Gluten-Free? Here Are the Surprising Thanksgiving Foods You Need to Watch Out for

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All across the country, Americans are preparing to gorge themselves on turkey, mashed potatoes and other beloved Thanksgiving staples. For those without dietary restrictions, the holiday is an all-out feeding frenzy. 

But for those who don't eat gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, also the enemy of those with Celiac disease — the typical Thanksgiving table is chock-full of hidden dangers.

To aid you in your gluten-avoiding quest, here are gluten's top five favorite hiding spots on the Thanksgiving dinner table.

1. Gravy: The silent killer

Gravy: DO NOT TRUST.Source: Matthew Mead/AP
Gravy: DO NOT TRUST.  Matthew Mead/AP

Looking for a way to fight the impossible dryness of turkey? Don't reach for the gravy. This seemingly innocuous brown sauce is actually made by collecting turkey drippings and mixing them with wheat flour as a thickening agent.

Alternative: Here's a recipe for gluten-free gravy that uses sweet rice flour or cornstarch instead of flour. Or put cranberry sauce on your turkey instead.

2. Cornbread: It's not just corn.

If only cornbread were safe.Source: The Washington Post/Getty Images
If only cornbread were safe.  The Washington Post/Getty Images

Cornbread is another sneaky offender. While many people assume it's naturally gluten-free — it's just corn, right? — cornbread typically contains a combination of cornmeal and wheat flour.

Alternative: Bob's Red Mill makes a great gluten-free cornbread mix. If you want to do it from scratch, here's a Food Network recipe for gluten-free cornbread.

3. Stuffing: It's basically just bread.

The main ingredient in stuffing? Bread.Source: Matthew Mead/AP
The main ingredient in stuffing? Bread.  Matthew Mead/AP

As a kid, I had no idea what stuffing was made of. I might have even thought it was part of the turkey. Of course, stuffing's main ingredient is cubes of bread — doughy, floury, gluten-containing bread. Stuffing might as well be called bread salad.

Alternative: Glutino makes gluten-free cornbread stuffing. Or, here's a Food Network recipe for gluten-free stuffing that simply calls for gluten-free sandwich bread instead of regular bread.

4. Green bean casserole: The secret's in the soup.

Beware the cream of mushroom soup.Source: MEL EVANS/AP
Beware the cream of mushroom soup.  MEL EVANS/AP

At Thanksgiving, green bean casserole is perhaps gluten's best hiding place. At first glance, its ingredients seem harmless: green beans, milk, crispy onions, a can of cream of mushroom soup. What could go wrong? 

The key here is knowing the ingredients within each casserole ingredient. Many canned cream of mushroom soups, such as Campbell's, contain wheat flour. The same goes for crispy onions: French's crispy fried onions, for example, also contain wheat flour. Flour might not be listed outright in a green bean casserole recipe, but it's still probably in there.

Alternative: Here's a Betty Crocker recipe for gluten-free green bean casserole.

5. Pie: Sadly, more gluten

Don't even think about it.Source: Matthew Mead/AP
Don't even think about it.  Matthew Mead/AP

Mic is sorry to report that pie is off the table. That delicious, buttery, flaky pie crust cradling warm apple slices and sweet pumpkin puree is, tragically, mostly comprised of flour and butter. 

Alternative: Bob's Red Mill makes gluten-free pie crust. Pillsbury makes gluten-free pie and pastry dough, too. Or modify your apple pie à la mode so it's just a plate of ice cream.

But don't worry, gluten-free folk! Plenty of Thanksgiving dishes are reasonably safe to eat. 

Basics like turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and roasted vegetables tend to be naturally gluten-free. Still, be sure to check with the chefs beforehand to make sure they haven't thrown in any surprise ingredients, and — if you're especially sensitive — that there's been no cross-contamination of ingredients.

And if all else fails, there's one other surefire gluten-free option: wine.