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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.
- Anita Shepard has multiple 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 custardy pie, she uses chestnut flour and full-fat coconut milk instead of egg and milk, and kabocha squash in place of pumpkin.
- With the right recipe, cornbread can be a great option—carbonarasuz makes this gluten-free cornbread and adds it to her Andouille Sausage Stuffing.
- 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.
- Marian Bull recommends Shauna Ahern's Gluten-Free iPad app for stuffing tips.
Satisfying Paleo and Vegan Guests
- Lloreen recommends using coconut milk instead of cream in a pumpkin or squash soup.
- Zombiecupcake and AntoniaJames both like serving Vegan Lentil Shepherd's Pie.
- Don't forget about the appetizer spread—here are 8 paleo-friendly snacks.
More: Psst—we're full of ideas for veganizing Thanksgiving.
How to Make Dairy-Free Gravy
- Gena Hamshaw makes a vegan and gluten-free gravy using brown rice flour or chickpea flour along with nutritional yeast flakes.
- 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 of 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:
- The Definitive Pounds-Per-Person Guide to Turkey and Potatoes
- Everything You Need to Know About Brining
Photos by James Ransom