I freaking love Thanksgiving.
Actually, let me back up. The true origin of Thanksgiving is actually super problematic, but for the purposes of today's conversation, I'll be focusing on the holiday as a time during which friends and family come together and break bread.
...Which actually presents another problem for me personally. About a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease-- a story for another day. As of a few months ago, one way I've chosen to manage my inflammation is to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet. In case I've lost you, let I remind you that the following traditional Thanksgiving dishes include gluten and/or dairy: turkey, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie... Ok yeah, now you see what I mean.
Since we'll be hosting Thanksgiving in Houston this year and I'm the designated chef of the household, I've decided to take things into my own hands and make this a gluten free, dairy free Thanksgiving.
If this notion has sparked any inspiration in you, let me offer you a piece of advice. Don't say a word to your guests about the lack of gluten or dairy!!! Seriously. In an ideal world, I'd make this GF/DF spread without telling any of my guests to avoid preconceived notions, skepticism, or general complaints leading up to the meal. But because I'm
an internet oversharer a blogger, I've decided share all of this with you... And my future dinner guests.
I'm truly so confident in how delicious gluten/dairy free eating can be, so I know you can do this on the low without sacrificing the flavor experience of the annual meal or ruffling any feathers leading up to it.
Ok, so let's get into it!
turkey & gravy
I've been using this post from The Kitchn as my go-to turkey roasting guide ever since I made my first turkey. As far as pre-roast prep goes, I opt for a dry brine overnight and then put a generous amount of herbed ghee (grass-fed ghee + thyme and rosemary) under the skin before roasting.
The key for flavorful homemade gravy is to use the drippings from the roasted bird as the base. Per this super simple paleo gravy recipe, I'll add a spoonful of grass-fed ghee and then thicken the mix by whisking in tapioca flour. In my experience, making gravy is a little bit more art than science. You'll find me stirring, diluting, tasting, turning up the heat, turning down the heat, thickening, and tasting again until the flavor is perfect. If that's not your thing, opt for this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo that utilizes pre-made stock.
Stuffing is hands down one of my favorite Thanksgiving sides. A pretty obvious GF/DF option here is to simply sub in a gluten free bread option in your usual stuffing recipe. This is the route I'll likely take using my favorite GF sourdough loaf from Bread Srsly. This stuffing recipe from Food Faith Fitness looks like a cinch. I love crisping up some chopped bacon and folding it into my stuffing mix before baking for some added flavor and crunch.
If you want to go totally paleo, you can forego the bread (or any grains, for that matter) entirely with this stuffing recipe from 40 Aprons. In a similar vein, this recipe came highly recommended from one of my clients!
starches & "starches"
In addition to stuffing, I think it's nice to have 2-3 other options for starchy sides. (These carbier options will be balanced by some greener alternatives in the next section.)
If you want something on the breadier side, I know cornbread is another Thanksgiving go-to for many families. If you want the illusion of a starchy vegetable without the heavy feeling, whip up a simple side of mashed cauliflower. (Is there anything better than a bite of turkey + stuffing + mashed
potatoes cauliflower + gravy? I think not.)
There's nothing more autumnal than roasted veggies, plus they're easily prepared on one sheet pan and are delicious at room temp. Keep it super simple with these roasted root vegetables, or take a sweet spin with these maple-cinnamon sweet potatoes.
Fall veggies are my favorite, so I find serious joy in selecting this part of the meal. Again, I like to select 2-3 non-starchy vegetable side dishes, including a salad. Then when I go to build my Thanksgiving plate, I fill up half of it with these veggies and leave the remaining half for turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc. These are some of my top picks for the greener side of things.
This salad screams Thanksgiving. I'd probably skip the quinoa to keep it even lighter. And this one's likely to be a fan favorite with the addition of pancetta. Skip the parmesan on this one and you've got a gorgeous, hearty shredded Brussels salad.
Maybe you came into this post feeling skeptical about the idea of gluten or dairy free anything on TG. But I hope that everything leading up to this point has you feeling super excited about the prospect of enjoying your Thanksgiving meal while honoring your dietary needs. The two are not mutually exclusive, I'm telling ya!
Now to finish it all off with something sweet. For my family, Thanksgiving dessert boils down to something pumpkin and something pecan. My sister-in-law requested a classic pumpkin pie, and this one looks like it'll fit the bill. And for the pecans, I thought I'd keep it simple with a pecan bar instead of a pie.
I also think it's always smart to have a lighter option or two here, since the Thanksgiving meal itself can be so heavy. A small bowl of candied nuts, a seasonal fruit salad, or even some dark chocolate pieces will be well-appreciated for anyone who's feeling full but wants to end the night on a sweet note.
So what are your thoughts on hosting your first gluten and dairy free Thanksgiving? If you're still feeling nervous, Friendsgiving can be a great place to test a dish or two before the real show begins. I'd love to know what you're making for the big meal!