In this post, you will learn everything you need to know to host your own gluten-free Thanksgiving from turkey to side dishes. Get tips to simplify and make ahead, so the extra weight of making everything gluten-free lightens and becomes manageable. I’ll also share the best gluten-free Thanksgiving dessert recipes.
You’ll know what to say to your thoughtful guests who want to bring a dish to share…while keeping your Thanksgiving safely gluten-free.
If you are cooking your Thanksgiving dinner in a kitchen away from home, either in a friend’s or relative’s home or in a Vacation Rental home, we’ll go over how to make an entire gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner in a gluten-kitchen. It can be done! It’s almost as easy as making it in your own kitchen, with a few tweaks.
Or are you the guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving feast? You’ll have a plan for how you can be fully and safely included in the celebration.
We have a lot to cover, but you will not miss gluten one bit this Thanksgiving!
Our first Thanksgiving after celiac disease entered our world was overwhelming. If this is your first Thanksgiving since your diagnosis, you know the feeling. Hosting Thanksgiving can be daunting enough, without all of the added challenges of learning to make it gluten-free.
I am proud to say that we hosted a fabulous gluten-free Thanksgiving that first year and every year since.
You, too, will quickly find your new gluten-free rhythm to Thanksgiving.
Ready to start planning your gluten-free Thanksgiving? Get your free printable “Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Planner” which includes a to-do list leading up to Thanksgiving, gluten-free menu with recipe links, shopping planner, cooking schedule, and printable menu to display.
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Simple Thanksgiving Menu (100% gluten-free, recipes)
Let’s tackle each of these dishes, one at a time:
Roasted Rosemary Turkey
While most turkeys are gluten-free, there is the possibility that a brine, marinade, or injection in your turkey could contain gluten. Celiac.com has a list of gluten-free turkeys. I personally have used Butterball turkeys for nearly a decade of hosting gluten-free Thanksgiving dinners.
Butterball frozen turkeys are easy to find on sale leading up to Thanksgiving. Butterball states “our Butterball fresh and frozen raw unstuffed turkeys are always gluten-free, and our gravy pack included with our Butterball Whole and Boneless Breast items is also gluten-free.”
Time/effort saver: I am a huge fan of using an oven bag! Easy prep, easy cleanup, and easy everything in between. No basting is necessary. Once the turkey is prepped and in the bag, you don’t touch it until verifying a safe internal temperature before taking it out of the oven. The turkey comes out exceptionally tender and roasts quickly in the bag. Even a 24lb turkey will be done in about 3 1/2 hours.
Here are the simple instructions from the Reynold’s Oven Bag Cooking Guide, with a few Go Gluten Freely tweaks:
- Preheat Oven to 350°F.
- Add 1 Tbsp gluten-free flour, 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, 2 stalks of celery, and 1 medium sliced onion to oven bag. Spray inside of bag with gluten-free non-stick cooking spray.
- Brush thawed turkey with olive oil and seasoning blend (1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper). Place the turkey on top of vegetables and rosemary in bag.
- Close bag with tie; cut six 1/2-inch slits in top of bag.
- For brown, crispy skin, cut open the top of the oven bag 15 minutes before the end of the estimated cooking time on the Reynold’s cook time chart.
- Bake according to chart below until meat thermometer reads at least 165°F in several places not touching the bone. Bake until dark meat reaches 180°F if desired.
- ALWAYS CHECK DONENESS WITH A MEAT THERMOMETER.
- Let turkey rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
Prep ahead tip: you can prep the chopped rosemary, whole rosemary sprigs, celery stalks, and sliced onion the night before Thanksgiving when you are chopping vegetables for the stuffing and roasted vegetable side dishes.
Thanksgiving Side Dishes
During the 15-20 minutes that the turkey is resting, quickly whip up gravy from scratch with the turkey drippings, juices, and cornstarch. Use Betty Crocker’s foolproof turkey gravy recipe, and substitute the 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch for the flour.
