Your Burning Questions

How to Accommodate Guests with Special Diets and Stay Sane

By • November 24, 2013 • 8 Comments

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There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it every day leading up to Thanksgiving, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to help you host the least stressful Thanksgiving yet. No promises on the crazy relatives.

Today: We'll arm you with simple solutions so your guests with special diets will enjoy post-Thanksgiving food comas too. Tomorrow we'll tackle all of your stuffing situations.

Accommodating guests with special diets on Food52

Thanksgiving is a day where everyone you love comes together, the uniting factor being food. So what happens when you have guests who have special diets? How do you serve a satisfying menu without straying too far from traditional Thanksgiving fare? Every year concerned hosts who want to make sure their vegan, vegetarian, paleo or gluten-free guests don't leave hungry come to the Hotline for help. We have a summary of the best solutions -- substitution is the name of the game.

Satisfying Paleo and Vegan Guests

Vegan Desserts

  • Anitalectric is a pie crust whiz, subbing 3 parts non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening and one part coconut, safflower, or olive oil in place of the butter, or try an olive oil pie crust like Ophelia makes. 
  • To replace an egg, Anitalectric uses 1 tablespoon flax blended with 3 tablespoons warm water until gooey. 
  • For a custard-y pie, she uses chestnut flour and full fat coconut milk instead of egg and milk, and kabocha squash in place of pumpkin since it's less sugary. 

How to Make Dairy-Free Gravy 

  • Monita and megandrob both make a roux from pan drippings, cooking with flour or corn starch and substitute chicken broth, wine or a combination of the two, simmering until the roux thickens. 
  • SeaJambon reminds us to first stir the corn starch in a few drops water, instead of putting it directly in the pan, as it will develop lumps. 

Gluten-Free Stuffing

How do you modify your favorite Thanksgiving dishes for your guests' diets? Continue the conversation in the comments below!

Have you missed any of our Thanksgiving round-up of Burning Questions? Catch up now:

Photo by James Ransom

Jump to Comments (8)

Tags: special diets, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, thanksgiving, holiday, hotline

Comments (8)


11 months ago vvvanessa

I work both ends of the guests-with-special-diets issue, and here's what I've learned over many years of dealing with this:

Good hosts don't have to make every dish edible for every person but will make sure everyone has something delicious to eat; good guests with dietary restrictions don't arrive with the expectation of being catered to and offer to aid the host ahead of time by suggesting recipes or arranging to bring a dish (with the host's agreement) or, if necessary, will eat beforehand.


11 months ago Debbie

Cornbread is not gluten-free. You can easily make gluten-free cornbread by substituting the flour in any recipe with gluten-free flour. Try the ones made by companies like Cup4Cup or Bob's Red Mill. It will taste just like the real deal.


11 months ago Lindsay-Jean Hard

Lindsay-Jean is a Contributing Writer & Editor at Food52.

The linked cornbread recipe by carbonarasuz is in fact gluten-free, no substitutions necessary!


11 months ago Debbie

Yes, I did see that but the article is a bit misleading. It doesn't make it clear that most cornbread is not gluten-free and that they must/should use the recipe you provide a link for. I bet many people didn't click on the link for the recipe and just read that cornbread was a good ingredient to use in gluten-free stuffing. I have thoughtful friends who have served me store bought cornbread thinking it was safe to eat. "Isn't it bread made out of corn?" I've had others suggest I try potato or rye bread. GF folks aren't picky. We're just allergic and will get sick.


11 months ago Lindsay-Jean Hard

Lindsay-Jean is a Contributing Writer & Editor at Food52.

Thanks for sharing your concerns, the language has been updated to help clarify.


11 months ago Debbie

Thank you.


11 months ago soupcon

I don't modify my menu for vegan, vegetarian or paleo diets. These diets are a lifestyle choice as is mine and practitioners of these diets need to respect my food choices. I do however respect allergies (but not food dislikes) and will accommodate these the best of my ability but not at all cost.


11 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Alas, I would note that the flax seed used to replace an egg absolutely must be ground first to achieve the desired effect. ;o)