Food allergies never take a holiday, and after last year’s smaller quarantine Thanksgiving, you may be trying to figure out how to work an unfamiliar food allergy into your meal planning for extended family. Fear not, intrepid chefs! As a mom who learned her firstborn was allergic to milk 20 years ago (detailed in my first post for Cool Mom Picks!), I have since added another with a severe milk and egg allergy, so I know a thing or two about finding the best allergy-free replacements for your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

But finding replacements doesn’t have to mean doing twice as much work. Like we said in Thanksgiving dinner help: What to make from scratch and what to buy ready-made, there’s no shame in finding ingredient helpers that lessen your prep time but also ensure everyone is safe at your table.

Please note that of the eight major food allergies, we will be concentrating here on milk, eggs, soybean, and wheat. While peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are serious allergens, they are a little easier to avoid in planning a typical Thanksgiving meal (it’s pretty clear if great-grandma’s seafood stuffing or your green bean almandine is going to be an issue). And, while corn is an allergen for many, it’s not labeled as such on products and comes in so many different forms that we will not be tackling it here. My recommendation if faced with a corn allergy would be to cook with as many whole foods as possible and read labels like it’s your job. These tips for Managing a Corn Allergy at Eating with Food Allergies will help get you started.

When in doubt, please speak to the allergic person or their parent to check an ingredient. And don’t be offended if they announce that they will bring their own foods instead of sharing what everyone else is eating. It’s not a reflection on your cooking or care; it’s just a way to be certain that Thanksgiving will be as relaxing for them as possible.

Photos at top: Nora Cooks’s Easy Vegan Gravy and The Fit Cookie’s Homemade Gluten-Free Stuffing

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Allergy-free replacements for Thanksgiving: The Turkey

Allergy watch: Soy, Wheat

Though Butterball turkeys do not, in fact, contain butter, it’s always a good idea to check the labels of any store-bought turkeys. Some are injected with a brine which may contain soy or other allergens. You are safest buying a turkey from a local farm whose preparation you can double check before serving, or an un-brined bird that you can prepare yourself using a blend like the one found in the Best Turkey Brine recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

Trader Joe's Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast is perfect for people with food allergies

If you will have non meat-eaters around the table, grab something like Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast or  Whole Foods’ 365 Plant Based Roast which are both vegan and, thus, free of milk and eggs. The reviews for both are very good; however, they do contain wheat and soy which may be an issue for some guests.

If you need a soy-free vegan turkey, check out the Best Soy Free Vegan Turkey recipe from Bohemian Vegan Kitchen. And if you want to make a wheat-free vegan turkey, Food.com’s Tofu Turkey Roast is highly rated among recipe makers. Both of these recipes require a fair amount of time–and ingredients–but I think many of us who deal with food allergies would find it’s worth the trouble.

Related: 15 Gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes for appetizers, sides and dessert that will keep everyone satisfied this turkey day.

Mashed Potatoes

Allergy watch: Milk, soy

These allergy-free mashed potatoes from Minimalist Baker will be a delicious side dish for Thanksgiving

This Best Damn Vegan Mashed Potatoes recipe from Minimalist Baker is easy and perfect for anyone avoiding milk products. I will admit to being skeptical about the absence of milk or cream, but the almost universal 5-star ratings are convincing. The recipe uses margarine, so be careful that you look for soy-free margarine if that is an allergen. I like Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Sticks and Miyoko’s European Style Cultured Vegan Butter which are both soy-free and come in sticks which makes for an easy swap.

If you cannot wrap your head around “no milk” in your mashies, I would reach for oat milk as my dairy of choice. Oat milk is naturally mildly sweet, so use sparingly just to loosen up your potatoes. And unlike soy or nut milks, you don’t have to worry about other common allergies with oat milk. Both Oatly Original and Chobani Extra Creamy are the cartons I reach for in the supermarket every week.

Related: 9 vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes, from mains to sides, that even the carnivores will love.

Stuffing

Allergy watch: Milk, Eggs, Wheat, Soybean

Avoid major food allergens with this homemade stuffing recipe from The Fit Cookie

As a huge bagged-stuffing fan, I was thrilled to learn that Pepperidge Farm stuffing is vegan–just make sure you use one of the margarines recommended above.

For wheat avoidance, I’ve read great reviews of Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Stuffing Mix which is made from a blend of rice, brown rice, tapioca, and potato flours. Just get thee to a Trader Joe’s pronto since all their holiday items go fast. (and keep in mind that this stuffing contains egg whites.)