Shortcut idea: purchase McCormick’s turkey gravy. It’s labeled gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Stuffing
Slow cooker stuffing is the perfect space-saving side dish in your busy kitchen. It’s so easy to make and frees up precious real estate in your oven on Thanksgiving day.
Prep ahead tip! Chop the vegetables the night before.
The stuffing is the first thing you’ll tackle in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day. Once you have spent about 15 minutes sauteing vegetables and mixing the ingredients together in your slow cooker, you only have to check on your stuffing after 45 minutes to lower the temperature. Then it is truly “set it and forget it!”
Our slow cooker, gluten-free stuffing recipe is a crowd-pleaser. For a traditionally gluten-full side dish, it is wonderful to know this fabulous dish will have your guests reaching for seconds, never missing the gluten!
Make-Ahead Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
These make-ahead cream cheese mashed potatoes can be made and refrigerated up to two days before Thanksgiving. Your turkey will be cooking at 350°, so adjust the reheat cooking time down to 35-45 minutes, if you have one oven.
Mix it up with these options:
- Substitute red potatoes and leave the potato skin on for extra vitamins and color.
- If you don’t want to make these ahead, follow steps 1 & 2 only in the make-ahead cream cheese mashed potatoes recipe. Enlist a second pair of hands to manage the mashed potatoes. Your day-of mashed potatoes will take about 45 minutes from start to finish, and they are pretty hands-on during the busiest time in your Thanksgiving kitchen.
- Cheat tip! Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes are labeled gluten-free. For a homemade look and taste, add a little cream cheese, sour cream, and a sprinkle of chopped, fresh parsley.
Vegetables are naturally gluten-free and roasting brings out the best flavor of even the most maligned vegetable.
Simply roast 3 lbs of your favorite traditional, fall vegetable(s) tossed in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Think of brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, onions, and beets.
Once you have chosen your vegetables, follow these simple steps to serve 12 guests:
- Cut 3 pounds of vegetables into roughly 1-inch square pieces. Note, sweet potatoes take longer to roast, so keep them separate and start roasting them 10 minutes before the other vegetables.
- Toss vegetables in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Add any combination that pleases you of chopped bacon/prosciutto, garlic, spices, and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan.
- Spread vegetables out on a full-size baking sheet or two half-sheets (the latter are the typical household size).
- Roast at 350° for 35-45 minutes. Increase the temp to 425° during the last 10 minutes, after you remove the turkey to get the wonderful crispy, caramelized finish that makes roasted vegetables delicious.
Roasted vegetables are incredibly forgiving in terms of roasting temperature, time, and seasonings. But, if you are uncomfortable not having a very precise recipe, here’s an easy one for Roasted Root Vegetables with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon.
Make ahead tip! Cut your vegetables (and bacon/prosciutto) the night before.
Space-saving and mess-saving tip! It is Thanksgiving, after all, and your fridge will be crowded. To alleviate tight space in the refrigerator, store your prepped vegetables in a gallon ziplock bag. Before roasting, add olive oil and salt (or any other chosen add-ins) and toss the vegetables still in the bag. They’ll toss evenly, go straight from the bag to the baking sheet, and you will have fewer dirty dishes.
Despite how many carbs are already on the table, corn is a must-have for my husband at Thanksgiving. You can keep this as simple as heating up canned corn in the microwave or on the stovetop. Optionally add any/all of the following: 1-2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper before heating.
Eat Smart’s Sweet Kale Salad is my go-to salad year-round, but it is especially suited to holiday meals with its included cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Labeled gluten-free, with poppy seed dressing in the bag, you won’t need to add anything to this easy salad kit. For a bigger crowd, it’s worth picking up a two-pack at your local Costco.
Last minute time saver! Mix your salad during the lull in the kitchen after starting your crockpot stuffing and roasted turkey. When it’s time to get all of the food on your holiday table, your salad will be ready to go in a serving dish.
