Happily Spending the Holidays Gluten-Free

Dietary restrictions don’t mean your holiday season has to be any less merry; it just takes some thoughtful planning and a little know-how from the experts.

I’ve written about gluten-free diets before, and have been hearing from more and more friends who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. One of them is Betsy, creator of Gluten Freedom Atlanta, an amazing resource for gluten-free foodies, but also a fun site to peruse for anyone with a passion for home cooking, such as myself. 

I’ve known the charming, kind, and oh-so-smart Betsy for almost 10 years, so when she offered to share with me some Gluten-Free Entertaining tips for the holidays, I jumped at the chance. Her advice turns out to be full of helpful entertaining tips for everyone this holiday season – gluten-free diet or not. (I can’t wait to make her flourless peanut butter cookies!) I find her advice especially helpful for those of us who might be having a gluten-free guest over for the holidays – after all, part of being a good hostess is understanding your guests needs, whether they’re commonplace or not. 

Here’s what Betsy had to say…

“With the holidays getting closer, our minds often turn to food as we think about the meals that await us in the seasonal celebrations ahead.  For me, and for the many others with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerances, our menu planning will be different, but our feasts no less tasty. 


Celiac is an autoimmune disease which is controlled, not cured, by following a gluten-free diet, This means we must avoid foods that contain this protein, including wheat, rye and barley.  If you have celiac or a gluten allergy, you’re not alone.  Even though the holidays might feel like a particularly isolating time, 1 in 130 people have celiac disease, but up to 97% of those with celiac are not yet diagnosed.  You shouldn’t feel embarrassed by your need to be gluten-free and there’s no need to apologize, even during the season of cookie baking parties and fruit cakes.  Use the following tips and recipe ideas to host your own gluten-free holiday dinner party or pass this information along to family members and friends who are eager to accommodate your gluten-free diet.  There are many foods you can enjoy so embrace your gluten-free life and eat, drink and be merry this holiday season!


Celebrations often center around food, making holidays difficult for those avoiding gluten.  Fortunately, an abundance of delicious, naturally gluten-free foods exist that are perfect for the holiday season.  Since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I’ve discovered a love for entertaining.  This passion comes from wanting to show people how easy it can be to make gluten-free food and how delicious gluten-free cuisine tastes.  Whether hosting a dinner party or just making weeknight dinner for two, I plan menus that fit with the season, using fresh produce, quality meat, and gluten-free grains, such as risotto, quinoa and rice.  Who needs enriched white flour anyways?  More businesses are making gluten-free products, such as biscuits, pie crusts, and even bread crumbs, including Whole Foods’ Gluten Free Bakehouse.  Their pie crusts taste delicious and are perfect for both sweet and savory baking, such as apple pie or quiche.  Gluten-free flours, such as teff and rice flour, can be found at many supermarkets and they allow us to recreate our holiday favorites. So you can still have your cookies, cakes, and pies this holiday season!


If you, or one of the people you’ll be cooking for this holiday season must avoid gluten, the good news is that it’s easier than you might think.  Foods in their simplest and freshest forms tend to be gluten-free.   For example, simple roasted vegetables, cooked with olive oil, salt and pepper are a great seasonal dish, pretty on the plate, delicious and naturally gluten-free.  Here are some delicious, gluten-free recipes for entertaining family and friends during the holidays.  Don’t be intimidated when a loved one tells you they must adhere to a gluten-free diet.  You can still invite them into your home and they will be appreciative guests.  They might ask questions about ingredients, but it’s just because they’re being careful, not nosy. As you can see from the recipes and descriptions, you could find these dishes at a holiday meal and not even realize they’re gluten-free.  


Gluten-Free Holiday Entertaining Recipe Ideas:


Artichoke Dip

Pulled Pork Barbecue

Turkey on the grill

Creamed spinach

Rustic Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Root Vegetables

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies



If you’re feeling adventurous this holiday season, I invite you to experiment with gluten-free flours. These recipes for sweet potato biscuits and blondies can help guide you as you start to work with some of the different flour combinations.  Also, baking mixes such as Pamela’s and Betty Crocker make gluten-free baking much less intimidating.



Having been diagnosed with celiac for two years and enduring three years of illness before that, I choose to see the holidays as a time to embrace the many foods I can eat. It’s been a learning process for my family and me, but we’ve created new traditions and learned how to enjoy old favorites as well.  For more recipes and tips, check out my website, Gluten Freedom.”  

Whether you’re living gluten-free or hosting a holiday guest who is, I hope you find Betsy’s advice helpful. We’re both wondering: What gluten-free food will you be making this holiday season? Please share your questions and comments below. 


All photos by Betsy Metcalf for Gluten Freedom Atlanta.