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How to Accommodate Guests with Special Diets and Stay Sane

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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?

Vegan Shepard's Pie

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. 

Andouille Sausage Stuffing

Gluten-Free Stuffing

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Satisfying Paleo and Vegan Guests

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

Vegan and Gluten-Free Gravy

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:

Photos by James Ransom

Automagic Thanksgiving Menu Maker!
Automagic Thanksgiving Menu Maker!

Tags: Thanksgiving, Holiday, Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, Community, Burnt Toast Dinner Brigade, Advice, Holiday Entertaining, Hotline