Christmas is hard enough when you have extra mouths to feed

My 22-year-old daughter became unwell when she was in her teens. Eventually, we discovered that she had a bad intolerance to gluten, not Coeliac disease, but an intolerance which meant she needed to avoid gluten at all costs or become unwell again. She found it difficult though, especially at her young age, feeling uncomfortable asking for gluten-free options when out or expecting other people to find alternatives for her.

Gluten is found in barley, wheat, rye, couscous and semolina.

For us, it was a steep learning curve which came with a lot of surprises and mistakes. But now that we have all become used to what we need to steer clear of, it is relatively easy to achieve. She knows the best things to look for when eating out and we have discovered the amazing things you can buy to take the place of gluten-filled ingredients at home.

Christmas is hard enough when you have extra friends and family to feed, so it is especially difficult when there is someone with special dietary requirements. A lot of traditional Christmas food contains gluten so here are our tips for a gluten free Christmas and advice for avoiding gluten, but still enjoying traditional food over the Christmas period.

Firstly here are a few ingredients to be aware of that surprisingly contain gluten:

  • Stock
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Pickles (malt vinegar is made from barley)
  • Some shop bought dressings (thickener)
  • Soy sauce


1. Gluten-free Christmas – Christmas Breakfast

So mornings usually involve many gluten-filled ingredients – bread, toast, croissants, cereal and so a gluten free alternative is essential. I find good gluten-free bread hard to make and so buy ready-made bread which has improved hugely over the last few years. You can buy it in most supermarkets and some bakeries, but M&S always seem to be well recommended with their ‘Made Without Wheat’ range.

BBC Good Food’s guide: Best Gluten-Free Supermarket Food

2. Stock

This is an easy one to forget about, but it could quickly ruin a gluten free Christmas. Luckily you can buy gluten-free stock from most supermarkets and I tend to buy only the gluten free version and use it for everything so I don’t accidentally do any harm! Most (not all) of the Knorr stock cubes and pots are gluten-free too. My favourite is Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder (which is also, bizarrely, available from Amazon) and most supermarkets.

3. Roast Turkey

My advice is to keep it simple to avoid accidentally adding gluten to the meal. Always buy an unstuffed turkey as many turkeys are stuffed and the breadcrumbs in the stuffing may contain gluten. Keep the prep basic using oil or butter, avoiding using any extra flavours for the skin such as stock (unless gluten free) as these can contain gluten.

4. Stuffing

You can use rice instead of bread crumbs or use gluten free sausages to make stuffing. Waitrose has a great recipe for gluten free stuffing if you plan to make your own.
Ingredients: 450g gluten-free pork sausages, skin removed. 1 Bramley apple peeled cored and grated. 1 pack cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped. 1 small onion, diced. Method: Preheat the oven to 200c. Mix all ingredients together, season well, then pack into an ovenproof dish. Bake for 40 minutes. 

Shop bought
Most of the big stores have their own gluten-free stuffing, as well as the well-known gluten-free brands like Mrs Crimble’s (which can even be bought on Amazon)!

5. Gravy

Homemade gravy often involves adding flour. If you need to cater for someone with a gluten intolerance then you can use cornflour instead as this doesn’t contain gluten. Alternatively, use gluten-free gravy granules to make a little individual jug just for them.

It is easy to forget that gluten is in things like gravy granules and I have been caught out a few times in the early days. There are several brands of gluten-free granules and they are available in the stores or on Amazon.

6. Bread Sauce

My daughter loves bread sauce and says when she first knew she had to have a gluten free Christmas , this was the first thing she thought about! Thankfully a gluten-free version is now available in sachets to make at home, but you have to look for it. We use the Tesco Free From Bread Sauce (also available on Amazon) and always buy several packets at a time, as it is not available everywhere.

