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Special diet recipes to make every course shine this Thanksgiving

We’ve all been there — you’re gathered at the table for a Thanksgiving meal that took all day to prepare. Dishes are passed around the table and you forgo adding a slice of turkey to your plate.

That’s when it happens. 

“What do you mean, you don’t eat turkey?” “Is this a new-age phase?” “Gluten-WHAT?” 

Thanksgiving is something we look forward to all year to gather with the ones we love, reflect on warm memories from the year and prepare for a busy holiday season. It can get a little tricky to navigate the dishes if you have special dietary needs such as vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, but it certainly doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the biggest meal of the year. 

Note: “vg” denotes “vegetarian,” “v” denotes “vegan” and “gf” denotes gluten-free. But remember, you can make swaps in any of these recipes to suit your special dietary needs.

Mashed Potatoes (vg) 

My mom, Donna Waldron, was cool enough to send her recipe to me all the way from St. Louis. There is always a huge pot (or two) of them on the table every Thanksgiving. I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as I do when she makes them. 


  • Bag of russet potatoes (About one per person. So if you are expecting 10 at your table, you need 10 potatoes) 
  • 1 to 1½ cup butter or non-dairy buttery spread (Such as Earth Balance for vegans) 
  • Milk or original, unsweetened soy or almond milk (for vegan) 
  • Salt 


  1. Wash and peel the potatoes. 
  2. Cut the potatoes in half vertically, the horizontally two to three more times, given the length of the potato. Try to get all of the pieces as close to one another in size as possible, that way “they will all cook to the same tenderness at about the same time, give or take a little,” my mom suggests. 
  3. Rinse the pieces and submerge in a pot of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low-medium heat to let the potatoes cook. 
  4. Once the potatoes are fork tender, drain the pot and place the potatoes in a mixing bowl — you can use either a hand- or stand-mixer. 
  5. Start with adding 1 cup of  butter and mix. Slowly add the milk and continue mixing. Add the amount of milk needed to reach the desired consistency (For thicker potatoes, use less milk.) Salt to taste. 

Rosemary Whole-wheat Stuffing with Figs and Hazelnuts (v) 

I tried this recipe from Vegetarian Times last year on Thanksgiving — my first as a vegan. It’s great as a side if you are passing on the turkey.


  • 20 oz. loaf whole-grain bread
  • 1½ cups blanched hazelnuts, coarsely chopped 
  • ¾ cups tawny port 
  • 1 cup dried figs, finely chopped 
  • ½ cup dried cranberries 
  • 5 tbsp. olive oil 
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 tsp. rosemary, finely chopped 
  • 2½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth 


  1. Cut the bread into half-inch cubes. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Let cool. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Toast the dried bread cubes on the baking sheet for 30 more minutes, stirring twice. Let cool and then transfer to a large bowl. 
  3. Heat a skillet over medium-high and spread hazelnuts into the pan. Toast 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool. 
  4. In a separate, small saucepan, heat the port to a boil. Stir in figs and cranberries and set aside to let it steep. 
  5. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a skillet over medium. Add garlic and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the rosemary and let it cook two more minutes. Stir the mixture into the bread crumbs, then fold in the dried fruit and port. 
  6. Whisk together broth and remaining 3 tbsp. oil in bowl. Pour broth mixture over bread cube mixture, and mix until bread is moist, but not soggy. Season with salt and pepper if you’d like. 
  7. Spread the stuffing in a prepared baking dish and bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. 

Pumpkin Mac and “Cheese” (v) 

This is a dish from The Inventive Vegetarian that is great for all of fall, but especially appropriate for Thanksgiving. I’ve made this a few times and it’s easy enough to put together, so no need to stress if you are the host(ess) this year. This is already vegan, but can easily be made gluten-free with gluten-free pasta. 


