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Gluten-free alternatives for Thanksgiving dinner

I'm a market researcher and brand marketer by trade. Quit it all to focus on everything gluten-free. I'm now the founder of Celiac & the Beast, author of Celiac and the Beast, the book (released October 2013) , and working full-...

The holidays are always rough for people who have to eat gluten-free, like those with celiac disease. Not only is there social anxiety caused by family members all coming together for holiday fun, but there are often hidden sources of gluten that can take one by surprise.

Thanksgiving dinner

Spotting hidden sources of gluten during Thanksgiving can be tricky — but I've compiled a list of the most common hiding places where wheat, rye and barley lurk so that you can avoid them and have gluten-free Thanksgiving dinners!

Turkey

While meat is inherently free of gluten, sauces, fillers and seasoning/broth injections can include gluten. Before you cook it, check with the manufacturer to confirm that the bird is gluten-free.

Ham

Again, while the piggy might be gluten-free, some of the sauces and seasonings might not be. Always check the label and inquire with the manufacturer to ensure that your meal is safe.

Gravy

Traditionally, gravy is made with good-old wheat flour as a thickener. You can use any sort of gluten-free flour as a substitute thickener to ensure that the gravy is safe for all of the guests — without sacrificing the thick texture of the gravy. You can also purchase gluten-free gravy packets.

Dinner rolls

While I wish there were a quick and easy gluten-free substitute for those delicious, bagged gluten-rich dinner rolls, there's nothing on the shelf-stable, gluten-free end that is readily available. Most gluten-free rolls are available in frozen form, like Udi’s dinner rolls are. Schär, however, makes a classic white roll that is par-baked and doesn't have to be frozen — making it perfect for packing in a suitcase if you're traveling for Thanksgiving.

Stuffing

Obviously, stuffing includes bread — which most likely contains gluten. But there are plenty of safe stuffing alternatives on the market. Rudi's just came out with a new stuffing product that's bound to impress. Three Bakers also just sent me a box of stuffing to review. However, you can always make your own stuffing using leftover bread from your preferred gluten-free brand!

Green bean casserole

Remember that delicious green bean casserole that your aunt makes — the one that's jam-packed full of gluten. Not only are the fried onions on top of the dish full of gluten, but the cream of mushroom soup that's typically used is also not gluten free. Pacific Foods makes a great gluten-free alternative to cream of mushroom soup. For the topping, try Funyuns (although I don't recommend them for celiacs because Frito Lay can't confirm their gluten-free status — only that they include non-gluten ingredients) or follow one of the many gluten-free fried-onion recipes that are available online.

Butter

Now, you may be thinking, "Why butter? It's just milk." Yes, the product itself is free of gluten, but with so many moving parts at Thanksgiving dinner, you're bound to share knives and butter with others who are eating gluten. If someone smears some butter on a gluten roll and puts the knife back into the butter for a second swipe, that butter is now contaminated. So, buy additional tubs of butter, clearly mark them as gluten-free only and use a gluten-free-only knife to avoid getting sick.

Thanksgiving can be easy and safe as a celiac or someone else who has to eat gluten-free. It's all about being thankful that there are plenty of substitutes out there for us!

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