How to Cook Gluten Free for Guests

This post was inspired by a few people I’ve run into at the grocery store over the past week.  They were purchasing products for the first time to cook something gluten free for Thanksgiving guests.  We had many great conversations but really how much can you say in 2 minutes in the grocery isle.

I asked some fellow gluten free bloggers for their advice when cooking for gluten free guests.  Where noted you will see tips from the following bloggers: Tia from Glugle Gluten Free, Ellen from I am Gluten Free, Heidi Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom and Kim at Cook It Allergy Free.  Please check out their blogs for great gluten free foods.  Kim also has a great iPhone app for cooking allergy free that is very handy.

How to Cook Gluten Free for Guests

Pancetta Sage Sausage Gluten Free Stuffing

First gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye and uncertified gluten free oats.  Oats are usually cross contaminated unless they are certified gluten free.  When buying foods with labels you also want to stay away from spelt, malt, durum, soy sauce, and more.  When serving spirits, not all alcohol is gluten free, especially beer.  There are gluten free beers available now such as Bard’s Tale Beer and Redbridge Beer.  Here is a listing on gluten free alcohol.

Check with your guest to see if they have other intolerances to foods that they cannot eat.  For instance I cannot eat dairy or rice which is often a go to grain for those living gluten free.  You can see why I don’t eat over people’s houses unless they allow me to bring food.  It’s a lot to ask someone who cooks gluten all the time in their kitchen and then add in the dairy and rice as off limits.

So if you are going to cook for a gluten free guest what are some things you need to think about?  Here’s some thoughts.

1. If after reading this you are still unsure about some of the topics covered or recognize some of your kitchen practices don’t match up, don’t cook for your gluten free guests.  We would rather bring a dish to eat than take a chance on getting sick.  For me if I’m accidentally given gluten I’m sick for 5-7 days.  The point of gathering together is to spend time together, does it really matter who cooked the food?

2.  If you are preparing gluten free food for gluten free guests or family members, make no assumptions. Educate yourself, ask questions, make sure you are thoroughly knowledgeable about how to prepare the food so that your gluten free diners can safely eat it.- Ellen

3. Pay close attention to possible contamination sources:  Wooden spoons, cast iron pans, and cutting boards can trap hidden gluten particles –  go for stainless and glass utensils and bakeware.  If possible, try and use a glass plate to cut your items for this meal.- Kim

Cleaning those items Kim mentioned in hot water will not remove the gluten, even in a dishwasher.  Once gluten gets into those surfaces it’s there for good.  If you have non-stick pans and they get a scratch, which happens after the first use, then the gluten seeps into those scratches and it cannot be washed out.

4.  When you are cooking are you a double dipper?  Do you take your measuring cup from the flour to the sugar?  If so you just cross contaminated your sugar. What about your butter?  Do you spread it on your toast and go back for more?  Cross contamination.  What about Crisco, peanut butter, jelly, or mayonnaise? Do you only have one cutting board you use for everything?  If so it’s time to change that routine for many reasons.  The same goes for any other food that you put a spoon, knife or fork into to take some out.  If you have purchased a gluten free pie mix think about any of the above ingredients you may need to add and make sure you are using new sugar or new butter.

5.  What about when you are cooking?  Do you mix you stuffing and then stir your potatoes or anything else?  If you do that is cross contamination.

6.  Watch out for condiments.  Make your gluten-free guests their own containers for butters, jams, mayonnaise, nut butters, etc. A knife that has just been used on a gluten-filled slice of bread and then placed back into a condiment jar or bowl, can leave enough crumbs and contamination to make someone who is gluten-sensitive very ill.- Kim

7.  Please don’t stuff the bird. And make sure to baste with something simple and gluten-free, such as butter, water, etc. Or, follow Kim’s fabulous method on her blog. Her turkey and baste sound scrumptious.  -Tia

8.  When purchasing a ham or turkey make sure it’s gluten free.  Some turkeys are injected with gluten filled liquids.  Pre-made gravies will most likely have flour-gluten.  When making your gravy use corn starch or arrow root.  These two items are great at thickening your gravy.

9.  If you are serving a meal that will include gluten free guests, set aside a separate place in your serving area where the gluten free foods will be served. Ask your gluten free guests to bring a sign that says that this food is gluten free and must only be taken with the designated utensils on this table used for this gluten free food. I would suggest that it be out of the reach of children who might unknowingly reach for some of the food with gluten-filled hands or use gluten-filled utensils. You can’t be too careful. -Ellen

Perhaps have the gluten ones and gluten-free ones at opposite ends of the table to try to avoid cross contamination. -Tia

I learned a tough lesson last year at the mixed menu Thanksgiving dinner​ I attended.  W​hile every precaution was made to separate the gluten from the gluten-free, there was still a mix up and my husband brought me a slice of gluten-filled ​pumpkin pie.  And I ate it all.  This year, I will be making little “Certified GF” stickers to adhere to cupcake picks then will stick one in each slice of GF pie.  I don’t even care if it looks silly. -Heidi

10.  Call your gluten-free guest and ask them if they would like to bring something. Or even help with the meal if they would feel more comfortable knowing what was going on.

