Table of Contents:
- Burgers and Fries
- Waffle Bar
- Ice Cream Sundae Bar
- Grilled Cheese
- Pasta and Meatballs
- Taco Bar
- Walking Tacos
- Corn Dogs
- Cupcake Decorating Party
- Chicken Nuggets
- Get it Catered
As a busy mom with celiac disease who genuinely enjoys hosting parties for my kids’ birthdays or any time we can find an excuse for a party, I am always on the lookout for gluten-free party food ideas that can be effortlessly pulled together.
When entertaining, I carefully choose gluten-free party foods and preparation and presentation methods that will make them taste good, even to gluten-eaters. My goal is for my guests to forget (or never even notice) that they are eating gluten-free.
Here are some kid-approved successes we have had over the years to inspire your own gluten-free party food.
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Gluten-Free Burgers and Fries
Gluten-free cheeseburgers are an easy crowd pleaser.
Gluten-free buns, however, can be tricky when serving gluten-eaters. They are better toasted, so be sure to toast them on the grill while you have it fired up for the burgers. I like to brush on a little olive oil or butter and garlic powder before grilling.
Brands of gluten-free hamburger buns that we have enjoyed and that I recommend are Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free burger buns, Udi’s gluten-free classic hamburger buns, Schar gluten-free hamburger buns, and Trader Joe’s gluten-free hamburger buns.
Bread SRSLY makes delicious gluten-free, sourdough dinner rolls that are perfect for gluten-free sliders. For $5 off your first order, use the promo code GlutenFreely.
Miss E painted this cute “Donut Be Sad” canvas we used for a gluten-free donut party.
Gluten-free donuts are fun as a dessert or as a simple breakfast after a sleepover.
Miss E really likes Kinnikinnick gluten-free donuts and Katz gluten-free donuts. When serving gluten-free donuts to gluten eaters, who are not used to the cake-like texture, I often opt for gluten-free donut holes, with a higher ratio of crispy, sugar outside to cake-like inside.
For added fun (and added sugar!), let the kiddos decorate their gluten-free donuts with store-bought frosting (labeled gluten-free) and Betty Crocker sprinkles.Albertsons: $30 Off your 1st online order when you spend $75 or more on DriveUp & Go with code SAVE30.
Betty Crocker sprinkles are currently listed as gluten-free on the Betty Crocker website but double-check when you buy.
Important! Betty Crocker’s candy eyes may contain wheat, but Amazon sells a container of gluten-free candy eyes that lasts a long time. You will want to pull them out of your pantry when it’s time to make gluten-free monster cupcakes for Halloween.
If you are lucky enough to have a gluten-free bakery that sells gluten-free donuts near you, the yummy taste of fresh gluten-free donuts is worth the trip and the splurge for your party! A few of our favorite donut-selling gluten-free bakeries in Los Angeles County are Erin McKenna’s Bakery (also in NYC and Orlando), Twice Baked Baking Company (amazing gluten-free donut holes!), and BreadBlok. Depending on your net worth, the delicious $8 maple brioche donuts at BreadBlok are probably too much of a splurge for a kids’ party. Still, it is worthwhile to get one for YOU to savor while the kids entertain themselves decorating gluten-free store-bought donuts.
Gluten-Free Waffle Bar
Like gluten-free donuts, gluten-free waffles make a great breakfast after a slumber party.
If I am going for easy, Van’s gluten-free waffles are my first choice. Always double-check the packaging, because Van’s wheat-containing waffles have very similar to the gluten-free waffle packaging.
For a bit more flair, I use my vertical Belgian waffle maker for beautiful and delicious gluten-free Belgian waffles. Use Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix or King Arthur Gluten-Free Pancake Mix and your little partygoers will never know they are eating gluten-free waffles.
Need ideas for gluten-free toppings for your waffle bar? The Organized Mom has 17 Toppings for Any Waffle Bar that are all easily sourced gluten-free.
Our usual gluten-free waffle bar toppings are Nestle mini chocolate chips (labeled gluten-free), Reddi-Wip Whipped Cream, pure maple syrup, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup (labeled gluten-free), fresh berries, Nutella, and bananas.
You can’t go wrong with pizza for a kids’ party. Even the pickiest of kids will usually eat a cheese pizza.
