How to master a gluten-free Thanksgiving: Part I

Written by Janelle Holden

I have a secret ambition.

Some life coaches dream of getting noticed by Oprah.

I dream of Martha Stewart.

Why Martha?

Well, she’s always cool under pressure. She makes everything beautiful, and even the most complicated craft seem simple. Her recipes have never failed me. Plus, I’ll never forget that she gathered dandelions in prison for her salads and said she missed lemons most of all.

I read this little tidbit about her on her website: “She’s been known to stand in front of an open refrigerator and drink buttermilk straight from the carton and eat pickles right out of the jar. If she spots some liverwurst, forget about it — she’s in heaven.”


So Martha, if you or your people read this, please know that I am ready to make it happen.

But really, the reason why I bring up Martha and her genius up is because when it comes to Thanksgiving, I have always followed her lead. And until I eliminated gluten, dairy, eggs, and sugar from my diet, that was as easy as researching her website and picking out some fun recipes to try during my favorite holiday.

Now, I adapt and fiddle and honestly, I don’t try so hard. Thanksgiving can be  simple AND delicious if you don’t obsess over re-creating rolls, the perfect flaky pie crust, and stuffing. Not that trying to make those things is bad, mind you. I’m all for it, and in part II of this post, I’ll share with you some good recipes to try to make that happen. However, I suggest starting by mastering the basics, and maybe finding one new recipe to try too. The basics will never let you down and there’s always plenty of food.

How to master the basic Thanksgiving dishes:

1. The Turkey: Some turkeys have broth added to them for flavor and tenderness. And guess what? That broth can contain gluten. It’s best to stick with turkeys with no-added ingredients and my personal preference is for a turkey that is free range and organic. You can buy great humanely raised turkeys at U.S. Wellness Meats and have a turkey shipped right to your door!

For turkeys without added broth, I’ve used Martha Stewart’s turkey brine recipe for years to add flavor to the turkey before it’s roasted. I also like her basic roasted turkey recipe. Just make sure you baste often!

2. The Stuffing: If you are visiting someone else’s house, you WILL have a reaction if you eat turkey that has been stuffed with traditional wheat bread, so make sure you either bring your own or ask them to make stove-topped stuffing for you. You can also use gluten-free bread to make your own stuffing. Here’s a link to a great video from Gluten-Free Girl, on how to do that. Another good option is a quinoa or wild rice stuffing recipe from Martha Stewart.

3. Gluten-free Gravy: Remove the drippings in the bottom of the turkey roaster and place them in a saucepan and heat until boiling, and then add a cup of water mixed with 2 tablespoons potato flour (not starch) to thicken it. You can also use arrowroot starch or corn starch if you’d rather. Whisk the drippings and water together until it’s to the thickness you desire. Add some sea salt and poultry seasoning to flavor if you like. Keep stirring with a whisk to make sure your gravy doesn’t get lumpy!

4. Mashed Potatoes: Basic mashed potatoes are so simple to make dairy-free I almost feel guilty writing about it. Just add small amounts of olive oil and coconut milk (or your favorite non-dairy bevergage) to boiled and drained potatoes and whip until they are the perfect consistency. To make them extra-special add raw garlic to the potatoes before they boil.

5. Sweet Potatoes: If you want traditional baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, you can get gluten-free marshmallows from Kraft and bake your yams or sweet potatoes at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes in the oven. But, the marshmallows are filled with corn syrup. Instead, I’d suggest a crockpot version that is just as sweet and yummy. Just peel a few yams, cut up into large cubes, add pure butter and maple syrup (1/4 cup and 1/2 cup respectively sounds about right) and cook on low for about 4 hours until tender. You won’t regret it!

6. Cranberry Sauce: It’s easy to make homemade cranberry sauce. Every cranberry bag has a recipe on the back that calls for boiling them with water and sugar and then cooling. If you are avoiding cane sugar, you can sweeten with stevia, honey, or maple syrup instead. One year I even used palm sugar and that was delicious too. If you’re looking for a more interesting cranberry recipe, and want to show off your culinary arts, then I would suggest making a chutney. I love Martha’s Cranberry-Apple Chutney recipe.

7. Vegetable Side Dish: Some of my favorite simple side dishes at Thanksgiving are green beans with a vinaigrette sauce or honey-glazed carrots or roasted brussel sprouts. All simply gluten-free.

Next week, I’ll do a recipe roundup and suggestion list for drinks, appetizers, breads or rolls, pies, and other desserts, so watch for Part II! In the meantime, I’d love it if you left a comment here with your favorite Thanksgiving gluten-free dish, recipe, or tip.

Janelle Holden is a food behavior specialist who help smart and successful people grab control of their diets so that they look and feel their best. To get more weekly tips and free resources from Janelle, click here to grab a complimentary copy of her e-zine, “BodyMindLove.”


About Janelle

Janelle Holden has spent hundreds of hours coaching people world-wide with celiac disease and food sensitivities how to transition to a gluten-free diet, stop struggling with food, travel with food sensitivities, and do more of the things they love. She is the author of, "Six steps to grab control of your diet and love what you eat" and an award-winning journalist, international coach, and speaker.

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