Hosting a dinner party can be a rewarding way to bring family or friends together to enjoy food and fellowship. However, when you or one of your guests has celiac, hosting a gluten-free dinner party can feel overwhelming.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to host a gluten-free dinner party without stress. With some planning, you can end up with a delicious meal, happy guests, and lots of good memories!
Written by Jan Wasmuth, revised by Tayler Silfverduk, RDN
You’re getting ready to host a gluten-free dinner party. The invitations have been sent, the date is set, and now it’s time to plan the party itself, including the menu.
But you’re feeling overwhelmed with how to make sure your gluten-free guest stay safe. How can you make your gluten-free dinner party is safe and enjoyable for your gluten-free guests?
It’s not as intimidating as it may sound at first. Follow these simple steps to ensure a safe and fun time for everyone.
Let’s dive a little deeper into these steps below…
To prepare for hosting a gluten-free dinner party, you should get familiar with a gluten-free diet.
Many resources explain what foods can and cannot be eaten on a gluten-free diet. Here’s a an explanation on what a gluten-free diet for celiac entails.
You’ll also want to learn the basics of ingredients that are safe to include in your recipes. Get familiar with how to check food labels for gluten. In general you’ll want to avoid barley, rye, wheat and sometimes oats. But it is more complicated than that so make sure to read up!
Then make sure none of the recipes you select contain gluten. Alternatively, be sure none of the recipes you want to serve your gluten-free guest contain gluten.
After familiarizing yourself with a gluten-free diet, you’ll want to talk to your gluten-free dinner party guest. They can answer questions you may still have after you have familiarized yourself with a gluten-free diet.
Maybe you need clarification on the safety of an ingredient or want to know more about ways that cross-contact can occur.
Additionally, there are varying degrees of comfort with gluten-free guests on what they are willing to eat or accept and not.
Just ask! Most people with celiac will be happy to share information with you when you are trying to learn how to keep them safe as your guest.
You can also ask about past dinner parties they’ve been to and find out what went well and what didn’t.
All these tips can help you have a stress-free time planning your gluten-free dinner party while also allowing you to have peace knowing that you are taking good care of your gluten-free guest.
The next step is to include your gluten-free guest in the planning process of your dinner party. Not only can they answer your questions along the way but also can help you determine how the dinner can run smoothly for a safe and enjoyable night.
The first order of business is to plan whether the dinner served will be completely gluten-free, or if there will be both gluten-free and gluten-containing foods. If you choose to serve the meal gluten-free, you will have fewer concerns with cross-contact, etc.
If you choose to serve gluten-containing dishes, you will want to ensure that there are enough gluten-free options for your gluten-free guest to have a full meal. For example, you don’t want to only serve a gluten-free side dish and dessert option… a gluten-free guest needs an entree too.
You also should plan specific steps that will be taken to keep your gluten-free guest safe. If your guest is involved with the planning process, the party will run smoother because he or she will know what to expect and be comfortable with what is planned. Your guest can help you plan ways to avoid cross-contact with gluten.
If there’s a buffet for example, the individual may ask to go through the food line first to eliminate the risk of people contaminating utensils with gluten.
You may also plan to keep foods covered when serving is not taking place. This can help reduce foods accidentally getting mixed. For example, if foil is kept over the roasted veggies, when some of the macaroni salad falls off the serving spoon when someone is scooping it from the bowl next to the veggies, the veggies are still celiac-safe below the foil.
You can also plan ways for other guests to be aware. You could make a little reminder sign and post it by the plates, kindly requesting that guests wash their hands and take what they touch.
For more guidance, check out the Celiac Crash Course which covers the basics of celiac safety in the USA. Including how to prevent cross-contact in the home setting (complete with a video and workbook to give to hosts to help them prepare for you!).
Get your gluten-free dinner guest involved! They are likely familiar with gluten-free baking and cooking to prevent cross-contact.
It may feel overwhelming to create all the gluten-free dishes yourself. Maybe you feel like you could handle making a gluten-free side dish, but feel terrified of trying to make a safe entree and dessert too.
It’s time to get a helping hand. Ask your gluten-free guest if he or she would like to help you cook. You could cook together, which would allow your guest to teach you tricks for preventing cross-contact. They can also give you tips for making gluten-free dishes turn out well.
Alternatively, the guest could simply bring their dish(es) with them to the party.
Another benefit of involving your gluten-free guest in cooking is that you can learn to make (and enjoy eating them) some of the gluten-free recipes that your guest enjoys.
A gluten-free foodie may be very excited to share his or her well-loved recipes and dishes… who knows, you may fall in love and end up making the recipes over and over!
When you have celiac disease, going to dinner parties can be anxiety-inducing until you build your confidence. While you work on building confidence in attending other people’s dinner parties, you can consider hosting your own gluten-free dinner party.
It’s a win-win because you get to enjoy a gluten-free dinner party with loved ones (and build your confidence in navigating a dinner party safely) plus your guests get to enjoy some delicious gluten-free food and learn ways they can help you stay safe at the next party they host!
Since you already know what ingredients are safe and how to prevent cross-contact, you get to skip some steps in the process of learning and jump right to planning your party! You can choose gluten-free dishes that sound good to you and that you think your guests will enjoy. Then, get into the kitchen and get cooking!
You will want to reach out to your guests to talk to them about your gluten-free dinner party. Chances are if they are close friends, they already know about your gluten-free diet. You can still give some tips and reminders.
If they don’t know, it’s a good time to share about your gluten-free dietary needs. You can explain that the dishes at the party will still be delicious, but they will be gluten-free.
If guests want to cook for your party, you can teach them about safe gluten-free cooking practices. Alternatively, if you’re in the Celiac Support Group, you can invite them to join the monthly cross-contact cooking class.
You could also invite them to come to your home to cook with you so that you can teach them how to prevent cross-contact in-person.
However, if you don’t feel comfortable with them bringing dishes from home and don’t have the time to teach someone to cook gluten-free, politely decline their offer.
Simply explain that you will be providing the meal and all they have to do is show up and enjoy.
If you choose to serve gluten-containing foods as well, be sure to inform your guests about the risk of cross-contact and how the foods will be kept separate. Invite your guests to ask questions so they can learn and feel included and comfortable.
Whether you are a gluten-free host or are hosting a gluten-free guest, now that you have covered the basics, it’s time for the fun part! You can select a theme and then design a menu to go with it. Here are some gluten-free dinner party theme ideas, accompanied by gluten-free recipes to serve that go with the themes (and a DIY decorations)!
Hawaiian Luau Party: Greet your guests with an “Aloha” and some delicious tropical foods.
Backyard BBQ Party: Fire up the grill and have a sizzlin’ good time.
Fiesta Night Party: “TACObout” is a really fun time!
A Night in Paris Theme: Foods you’ll love from the “City of Love.”
Nostalgic Childhood Theme: Relive some childhood memories and enjoy some kid-friendly foods.
Best wishes on your gluten-free dinner party!!!
And don’t forget! The Celiac Crash Course is here to support you if you need help learning to avoid gluten in food, medications, supplements, and beauty products (when needed). As well as giving you the simple strategies you need to avoid cross-contact at home, in other people’s homes (like at dinner parties) and at restaurants. Check out the course here.