So here’s the challenge facing many hosts this season: Covering all the holiday classics, but still making guests with dietary requests feel welcome. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and even paleo-friendly requests can fit seamlessly into your menu with these quick tips and delicious recipes.
Easy Fixes for Classic Dishes
A tweak or two often makes holiday favorites accessible to all. Here are some of the most versatile swaps.
Accommodate vegetarians and vegans by subbing vegetable or mushroom broth for chicken or turkey broth in soups, gravies and stuffings.
For gravies, use alternative thickeners like arrowroot or cornstarch in place of flour to adapt recipes for gluten-sensitive guests.
Replace butter with rich, aromatic coconut oil for vegans or paleo followers. (It makes a terrific pie crust!)
Choose a (gluten-free) grain-based stuffing to satisfy guests sensitive to gluten.
Accommodate vegans or those avoiding eggs with a store-bought egg replacer, 1/4 cup silken tofu per egg, or a chia or flax “egg” made by soaking 1 tablespoon ground chia or flax seeds in 3 tablespoons water for 10 minutes.
Consider replacing wheat flour with nut flours or coconut flour to help make baked goods gluten-free or paleo friendly.
Use unsweetened full-fat coconut milk in place of heavy cream (you can even whip it for a dessert topping!).
Have fresh fruit to serve alongside desserts: It’s always popular and makes a satisfying choice for anyone concerned about fat, sugar, gluten or dairy.
The more the merrier: During the holidays this seems to apply as much to the number of dishes as to the size of the party. Say yes if guests offer to contribute a dish that suits their dietary needs, or peruse the delicious suggestions below to supplement your menu. You can also find hundreds more great options by using the Special Diets filter in the advanced search of our recipe database.
A golden turkey or succulent roast ready for carving may be the iconic centerpiece, but there are many meat-free choices that make intriguing alternatives. One of the very easiest is a store-bought turkey substitute that just needs reheating−some even come with stuffing. You’ll find these made from soy, grain, or other plant proteins. But if you’re looking to cook up something yourself you’ll find some fabulous choices. Wild Mushroom Tart is packed with umami from mushrooms, Parmesan and shallots and is gorgeous to behold. Another favorite is Roasted Acorn Squash with Squash Risotto, which can be assembled a day ahead and given its final baking just before the meal. And for sheer deliciousness and a touch of Gallic elegance, it’s hard to beat French Lentils in Puff Pastry, packed with holiday flavor from bay leaf, red wine and buttery pastry.
While premade vegan roasts are fabulous if you’re pressed for time, myriad main-course dishes can delight vegans and omnivores alike. Harvest Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie gets holiday cred from thyme and sage and makes a beautiful dish to bring to the table. The eternally popular Celebration Lentil Loaf is fabulous paired with a vegetarian gravy−try it with Roasted Garlic and Parsnip Vegan Gravy or terrifically aromatic Porcini-Almond Vegan Gravy. Swedish Milletballs are also excellent with gravy and can do double-duty as a vegan appetizer skewered on toothpicks or as a main course. It’s easy to convert most side dishes to vegan, but you can also make a few fabulous new ones. Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage and Cranberries is fantastically rich in flavor. For creamy potatoes without dairy, try the versatile No-Oil Mashed Potatoes (it works with regular potatoes as well as sweet potatoes). Finally, a stylish vegan dessert will tempt everyone. When pie is mandatory, wow them with Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Pie, packed with holiday flavor. Or go light and elegant with airy Raspberry Mousse.
The challenge of gluten free starts with re-framing the usual bread-based holiday stuffing. You can use your favorite gluten-free bread to adapt most recipes, or try Classic Gluten-Free Stuffing or Kale and Cranberry Millet Dressing. Avoid flour-thickened gravy by using a recipe like Gluten-Free, Dairy Free Gravy, filled with traditional flavor but no butter or flour. If you’d like a fresh-baked bread that will please everyone, Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls use a unique combination of flours for flavor and texture. For dessert, Gluten-Free Pie Crust is a terrific option to cradle many classic fillings. And Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies feature an inventive mix of non-wheat flours that updates this holiday staple so everyone can enjoy making and eating them.
Most holiday centerpieces like turkey and roasts are perfect for paleo diets, but remember to choose a flourless gravy recipe like those suggested above for gluten-free and vegan diets. Many paleo followers also say no to dairy like butter, milk and cream, so adapt recipes accordingly. These Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes will thrill everyone with rich flavor from coconut oil and no refined sugar. When it comes to paleo-friendly cranberry sauce you’ll want to replace sugar with honey or agave nectar. Better yet, try this uniquely delicious three-ingredient Raw Cranberry Sauce that gets sweetness from cranberries and orange juice. And paleo-friendly desserts can be a great chance to showcase simple ingredients and delicious flavors. A good starting point is No-Roll Paleo Pie Crust, a great vehicle for non-dairy custard fillings or fruit fillings. This moist, rich Flourless Honey-Almond Cake is grain-free and sweetened without refined sugar. Serve it with irresistible Whipped Coconut Cream−just leave out the confectioner’s sugar.
Butter, cream and other dairy are players in many classic holiday dishes, but you’ve got lots of choices for replacing them. For turkey, stuffing and gravy recipes, replace butter used in basting or sautéing with olive oil or safflower oil. This terrific Bacon, Cranberry and Mushroom Rice Stuffing gets big flavor and a moist texture from bacon and mushrooms and uses no butter.For side dishes, adding nuts for richness is a great holiday strategy; this recipe for Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds is classic in flavor but contains no butter, same with Creamiest Winter Squash with Raisins and Sage, featuring ingenious use of both walnuts and silken tofu in place of dairy. For dessert, fill a butterless pie dough like No-Roll Paleo Pie Crust with a fruit filling or Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie, or try replacing the cream called for in custard pies with full-fat coconut milk. If cookies are de rigueur for your celebration you can’t go wrong with festive Thumbprint Cookies, wonderfully rich and tender from a nut-based dough. More options for dairy free are also listed above under Paleo and Vegan.
Looking for more recipes for alternative celebrations? Check out our Holiday Menus, plus these in-depth collections.