Here’s to a gluten & dairy free Thanksgiving

with a few survival tips and a recipe to boot!

An amber Depression Glass cake plate.  With what GF treasure will you fill it?
An amber Depression Glass cake plate. With what GF goodie will you fill it?

For those of us with food allergies and intolerances, the holiday season is difficult and sometimes painful.  I am often asked what happens when I eat gluten or dairy.  After several years of trying to delicately answer this question, I now say, “it’s gastro-intestinal” and let it go at that.  But, really, it goes much further and is much, much worse.  Sure, there’s the initial sickness which lays me low for a day, or two, or three, but it also causes more long term effects, including debilitating exhaustion; brain fog I can’t explain; horrible muscle and joint pain; and weird moodiness.

So, when I say I can’t have it, I really can’t, not even a little.

If you have food intolerances, here are a few strategies for getting through Thanksgiving next week.  If you’re eating with friends and family, and they can’t accommodate you, you need to bring your own food, even if it makes you feel awkward and different.  Getting sick is just not worth it.  Decide what you absolutely need to make your Thanksgiving special.  Is it pie?  Cake? (I’m making a GF/CF carrot cake w/”cream cheese” icing this year.) Dressing/stuffing just like your mom’s? Cranberry sauce?  Turkey?  Sweet potatoes?

For me, I must have my mom’s cornbread dressing, and she and I collaborated on the recipe below.  We discovered how to make it GF/CF several years ago.  I’m preparing a special dinner for my birth family on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and going to my in-laws’ house on the actual day.  I can’t eat a single thing at their house, and as there are lots of people to feed, I don’t expect them to cater to my food intolerances.    I’m not kidding.  Thanksgiving is probably the cruelest month for folks who can’t eat wheat or dairy.  I just thank God, that I’m not allergic.

On Thanksgiving Day, I’m bringing turkey breast, mashed potatoes, plain green beans, salad for one, and a carrot cake.  Because of past years of cross-contamination from serving spoons and forks, I’ll be making a separate plate for my food in my kitchen ahead of time.  I get teased for cutting a piece of cake or pie before anyone else, but I just explain. (Once upon a time, this was very hard for me, but, now, I hate being sick more.)

If you are trying to cook for a friend with food intolerances or allergies, ask them about cross-contamination issues first.  They will be thrilled you asked, I promise, and for a normal meal, it’s not that difficult to keep things separate (except when talking about peanut or other allergies, and that’s a whole different ballgame).

On Sunday, with my family’s help, I am making a feast of turkey (not basted or injected with gluten, barley malt, whey [dairy], etc.), cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes and green beans.  My mom (who is feeling much better than last summer, thank you) is bringing the GF/CF pumpkin pie, GF/CF cherry pie, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes.  My sister is bringing an amazing fruit salad.  My mother and sister, along with my family here, can eat dairy, so there will be whipped cream.  I’ll use the soy whip which is just so-so.  Last year, I made whipped coconut milk, and it was good, but very coconutty, which was a bit weird with pumpkin pie.

Yum, I’m just hungry thinking about it.

Mom’s Gluten and Dairy Free Cornbread Dressing

Makes one 9×13 pan. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

One 8×8 or 9×9 pan of homemade cornbread; Be sure to make your own and to use gluten free cornmeal when you do.  You don’t want cross-contamination from wheat processing.   Bob’s Red Mill has great gluten free cornmeal.  Also, don’t use a sweet cornbread mix.  It makes the dressing taste odd.  To make the cornbread, just use your favorite savory cornbread recipe.  If it calls for wheat flour, use sorghum flour or rice flour, or a mix of GF flours in its place.  Instead of butter, use your favorite mild-tasting oil.  Pamela’s Products Cornbread & Muffin Mix is pretty good too, but I like a more coarse grain to my cornmeal.

Three loaves of inexpensive gluten free white bread; I buy Ener-G Foods Light Tapioca Loaf or White Rice Loaf.  Both work great.

Six happy free-range eggs (as my friend Karina says); or Ener-G Foods Egg Replacer if you can’t eat eggs

Two onions, chopped

Four or five celery ribs, chopped

Half of one bottle of McCormick or Penzey’s leaf sage (not rubbed) McCormick spices are gluten free.   Penzey’s does have some items with dairy, and some of their soup bases have wheat, but they are clearly labeled.

One to two tablespoons of salt (to your taste)

Two to four tablespoons of freshly ground pepper

Either the drippings from the turkey (gluten free of course), or if you don’t have these, use extra chicken broth (Swanson’s regular is GF, but their Organic is not; Kitchen Basics is a good GF brand as is Pacific Foods) mixed with a stick of Earth Balance buttery spread (or butter if you can eat it).  Add enough chicken broth to the mixture so that it is “sloppy wet” per my mother.  A lot of the liquid will evaporate during cooking.

Pour into a greased or sprayed pan and bake for one to one and a half hours.

