How to Host Gluten-Free This Holiday Season
Hosting gluten-free family and friends during this holiday season? Wondering how to host gluten-free?
Catering to anyone’s special dietary needs can seem overwhelming. Especially when you aren’t familiar with them.
And, even if you are gluten-free (and have been for a while) hosting during the holidays can be hectic and stressful!
But not to worry! My Top Tips For Gluten-Free Hosting during the Holiday Season have got you covered!
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Top Tips For Gluten-Free Hosting during the Holiday Season
First off, if you’re new to the whole gluten-free thing, you’re going to want to avoid serving any foods with gluten in it. Gluten is found a variety of ingredients can be sneaky and hard to detect. When in doubt, hit up google to make sure it’s safe.
As a quick refresher, you might find remembering the acronym BROWS to be helpful. It stands for the gluten-containing grains: barley, rye, oats (sometimes). wheat, and spelt. Check out my post on How to Check Food Labels for Gluten for more info on label-reading.
Step 1: Ask Your Gluten-Free Guest About Their Comfort Level
The first and more important step for gluten-free hosting during the holidays is to check in with your gluten-free guest(s).
There are a lot of reasons for someone to live gluten-free. The two most common reasons are celiac disease and gluten intolerance. These conditions are different and thus, there is a wide range of comfort-level in the gluten-free world.
When planning to host gluten-free parties, always check-in with your gluten-free guest to see what they’ll be comfortable with. Some guests may not want you to make food and instead, prefer to bring their own. Other guests may want to be involved in the food selection to make sure it’s safe.
Regardless, there are a variety of needs here so if you’re hosting a gluten-free guest, contact them and ask them how you can accommodate.
Something like “Hey, I’m so excited for you to come to my party. I’m planning out the menu and want to make it gluten-free, do you want to help me?” or alternatively, “Hey, I’m so excited to have you join us, are there any foods I can grab from the store for you?”.
Step 2: Plan the Gluten-Free Menu
Step two for gluten-free hosting during the holidays is to plan the menu (winging it is not going to work here). When you’re planning the gluten-free menu for your holiday gathering, you’ll want to make sure it’s either 100% gluten-free or it has foods you can prepare separately from the gluten.
In most cases, people who are gluten-free with celiac would prefer an entirely gluten-free menu so they don’t have to worry about cross-contact. Again, double-check in the first step because it feels awful for both parties if you do make a gluten-free menu and your guest isn’t comfortable eating it.
If you, the host, is gluten-free then start planning away. There are some amazing resources to help you find and plan out your gluten-free holiday meal.
I suggest that you try to build new dishes to serve as a tradition during the holiday season instead of trying to recreate every already traditional dish into a gluten-free version. I suggest this for two reasons:
1. Let’s be real, gluten-free food can be disappointing at times (though going on a journey to find yummy versions could be an adventure).
2. It will help you look forward to the new dishes instead of reminiscing on what real stuffing used to taste like!
There are my two cents.
Step 3: Plan Smart
This is more of a tip than a step to gluten-free hosting but it makes all of it so much easier. The third steps to gluten-free hosting is to plan smart.
For me, this means try to use different ingredients in multiple dishes to help reduce how much you have to search for and buy in grocery stores (though store pick-up is a beautiful thing nowadays). It also will help limit how many food labels you have to read and it reduces prep time.
My rule of thumb is to try to use key ingredients in at least 2 different recipes.
So I’ll make a salad with shredded Brussels sprouts and I’ll also serve roasted bacon wrapped Brussels sprouts. Boom! Both your salad and your “appetizer” are covered.
Another example is I’ll make cranberry sauces with frozen cranberries and then I’ll serve cranberry spritzers. Bam! You’ve got your sauce and your drinks covered.
Step 4: Go Shopping
If you’re hosting a gluten-free guest, offering to have them shop with you (if you’re not gluten-free) can help you make sure you don’t buy unsafe food.
If that’s not possible, check out my blog post on foods to avoid on a gluten-free diet to prime you for your trip. There are also food label scanning apps like spoonful that can help you find gluten-free food too. Also, pro-tip: make sure you go during a time where you have the focus and patience to read food labels (cause trust me, it gets old fast).
And when in doubt of the safety of a food, send a picture of the ingredients to your gluten-free friend and get their approval.
Additionally, shopping smart means buying affordable ingredients.
A lot of gluten-free alternatives require expensive, “rare”, or special ingredients. Find these ingredients affordably by buying them at international markets.
For instance, dates at my local grocer are $8.99 a pound, whereas I can get a 5-pound tub of dates at the international market near me for $4.99. Seriously guys, exploring my local international markets has done wonders for my wallet and my stomach!
Step 5: Cook with Care
Depending on your guest, you may need to prepare the gluten-free food in a special way. This is because some people living gluten-free need to avoid cross-contact and others don’t.
Cross-contact is when allergenic proteins contaminate food that would not otherwise have them. This can happen if you are using flour next to gluten-free foods and the flour dust settles on top of the food. If you don’t wash your hands in between cutting a gluten-filled pie and a gluten-free pie and so on.
Check-in with your guest to see if cross-contact is a concern. If they do need you to avoid cross-contact your best bet is soap and water on you kitchen surfaces and cookware.
And if it’s hard to clean or porous (like a cast-iron skillet), you probably want to skip out on it.
An added layer of protection I like to use when people are cooking for me is to have them put foil down on everything OR us disposable cookware. It’s not environmentally friendly, but my health and safety come before the environment.
If you made the decision not to make the menu completely gluten-free, make sure you make the gluten-free dishes before all of your gluten-filled dishes are done. This will help limit any cc that may arise when you start cooking with gluten.
If you’re serving dishes that aren’t gluten-free (or someone brought food that isn’t safe) serve it and keep it far away from the gluten-free food. Furthermore, you want to make sure EVERY dish has it’s OWN serving utensil so there is no accidentall cross-contact by using the tongs you use to grab bread with to also grab some turkey…
Seriously, cross-contact is real and can easily accidentally happen.
Learn more about cross-contact and celiac disease here!
Step 6: Don't Take it Personally
Living gluten-free is overwhelming. If you’re hosting someone who is gluten-free, do not take it personally if they choose not to eat something. Keeping ourselves safe is complex and unique to the individual.
And that also means, just because one gluten-free friend ate it, doesn’t mean your next gluten-free friend will be comfortable with eating it.
Like I mentioned before, there are a wide-variety of safety needs in the gluten-free world. Don’t take it personally, if your food is rejected.
Gluten-Free Hosting during the Holidays is Hard.
Finally, gluten-free hosting during the holidays is hard. It’s hard on your wallet, it’s hard on your patience, and it’s hard on your anxiety.
Be sure that after checking in with your gluten-free guest, planning, shopping, and cooking, and actually hosting the party that you make time to de-stress. Self-care is important!
Like this post? Found it helpful? Then imagine how helpful the Celiac Crash Course is! Learn more about it here.