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Hosting a holiday feast for your whole gang can feel intimidating, even when none of your nearest and dearest have dietary restrictions. But making dinner when one or more guests is gluten-free can really throw you. It used to rattle me, and cooking is my career! But I now know making a delicious, entirely gluten-free holiday meal is totally possible, fun, and, dare I say, easy. You just need to stock your pantry smartly and have a few so-delicious-you’ll-never-know-they’re-GF recipes in your back pocket.
I started experimenting with gluten-free holiday recipes years ago, when we discovered my brother had celiac disease (an autoimmune disease that can cause damage to the small intestine in those who eat gluten) and we learned he had to stay away from that protein. We soon realized gluten was in almost everything we ate, including holiday favorites like stuffing, pie, and cookies.
We’ve had many GF feasts since my brother’s diagnosis, and everyone leaves our holiday table happy, grateful, and stuffed. Now I’m sharing my secrets (including a 30-minute recipe for Gluten-Free Sausage-Apple Stuffing Casserole that’s bound to be the star of your holiday spread) so your family can do the same!
Secret #1: Make these smart switcheroos!
You’ll want to take a peek in your pantry and stash problematic foods away while you’re hosting. Gluten-free folks can’t have traditional breads, pastas, pastries, cookies, pie crusts, or crackers. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up baking—more on that later!
You may be surprised to learn soy sauce, gravy, and thick sauces can also contain gluten, as do foods and drinks that have barley, malt, or rye. Even the canned frosting you use on your Christmas cookies may have gluten lurking within.
To avoid laboring over a dish that can’t be enjoyed by everyone at the table, turn to these smart swaps for your holiday staples:
Gluten-Free Pantry Swaps
- Instead of ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, try: CORNSTARCH to make a gluten-free baking blend
- Instead of 2 Tbsp. FLOUR to thicken gravy, try: 1 Tbsp. CORNSTARCH
- Instead of PIE CRUST, try: a cookie-crumb crust with PACKAGED GF COOKIES
- Instead of SALAD CROUTONS, try: NUTS or LARGE, TOASTED COCONUT FLAKES for crunch
- Instead of BREAD for making leftover turkey sandwiches, try: quesadillas made with CORN TORTILLAS
Secret #2: Use this super-ingredient in your sauces and sides!
Both stuffing and saucy side dishes are often no-nos for gluten-free guests—the stuffing because of the bread, of course, and the sides because of the flour used to thicken them. With a simple swap, though, you can make your fave sides a-okay for everyone at the table. Argo® corn starch—the ingredient that adds crispy texture to sautéed veggies, structure to pie fillings, and lovely body to crusts and cookies—is a brilliant GF flour replacement for thickening roux and sauces. I keep Argo at the ready for my holiday meals, adding about half as much cornstarch as I would flour. It elevates my recipes into crowd pleasers that no one would ever know are GF.
This season, I used Argo corn starch to create a GF holiday side dish of my dreams. This sausage and apple casserole tastes just like mom’s stuffing with a little gravy drizzled on top. The crunchy, cheesy topping takes the place of crusty breadcrumbs. I added cubes of fennel and squash so everyone gets their veggies in, too.
This casserole gets made in a skillet while the topping bakes in the oven. Have your vegetables chopped, and you’ll be ready to serve it hot in 30 minutes. It’s delicious alongside holiday staples like turkey, roast, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, or my flavorful Brussels Sprouts with Apricots and Pistachios.
Gluten-Free Sausage-Apple Stuffing Casserole
Serves: 6 to 8
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Ingredients for the Filling:
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 cup (3 stalks) celery, diced
- 1 cup (1 medium) onion, diced
- 1 cup diced apple
- 1 cup diced fennel
- 1 cup diced butternut squash
- 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. dried thyme
- ½ tsp. mustard powder
- 1 Tbsp. fresh minced sage (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 2½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Ingredients for the Topping:
- ¾ cup finely chopped almonds
- 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
- ½ tsp. paprika
- 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 3 Tbsp. butter, softened
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- Heat oven to 350ºF.
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add sausage and cook, breaking into small pieces, until just browning, about 5 minutes.
- Add the celery, onion, apple, fennel, butternut squash, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, mix the spices, broth, and cornstarch and add the mixture to the skillet.
- Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce heat and let simmer until vegetables are tender and sauce is thick—about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Meanwhile, for the topping, mix together the almonds, Parmesan, paprika, cornstarch, butter, and milk until a batter forms.
- Spread batter to 1/8” thickness on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (Use another sheet of parchment to flatten the batter onto the pan, then remove the second sheet.)
- Bake topping until golden brown—about 15 minutes—while the filling simmers. Remove from the oven.
- Remove filling from the heat and stir in grated cheese.
- Transfer filling to a 2- or 3-qt casserole dish and spread evenly. Crumble topping and sprinkle over entire casserole. Serve hot.
Secret #3: Make your own easy, GF baking blend.
What’s a holiday dinner without dessert? I’ve come up with some yummy GF sweets over the years, like using GF pretzels for the crust on my Chocolate Covered Pretzel Cream Pie and decorating cookies with a homemade Fluffy Vanilla Frosting since the store-bought kind contains gluten. You can also make GF versions of your favorite, tried-and-true pies, cakes, and cookies by whipping up your own all-purpose flour substitute.
I make this Gluten-Free Flour Mix from Argo in multiple batches at the holidays and keep it airtight for baking days. It gives my cookies and crusts the best texture. Storebought GF flour mixes often have preservatives added, but by making my own version, I know exactly what’s in it—just four ingredients.
Rice flour, potato starch, and xantham gum can be found in the health food section of your supermarket. (Xantham gum may also be in the supplement section of your health food store. It’s a wonderful binding ingredient that acts like the glutinous proteins you’re missing when cooking GF.) Try using this blend instead of the packaged GF flour mix called for in holiday specials like Gluten-Free Sugar Cookie Cutouts and Gluten-Free Pie Crust.
Guaranteed, when your friends and family finally push away from the table, they’ll be asking you for your recipes (and an invite for next year!).