That is our cornbread dressing.  You can add other things to it if you like.  HH likes smoked oysters, so we take some of the dressing and add the oysters to it just prior to baking.

Other additions:  cranberries, sausage, apple, or anything which says Thanksgiving to you.

Pies: The Gluten-Free Pantry Perfect Pie Crust Mix is great, but give yourself time to make it the first time or two.  Hint: roll the crust between waxed paper, or plastic wrap to keep it from tearing. Peel off the top layer of plastic, invert the pie plate on top of the crust and flip.  Take off remaining piece of plastic or wax paper.  Fill with your favorite filling.  For pumpkin pies, I use hemp or almond milk in place of the dairy.  No one can tell the difference.

Turkey: Be sure to check out your turkey and make sure it is GF/CF.  Turkeys are often injected with various things to make them juicier.  Refined coconut oil is a great replacement for the butter most people rub onto the turkey’s skin.  You can also use oil or the Earth Balance buttery sticks.  The last do have soy so be aware of that if you’re sensitive to it.  Earth Balance has recently developed a soy free version of their popular spread, but I haven’t found it in stick form yet.  It is delicious.

For more information about staying healthy this Thanksgiving, see Karina’s Kitchen for a plethora of recipes, including the usual suspects.  Her Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie is delish, and you don’t even have to make a crust.  Also, Gluten Free Cooking School has some good looking recipes as does Gluten Free Mom.  Gluten Free Girl has some awesome looking dinner rolls I’d like to try on her site.  If I didn’t have my momma’s stuffing, I’d try Ginger Lemon Girl’s GF Walnut Stuffing recipe.

I hope this information helps someone out there who is having trouble figuring out what to do for their first or even their tenth gluten and dairy free holiday.

Hang in there.

Here’s to everyone having a happy, healthy and bountiful Thanksgiving.  God bless you and yours.


  1. Deirdre says:

    Thank you so much for bringing up the utensil/cross contamination thing. I have two nephews that need gluten free options. Whenever they come for dinner I always make sure the good stuff (especially desserts, they are small children) are gluten free but sometimes we have a few dishes that are not. I’m always careful to not serve them those dishes but I never thought about the utensils- I will pay much more attention now!

  2. My sister is gluten intolerant, and she is very bold and emphatic about insisting that the wait staff find out if there is any wheat flour in that sauce. Makes me proud of her. She bakes a lot of GF food, too. It’s amazing how much choice there is now compared to just a few years ago.

    Have a happy Thanksgiving, Dee.
    .-= Susan Tomlinson´s last blog .."What makes the water holy…" =-.

  3. Our neighbors are gluten free and had to educate us. When we invite them over for dinner cross contamination is our biggest concern.
    .-= Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening´s last blog ..Horticulture Magazine Lists Their Twenty Favorite Garden Blogs =-.

  4. I’ve finally learned and am bringing my own cranberry sauce without orange in it & a dairy-free dessert. How many years did it take me to figure this out? Far too many.
    .-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..Adventures in Welding =-.

  5. Gail says:

    Dear Dee, I am so glad you have come to a peaceful place with your food allergies….It must be a relief to know that you can join in at parties and aren’t going to get sick! For more then a dozen years I didn’t eat white flours and sugar and felt wonderful…but, people never let me alone about it! Now, that I’ve decided to go back to that food plan~~I’m taking my own breads and pastas with me! Have a delicious holiday. xxgail
    .-= Gail´s last blog ..There’s Something Strange In The Neighborhood! =-.

  6. Phillip says:

    That has to be an awful thing to deal with especially if you love food. On a different note, I love the photo on your header. Is that in your hometown?
    .-= Phillip´s last blog ..A walk through the fall garden =-.

  7. Lou says:

    “Here’s to everyone having a happy, healthy and bountiful Thanksgiving. ” I’ll second that. Let’s all celebrate our respective harvests as we look forward to another productive garden season next year.
    .-= Lou´s last blog ..Don’t plant daffodils with onions =-.

  8. Katie says:

    Good luck, Dee! it sounds like you’ve got it down to a science. I’m about to re-embark on my green smoothie for breakfast routine. I’ve been eating nothing but crap for a few months, and intolerant or not, allergic or not, I just don’t feel well when I eat crap.

    Your recipes sound delish!

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..7 Musings about “Double Fault,” by Lionel Shriver =-.

  9. Linda says:

    You have a great attitude about it all, and you give some very good tips. I found that my symptoms have lessened with time. I used to get very bad mental reactions (i.e. very angry) but now it’s more brain fog. Sometimes I tell other people that regardless of my external reactions, there is always an autoimmune reaction and intestinal damage. I have even met people who don’t react at all, but got diagnosed because of a family member. That usually surprises people.
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Edible Gifts =-.

