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November 1, 2017

Accommodating Vegan and Gluten-Free Holiday Guests

Vegetarian meal small

By Emily Caldwell

Fall is here! But even though the weather is getting cooler, the kitchen is heating up! It's the start of the holiday season and people are beginning to come home to celebrate the festivities with family, friends, and loved ones. But as your customers gather around your dinner table to give thanks and revel in the mouthwatering feast you have prepared, it is crucial to remember your customers and their dietary needs. By providing vegan and gluten-free options during the upcoming Thanksgiving season you can be the holiday hero and give everyone something to be thankful for.

Many customers are adopting vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free lifestyles for health benefits and ethical reasons. Although their diets may be restrictive, they still want to be able to indulge on the same comforting dishes that are featured on your menu. Good thing most classic holiday dishes can easily be adjusted with a variety of convenient ingredients.

"Veganizing" Made Simple

Veganism has been a growing food trend over the past couple of years. It is a strict vegetarian diet, with no consumption of animals or animal products (think dairy, butter, and eggs). These ingredients can often be a major part of holiday recipes like butter and cream in rich mashed potatoes, meat or beef broth in savory brown gravy, or eggs in a zesty pumpkin pie. To accommodate these guests, create hearty meals made with sweet and savory seasonal fruits and veggies. Follow these handy tips to create the best substitutes for these tasty treats.*

  • Replace regular cow's milk with soy or rice milk, or a nut milk like cashew or almond.
  • A great egg replacement can be ground flax, applesauce, or a mashed banana.
  • Instead of butter, try a vegan margarine or oils like vegetable, olive, or sunflower.
  • Instead of using chicken/beef broth, try a vegetable broth.
  • To get the same texture of regular cheese try a vegan cheese, tofu, or soaked nuts.

Go Gluten-Free

Gluten is a protein that can be found in three main ingredients — wheat like in baked goods, pastas and sauces; barley like in beer and soups; and rye like in breads and cereals.* Many of those who live a gluten-free lifestyle are diagnosed with Celiac’s disease. This disorder occurs when people have an intolerance of, or sensitivity to, gluten. We find that most of the ingredients containing gluten, and used during the holidays, appear when baking treats, creating fluffy stuffing, or thickening classic sauces and dressings. Try these alternatives when baking your sweet desserts or soft breads.

  • Instead of wheat flour try coconut, chickpea, rice, almond, tapioca, oat, or buckwheat flour.
  • Use this variety of flours to create gluten-free pie crusts, pumpkin loafs, or warm dinner rolls.
  • When creating your stuffing, use quinoa, a rice substitute, or gluten-free breadcrumbs for added texture.
  • Remember to add cornstarch instead of flour to your gravy.

With these alternatives, you can recreate traditional dishes with a twist for your vegan and gluten-free guests. For quick and delicious results, when prepping your meals, set a portion of your mix aside before adding in dairy products, butter, eggs, or flour and wheat. Make sure to indicate that your restaurant serves dishes that can be made vegan or gluten-free upon request or create a specialty menu during the season that accommodates both of these specific needs. The great thing about creating vegan and gluten-free meals is that they make your restaurant inclusive for all. So set the tables and expand your menu offerings to avoid ruffling any feathers this Thanksgiving season.


Emily is a former Performance Foodservice corporate Marketing Intern turned Millennial Correspondent. When she's not traveling the world experiencing new cuisines, she's exploring the newest food trends popping up in Chicago.


*"Vegan Substitutions Guide." VegKitchen. VEGKITCHEN.COM & 301BRANDS, LLC.,28 June 2017. Web. 19 Oct. 2017.

*"What Is Gluten?" Celiac Disease Foundation. Celiac Disease Foundation, n.d. Web.19 Oct. 2017.


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Great article! We've tried applesauce as an egg substitute in baking to some success. Will have to try the flaxseed method now. We use a good deal of nutritional yeast to make vegan "cheese" with raw soaked cashews. We put together a list of our favorite vegan essentials in this post. Thanks for the great ideas!

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