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Unlike canned corn, I don’t recommend cutting corners on cranberry sauce.
Make ahead! Because you can make this side dish up to three days ahead, it is so easy to include on your Thanksgiving table, while keeping your holiday meal stress free.
For a fabulous cranberry sauce that will have you never opening canned cranberry sauce again, try our recipe for Homemade Spiced Cranberry Sauce.
While cranberry sauce is naturally gluten-free, that can change once you start to get a little fancy with your recipe. Read our gluten considerations for homemade cranberry sauce and take a closer look at everything you are adding from alcohol to spices.
This one can be a challenge. Serving guests who are not regularly on a gluten-free diet requires our very best gluten-free bread, served warm. Brush a little olive oil or butter on top. Optionally, add a sprinkle of salt and chopped rosemary. Definitely warm the bread in the oven before serving. Here are a few options that are undetectably gluten-free:
- Bread SRSLY Gluten-Free Classic Sourdough Dinner Rolls are my personal favorite dinner roll for Thanksgiving. Your guests will not notice they are gluten-free unless you tell them.
- Schar Kaiser Rolls are a great option if you can get your hands on them. These wonderful rolls aren’t available in my area, so I toted home a bag of nearly identical Schar Rosettes from a recent vacation in Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast
- Gluten-free Croissants from the Mariposa Baking Company taste exactly like a traditional croissant with rich, buttery, layers, but only buy them for a crowd if you want to splurge.
- Udi’s Gluten-Free French Baguettes or Classic French Dinner Rolls are fairly ubiquitous.
- Coming soon! Canyon Bakehouse has announced that its new Hawaiian Sweet Rolls should be in grocery store freezers across the U.S. in time for Thanksgiving. I still need to try these before vouching for them. But if Canyon Bakehouse nailed Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (fingers crossed!) like it did sandwich bread, these rolls will soon make an appearance at one of my holiday meals.
Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes (Mix & Match)
Depending on the size of your crowd, choose one or more of these Thanksgiving desserts:
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
Check the gluten-free status of your spices.
For the easiest pies, start with Wholly Gluten-Free Pie Shells. These shells are fairly shallow, so you will end up with a little leftover pie filling (but not enough for a second pie) when using Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe and one crust.
Making your own crust is also relatively easy. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pie Crust Mix and King Arthur Gluten-Free Pie Crust Mix both make excellent crusts that taste just like their gluten counterparts.
Make your gluten-free pumpkin pie the day before and store it in the fridge until time to serve.
I like to make homemade whipped cream during the lull between dinner and dessert. Or rather, my stand mixer makes whipped cream while my coffeemaker brews coffee.
Storebought whipped cream also does the trick. Reddi-Wip is labeled gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Our recipe for gluten-free Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars is amazing! They are easy to make ahead and serve 12.
Top with whipped cream.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pasties
Our gluten-free Harry Potter pumpkin pasties are a unique twist on pumpkin pie. Of course, unless you are randomly planning a Harry Potter themed Thanksgiving, replace the lightning scar on top of the hand pies with 2-3 slits to vent your pasties.
To save time on Thanksgiving, assemble your Pumpkin Pasties the day before and pop them in the oven when you head to the table for dinner. Remember to set a timer to take them out. By the time your guests are ready for dessert, your pumpkin pasties will have cooked and cooled slightly to be perfectly ready to eat.
Gluten-Free Apple Crisp
Gluten-Free Apple Crisp is a great option for a thanksgiving dessert with the flavors of autumn.
You can dress up your apple crisp for Thanksgiving with a handful or two of cranberries added to the apples and a 1/4 cup of pecan pieces mixed into the topping. Nuts.com is a trustworthy source of gluten-free pecans. Voila! Apple Cranberry Pecan Crisp!
Similar to the pumpkin pasties, assemble your apple crisp the day before and bake it while enjoying your Thanksgiving meal. It takes longer to bake than the pasties, so be sure to get it in the oven as soon as the turkey comes out.
