Gluten-free Hospitality

It’s time for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah and time for entertaining. Not that we don’t entertain other times of the year, this is just when it is concentrated. There are also office parties as well and potlucks. It occurred to me that having someone like me come over must be very daunting to say the least. How does one entertain a person who cannot indulge in the usual flour and dairy laden foods? So many of these foods are easy to make because pre-made ingredients can be easily utilized.

Fortunately for our Jewish friends many foods that are consumed during their celebrations are allergy friendly. Since it is important that meat and dairy remain separated, there are many wonderful, dairy and gluten free options that are kosher as well. My friend, Bonnee tells me that Jewish people are not necessarily gluten free, but there happen to be many GF options in local Jewish stores. She was unsure why this is, but it is very helpful when entertaining those who follow Jewish dietary laws as well as those of us who are seeking gluten and dairy free options.

Tips for entertaining dietary challenged folks:

1. Ask them to bring a dish that they can eat and share if it is a potluck. Or have them come over early and ask if they can help you cook. This will give them an opportunity to teach you and feel included. This also excludes other guests from knowing about their limitations.

2. Ask your friend how you can adapt the main dish and a side dish to be allergy friendly depending on what their specific needs.

3. Look up the recipes you want to make online and try your hand at gluten and/or dairy free foods.

4. Purchase pre-made items. Tinkyada makes great (kosher) pasta, Whole Foods has pie crusts and mixes that are under their brand name, Bob’s Red Mill as well as Betty Crocker have dessert mixes that are gluten free. Egg replacer can be found in most health food stores or you can use the following substitutions.

5. Flour in gravies, soups, stews, breaded dishes can be substituted using cornstarch. Chickpea flour makes for great breading. Use 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch for every 2 Tbsp. flour.

6. Make your own salad dressing; it is easy and healthier as you will avoid unnecessary additives. Mix 2-3 parts oil to 1 part acid such as lemon juice or vinegar. You will get good a emulsion if you combine all your dressing ingredients in a blender and while it is running slowly add your oil. This will decrease separation of the oil from the rest of the dressing.

7. Think homemade all the way when entertaining your special friends and there will be less chance for reactions. Cross contamination can be a concern. Don’t use a knife or cutting board that was in contact with gluten laden bread without washing it thoroughly. Change your dish water after those utensils have been cleaned.

8. Fresh foods such as meats (no added seasonings), vegetables and fruit are always healthy and allowable. Side dishes like mashed white/sweet potatoes, rice, risotto (homemade, no pre-made seasonings), rice noodles or polenta can be great starchy side dishes as well as all the lovely squashes that are seasonably available now. There is also a brown rice couscous produced by Lundberg farms that I haven’t tried, but looks delicious and is a great idea.

9. Condiments can contain gluten and dairy so read the label. If unsure ask your friend if it is allowable or don’t use in the entire meal and leave out for others to use as they would like.

10. Vegan online recipes are a good way to avoid common allergens such as gluten and dairy but watch out for soy. Many vegan recipes use soy but there are so many wonderful, creative food bloggers out there you are guaranteed to find a delicious, healthy and easy recipe that may have your friend not wanting to go home! Raw foodists also have great substitutions and creative takes on food dishes.


Lolita Hanks is gluten- and casein-free and is the author of Living Gluten-free Casein-free.