Mastering An Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Dinner

Mastering An Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Dinner

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, we thought it’d be great to write about where common food allergens are often hidden in traditional Thanksgiving dishes. We’ve also provided some tips and links to recipes so you can enjoy an allergy-friendly Thanksgiving dinner.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, obviously this makes life easier as you can be in control of each and every dish. If it’s a potluck, ask guests to label dishes with allergens they contain. You can even provide the labels so they can identify the dish and the allergens. If you serve buffet-style, invite guests with allergies through first. Keep allergy-tainted serving utensils separate. And lastly, avoid setting nuts out as a snack.

If you and your family are guests, make your allergens known to your host as early as possible so they can accommodate you with one or a few dishes. If they serve buffet-style, ask to head through the line first. Worst-case scenario? Bring your own dish(es) if you have any concerns or anxieties. Everyone deserves to relax and enjoy Thanksgiving – and those of us with food allergies and intolerances are no exception.

Thanksgiving Dishes To Beware Of By Food Allergy

Treenut Allergy: While you may think cranberry sauces are allergy-friendly (cranberries and sugar, right?), sometimes pre-made or family recipes include chopped pecans or walnuts. Watch out for stuffing, too. Yes! Some people like to add nuts to stuffing for crunch.

Peanut Allergy: Surprisingly, some gravy recipes include peanuts. And some people fry their turkeys in peanut oil. We referenced a peanut-free, gluten-free gravy below.

Gluten Intolerance: Watch out for gravies, stuffing, and of course, desserts. Gravies often contain wheat flour as a thickener. Gluten can hide in stuffing, in the bread and both store-bought broths and stocks. And of course, beware of desserts! Luckily you can buy gluten-free desserts quite easily today at health food stores and some big chain supermarkets. Or better yet, bake your very own. (See recipe below)

Soy Allergy: If you’re sensitive to soy, watch out for desserts, gravy, and even turkey, which is sometimes cooked in soybean oil. Turkeys may also contain soy as an additive. Tip: Buy a “natural” turkey that does not contain the additives which are commonly found in self-basting varieties. Always read the ingredient list. Consider basting the turkey on your own with olive oil. Read about turkey types and how to tell if they contain allergens. Finally, mashed potatoes can be a tricky dish for those with a soy allergy. Since lactose intolerance and dairy allergies are common, inquire if the mashed potatoes are dairy-free. If they are, there’s a chance soy milk or soy-based margarine may have been used as a substitute.

Dairy Allergy: Mashed potatoes (regular or sweet), casserole sauces, gravy, desserts, and yes, even turkey may contain dairy. Tip: Use rice or soy milk, or dairy-free margarine like Earth Balance as an alternative to milk and butter. Gravy is tricky because you can make your own from scratch or from a mix. Tip: Inquire about your host’s gravy; ask him/her to keep the label if it’s a mix, so you can read it for yourself when you arrive. Finally, turkey may contain dairy through butter or another additive.

Wheat Allergy: Watch out for wheat in any stuffing (in bread), desserts (pies, bars or cookies), and turkey (additives). Wheat can also sometimes be found in canned soups that help make the sauces for casseroles.

Egg Allergy: Watch out for baked goods, which often contain eggs (among other allergens). A safe bet would be to bring your own vegan or egg-free labeled dessert to be on the safe side.

Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes

Finally, for two other great articles about Thanksgiving dishes, including more delicious allergy-friendly recipes, we love Cybele Pascal’s An Allergen Free Thanksgiving and Living Without’s Allergy Free Holiday Cooking Recipes.

A happy, healthy and allergy-friendly Thanksgiving dinner to all of our readers!

Image ©2010 Steven Johnson, Flicker


  1. [...] be filled with fear. Since our readers seemed to find the recipes, tips and suggestions from our Thanksgiving blog post helpful (note the first few paragraphs), we figure we’d write a follow-up post about [...]

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