  • 1 box whole wheat elbow macaroni 
  • 2 cups unsweetened, unflavored almond milk 
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil 
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour (Or soy flour for gluten-free) 
  • 1 cup mozzarella style cheese shreds (Like Daiya, which can be found at most health food stores) 
  • 1 cup cheddar style cheese shreds (Again, like Daiya) 
  • 1 can pumpkin puree 
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs 
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce 
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon 
  • ¼ tsp. cloves 
  • ¼ tsp. allspice 
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper 


  1. Heat the almond milk in a small saucepan. 
  2. In a medium pot, heat oil over medium and sprinkle in the flour. Whisk for two minutes until smooth. 
  3. While whisking, add hot almond milk and cook until thick. 
  4. Add the pumpkin puree and stir until smooth. 
  5. Take the almond milk mixture off of the heat and stir in the “cheese,” spices and soy sauce. Cover partially as the cheese melts. 
  6. While waiting, cook pasta in a pot of water as usual. Drain noodles when done. 
  7. Once the “cheese” has melted, add salt and pepper to taste. Add the macaroni to and stir very well. Pour the whole mixture into a 9×13-inch baking or casserole dish. 
  8. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. 

Green Bean Casserole (gf, vg) 

A staple casserole for Thanksgiving from Just Me, Gluten Free, this will keep gluten-sensitive guests asking for seconds. 


  • 2 onions, chopped 
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped 
  • 1½ tbsp. olive oil 
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar 
  • 2 tsp. honey 
  • 3 14-oz. cans green beans, drained 
  • 2 oz. log goat cheese 
  • 4 oz. cream cheese 
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper 
  • 1 tsp. salt 
  • ½ cup Parmesean cheese 


  1. In a skillet, saute onions and red pepper in olive oil over medium heat until soft. 
  2. Add balsamic vinegar and honey, stirring until vegetables are evenly coated. 
  3. Add the green beans. 
  4. Cube the goat and cream cheeses and add to the pan. Stir until melted. 
  5. Add salt and pepper. 
  6. Remove from heat and pour into a greased 9×13-inch casserole dish. 
  7. Sprinkle the top with Parmesean cheese and bake at 375 degrees until heated through, about 20-30 minutes. 

Glazed Sweet Potatoes (vg, gf) 

Sweet potatoes are such a favorite and this recipe from My Gluten-Free Kitchen keeps it sweet and savory at the same time. 


  • 4 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed 
  • 5 tbsp. salted butter or dairy-free spread 
  • ⅔ cups brown sugar 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg 
  • pinch of ginger 
  • ½ tsp. salt. 


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and cube sweet potatoes. 
  2. Arrange cubes in a lightly greased 9×13 inch pan. 
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Whisk until blended. Remove from heat and pour over the sweet potatoes. Stir evenly. 
  4. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. 
  5. Remove, uncover and let bake for 20 more minutes. 

Pumpkin Pie (v, gf) 

Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be Thanksgiving dinner without pumpkin pie. This no-bake pie from The Spunky Coconut will give your oven a well-deserved break. 



  • 2 cups almond meal flour 
  • 8 soft pitted dates 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 


  • 1½ cups coconut milk 
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree 
  • ½ cup coconut sugar 
  • 20 drops vanilla liquid stevia 
  • ½ tsp. sea salt 
  • 2 to 3 tsp. cinnamon 
  • ¼ tsp. ginger 
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmet 
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves 


  1. For the crust, add all ingredients to the food processor and puree until it all begins sticking together. Press into a pie dish. 
  2. For the filling, simmer all of the ingredients until the coconut sugar dissolves. Stir well and pour into the crust. 
  3. Let chill before serving 

Pie Crust (vg) 

Try swapping out a pre-made crust for a homemade crust this Thanksgiving — no matter what kind of pie you are putting on the table (be sure to save room!) This is my Mom’s pie crust recipe. I can already taste the apple pie and its decadent, flaky crust awaiting me back in the Show Me State. 


  • 2 cups flour 
  • ½ tsp. salt 
  • ¾ cups shortening (lard-free) 
  • 1 tbsp. milk (non-dairy for vegan) 
  • ⅓ cup boiling water 


  1. Put the shortening and the milk in a mixing bowl. Add the boiling water. 
  2. Whip together and add flour and salt. Mix all ingredients until they all stick together (Or “until the bowl looks clean,” upon my mom’s suggestion) 
  3. Divide dough in two equal halves. 
  4. Roll out each half separately between waxed paper to desired thickness (This will yield either two crusts, or will be used as the top or bottom of one pie.) 
  5. Put crust into pie dish and add whatever filling you desire. Can add crust to the top of the pie, if you prefer. 
  6. Bake 425 degrees until the crust is golden brown. 

Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving! 

Follow digital producer Danielle Waldron on Twitter at @DanielleWaldron

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