11.  Don’t assume something is gluten free.  Read the labels carefully.  If you are not sure, don’t use it or serve it to someone who is gluten free.  The more whole foods or real food or whatever you want to call fresh fruits, vegetables and organic meats you use, the easier it is to start with gluten free foods.  Then, keep them that way.

12.  If you find gluten free rolls, don’t bake them with the gluten filled ones.  If they touch that’s cross contamination.

If you have questions email me (click the envelope at the top right corner of blog) or leave a comment.  I’ll keep checking even some on Thanksgiving.  I’ll try to help you best I can.  But if you are unsure about anything, let your guest bring their food.

If you have any tips please add them in the comments section.  Thank you!

If you are looking for some great gluten free recipes  and a few more tips you might want to check these:

Ultimate Thanksgiving Prep Series Cook It Allergy Free

Recipe Round Up Go Dairy Free-  This is a dairy free site with a long list of recipes.  Not all are gluten free so look for the ones that say gluten free.

Thanksgiving Round up gluten free easily

5 Tips for a Safe Gluten Free Thanksgiving gluten free easily

Gluten Free Stuffing The WHOLE Gang

Gluten Free Thanksgiving Meal Plan The WHOLE Gang

Creamy Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes The WHOLE Gang

Gluten Free Thanksgiving Elana’s Pantry

Crescent Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls-Gluten, Dairy and Egg Free Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom

Gluten Free Thanksgiving Simply Gluten-Free

Gluten Free Thanksgiving gluten free girl

Cooking for People We Love Who Cannot Eat Gluten gluten free girl

Giving Thanks The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

Gluten Free For Good

Book of Yum

Tasty Eats at Home

Celiacs in the House

Lexie’s Kitchen

The Spunky Coconut

Ginger Lemon Girl

The Sensitive Pantry

A Year of Slow Cooking


Happy Thanksgiving!

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14 Responses to How to Cook Gluten Free for Guests

  1. Wendy November 22, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    Great tips Diane and friends. I couldn't add a thing except watch out for kissing. Our mates may avoid gluten at home with us, but may indulge in their favorite holiday treats or a beer or two with their gluten-eating family. If they want to share a little holiday cheer and affection, remember they are now contaminated. Be careful out there.

    • TheWHOLEGangLLC November 22, 2010 at 11:35 am #

      Wendy that is a great tip. I totally forgot about that one now that my mate has sworn off gluten. Yes that little kiss could put an unhappy end to that day.

  2. Shirley @ gfe November 22, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Great post, Diane! I loved how some of the same tips were repeated in different ways by several contributors. It really drives home the point. Thanks so much for linking to my tips! Just FYI, that post only includes the same type of tips and no recipes, so you might want to separate it out with the other tips. One key point in it is for the gf folks to be served first while foods, if prepared correctly, ARE gluten free and nobody forgets and uses the stuffing utensil in the gluten-free green beans dish (for example). Thanks for sharing this post!

    Hugs and happy Thanksgiving!

    • TheWHOLEGangLLC November 22, 2010 at 11:32 am #

      Shirley- I too thought it was good to say the same thing more than one way. You never know what will hit true for someone. Thanks for that great tip too. Go first. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Dinners & Dreams November 22, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    Great post, Diane!


    • TheWHOLEGangLLC November 22, 2010 at 11:31 am #

      Thank you Nisrine. Care to add to the list?

  4. Kim Maes November 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    Diane, this post rocks! IT is full of awesome info! Great job! Now it is just too bad that we cannot all feast together for a holiday such as this. I can only envision the feast that would ensue!
    Okay, off to share this with the masses!

  5. Annette November 22, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Great tips! My son is 6 and gfdf. We usually look at the food together and point out what is safe for him to eat. If he is not sure about something he will ask. I try to make sure there are plenty of fresh fruit and veggies for him to eat.

  6. nicola @ gfreemom November 22, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    Hi Diane, this is such an education. Thank you!

  7. Gluten Free Diva November 23, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    Thank you Diane. These tips can't be repeated too many times. With the risks of contamination from gluten so great at Thanksgiving feasts, it is hugely helpful to see this list and help others, Celiacs and those who cook for them, do all they can do to try and ensure a safe as well as delicious holiday!

  8. Maggie November 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    What a fantastic post Diane – and so thorough! This kind of message needs to get out to so many people! So many just don't realize how easy it is to put others at risk. This post totally covers everything! Thanks, I'll happily spread the word!

  9. Alisa Cooks November 24, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    This is a great post Diane! It is easy to forget about the details when it isn't something you cook for every day.

  10. Monica I. November 26, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Folks could use a tip about making the gravy with potato starch, arrowroot, tapioca starch, or corn starch – they often use far too much, and encounter lumps when they don't pre-mix a small amount of the gravy liquid with the starch to make a slurry and gradually add more gravy liquid before adding the whole mix to the pan.

    • TheWHOLEGangLLC December 1, 2010 at 7:38 am #

      Monica- Yes, that is a great tip. It's amazing what a difference a slurry makes. I thought everyone made gravy that way but they really don't. You can also get rid of any lumps by pouring your gravy through a sieve. Thank you for sharing!