic at top … : ) xoLexie


  1. […] Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom has seriously outdone herself with a comprehensive round-up of her own, including recipes from across the blogosphere and helpful information on various components of the meal. […]

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