It’s that time of year… the days get shorter and crisper… unless you are in the middle of a California heatwave! But, that’s nothing a slice of gluten-free Pumpkin bread and air conditioning can’t fix!
The turn of each season brings a flood of sentimental memories and excitement about making more. For those of us needing to live gluten-free, each season also brings up a new slew of events to navigate. Halloween brings challenges from trick-or-treating (is the candy gluten-free?!) to ALL the pumpkin recipes in your feed. Rest assured that there is always a way to make it gluten-free. So let’s start with your most pressing question…
Is this candy gluten-free?
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Are Twizzlers gluten-free? No, traditional licorice contains wheat.
Are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups gluten-free? Yes, but not the seasonal shapes, due to potential cross-contamination.
Are milk duds gluten-free? Yes! It says so on the package.
You get the idea. You are staring at a bucket full of candy and not sure what your child can eat. Or, let’s be honest, what you can eat after they go to bed. Researching every brand can be overwhelming. Thankfully, others have taken the hard work out of the equation.
The Celiac Disease Foundation maintains gluten-free candy lists for the major “candy holidays”, including Halloween. Hershey, whose candy will fill half of your child’s trick-or-treat bucket, provides a list of all its products that can be filtered by gluten-free status. Several manufacturers label their bags of Halloween candy gluten-free, so a quick trip to the candy aisle to check labels on a few bags can streamline the candy-checking process on Halloween. Just read the labels on a few of the variety packs to get a go-to list of safe candies. If your child has a particular candy they want to eat, you may still need to check the manufacturer’s website for the latest information.
If you are simply googling “gluten-free candy”, make sure that the list you rely on has been updated recently. Aside from the Celiac Disease Foundation list, which historically has been updated annually, I go straight to the label or the manufacturer’s website, as information changes frequently. Check out this post on Milky Ways to learn how I determine if a candy variety is safe to eat.
When sending candy to school, I often grab a bag of Tootsie Pops or Blow Pops. Most kids like those, and they are labeled gluten-free and peanut-free.
Candy abounds this season, not just on the day of Halloween. It’s worth doing your research in late September or early October, to benefit from your updated knowledge the entire candy season.
Best Halloween Candy Tip! The Halloween Fairy! Some families call her the “Switch Witch. She visited our house even before we were diagnosed with celiac disease, but she’s even more important now. Here’s the gist. The kids pick their favorite 10-20 (you set the #) candies. The rest go in their Halloween candy bucket outside their bedroom door. The Halloween Fairy picks up the candy, donates it, and leaves a gift for each kid.
Here’s how this plays out in our house… Armed with our gluten-free candy knowledge/research, Miss E goes through her candy, selects the gluten-free candy she likes, trades the popular not-celiac-safe candy with her brother & friends to get her favorites, eats a ton on Halloween night, and trades all but ten pieces with the Halloween Fairy. We still somewhat limit the candy intake, which was our original purpose behind the Halloween Fairy. Now, we have the added benefit of Miss E not feeling the least bit left out on Halloween.
Have you heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project? Participating households, add their address to an online map and put out a teal pumpkin to indicate that they have non-food treats in addition to candy. Kiddos with allergies have the opportunity to be included in the fun. Be aware that we have occasionally seen play-doh (which contains wheat) in teal pumpkins.
Gluten-Free Halloween Party: Activities
This one is easy.
Once you have tackled the gluten-free candy, it’s all downhill from here.
Pumpkins are gluten-free, so the best Halloween activity of pumpkin carving is naturally, celiac safe. At one of our Halloween parties, we opted for making pumpkin mummies to cut down on the mess. I ordered rolls of gauze and googly eyes and let the kids go to town. Add in paint or markers for a little more fun, and a little more mess.
Fun movie choices include Hotel Transylvania or Coco for younger ones, or Harry Potter for an older group of kids. For a Harry Potter themed party, check out these gluten-free pumpkin pasties.
Gluten-Free Halloween Party Snacks, Treats & Desserts
Gluten-free Halloween snacks are easy to throw together and these ideas are all simple enough for the kids to help:
Jack-o-lantern Cuties & Banana Ghosts
For healthy snacks, cuties and a sharpie (watch those kids with the sharpie!) turn into cutie jack-o-lanterns, and bananas and mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life or Nestle are labeled gluten-free) transform into banana ghosts.
Basic milk takes on a Halloween theme with a little orange food coloring and adorable (or scary!) Halloween face decals.
Gluten-Free Mummy Hot Dogs
Kids will love these gluten-free Mummy Hot Dogs and you will equally love how easy they are to make, thanks to Schar’s Gluten-Free Puff Pastry Dough. This pastry dough was a game-changer for me. It is now my gluten-free go-to for hand pies, mini-tarts… and hot dog mummies, of course. You can order it in bulk on Amazon or visit the Schar store locator to see if your local grocery store carries it in the freezer section.
To make gluten-free hot dog mummies, simply:
- Cut the gluten-free pastry dough into 1/4-inch strips.
- Wrap the strips around hot dogs.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.
- Add gluten-free candy eyeballs or use a toothpick to make ketchup or mustard eyes.
If you end up with a bulk order of puff pastry dough, you can use it in another fun Halloween treat, Harry Potter pumpkin pasties (hand-pies).
Decorate-a-donut is a fun, simple gluten-free treat off our list of 15 Easy Party Food Ideas for Kids. Start with store-bought, gluten-free donuts, put out Betty Crocker sprinkles, currently listed as gluten-free on the website, and a container of gluten-free candy eyes, make a frosting glaze of powdered sugar and milk, and let the kids go to town decorating their Halloween donuts.
