41 Recipes to Bring Out the Healthier Side of Thanksgiving
Looking for gluten-free, vegetarian, Paleo, and keto recipes you can serve at your holiday feast? We have options for every kind of celebration.
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A good friend who’s gluten-free. A nephew’s significant other who doesn’t eat meat. A sister who’s gone keto. As cooks we all know someone who throws a monkey wrench — um, an opportunity — into the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and chances are good at least one of them will be sitting at our table this year.
You’d think any discussion of “healthy cooking” or special diets would be moot at Thanksgiving. After all, it’s a no-holds-barred eating holiday when most of us gleefully consume approximately triple what sanity dictates. And yet just as America is the land of apple pie, it’s the land of gluten-free apple crisp. What Grandma might define as “Cousin Carolyn’s crazy new diet,” Carolyn might trumpet as the reason her skin is glowing and she’s shed five pounds. (The guy she met at the Cross-Fit gym? That’s another story.)
Fortunately, however you define healthy Thanksgiving recipes, there’s no need to settle for less than a fantastic meal. In the spirit of making everyone happy — and keeping the peace — here are delicious choices to accommodate many needs. A Thanksgiving table laden with amazing food, and with all your near and dear gathered: That’s something to be thankful for indeed.
Gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes
When you cut out gluten — the stretchy protein in wheat dough — you cut out a lot of Thanksgiving favorites, like traditional bread stuffing and gravy. Tasty Kitchen rises to the gluten-free stuffing challenge with quinoa, which is technically a tiny seed rather than a grain. A mix of red and white quinoa creates a beautiful color contrast, and chunks of roasted sweet potato add jewel-like sweetness.
Wild rice is another great choice to keep in mind as the base for gluten-free stuffings. Even gluten-free bread stuffing can be yours when said bread is made gluten-free, an option at many supermarkets these days. As for the gravy to go on top, these recipes use potato starch or cornstarch as the thickener instead of wheat flour. Potatoes au gratin, another favorite starchy side dish, doesn’t need flour to thicken it when you opt for whipping cream as the liquid. (Think of it as an oven-baked sub for mashed potatoes!)
If healthy Thanksgiving desserts means gluten-free desserts for your clan, you can bake with gluten-free all-purpose flour (such as Cup4Cup brand), as Real Food Dietitians does in the crumbly topping for this crisp. The recipe is also dairy-free, as it’s made with coconut oil instead of butter. But you’ll still find the classic brown sugar and cinnamon.
These next Thanksgiving desserts incorporate other handy gluten-free ingredients — almond flour, gluten-free pie crusts, and buckwheat (a pseudo-grain, like quinoa) — that you can pick up at many grocery stores. Of course you can also bake a no-grain fruit dessert such as the roasted pears.
Vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes
Without turkey as the centerpiece, a vegetarian Thanksgiving spread may be in need of a “wow”-factor recipe. This savory butternut squash bread pudding, made rich with eggs and Swiss cheese, fills the bill deliciously. It’s a Yummly original, one of our Guided Video Recipes that takes you through the cooking step by step.
More flashy recipes to consider for your vegetarian feast include a tart and Wellingtons wrapped in flaky phyllo pastry, and a grand stuffed pumpkin. As for the rest of the meal, you might start your guests with a Buffalo cauliflower appetizer and come dinnertime, set out a healthy Thanksgiving side dish such as roasted brussels sprouts or mushroom stuffing.
Looking for vegan Thanksgiving recipes? We have 37 ridiculously good choices here.
Paleo Thanksgiving recipes
Those who follow a Paleo diet focus on foods eaten by early humans, including meats, fish, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and fruit. They limit dairy products, grains, and legumes. And then there’s bacon. Did early humans eat bacon? Of course they did. Well, it’s possible, right? With Do You Even Paleo’s green bean, fresh mushroom, and bacon casserole, you can give that conundrum some very tasty exploration.
When it comes to Thanksgiving turkey, Paleos can go all-in, but you want to choose a recipe that uses oil rather than butter. Stuffing can be made with an ingenious sweet potato “cornbread” or simply be a melange of roasted sausage (more meat!) and veggies like butternut squash. Desserts present some clever and delightful work-arounds for pecan pie crust (almond flour, coconut flour, and tapioca starch with lard), frozen date-coconut-nut crust for avocado tarts, and cashew “cream” for chocolate pot de cremes.
Keto Thanksgiving recipes
If you’re still catching up on keto, the idea is to eat a high-fat, very low carbohydrate diet and thereby enter a state called ketosis where instead of burning carbs for energy, the body burns fat. What’s in: fats, some protein (meat, fish, eggs), and some vegetables. What’s out: sugar, grains, starches, fruit, legumes, and root vegetables. Naturally, carbs may be what the Thanksgiving keto diner craves. Eat Well 101’s gorgeous solution is a garlic bread made with parmesan and two more kinds of cheese, browned butter, fresh herbs, and almond flour.
We have lots more keto-friendly Thanksgiving choices to explore, including turkey, more allowable “carbs,” gravy, low-sugar cranberry sauce, side dishes, and even some highly Yummable desserts.
Looking for more ideas for a healthy Thanksgiving? Check out our collection of healthy Thanksgiving recipes, from healthy sweet potato casserole to pumpkin pie parfaits.