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Event Inspiration/Articles/Planning/A Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan Thanksgiving

A Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan Thanksgiving

Marissa Latshaw


My Thanksgiving guest list consists of two diabetics, one vegan, one vegetarian, and my gluten-intolerant mother. For reals. And then there are the few with no dietary restrictions who expect the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, dripping with gravy, cranberry sauce and a nice, plump bird. What's a girl to do? 

Think Ahead

As soon as someone says "yes, thank you" to coming to your Thanksgiving feast, ask if they have any dietary considerations. It would be pretty terrible if the only thing one of your guests could eat was a giant plate of mashed potatoes...ok, not that terrible. But, you see my point. 

Plan Your Eats

If you plan well, you won't be making separate meals for each person, but a buffet of tasty dishes that will please everyone at the table. I believe in using real, natural ingredients -- so I avoid food with sugar substitutes and any unpronounceable, artificial stuff. Here are some highlights from last year's menu which I'll be repeating this year because everyone gobbled up with no complaints or allergic reactions - total win! All recipes are for 8 servings, adjust up or down accordingly.

Mike's Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Skeptical of a mashed potato recipe that's not laced with butter and heavy cream? Don't be!

Ingredients: 16 Idaho or Russet potatoes, 16 cloves of garlic, 8 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 cup almond milk, 2 teaspoons of lemon zest, 4 tablespoons of chopped rosemary.


  1. Steam the potatoes until they are fork tender, maybe about 10- 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the garlic cloves in the food processor and chop them up a bit.
  3. When the potatoes are done, add them and everything else to the food processor bowl and whir them up to your desired consistency.
  4. Scoop out, plate up, and enjoy!! Source: Moonwatcher at FatfreeVegan

Sugarless Cranberry Sauce

This recipe is bursting with tart goodness - I promise you won't miss the sugar!

Ingredients: 24 ounces of fresh cranberries, 3/4 cup pineapple juice, 1/2 cup sugar-free applesauce, 1/2 cup water, juice and zest of one orange, 3-4 tablespoons of honey or stevia to taste (optional)


  1. Put cranberries, pineapple juice, applesauce and water in a sauce pan and and bring to a boil.
  2. Keep on medium heat, stirring constantly until the cranberries start to explode (about 10-15 minutes).
  3. Reduce to a simmer and pour the juice and zest over the cranberry mixture.
  4. Simmer 10-15 minutes and remove from heat.
  5. Cool completely and store in fridge at least 4 hours but preferably overnight before serving. Source: Wellness Mama

Polenta Casserole with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

I recently attended a Thanksgiving cooking class at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Chef and author Myra Kornfeld was the fabulously energetic teacher, and this was the delicious vegan entree we prepared in her class - and will be on my own menu this year.

Ingredients for squash:3/4 cup soaked pinto beans, 2 tablespoons, EVOO, 2 cups onions - diced small, 2 dicded bell peppers - 1 yellow/1 red, 2 minced garlic clobes, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 jalapeno - stemmed, seeded and minced, 2 cups butternut squash cut into 3/4" pieces, 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1 cup frozen corn kernels.

Ingredents for polenta: 1.5 cups corn grits, 4.5 cups water, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 TBS chile powder, 1 TBS butter (optional), 1 TBS olive oil


  1. Place the beans in a small pot with four cups water and 1/2 tsp salt and cook over medium heat, partially covered, until softened about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
  2. Warm olive oil in medium saucepan. Add onions and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add peppers and cook an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in garlic, spices, jalapenos, squash and tomatoes. Cook uncovered, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes. Add the reserved bean cooking liquid (or water) and cover. Bring to a boil, stir in 1/2 tsp salt, and cook partically covered, until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in corn and beans and cook uncovered, an additional 5 minutes. Taste and add pinch of salt if necessary. Set aside.
  4. Have ready an oiled 8x11 baking pan (or individual ramekins). 
  5. Whisk the water with the cornmeal, salt and chile powder in a medium metal bowl. Take a 4 quart saucepan and fill it halfway with water and bring to a simmer. Cover the bowl with foil, set it over the water, and cook about 40 minuters until the polenta is thick and stiff.
  6. Stir 3 or 4 times while the polenta cooks and add water to the saucepan (not the bowl) if necessary.
  7. Stir in the butter (if using), when the polenta is ready. Taste and add additional salt if necessary. Ladle in 2 cups of the polenta into the baking pan, an devenly smooth it out (or cover the bottom of the individual ramekins).
  8. Pour in the squash tew on top to make an even layer. Top with the remaining polenta and smooth with a spatula. Let cool until room temperature.
  9. Preheat oven to 375. Brush top of casserole with olive oil.
  10. Bake until browned, about 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of pumpkin seed pesto.

Instructions for pumpking seed pesto:

  1. Dry toast 1 cup of pumpkin seeds in a heavy-bottomed skillet until they pop and plump, about 3 minutes
  2. Remove from the heat and place in a food processor along with 1 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup pumpkin seed oil, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of cayenne. Process until smooth.
  3. Taste and add a pinch more salt if necessary.

Cauliflower Sour Cream Mash

A yummy, trendy alternative to mashed potatoes.

Ingredients: 1 head trimmed cauliflower, 2 2/3 tablespoons sour cream, 2 2/3 tablespoons heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 1/3 teaspoon salt


  1. Add a cup of water to a large pot and insert a steamer basket. Place cauliflower florets in the basket and bring water to a boil over high heat. Cover tightly, cook until tender, 10–12 minutes, and drain.
  2. Purée cauliflower in a food processor, adding florets in batches. 
  3. Add sour cream, heavy cream, butter and salt; process until smooth and well combined.
  4. Reheat gently, if necessary, before serving. Source: Atkins

Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie

No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without Pumpkin Pie. It's tough to find dessert recipes that don't include an artificial sweetener, so this will have to do! 

Ingredients: 1 (9 inch) pie shell, 1 egg, 6 packets granulated artifical sweetener, 1 tsp pie spice, 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 cup evaporated milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together egg, sugar substitute, and pumpkin pie spice until well blended.
  3. Add pumpkin and milk to egg mixture, and stir until smooth. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  4. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until set in center. Source: Diabetic Connect

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen?

Thanksgiving celebrations can extend on for many hours -- with lots of tryptophan-enduced napping, football watching, and neighborhood strolling. If all that hanging around tends to amp up the family drama, I recommend you have some crafts, games, or other forms of entertainment on hand. Many of our magicians are available to perform on Thanksgiving Day...maybe they can make that mountain of dirty dishes disappear!