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How to Accommodate Guests with Special Diets and Stay Sane

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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.

The Pros Propose

  • If you like the idea of serving a meat alternative that doesn't come out of a box, try Andrea Nguyen's homemade tofurkey, complete with a vegetarian version of her family's sticky rice dressing. 
  • Mollie Katzen suggests serving a large platter of olive oil-roasted vegetables. She says: "Most food restrictions fall under vegan, gluten-free, or nut-allergy categories. Almost all restricted eaters can eat vegetables and olive oil -- it's pretty safe territory." She also notes that it can be hard for non-dairy eaters to enjoy many traditional Thanksgiving preparations of potatoes and sweet potatoes, so be sure to include them in your roasted vegetable medley. 
  • Amanda Hesser suggests serving Crispy Delicata Rings with Currant, Fennel and Apple Relish -- it works for a number of different dietary requirements. 
  • Associate Editor Marian Bull recommends Shauna Ahern's Gluten-Free iPad app for stuffing tips. 
  • Anita Shepard has a number of suggestions for vegan desserts. For pie crusts, try subbing 3 parts non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening and one part coconut, safflower, or olive oil in place of the butter. To replace an egg, she uses 1 tablespoon flax blended with 3 tablespoons warm water until gooey. And 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. 

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Gluten-Free Stuffing

  • With the right recipe, cornbread can be a great option -- carbonarasuz makes this gluten-free cornbread and adds it to her Adouille Sausage Stuffing
  • One bonus to using cornbread is that it allows you to add more sage (as opposed to stuffing made with white bread) says lorigoldsby.
  • Try grains like wild rice, or a millet pilaf with vegetables, dried cranberries, and pecans like susan g dreamed up. 
  • SeaJambon reminds us that you can always use any gluten-free bread in a regular stuffing recipe. 

Satisfying Paleo and Vegan Guests

More: Psst -- we're full of ideas for veganizing Thanksgiving.

How to Make Dairy-Free Gravy 

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

Tell us: How do you modify your favorite Thanksgiving dishes for your guests' diets? 

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

First two photos by James Ransom, final photo by Eric Moran

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

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