From most to least work, here are some options:
Make-Your-Own-Gluten-Free pizzas! Because of the challenges of working with a gluten-free crust, I would not advise making your own gluten-free pizza dough for a kids’ party. It would require a lot of hands-on assistance. Instead, start with a ready-made crust option, like Schar Gluten-Free pizza crusts, Udi’s Gluten-Free French Baguettes, or Glutino Gluten-Free English Muffins.
Set out gluten-free pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and kid-favorite, gluten-free pizza toppings, such as gluten-free pepperoni, pineapple, olives, and fresh basil. Most pizza toppings will be naturally gluten-free fruits and veggies, but definitely check the label on items like sausages, which may contain gluten fillers.
If you want to get more adventurous, check out these 25 Creative Pizza Toppings from Cool Mom Eats, just remember to modify and check labels for gluten-free.
Heat up a gluten-free frozen pizza. Our store-bought gluten-free pizza of choice is Against the Grain. For kid-friendly options, we go with the cheese-only and cheese & pepperoni varieties.
Order gluten-free pizza delivery from a safe restaurant near you. There is something about pizza cooked in a pizza oven that is very hard to achieve at home. If you are lucky enough to have a celiac-safe one near you, ordering a gluten-free pizza from a pizzeria near you is a great option. Your guests will likely not have a clue they are eating gluten-free pizza.
Fresh Brothers, with locations throughout Southern California, is one of our favorite pizzerias with gluten-free pizza, along with gluten-free chicken bites and gluten-free salads. Fresh Brothers understands cross-contamination and has excellent prevention procedures in place. They even seal the boxes with a gluten-free sticker, providing reassurance that there is no cross-contamination during the delivery process.
Gluten-Free Ice Cream Sundae Bar
A gluten-free, ice cream sundae bar is perfect anytime, but especially for a summer party. Gluten will not be missed. Grab a few cartons of your favorite gluten-free Breyer’s ice cream. Breyers maintains a list of its gluten-free ice cream flavors online and marks gluten-free on the package.
Let your little party guests add their own Betty Crocker Sprinkles (listed as gluten-free on its website) and candy, such as gluten-free gummy bears and “movie theater candy”. Mike & Ikes, Junior Mints, and Milk Duds are all labeled gluten-free.
For a little crunch, put out serving bowls and spoons with Fruitty Pebbles (yes, they are gluten-free!), crushed, gluten-free graham crackers, gluten-free Oreos, and Goodie Girls Mint Cookies. If you have never tried Goodie Girls Mint Cookies, they are an amazing, gluten-free version of Girl Scouts Thin Mints.
Kids love to add their own syrups and whipped cream! Need a gluten-free caramel topping for your ice cream? Hershey’s Caramel Syrup is labeled gluten-free, along with Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and Hershey’s Strawberry Syrup.
Gluten-Free Grilled Cheese
Grilled cheese sandwiches are loved by most kids… and it is so easy to make a delicious gluten-free grilled cheese.
Start with a really good gluten-free bread. Unfortunately, gluten-free bread is usually easily distinguishable from wheat-containing bread; but Canyon Bakehouse has done an amazing job of creating a line of gluten-free bread that tastes remarkably like normal bread.
Toasting/heating/grilling gluten-free bread is a well-known hack in the gluten-free world to make some of the dryest gluten-free bread taste decent. So, taking a good gluten-free bread and turning it into grilled cheese will only make it better.
To speed up the process of making gluten-free grilled cheese for a party, I recently purchased a panini press that stores vertically and can quickly make three sandwiches at a time.
You can add a little variety by having kids build their own gluten-free grilled cheese sandwiches or by offering choices: ham and swiss, thinly-sliced apple and cheddar, pepper jack with turkey and avocado, or Caprese are all creative options. Many kids are not adventurous eaters, so let them do the deciding.
Gluten-Free Pasta and Meatballs
For a kids’ party, you can’t go wrong with gluten-free spaghetti and meatballs!
For everyday, healthy meals for my family, I usually opt for spaghetti squash or lentil pasta. But not for guests. Remember, my goal when feeding gluten-free food to gluten-eaters is for them not to notice that it’s gluten-free. This is so easy with gluten-free pasta.