Homemade Bread Sauce
Jamie Oliver makes a delicious gluten-free bread sauce and it is super easy. Here is the recipe:

Brilliant Gluten-Free Bread Sauce

7. Sausages

Sausages often contain wheat gluten so if you are having sausages to accompany your Christmas dinner or making Pigs in Blankets then there are lots of gluten-free sausages you can buy. Unfortunately, the ones that don’t contain wheat are generally more expensive, so you can either buy them for everyone or just buy enough for the person affected and keep them separate.

We like the Heck range of sausages which are gluten and dairy free and readily available. Get a few packs in the freezer if you are intending to deliver a gluten free Christmas this year as they are always useful.

8. Roast Potatoes

Plain potatoes are gluten-free. However, certain potato dishes may not be gluten-free, depending on how they’re prepared. Some roast potatoes recipes suggest adding flour so avoid this and be aware that shop bought ready-made roast potatoes often do this so contain gluten. Nigella has a recipe which suggests using semolina but this also contains gluten so simply leave them as they are and cook in something tasty such as goose fat.

If you really need a gluten free Christmas then sometimes plain and simple food is safer.

9. Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake

My advice here would be to buy a mini gluten-free pud for the individual, as they can then refuse it without feeling guilty! Marks & Spencer do one for around £7 and Tesco do a mini ‘Finest’ one for just £2. Alternatively, most supermarkets do large and small gluten-free Christmas puddings and cakes of their own so shop around.

10. Mince Pies

Homemade (from scratch)
I have had varying degrees of success baking with gluten-free pastry and have come to the conclusion that as I don’t have a huge amount of success with normal pastry I am unlikely to master the art of a gluten-free one! It looks good raw then crumbles as soon as I try to move it. So I always buy it ready-made which is now fairly easy to find thank goodness! But if you fancy giving it a go then gluten-free flour is available in most supermarkets.

Homemade (using ready-made pastry)

A gluten-free Christmas

My daughter has had more success than me cooking mince pies and made these last week at uni with ready-made gluten-free pastry. She said it was brilliant. There are several brands to choose from but she used the ‘Genius Gluten-Free Shortcrust Pastry’ made from maize starch and potato starch which is gluten, wheat and milk free. It is frozen so can be bought well ahead of time and kept in the freezer until needed.

Shop bought – pick of the pies!
There are now lots of brands of gluten-free mince pies although they are mainly in the larger supermarkets. The Independent has recently published ’10 best gluten-free mince pies’ which is definitely worth a look although we have been impressed by most of them.

11. Cheese biscuits

You don’t need to worry about crackers with cheese as you can easily substitute them with oatcakes. They also make a great alternative for canapés (to hold things like goat’s cheese and a red onion chutney). Alternatively, you can buy gluten-free crackers for the individual or for everyone, to avoid accidents (although they are more expensive).

12. Other Christmas treats to be aware of

Here are a few other tips to be aware of if you are having a gluten free Christmas:

-Crisps can contain gluten so check the ingredients. You don’t need to buy the expensive gluten-free crisps just check the standard packs, such as Kettle Chips, as many of them are gluten-free anyway.

-Cocoa powder is gluten-free but hot chocolate powders, chocolate sprinkles and toppings for cappuccinos need to be checked.

-Marshmallows are usually gluten-free but worth checking the bag.

-There IS such a thing as gluten-free Yorkshire pudding mix if you are interested (from all major supermarkets)

13. Alcohol

Cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port, and liqueurs are gluten-free. Even when a cereal that contains gluten is used as an ingredient, all spirits are distilled during the manufacturing process and this process removes any trace of gluten.  Therefore, all spirit drinks (including malt whiskey which is made from barley) are safe for people with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance.

But did you know beer contains gluten? Beer, lagers, stouts and ales contain varying amounts of gluten and are not suitable for a gluten-free diet. Specially manufactured gluten-free beers, lagers and ales are available from many stores.

10 best gluten-free beers – The Independent.

Useful links – Gluten-free products and services

RELATED: Gluten Intolerance v Coeliac Disease – know the difference and act on it