Hosting a Gluten-Free Holiday Meal

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Holiday Feast

Entertaining guests who need to avoid gluten this holiday season? If you’re worried you’re not up to the task, don’t be. There are many delicious recipes and safe ingredients to choose from. With some basic information and a little planning, you can serve up a delicious, crowd-pleasing, gluten-free holiday meal. These tips will get you started.

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Learn the basics. Take the time to read up on gluten-free diets and which foods to avoid. In a nutshell, you’ll need to avoid foods and ingredients that contain wheat, rye, barley, spelt, farro, and triticale. Because many packaged foods, condiments, and food additives contain wheat, you’ll need to plan meals and select recipes and ingredients carefully.

Talk with your guest in advance. Holidays can be extra stressful for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. You can ease your guest’s anxiety by letting him or her know you’re sensitive to these concerns and happy to meet his or her needs. Consider asking your guest for menu or ingredient suggestions. If you know your guest well, you might ask if he or she would like to help you shop for or prepare certain dishes.

Plan your menu. It’s safest to cook from scratch. To keep it simple, focus on holiday dishes that are typically gluten-free, such as roast turkey, beef, lamb, or pork; potatoes, winter squash, and other vegetables; and fruits. Or be creative and use some of the many gluten-free recipes you can find online and in cookbooks.

You can also remake a favorite holiday recipe by swapping out gluten-containing ingredients for gluten-free ones. Be sure you try the recipe beforehand, because gluten-free ingredients may change the flavor or texture.

Keep in mind that preparing a holiday meal, getting your house ready, and entertaining is a lot of work. Plan to make some dishes a day or two ahead, so you feel less rushed and overwhelmed on the big day.

Shop smart. You might want to bring a list of ingredients to avoid when you go shopping. Read labels carefully. Gluten can hide in surprising places, including self-basting turkeys, soy sauce, spice mixes, salad dressings, malt vinegar, and beer. And products that are “wheat-free” aren’t always “gluten-free.”  When in doubt, ask your guest if an ingredient or food is okay, or don’t use it.

Prepare with care. If your guest has celiac disease, exposure to even a tiny bit of gluten—such as a speck of wheat flour or a crumb of toast—can be a problem. So before making the meal, move any gluten-containing foods away from your meal preparation area. Thoroughly clean your counters. Wash pots, pans, bowls, and utensils with hot, soapy water or run them through the dishwasher. Use a clean plastic cutting board for chopping. If you’re serving both gluten-free and regular dishes, keep the former covered and separate from the others.

It’s not hard to be a great host to your gluten-free friends. And who knows—you may even discover some favorite new dishes to put on the menu for next year.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider asking your guest for menu or ingredient suggestions.

  • It’s safest to cook gluten-free from scratch. Focus on holiday dishes that typically have no gluten, such as roast turkey, beef, potatoes, vegetables, and fruits.

  • You can also remake a favorite holiday recipe by swapping out gluten-containing ingredients for gluten-free ones.

  • When grocery shopping, read labels carefully. Gluten can hide in surprising places.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 28
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. What Can I Eat? Celiac Disease Foundation. (;

  2. Sources of Gluten. Celiac Disease Foundation. (;

  3. Holidays and Social Dining. Celiac Disease Foundation. (;

  4. Entertaining Gluten-Free Guests. Celiac Awareness Foundation. (;

  5. Producing Gluten-Free Products in a Non-Dedicated Kitchen. Gluten Intolerance Group. (;