Barilla Gluten-Free Spaghetti is an excellent choice and is readily available at most stores. However, if you can wait a few days for an Amazon delivery, I highly recommend La Veneziane Gluten-Free pasta, which comes in a variety of pasta shapes. Your guests won’t notice that it’s gluten-free. Make sure you stir it frequently while cooking, as gluten-free pasta likes to clump together.
My husband makes the best gluten-free, turkey meatballs. I shadowed him in the kitchen and finally pinned down his recipe. The key to his amazing meatballs or to making your family meatball recipe gluten-free is gluten-free breadcrumbs, gluten-free panko breadcrumbs, or (Dave’s favorite) gluten-free Simple Mills crackers, finely ground in a food processor or blender.
In a pinch, I have purchased store-bought, gluten-free meatballs.
Easy party tip: make your gluten-free meatballs and sauce the day before your party. This will free up time the day of the party and they will taste better the next day after the flavors meld overnight. You can keep them warm in a crock pot during the party.
Gluten-free s’mores are a fun idea for gluten-free party food for kids. Not only are they delicious, but the kids are also making memories sitting around a fire roasting marshmallows.
During the covid lockdown, like many families, we splurged on a fire pit (this model is similar to the one we purchased from a local furniture store). Our fire pit gave us a peaceful place to gather with friends, and we used every celebration as an excuse to make gluten-free s’mores.
You can stick with traditional s’mores by using Pamala’s gluten-free graham-style crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey’s milk chocolate bars. Stick to 1.55 oz bars, as not all Hershey’s bars are free from cross-contamination. Hershey’s has a great gluten-free webpage where you can search for information on over 200 gluten-free Hershey products.
Or mix it up! We regularly use Tate’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chips Cookies instead of graham crackers. Just don’t open the bag before the party, or there is a chance you will devour all of the cookies! Swap out the chocolate for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or York Peppermint Patties. And for Easter, what would be better than Peeps in lieu of marshmallows?!
Gluten-Free Taco Bar
The gluten-free taco bar at our Superhero Birthday party was a hit with the kids!
Flavor chicken or ground beef with gluten-free taco seasoning. Prep easy toppings: tomatoes, onions, shredded lettuce, cilantro, avocado, shredded cheese, salsa, and sour cream.
There are so many options for a gluten-free tortilla. Corn tortillas are the most affordable, and most brands of corn tortillas are labeled gluten-free. Siete Almond Flour Tortillas are so good. And bendy! If you have had your gluten-free tortilla uselessly fall apart, you know how important a bendy tortilla is. Old El Paso Stand N Stuff Taco Shells are gluten-free and affordable. Or serve gluten-free tortilla chips and let the kids build their own gluten-free nachos.
For ready-made shortcuts, Del Real Foods makes gluten-free packages of rice, beans, Pollo Asado (grilled chicken), Carnitas (slow-cooked pork), and a variety of other meats that would be excellent taco fillings. Del Real Foods are frequently sold at Costco.Albertson’s $30 OFF DRIVEUP & GO™
Gluten-Free Walking Tacos
I was several decades old when I first heard of the walking taco. If this is new to you, too, basically, a walking taco is a bag of chips filled with taco ingredients that kids (and adults!) can eat while walking around.
The base of your gluten-free walking taco is an individual, gluten-free, bag of chips. Happily, Fritos are labeled gluten-free and a classic walking taco base. Unlike the picture above, which is sort of a walking taco, carefully cut your Frito bags open, as close to the top as possible. The kids will need all of the bag space to fit the rest of their walking taco.
For a walking taco, a prefer ground beef or turkey seasoned with gluten-free taco seasoning.
Kids can fill the Fritos bag with ground meat and the same toppings you would use at a taco bar, like salsa, shredded cheese, tomatoes, onions, shredded lettuce, cilantro, sour cream, and anything else your kids like.
Add a fork and let them walk around! Preferably, outside!
Gluten-Free Corn Dogs
My very favorite kids’ birthday party was a circus party. I hired a hilarious magician, Sam Shazam, set up carnival booths, and planned fun carnival party food, including Popcornopolis Gourmet Popcorn, candy apples, and corn dogs.