  10. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Dee, this is an excellent post for those of us who don’t deal with such things … it really helps us understand just how difficult it can be. You do it with grace and humor, as I’ve seen first hand. I think all of us who read this will be more mindful in future of the challenges facing friends with ANY kind of food intolerances/issues.
    .-= Cindy, MCOK´s last blog ..The Head Gardener Speaks: Bloom Day, November 2009 =-.

    Thanks Cindy, you’ve been with me to restaurants. I knew you’d understand.~~Dee

  11. Frances says:

    Dear Dee, I am so sorry you have to deal with this, but agree wholeheartedly that you should do whatever it takes to keep yourself and others healthy and happy. That anyone would even make a non helpful comment is appalling, they should do whatever is needed to help you. I might think about having a plate of some kind, filled with food from your own kitchen when you go to the other Thanksgiving meals. That reminds me that I need to get soy milk for my daughter in law. Have a most wonderful holiday.

    I love your header photo and the look here now with the dark background. Could you share the secret of having a black and white shot with just a ribbon of color? I have seen it on other blogs and wondered how it was done. I fear the photo program I use does not offer that feature. 🙂

    .-= Frances´s last blog ..Falls With Friends =-.

    Frances, darlin’, truth is, that photo came with the theme, although you could search online to get that information I think. I’ve been considering taking a photoshop class in the spring, ‘er, nope, that’s gardening season, perhaps, the fall instead. 🙂 ~~Dee

  12. Dee, you are so right and your advice sounds like great advice. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. We should all just enjoy it for the time together.
    .-= Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog ..Channeling The Beverly Hillbillies =-.

    It’s a favorite of mine too. That’s why I changed up the recipes and made them GF/CF. I would miss them too much.~~Dee

  13. Janell West says:


    I like this post most for this one line:

    (Once upon a time, this was very hard for me, but, now, I hate being sick more.)

    There is so much truth and experience and wisdom in these words. I think these are the sorts of words — that whenever or however expressed — show the world that we are comfortable in our own skin.

    And amazingly, when these kinds of words are spoken, it invites others to relax and do likewise.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. It enriches my life.

    Blessings to you and yours.


    Janell, I can’t tell you how much your blog enriches my life too. I’m so glad I found it.~~Dee

  14. hollygee says:

    Hi Dee,
    I’ve got Celiac but my in-laws are all wonderful at coping with my and others of the family’s diet. One sister-in-law was raised in Brazil and she makes us pao de queijo, the tapioca cheese buns.
    I’m making corn bread dressing, brussels sprouts with aioli and pine nuts, and pecan tarts.
    I like my pumpkin pie without whipped cream, but what about making a whipped tofutti ‘cream cheese’ topping with a little maple syrup and cinnamon?
    I like molasses crinkle cookies and apple cider donuts at this time of year too.

  15. deb says:

    I can’t imagine having to be so careful. Your creative cooking is inspiring

  16. Dee… your amber depression glass photo is what drew me here today…from your FB entry! I have a few pieces that were my mom’s and have always loved them. What a nice thought–to get them out and use them around this time of year. Very ‘autumnal’ or fall-ish!!:-) They are kept in a large glass curio cabinet where I can look at them with other antiques and treasured collectables. Hmm, actually ‘using’ them might be a nice idea…haha!

    I’m ok w/gluten and dairy, but it’s good to know there are some delicious options out there for those who aren’t.

    I hope you and yours have a very happy Thanksgiving!

  17. you better bring all that to my house and share. will set an extra plate for your crowd too. Happy Thanksgiving.
    .-= Anna/Flowergardengirl´s last blog ..Motoring right along won’t you join me =-.

  18. Brenda Kula says:

    I knew you’d posted really quickly because Blogger tells me how long ago it was that you last posted! I never had this issue, but deal with reflux. At least I can look at something and know not to eat it however! I am starting to see more and more food in the grocery store dealing with this problem for those like you who must watch the ingredients that closely. And every time I see them, I think of you and several others who’ve mentioned this problem in their blogs. I’m so glad you’ve figured out a way to deal with it that doesn’t cause too much problems for you at social gatherings. Your recipes will help a lot of folks out there!
    .-= Brenda Kula´s last blog ..Windows Live Writer Tutorial =-.

  19. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I am intolerant of wheat so I can imagine your distresses. I used to not be able to tolerate dairy but do a little better now. Nothing on the scale you have to deal with. It is great that you know what bothers you and you can avoid things that make you sick. Have a great Thanksgiving. It sounds like you will be feasting all week. 😉 Life is good.

  20. Hi, Dee — Thank you so much for sharing not only your recipes but also your angst with the whole dietary thing. I avoid certain carbs but can have others, and my dietary issues are complicated, so I don’t bother to try to explain them. I’ve noticed that friends and family don’t really notice what I eat, anyway. I agree, bringing your own food is the best approach. And modify your favorite recipes so you don’t feel deprived. Have a wonderful holiday! Debra

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