Using the following shortcuts to make what you can ahead of time will keep your day-of cooking enjoyable and unhurried.
Shortcuts (including pre-packaged options)
Supplement your cooking with some entirely pre-made options or leverage a few pre-packaged products to shorten the preparation time for your recipes. Here is a quick review of the shortcuts we have already covered:
- Purchase Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Stuffing Mix in our Slow Cooker Gluten-Free Stuffing recipe as a shortcut instead of making your own bread cubes.
- Buy Bob Evans premade mashed potatoes. Stir in a little cream cheese and sour cream, and sprinkle parsley on top to add a fresh, homemade taste and appearance.
- Save time by buying pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables for the Slow Cooker Gluten-Free Stuffing and Roasted Vegetable side dishes.
- Use Simply Organics Mulling Spice Mix in lieu of individual spices in our Homemade Cranberry Sauce.
- Buy pre-packaged gluten-free rolls. Add flavor with a quick brush of olive oil or butter and a sprinkle of salt before warming in the oven.
- Grab a two-pack of frozen, Wholly Gluten-Free Pie Shells, rather than making your own crusts.
Take advantage of the quiet(er) day before Thanksgiving to set your table and make a few dishes in advance:
- Wash and chop all vegetables for your stuffing and roasted vegetable side dishes.
- Make cranberry sauce 1-3 days ahead.
- Make mashed potatoes 1-3 days ahead.
- Make or assemble desserts the day before. Pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake bars are served chilled and can be baked the day prior. Apple crisp and pasties are served warm and can be assembled the day prior and baked during your Thanksgiving meal.
Celiac-Safe Dishes Your Guests Can Bring
Most folks are used to bringing a side dish or dessert to Thanksgiving. If you are maintaining a gluten-free home to prevent cross-contamination, it is important to kindly and briefly explain the importance of that standard to guests and offer some options that are safe.
We have a handful of friends and family who understand cross-contamination well and are comfortable and willing to make a gluten-free dish in their homes. If you have Thanksgiving guests that fall into that category, you can set them loose on taking on one of your side dishes.
Consider that there could be a place at your table for a dish that is gluten-free, but not cross-contamination free. If the gluten-free folks don’t care if they skip green bean casserole, but it’s an important tradition for your aunt, ask her to make it with gluten-free fried onions and gluten-free cream of mushroom soup. Double-check her recipe for any unexpected ingredients, such as flour or soy sauce, and point her to gluten-free alternatives like Tamari for soy sauce. Everyone is happy and no one gets sick!
Allow your guest to prepare an easy side dish in your kitchen. It could be as simple as picking up the Cranberry-Kale salad from Costco and assembling it in your home. Or your guest could make a more hands-on side dish if you have the space in your kitchen. (and oven!)
Ask guests to bring gluten-free prepackaged items, and suggest safe brands:
- Beverages, such as sparkling cider or wine
- Breyer’s vanilla ice cream (labeled gluten-free)
- Pre-packaged fruit and veggie trays for appetizers
- Pre-packaged foods for a simple charcuterie tray: gluten-free crackers, Boar’s Head deli meat, goat cheese, grapes still in the package (wash in your colander)…
How to Make a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dinner in Someone Else’s Gluten Kitchen
This can be done! I cooked an entire gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner in my sister’s very gluten-y kitchen. Ok, her kids did require wheat bread with their meal. Everything else was gluten-free. Most importantly, Miss E and I did not get glutened.
Here are my tips!
- Take advantage of every shortcut and pre-packaged item available. This is the time to doctor up Bob Evans mashed potatoes, buy frozen gluten-free pie crusts, and Reddi-Wip.
- Choose a simple dessert, like pumpkin pie or apple crisp.
- Follow the make-ahead tips, so you can be relaxed and focused while preparing each dish.