Check out these cute, gluten-free Halloween mini-cupcakes from The Gluten-Free Baking Company in San Diego. If you aren’t close enough to swing by and pick them up, use the photo below as inspiration to make your own pumpkin, ghost, or brain (ew!) cupcakes. For a quick shortcut, add powdered sugar to thicken store-bought frosting (always check the label for gluten-free) and pipe it onto cupcakes or use pre-made muffins.
Miss E (10 years old at the time) was hired by a local daycare to make these adorable, spider cupcakes. She used King Arthur Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix, Pillsbury Funfetti Frosting (with a couple of tablespoons of confectioners sugar to thicken), spider rings, and Wilton’s three-color piping bag coupler to easily combine the three frosting colors. I helped her set up the frosting coupler, and she did everything else on her own. The daycare owner said it was the best cupcake she ever had, gluten-free or otherwise!
Pumpkin Desserts & Snacks
Whether at your Halloween party or just sprinkled throughout the season, nothing says fall like the scent of pumpkin. Well, maybe apple. But you’ve already made up your mind on where you fall in that debate. For now, here’s a list of a few of my favorite gluten-free Pumpkin treats!
- Traditional Pumpkin Pie Recipe with Gluten-Free Homemade Crust
- Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix – Affordable and delicious, grab this early in the season before it sells out.
- Simple Mills Pumpkin Pancake & Waffle Mix – It’s no secret I am a fan of anything Simple Mills for its short and simple ingredient lists on every product.
- Pumpkin Cheesecake bars Pumpkin pie AND cheesecake, what’s not to like?! You don’t really need an excuse to make our gluten-free recipe for this rich dessert, but it is a great finish to a gluten-free Thanksgiving feast.
- Katz Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Glazed Donuts These pumpkin donuts are perfect for the “decorate-a-donut” table at your Halloween party.
- Harry Potter Pumpkin Pasties – These pumpkin pasties are delicious and perfectly themed for a Harry Potter Halloween Party. My kids love this sweet recipe, which is basically pumpkin pie wrapped in pastry dough.
For more Halloween dessert recipes with a fall flavor, check out 35 Gluten-Free Fall Desserts to Spice Up the Season.
Navigating Halloween & Harvest Events with Celiac Disease
Once you have the candy down, you have already overcome the biggest hurdle of Halloween and Harvest events, where candy abounds.
BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)
Buy gluten-free pumpkin donuts or bake and freeze gluten-free pumpkin muffins, and you have a ready-to-go, celiac-safe treat in your freezer for any Halloween or Harvest event. You’ll feel more included in the fun if you are prepared with a just-in-case treat! A gluten-free frozen pizza rounds out what you need for most family or kid parties. Feel Good Foods Square Pan Pizza (thick crust) is Miss E’s latest favorite.
Hay at Harvest Festivals, Hayrides, Petting Zoos & Pumpkin Patches
A trip to an apple farm or pumpkin patch is a great way to celebrate the fall. Hayrides and animal interactions are sometimes a concern for folks with celiac disease. Is there gluten in your hayride and does it matter?
The hay is most likely straw, possibly wheat straw left over from harvesting the gluten-containing grain. According to the National Celiac Association, there could be a risk of cross-contamination from left-over grain, so not ingesting the straw and washing hands before eating are important.
As a careful celiac, this does not give me anxiety at all. We go to harvest festivals, enjoy hayrides, and visit petting zoos. We always clean our hands before eating anyway, and I make sure the possibly contaminated clothes are put in the laundry.
If you are tired of always having to BYOF, there are venues with Halloween events that are celiac-safe. Great Wolf Lodge and Disney are among our favorites!
Great Wolf Lodge Howl-O-Ween
Great Wolf Lodge is AMAZING with gluten-free and allergies. Gluten is noted on the menu, the chef takes orders directly and prepares your food with cross-contamination prevention methods, and “buffet” food is brought straight from the kitchen to the table.
I promise a Great Wolf Lodge post is coming soon, but meanwhile, know that it is highly recommended by Go Gluten Freely for celiacs.
The Howl-O-Ween activities at Great Wolf Lodge range from a Monster Bash Dance Party to a Trick or Treat Trail, with gluten-free and non-food options.
Halloween Time at Disney
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World and the Oogie Boogie Bash at Disneyland’s California Adventure are separately ticketed Halloween events at Disney Parks. Allergies are handled differently on each coast’s Treat Trails (trick-or-treating). In California, you request allergy-safe treats as you go through the Treat Trail. In Florida, Disney hands out special allergy treat bags that you fill with tokens on the Treat Trail and exchange for safe treats at City Hall. You can still choose gluten-free treats you see along the trail.
Whether attending the special ticketed parties or just enjoying Disney Parks in the fall, the Halloween overlays will get you in the fall mood more than any pumpkin latte ever could! And you don’t have to pack any food. Yay!
Disney understands cross-contamination and has gluten-free options available throughout its parks. Talk to a chef or choose gluten-free when you mobile order (the latter is automatically treated like an allergy). You will eat well!
There is one area where you will have to temper your expectations going in. The seasonal specialty treats at both parks have historically not been gluten-free. (This is low-hanging fruit, Disney, if you make a celiac-safe, gluten-free Halloween treat, we will all buy it!)
We happily overlook the missed-opportunity-seasonal-treats, because Disney is otherwise a leader in accommodating celiac disease in its parks. We are regulars at Disneyland, have been to Disney World several times, and we feel truly spoiled when we are in any Disney Park!
If you are heading to Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure in Southern California, check out my post on the Best Tips to Celebrate a Gluten-Free Disneyland Halloween from a Disneyland local with celiac disease… (me!)
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