Gluten-free corn dogs are such an efficient way to please a crowd of kids and keep your celiac child safe. Your pickiest eaters may peel off the cornbread, but usually, all of the kids will eat the hot dog. Plus, kids get to dip them in ketchup, which is helpful in getting them to try new foods.
Foster Farms Gluten-Free Corn Dogs are by far the most bang for your buck when it comes to serving gluten-free corn dogs to a crowd. They are sold in an affordable 12-pack, and the taste is indistinguishable from gluten-containing corndogs. Unfortunately, so is the package. The gluten-free corn dogs and regular corn dogs have similar packaging. Look for the giant words “Gluten-Free” on the front.
Gluten-Free Cupcake Decorating Party
Decorate-your-own-cupcake is my favorite gluten-free party hack. Gluten-free cakes from a bakery can be pricey and not every parent has the time or inclination to bake a masterpiece for every birthday. Bring in the gluten-free cupcake decorating party!
We first tried this idea at my kids’ Superhero Birthday party. It was so popular with the kids and such a time saver for me that we had decorate-your-own-gluten-free-cupcakes at birthday parties for several years… until Miss E decided to break the tradition by requesting a very complicated, tiered, Unicorn-Pegasus-Mermaid-Kitten, gluten-free, birthday cake.
Many store-bought tubs of frosting are labeled gluten-free, including Pillsbury Funfetti frosting available in several bright colors and Betty Crocker frosting. Again, Betty Crocker is my go-to brand for gluten-free sprinkles, which are advertised as gluten-free on its website.
Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets or Chicken Tenders
As your guests arrive, you can heat these up on a large baking sheet with gluten-free french fries. For crispier chicken and fries, I prefer an air fryer. Crowd size is the deciding factor, as I can get more food in my oven than in my air fryer.
Add ketchup, gluten-free bbq sauce, and a fruit tray, and you are ready with a fast and kid-approved, gluten-free party menu.
Gluten-free quesadillas are another, simple to throw together, kid-favorite, easy-to-disguise-that-they-are-gluten-free, meal for a children’s birthday party. Check out GF Jules’ Quick, Gluten-Free Quesadilla Recipe.
Because you are heating these tortillas and essentially gluing them together with cheese, any gluten-free tortilla is a great choice, including La Tortilla Factory gluten-free tortillas, Mission gluten-free tortillas, or the previously mentioned corn tortillas (super affordable and most brands are labeled gluten-free) and Siete Almond Flour Tortillas.
Get it Catered (Gluten-Free)
Nothing is easier than having an expert do it for you. From local restaurants to national chains, gluten-free catering for celiacs is possible.
If you have a 100% gluten-free restaurant near you, see if they have catering options or even take-out for a crowd.
One of our kids’ birthday parties was catered by Asian Box, a gluten-free, Vietnamese restaurant with locations throughout California. Inspired by Asian street stalls and favorites like gluten-free pho (seasonal offering) and gluten-free Bahn mi, Asian Box was enjoyed by kids and adults, and had options for our vegetarian guests.
If there is not a fully gluten-free restaurant in your neighborhood, the same methods you use for vetting a restaurant when dining out work for feeding a crowd. For tips on this, check out The Nomad Fitzpatrick’s 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Dining Out with Celiac Disease.
We love Tacos & Company, an authentic Mexican restaurant with locations around Orange County. It is not a dedicated gluten-free establishment, but Carla from Tacos & Company can guide you in selecting which items will be safe for your gluten-free party. She knows how the food is prepared and is knowledgeable about cross-contamination. Her team sets up everything and prepares delicious fresh, Mexican food and refreshing drinks that the kids will love.
A national chain, like Chipotle, is a convenient catering option for your gluten-free party. We regularly dine out at our local Chipotle, so I know it is well-vetted and the employees are well trained in preventing cross-contamination. Only the flour tortillas contain gluten, so there are a lot of gluten-free options at Chipotle. Choose Crispy Corn Taco Shells at checkout.
Even if you trust your local Chipotle or another favorite restaurant, make sure you talk to the manager or to the chef preparing the gluten-free food for your event and ask the usual cross-contamination questions.
I’d love to hear your suggestions for kids’ gluten-free party food! For more tips on living and entertaining gluten-freely, sign up below for our Go Gluten Freely newsletter.