- Place an online grocery order for pickup or delivery to simplify shopping in advance.
- Purchase items with a risk of cross-contamination in a gluten kitchen, such as gluten-free flour, sugar, and spices. Or bring pre-measured quantities from home. Don’t use your host’s open sugar, where a measuring cup may have double-dipped between flour and sugar.
- Pack a Celiac Travel Kit with your own skillet and spatula (for making cranberry sauce and sauteing vegetables for your stuffing). If your host has pans that can be thoroughly cleaned, such as stainless steel or uncoated aluminum pans, you can safely use them.
- Include a flexible cutting board in your Celiac Travel Kit for chopping vegetables.
- Aluminum foil will keep your roasted vegetables and gluten-free bread from cross-contamination while using a “well-loved” baking sheet.
- Similarly, an oven bag will separate your turkey from an old roasting pan and rack that may have gluten residuals from previous holiday meals.
- Mix your ingredients in glass or metal bowls (scratched plastic can harbor small amounts of gluten). Or use zip lock bags to toss vegetables in oil and mash together butter, oats, and flour for your apple crisp.
If you are celebrating Thanksgiving in a vacation rental home, download your copy of Go Gluten Freely’s Vacation Rental Planner, to get the full Celiac Travel Kit List and meal planner to cover you for all meals during your vacation.
8 Thanksgiving Tips When You Are the Gluten-Free Guest
Attending a food-centered event like Thanksgiving requires preparation for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Plan ahead and pick and choose from the following tips so you can confidently join in the holiday without missing out.
- Communicate with the host in advance. No need to apologize, but be appreciative and polite. Educate them on your dietary needs and the issue of cross-contamination. Explain that you will likely be bringing some of your own food, so you can safely enjoy the holiday with loved ones.
- Identify which, if any, dishes will be gluten-free and free of cross-contamination.
- Decide which (additional) dishes are important to you.
- Pick one or two of those to bring as your side dish or dessert to share. Stuffing and a favorite dessert are great choices.
- Choose simple options for buying or making a small portion of all other dishes that are a must-have for you at Thanksgiving.
- Epicured offers a gluten-free Turkey Dinner for one and has cross-contamination prevention protocols.
- Roast a turkey breast rather than a whole turkey. Butterball Boneless Frozen Turkey Roast and Jennie O Boneless (or Bone-In) Turkey Breast include gravy packets listed as gluten-free on their respective manufacturer’s websites. You will have leftovers for turkey sandwiches or any favorite leftover-turkey recipe.
- Separately toss a small portion of vegetables, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes in olive oil and roast them for 40 minutes while roasting your turkey breast. Mash the sweet potatoes with a bit of butter and maple syrup, and the potatoes with a little butter and milk. Just like that, you’ll have turkey, gravy, veggies, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes. A presentable Thanksgiving dinner for one or two with minimal effort.
- Purchase pre-made items: gluten-free turkey gravy, Bob Evans mashed potatoes, a can of corn, and gluten-free dinner rolls.
- Do you have a local gluten-free bakery? If so, order a gluten-free pumpkin pie or dessert. If not, purchase Tate’s Gluten-Free Ginger Zinger Cookies. They are so good! Eat the cookies on their own, turn two into an ice cream sandwich, or as an ice cream mix-in with Breyer’s vanilla ice cream (labeled gluten-free).
- Find a safe place to store your food before the Thanksgiving meal, to prevent cross-contamination. Cover it and label it with your name.
- Prevent cross-contamination when reheating your food at the host’s home. Cover your dish securely with a paper towel when reheating in the microwave. Use foil to cover it in the oven.
- Serve yourself before other guests. Take generous portions or make a second plate, if you think you’ll want seconds. Explain to the host in advance why this is important to prevent illness from cross-contamination.
Whether hosting, traveling, or attending as a guest, you are now ready for your gluten-free Thanksgiving! I would love to see pics! Post on social media and tag @goglutenfreely.