Enjoying a gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner

A man putting a thanksgiving turkey in the oven

Thanksgiving is a holiday built around a meal. And the meal is a specific one, with the menu largely set in stone. This can cause some stress for people who have been recently diagnosed with celiac disease. But there’s no need to worry. With a little planning, Thanksgiving dinner can be an easy meal to make gluten-free.

Many of the classic dishes, from the turkey to fruits and vegetables, are naturally gluten-free. For the others, by making a few easy ingredient swaps, using gluten-free products and taking some simple preparation and serving precautions, you can have a delicious traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Should you prepare separate versions of each dish? For the most part, it’s not necessary. You may want to have a few gluten-free side dishes, dinner rolls or desserts. But preparing two versions of especially time-consuming items would add needless stress to the holiday.


The star of Thanksgiving dinner is naturally gluten-free, but you need to be careful of how the turkey is prepared. Beware of turkeys that are self-basting, brined, pre-stuffed, injected with flavoring or basted with sauce during cooking. Self-basting turkeys can have additives derived from wheat. If the turkey is deep fried, make sure the oil wasn’t previously used to fry something containing gluten.


Make sure the gravy isn’t thickened with flour. Corn starch works just as well and is gluten-free. You also need to confirm that the gravy is made from a gluten-free broth base or mix. Gravy packets often have barley or wheat ingredients, like yeast extract. And remember, mashed potatoes often have many ingredients added, like broth and spices, so make sure to run through the ingredient list before eating!


You shouldn’t buy turkey stuffed with regular bread or with corn bread made with flour, but there are plenty of other options. Gluten-free stuffing mixes are widely available. You could also have a stuffing made of wild rice, fruit, and nuts or stuff the turkey with apples, onions, and fresh herbs while baking for extra flavor.

Green Bean Casserole

Another Thanksgiving staple, green bean casserole, can also be a gluten-free dish. Just check the ingredients of the cream of mushroom soup. Many have wheat flour, but fortunately there are several gluten-free brands as well. You can also buy gluten-free crispy onion topping. Aldi grocery stores carry many of these seasonal ingredients.


Thanksgiving dessert also can be easily made gluten-free. Many pie fillings, like pecan, pumpkin, and fruit are already gluten-free, so only the crust needs modification. Your family won’t feel cheated; gluten-free crusts are just as good as conventional ones. The ideal pie crust has a tender texture, which a lot of gluten-free flours provide.

A few additional tips for a gluten-free Thanksgiving:

  • Serve yourself first! You will avoid cross-contamination if someone dips a spoon into a gluten-containing dish, then into a gluten-free one. Serve gluten-free dishes in a different area for the same reason.

  • If you are traveling and preparing dishes in somebody else’s kitchen, consider ordering the ingredients online and having them shipped. This will save stress over last-minute shopping for your go-to gluten-free foods at an unfamiliar grocery store.

  • Finally, enjoy the holiday. Families are typically very accommodating, especially around this time of year—and especially if you provide the swap idea. You can say, “Would you mind buying this brand of broth so we know it’s gluten-free?”

In addition to the traditional dishes above, focus on the variety of foods you can eat safely: Brussels sprouts, potato pancakes, greens, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and fruit salad. Just double-check they’re not made with a gluten-containing ingredient. Here’s to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Macy Mears, MS, RDN, LDN, registered dietitian for the pediatric gastroenterology department at UChicago Medicine

Macy Mears, MS, RDN, LDN

Macy Mears, MS, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian and works in the section of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition as one of their outpatient dietitians. She works with children across different age groups and provides gluten-free diet education to patients with celiac disease and their families.

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