Allergen Free Thanksgiving

Odds are if you host a gathering for Thanksgiving that one or more people will have some dietary restrictions.  It could be an allergy, keeping kosher, being vegetarian, or diabetic.  I am here to tell you that making small accommodations are easy, not to mention thoughtful at this time of year.

Last year when I went to Butterball University I was able to ask about the turkeys and I learned that Butterball turkeys are gluten-free.  This is not the case with some other brands– they are dusted with flour during the processing.  This is not something that you would necessarily consider unless you are allergic to wheat or have Celiac, an auto-immune response to gluten that presents somewhat like an allergy.

How has being diagnosed as Celiac changed my Thanksgiving feast?  Probably not as much as you would imagine. The biggest change I have made is not stuffing my turkey and instead preparing two different stuffings in two different baking dishes– the traditional one that my family has always enjoyed and a special gluten free one that I can eat, as well as share.  This year I am making a Mexican Cornbread Stuffing, modifying the original recipe only slightly.  No one else would even notice.  I will serve traditional dinner rolls to everyone else and have my own special gluten free roll. 

But what do you do if you are cooking for a large group of people with various allergies or dietary restrictions.  The easiest thing to do is simplify.  Dairy allergies?  Ditch the traditional mashed potatoes and serve roasted potatoes, a combination of sweet potatoes and white potatoes is delicious.  Serve a clear soup instead of a creamy one.  Corn on the cob is a better alternative than the creamed corn chowder.  And don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring along a side dish that they can eat.

When you set up your buffet table, write the ingredients on a placard along with the name  of the dish.  Ask your guests to do the same for any items they bring with them. By doing so, your guest can look at the ingredients in each dish and not feel like they are bothering you.  And anyone who enjoys a particular dish can jot down the recipe and add it to their own repertoire.

What about dessert?  Baking with allergies in mind can be difficult and time consuming.  Don’t toss out the traditional pumpkin pie or the apple torte that has been passed down for generations.  Find a bakery that specializes in allergy free desserts and buy your allergic guest something special. 

Remember the meaning of the holiday– giving thanks.  Show your loved ones how thankful you are for their presence by accommodating their dietary needs.



  1. expectingamiracle
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What about dairy? I thought I read somewhere that Butterball turkey had, well, butter.

  2. Christina
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Last year I spent Thanksgiving with an entire family of Celiacs. The only difference between their dinner and the Thanksgiving dinner I usually have was cornbread dressing instead of a regular bread dressing, and the pumpkin pie which was crustless. They used cornstarch to thicken the gravy instead of flour, but I couldn’t taste the difference. It was a very good meal with only minor changes.

  3. Lucinda
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have Celiac so we do an entirely gluten-free dinner here. Last year no one even noticed. They commented that my cornbread stuffing tasted just like the regular thing. The meal was also egg and dairy free. I agree that it can easily be done. Thanks for posting this!

  4. Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Yes, any froze turkeys can contain lactose…sodium lactose is a preservative, as is modified food starch. MFS is most likely gluten derived unless otherwise stated.

    • Posted November 20, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Both Butterball Fresh and Frozen turkeys are allergen-free (no ‘big -8″ allergens). The “modified food starch” included in the deep basting is from a corn source, not wheat. The gravy packets that come with Li’l Butterball, BB Breast of Turkey and BB Boneless Turkey Roasts are also allergen-free.

  5. Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This ingredient list states modified food starch and natural flavorings. I never trust either unless specifically stated.

  6. Becky
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink | Reply

    We’re doing an egg and tree nut free dinner this year, as we have every year for the past 5 or so years. We’ve just mastered the art of pumpkin pie making without eggs and we’re really excited about it!

  7. Posted November 18, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great tips! We finally stopped doing any visiting over Thanksgiving because no one was being at all considerate to the gluten allergies we face. I know cook a completely gluten free dinner here at home – without missing a thing!

  8. Posted November 20, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    you’re kinder to your family then I am. I’m so worried about cross contamination that I only make gluten free dishes for Thanksgiving. The nice part is, nobody notices. Last year I brought cornbread stuffing to Tgiving at my inlaws. My MIL’s stuffing went uneaten and mine was gone! This year we are hosting thanksgiving dessert- everything will be gluten free and no one seems to mind one bit

  9. Posted November 22, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We’re making gluten-free apple pie for Thanksgiving with my in-laws. We were going to do one gluten-free and two gluteny ones but the gluten-free one tasted so good we decided just to stick to doing all of them gluten-free.

  10. Christine
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Unfortunately, the ‘big 8’ allergen list does NOT include gluten! Rye (usually used in bread) and barley (often used to sweeten or flavor) do not need to be listed on allergen labels. Neither do oats, which are also CC’d with gluten.
    I am with pickel above, if it says ‘flavorings’ I always call to check.

  11. Posted November 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It looks like some Butterball Turkeys are offering gluten-free gravy packets. Bravo!!!

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