A Delicious Gluten-free Holiday is Possible
The holidays are upon us. For many, this means family gatherings and planning holiday dinners. But if you, someone in your family, or a friend has celiac disease or is gluten sensitive, then some traditional dishes might be off-limits. Use these tips from chefs at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program to convert your favorite recipes into gluten-free options. With a little knowledge, your holidays can be delicious and gluten-free.
In a recipe that calls for all-purpose wheat flour, such as apple crumble or breading on chicken, use a gluten-free flour instead. Some common options are:1
- Oat flour is made from oats and is available at many grocery stores. You can also make it yourself. Grind oats in a blender or food processor until you achieve a flour-like texture. It's important to use certified gluten-free oats because regular oats are often processed in facilities that also process wheat, which can contaminate the oats with gluten.
- Almond flour is made by grinding almonds and can be purchased at the store or you can make it yourself. To make your own, grind raw or blanched almonds in a blender or food processor. But don't grind them for too long, otherwise you'll end up with something more like almond butter than almond flour.
- Rice flour is made from white or brown rice. But because rice flour is difficult to make at home, it's best to purchase it at the store.
Some recipes for gravy or white sauce use wheat flour as a thickening agent. Try a gluten-free thickener instead:1
- Corn starch: Cornstarch can be substituted for wheat flour at a 1:2 ratio. Because it's a durable thickener, you’ll only need half the amount of cornstarch to create the same effect.
- Tapioca flour: As a thickener, replace wheat flour with tapioca flour at a 1:1 ratio.
- Arrowroot powder: The substitution is one teaspoon of arrowroot flour per tablespoon of wheat flour.
Before adding a thickener to a recipe, make a slurry first. A slurry is a mixture of starch and cold water that is used to thicken a soup or sauce. If the starch is added directly to a hot liquid, it will clump and make the recipe lumpy.
Assuming you’re making 2-3 cups of gravy, start with a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of thickening agent to water. Add the slurry directly to the hot liquid a bit at a time, and slowly whisk while pouring until you reach the desired consistency. Bring the liquid to a simmer each time to ensure the starch reaches its full thickening potential before adding more slurry.
If your recipe calls for breadcrumbs (like meatballs), panko (panko-crusted fish), or wheat crackers (casserole topped with crumbled crackers), try:1
- Gluten-free cereals. Gluten-free cereals are readily available at most grocery stores. They're often made from oats, rice, corn, or a mix of gluten-free grains. Be sure to choose one that doesn't include sugar or other sweeteners. Add the desired amount to your blender or food processor and grind the cereal into a coarse bread-crumb texture. If it’s panko crumbs you’re looking for, many grocery stores carry a pre-made gluten-free option.
In recipes that call for soy sauce in a meat glaze, marinade, or other recipe, use:1
- Tamari – a wheat-free version of soy sauce. You can find it at the grocery store on the same shelves as soy sauce.
How to Make a Substitution
For most basic recipes, you can make a 1:1 substitution. For example, if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, then use 1/2 cup of gluten-free flour. All other ingredients in the recipe – assuming they are gluten-free – stay the same.1
Substituting Gluten in Baked Goods
Substituting flours in baked goods is more complex. The 1:1 substitution ratio for cookies, cakes, and breads – which need to rise in the oven – doesn't hold up. To achieve the correct texture in baked goods, you typically need to mix several gluten-free flours together. It can take trial and error to find the right mixture. Instead of adapting your favorite baked recipe yourself, seek out and try a new-to-you gluten-free recipe. The hard work of figuring out the baking ratios will already be done for you.1
Gluten-free Grains, Starches, and Flours2-4
There are many gluten-free options you can enjoy in a variety of ways. Most are available in your local grocery store, although some might only be found in a specialty or health food store.
- Corn – cornmeal, grits, and polenta that is labeled gluten-free
- Gluten-free flours – rice, soy, corn, potato, tapioca, and bean flours
- Hominy (corn)
- Rice, including wild rice
- Tapioca (cassava root)
A Note on Oats: Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they can be contaminated during production with wheat, barley, or rye. Oats and oat products labeled gluten-free have not been cross-contaminated. Some individuals with celiac disease, however, can’t tolerate the gluten-free-labeled oats.2-4
Ingredients to Avoid
Avoid foods and drinks that contain the following:2-4
- Wheat (including spelt, a type of wheat)
- Triticale – a cross between wheat and rye
Resources to Explore
There are many resources and websites that offer gluten-free recipes and meal plans. Here are just a few:
- 29 Ways to Go Gluten-Free This Holiday from Delish
- Gluten Free Recipes from Mayo Clinic
- Gluten Free Recipes from Celiac Disease Foundation
Food is an important part of many holiday traditions. Living a gluten-free lifestyle or serving a guest who can't eat gluten doesn't have to thwart your dinner plans. With a few tweaks and substitutions, your favorite holiday dishes can be on the table.
A Note from Thorne
All of our nutritional supplements are tested and verified to be gluten-free.
- Welper J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Nov 9, 2021.
- Crowly K, Dennis M. Patient Education: Gluten-free Diet (The Basics). https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. [Accessed Nov. 9, 2021]
- Sources of gluten. Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/gluten-free-living/what-is-gluten/sources-of-gluten. [Accessed Nov. 9, 2021]
- Gluten free foods. Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/gluten-free-living/gluten-free-foods. [Accessed Nov. 9, 2021]