Ask A Denver Chef: Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes

November 13, 2013 5:00 AM

(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart) (credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)

If gluten is on your avoid list, the holidays can be a time of frustration, not elation. Denver is lucky to have Carol Fenster, a gluten-free chef, cookbook author, cooking teacher and expert at eating gluten-free without giving up good taste. Fenster offers some recipes and tips for a gluten-free Thanksgiving. For more recipes and tips go to and

How best can gluten-free Thanksgiving guests be accommodated during the holidays?

My advice for everyone is to approach the holidays with a positive attitude, rejoicing in the wide variety of available foods. Natural food stores––and some grocery stores––offer an ever-growing array of gluten-free substitutes. The result is that there are more foods to meet our needs. Both hosts and guests should stay positive and rejoice in our good fortune. If there was ever a time to be gluten free, it’s now. I should know, I was first diagnosed with gluten sensitivity in 1988 and there were no gluten-free foods on the market and no cookbooks, either. Believe me— it is much easier today, 25 years later.
carol fenster(credit: Carol Fenster)

When I invite lots of people with food sensitivities, I let them know the full menu ahead of time because some guests like to eat beforehand so they aren’t tempted by unsafe foods. Or, if guests offer to bring food, ask them to bring a dish that fits with the theme. The traditional holiday (gluten-filled) pies can be supplemented with a fruit dessert such as poached pears with chocolate sauce or baked apples with cinnamon sauce. For diabetic guests, I am always clear about what time meals are served so they can plan insulin injections accordingly.

Is it easy to convert traditional family recipes to gluten-free?

For some recipes, it is easy to use your favorite recipe and just substitute the gluten-free ingredient. For example, mom’s traditional stuffing recipe can be made with gluten-free bread or cornbread instead of wheat bread. However, generally speaking, learning how to cook holiday family favorites without gluten is easier when using recipes that are specially designed for this purpose because recipes made with wheat flour don’t automatically adapt to gluten-free versions without some knowledgeable tweaking. It is best to start with allergen-free recipes for holiday favorites like rolls and pie as well as the year-round standbys. This is much simpler―especially for those new to allergen-free cooking―than trying to adapt a traditional recipe at the last minute and have things go wrong. It’s better to save the experimenting until after the holidays and stick to the “tried-and-true” for now.

Gluten-Free Turkey Stuffing

Adapted from “Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking” by Carol Fenster

This is a traditional turkey stuffing, but you can vary the herbs to suit your taste and you can use bread or cornbread. This makes a fairly moist stuffing––more like bread pudding than stuffing. For maximum flavor, toast the bread cubes on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees until lightly browned before using. Makes about 10 to 12 cups. Serves 20 (1/2 cup each) or 10 (1 cup each).


  • 2 loave gluten-free bread or gluten-free corn bread, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon butter or canola oil
  • 1 large finely chopped onion
  • 4 stalks finely chopped celery
  • 4 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 4 to 5 cups gluten-free chicken broth


  1. In a large skillet, saute onion and celery in butter or canola oil until just tender and slightly translucent. In large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients with cubed bread and toss lightly until just moistened.
  2. Loosely stuff turkey with bread mixture. Bake remaining stuffing in greased casserole dish at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until nicely browned.

Beans(credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)
Gluten-Free Green Beans with Lemon Pepper

Reprinted with permission from, a weekly, gluten-free e-cookbook that generates a personalized grocery list, by Carol Fenster.

The typical green bean casserole is laden with wheat (in the mushroom soup and french-fried onions), so enjoy this super-simple yet delicious alternative that everyone will love. To save time before the meal, trim the tips of the green beans the day before. Serves 12.


  • 3 pounds green beans, rinsed and trimmed
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 6 teaspoons lemon pepper, or to taste


  1. Place green beans in a steamer over 1 inch of boiling water. Cover and cook until tender but still firm, about 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute almonds until lightly browned. Season with lemon pepper. Stir in green beans, and toss to coat.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Reprinted with permission from “1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes” by Carol Fenster.

Pumpkin pie is everyone’s holiday favorite, so don’t let making a gluten-free pie crust stand in the way. This easy pie bakes on the bottom rack of the oven to brown the bottom crust, preventing sogginess. If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the pie crust with an electric mixer. You’ll know if the dough is the right consistency if you can shape it into a smooth ball with your hands without it falling apart.  Makes one pie.



  • 1 cup gluten-free flour blend (see below)
  • 2/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (not diet or whipped), at room temperature
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk of choice


  • 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk or canned coconut milk, at room temperature
  • Whipped cream, optional


  1. Place dry ingredients, shortening and butter in food processor. Mix well. Add 1/4 cup milk and blend until dough forms ball, adding more milk (a tablespoon at a time) until it gathers on one side of bowl. Then, you should be able to form dough into balls with your hand without it crumbling.
  2. Flatten dough into two 1-inch disks, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate one disk for an hour. Freeze remaining disk for another use, or make two pies by doubling filling recipe.
  3. Place racks on bottom and next highest positions of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Massage dough between hands until warm and pliable, making crust easier to handle. Roll dough into a 10-inch circle between two pieces of heavy-duty plastic wrap. (Use damp paper towel between countertop and plastic wrap to anchor plastic wrap.) Be sure to move rolling pin from center of dough to outer edge, moving around the circle in clockwise fashion to assure uniform thickness.
  5. Remove top plastic wrap and invert crust, centering it over a 9-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pie pan. Remove remaining plastic wrap and press into place, fluting edge decoratively with your fingers.
  6. To make the filling: In a medium mixing bowl, beat the pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended. Beat in eggs on low speed, one at a time, until well blended. Slowly beat in milk, 1/3 cup at a time, until well blended. Pour into pie crust. Place pan on nonstick (gray, not black) baking sheet.
  7. Bake pie for 15 minutes on lower oven rack. Move to next highest oven rack, reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake 40 to 45 minutes more or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cover edges of crust with foil if they start to brown too much. Cool 2 hours on wire rack. Serve with whipped cream; refrigerate leftovers. Serves 6 or 8.

Related: Top Apple Pie in Denver

Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at