If you hit the trifecta (or quadfecta?) and need a stuffing that is dairy, egg, wheat, and soy free? The Homemade Gluten-Free Stuffing from The Fit Cookie (shown above) achieves this deliciously by using egg-gluten-milk free BFree Sandwich Bread as the base.

Related: How to talk to your children about kids with food allergies: What to say and why it’s important

Vegetables

Allergy watch: Milk, Eggs, Wheat, Soybean

Roasted vegetables are a great allergy-friendly side dish for Thanksgiving! Recipe by Damn Delicious which is aptly named

You’d think veggies would be the easiest dish, but Thanksgiving sides are rarely only a platter of steamed broccoli, but instead gooey casserole, cheese sauce, and nut-encrusted concoctions. One easy way to accommodate your guests without sacrificing flavor is to roast your vegetables. It’s simple and brings out such a lovely flavor in veggies with only olive oil, salt, and spices added. I mean, just look at the gorgeous blend of colors in the Roasted Vegetables recipe from Damn Delicious! What a showstopper!

If you just can’t image Thanksgiving without that classic green bean casserole, try replacing the traditional cream of mushroom soup in a can with Imagine’s Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup which is both non-dairy and gluten free. Because this is looser than the canned stuff, you won’t need as much non-dairy milk to get the consistency you want. Top with the Organic Gluten-Free, Vegan French Onions from Simply Nature to finish off your dish.

Creamed spinach without the cream? Yes, with this recipe from Detoxinista

And if you plan to serve creamed spinach on the table, my favorite sub for dairy cream is actually not a milk substitute but cashew cream! It’s magic! Made from raw, unsalted cashews, this Vegan Creamed Spinach from Detoxinista looks incredible. This is obviously NOT an option if there is a nut allergy in the home.

Gravy

Allergy watch: Milk, Wheat, Soybean

Homemade gravy is easy and can be allergy-free with this recipe on Cool Mom Eats

Homemade gravy isn’t an elusive unicorn–it’s actually easy when you follow the steps in How to make gravy: Two secrets and a recipe for foolproof turkey gravy every time. Just make substitutions for flour or butter as necessary. This way, you can control what goes into the gravy and, in turn, what goes into your guests!

If  you need a great vegan gravy for your meal, Nora Cooks’s Easy Vegan Gravy (shown at top) can be made in only five minutes and a handful of ingredients—and has hundreds of positive reviews. Just replace the soy sauce with tamari for gluten-free or coconut aminos for soy-free versions.

Related: 10 things my daughter with food allergies wants you to know.

Cranberry Sauce

Allergy watch: None but read labels just in case

Easy and allergy-free cranberry sauce from A Sweet Pea Chef

Rejoice! Whether you make your own from scratch or buy the stuff in the can that comes out in a solid tube (mmmmm), cranberry sauce is an easy allergen-free side dish! As a resident of cranberry country, I’d reach for the OG Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce though the cranberry-and-orange homemade cranberry sauce from A Sweet Pea Chef is quick and flavorful.

Rolls

Allergy watch: Milk, Eggs, Wheat, Soybean

Make easy yeast bread with recipes like this peasant loaf from King Arthur Flour

Pillsbury Original Crescent Rolls are vegan! Yes, I yelled this when I found out that several of Pillsbury’s pop-the-side bread cylinders were free of milk and eggs (though check labels because some of their products include buttermilk).

If you’re a purist and want to tackle  your own bread recipe for Thanksgiving, let me point you toward my quarantine-baking post, Yes, you can bake bread! Here are 7 easy yeast bread recipes for beginners, plus all the tips you need. We even have a tip for those avoiding wheat/gluten so that you can also have hot bread on the dinner table. (Shown above: King Arthur Flour’s no-knead Peasant Bread)

Desserts

Allergy watch: Milk, Eggs, Wheat, Soybean

A dessert almost anyone can enjoy at Thanksgiving from Gluten Free Goddess

There are just so many dessert options for Thanksgiving that I’d need to write a book to cover them all here, but fortunately Elizabeth Gordon already did it with her highly rated cookbook, Allergy-free Desserts: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free, Soy-free, and Nut-free Delights.

Related: Sweet and celebratory allergy-free birthday cake ideas for kids with strict food restrictions

Some other options? (We love options!) Make a delicious and impressive pavlova with a secret ingredient that is not eggs. Bake and decorate yummy vegan cupcakes for the kids’ table. Or how about trying this Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Pie Praline in Coconut-Pecan Crust from Gluten-Free Goddess? Shown above, it should be made a day ahead but no sampling before Thanksgiving!

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