Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Substitutions

Photo Credit: SXC
If this is your first holiday dinner on a gluten-free diet, eating can be intimidating. I used to always worry and wonder if wheat byproducts lurked in the sauces or barley malt hid in the processed foods.

The simplest way to approach a gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner is by choosing healthy, whole foods and simple dishes. 

I've been brainstorming a list of simple substitutions and alternatives to popular Thanksgiving fare. Take a peek!

Turkey: Choose a whole turkey and cook it yourself. Processed turkey products, like patties or nuggets, have too many fillers and may not be safe to eat if you or your dinner guests have a gluten allergy.

Gravy: Make your own gravy in lieu of the jarred varieties. Use corn starch or potato flour to thicken meat drippings without the risk of being glutened.

Green bean casserole: Oh, I just love this Thanksgiving dinner staple, but it doesn't love me. Those crispy fried onions are battered with wheat (darn it!) and the cream of whatever soup you use is usually thickened with wheat flour. You can either get really diligent and create your own cream sauce with rice flour, add diced mushrooms and pan fry your own onions, or go simple. I like to swap out this casserole with a bowl of steamed green beans drizzled with fresh lemon juice and toasted almonds for a healthier side dish.

Mashed potatoes: Boxed mashed potato mixes usually contain a dozen or more ingredients. Don't take the risk of getting sick this year. Instead, make homemade mashed potatoes. I like to boil, mash and season the potatoes myself so I know exactly what's on my plate. Try adding fresh chopped garlic, ground black pepper, butter, milk, heavy whipping cream or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to the potatoes.

Gelatin salads: Skip the refined sugar-filled fruit and gelatin salad this holiday. Instead prepare a fresh cranberry sauce using pineapple juice as a natural sweetener. I also add chunks of pineapple to give the classic side dish a new flavor.

Sweet Potatoes topped with marshmallows: I really do love this classic side dish, and most of the time it's probably gluten-free, but the marshmallows or marshmallow cream used on the top is questionable. To be safe, make this recipe from scratch using a gluten-free topping, or opt for roasted cubes of sweet potatoes drizzled with honey for a sweet alternative.

Dinner rolls: There are several companies out there that boast gluten-free bread options. My two favorites are Udi's (pre-made) and Pamela's (dry mixes). I think this Thanksgiving I'll fire up the bread machine and bake a loaf of Pamela's bread since the hubby thinks it's just as good as wheat bread. Or, make cornbread (use the recipe on the corn meal package), not corn muffin mixes tainted with wheat flour.

Pumpkin or apple pie: Thankfully you don't have to skimp on dessert while following a gluten-free diet. To stay away from traditional flour-filled crusts, I like to make pumpkin muffins or craft my own pie crust out of crushed corn flakes cereal, ground oatmeal or pulverized nuts. Or whip up a simple apple crisp using sweet sorghum flour in the crumbly topping. Yum!

Several Thanksgiving dinner favorites are naturally gluten free when they aren't loaded with creamy sauces or packets of seasoning blended with fillers.
  • Buttered corn
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Steamed broccoli florets
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Fresh, whole turkey, ham, chicken, duck (all unprocessed, whole meats)
  • Simple, pure seasonings like pepper, salt, cinnamon, garlic and paprika
  • Chopped fruit salad topped with shredded coconut and a drizzle of agave syrup
  • Vegetable trays with homemade hummus dip
Can you think of other great alternative gluten-free dishes to serve this Thanksgiving? Please leave a comment below and share this post with your gluten-free friends.

Until Next Time,
Choose Healthy!

Angela Tague
Whole Foods Living


  1. Instead of making the traditional pumpkin pie, you can make pumpkin custard. It's just the pumpkin pie filling without the crust. : )

    1. Ohhh! A custard sounds so yummy! And I'd top it with some homemade whipped cream flavored with vanilla. Ok, now I'm hungry!! Thanks for the wonderful idea. ~Angela


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