Today so many people are following a special diet that the host is at a loss as to what to serve other than fresh fruits and vegetables! It seems that an increasing number of adults are gluten-intolerant, while many others have decided to become vegetarian or vegan. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, this becomes an even bigger challenge because you most likely want to adhere to family traditions while still being considerate of guests who can’t — or won’t — eat everything. Stick to the dishes your family enjoys, but offer some others that will appeal to those guests who are on a particular diet. That way, they won’t go home hungry. Here are four festive dishes that are vegan-friendly or gluten-free—or both. Everyone else will enjoy them, too.


This innovative dish was served to members of the University of Richmond’s Osher Institute by chef Marcus Samuelsson. His recipe calls for berbere, an Ethiopian herb and spice mixture. Because it is hard to find locally, I have combined 4 of the main components of berbere to add a little heat to the dish.

1 (3 pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut in

1 ½-inch cubes4 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

¼ cup orange juice

½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped

¼ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup sweetened dried cranberries

Place the squash cubes in a large parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet with rimmed sides and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. In a small dish, combine the next 4 ingredients; you will have 1½ teaspoons. Add 1 teaspoon of spice mixture to the squash, tossing well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast in a 450-degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the oil with the orange zest and juice; set aside. In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and toast the pecans over low heat until fragrant—about 3 minutes. Combine them with the sugar, salt and the remaining spice mixture. To serve, arrange the squash on a platter and drizzle the dressing on top. Scatter the cranberries and spiced nuts over the squash, and serve warm. Serves 6.


Even those who aren’t on a special diet might appreciate a change of pace from the buttery, marshmallow-laden sweet potato dishes normally served at Thanksgiving.

5 large sweet potatoes

2 large apples, peeled and sliced

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup dairy-free spread (such as Earth Balance)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup hot water

¼ cup maple syrup

Boil the sweet potatoes in a large kettle until tender but still firm—about 25 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the peel and discard. Cut the sweet potatoes into ½-inch slices. Spray-coat a 2-quart casserole, and add one-third of the potato slices; top with one-third of the apple slices. Sprinkle with one-third of the brown sugar, and dot with one-third of the spread. Make two more layers, using ingredients in the same order. Sprinkle cinnamon over the last layer, Combine the hot water and syrup and pour on top. Bake, uncovered, in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until apples are tender. Serves 8.


You can make your own turkey stock for this recipe by cooking the giblets and neck in a large kettle of water with onions, celery and seasonings. If, instead, you use store-bought chicken stock, make sure it has no gluten additives.

1 cup butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 celery stalks, finely chopped

¼ cup minced parsley

8 cups chicken or turkey stock

4 cups long-grain white rice

2 cups chopped pecans

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon sage

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon nutmeg

In a large kettle, melt the butter and add onion, celery and parsley. Saute, stirring frequently, over low heat until vegetables are soft but not brown. Remove from the heat. Meanwhile, in another large kettle, bring the stock to boiling. Add the rice, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, for 25 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the rice to the vegetables, along with the pecans and seasonings. Toss together to blend well. Makes enough stuffing for a 15-18-pound turkey.


This has been my go-to apple pie recipe for more than 20 years. Normally, I prefer a pie crust made with butter, but for my vegan guests I replace the butter with Crisco and it still comes out beautifully. The pie actually tastes better if allowed to stand overnight before serving.

Pastry for a 2-crust pie, using vegetable shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 ½ pounds Granny Smith or other tart apples

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon dairy-free spread (such as Earth Balance)

1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar

Following directions on a container of vegetable shortening, prepare pastry dough, and divide in half. Roll out one half of dough on a floured surface, and use it to line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a foil-lined cookie sheet on the middle rack. In a small bowl, combine the next 5 ingredients; set aside. Peel and thinly slice the apples — you should have about 9 cups. Place them in a large bowl, and toss with the lemon juice. Add the sugar mixture, blending well. Spoon the apples into the prepared crust, mounding high. Dot with the dairy-free spread. Roll out the remaining pastry dough into a 12-inch circle, and carefully fit it over the apples, sealing the edges of the top and bottom crusts together. Make 4 or 5 slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush the crust lightly with water, and sprinkle with the sugar. Place the pie on the heated cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 45 minutes longer, or until apples are tender. Cool for several hours on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

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