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Paleo Thanksgiving Recipes

Make your Thanksgiving meal one of abundance AND health with these easy nutritious Paleo recipes.

A completely Paleo Thanksgiving menu –all gluten free, grain free and sugar free, including many delicious superfoods. Ten recipes for appetizers, salad, dinner, dessert and more.

For decades my father has said “eat the rainbow,” and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do just that. Each year, we have a variety of gorgeous, colorful dishes on the table, from the green of kale and brussel sprouts, to the orange of Pumpkin Pie (page 70 of The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook), to the bright red of cranberry dishes –so many deliciously prepared superfoods! Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a time of gorging/deprivation; it can be a time of grazing and enjoying.

Although I have been grain free for close to 11 years, this will be my first purely Paleo Thanksgiving. Earlier this fall, I went Paleo and gave up:

  • legumes -including peanuts
  • dairy -including goat
  • tomatoes -Dr. Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf indicate tomatoes contain immune disrupting lectins
  • agave -I noticed that I tend to retain water when I consume this substance
  • chocolate -accepted as a Paleo cheat; however, not sure if I can digest it, so cutting it for a bit

Still, this Thanksgiving will be one of celebration and abundance for us. We have eaten very well in the last couple of months since I went Paleo and we are all looking forward to a mighty hearty Thanksgiving feast.

Below are just some of the dishes I am thinking about making:

Are you staying Paleo or grain-free this Thanksgiving? What will you be making this year? What health challenges will you be facing over the holidays? Do you have a favorite recipe you want to tell us about?

Let’s chat and share strategies for surviving and thriving during the holidays.


posted on November 18, 2011

  1. Elana, I was interested to see you gave up tomatoes. I was diagnosed with nightshade allergies (white potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants) last year because of extreme inflammation, headaches and swelling to name a few. I’m so much better without these ingredients, many of which were the last to be cultivated for human consumption. I’m interested to learn more about the paleo diet, although I believe I have been doing a modified form of it for almost 10 years. Thanks for all your helpful info. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. nicolette @ momnivore's dilemma @ momnivoresdilemma.blogspot.com

    I’m going to start GAPS/SCD {which is a bit like paleo}…just with more fermented foods and broths…

    Have you tried those for healing, Elana? If you are Paleo already, doing that my help with any food intolerances…{of which I still am loaded with}.

    I’m moving my 4 year old on GAPS/SCD too. He’s addicted to GF carbs. Not good. I know it will help with the remaining autism I see…

    Thanks for your recipes!
    Sharing on pinterest…

    • Elyse Early

      I tried SCD recently, but I found out that the initial diet limited me so much that I become allergic to some of the stage 1 foods that were allowable. I think my system is extra sensitive, but lack of rotation on the initial stages of the diet were difficult for me because with so few allowable foods, I developed allergies to those foods. I never even considered that this might be the case in the beginning. I love the yogurt, though! Just a tip–you may not need to buy a yogurt maker. We can get the right temp by putting a 90 watt bulb in our oven and we culture the yogurt in those Weck canning jars that you can get from Crate & Barrel with glass lids. It’s the easiest thing and then we just pop the jars in the fridge and they are ready to serve!

  3. Alec

    I don’t recall reading anything about tomatoes and lectin in The Paleo Solution. I’ve also found a number of recipes/dishes using tomatoes on Robb’s site. You sure about the lectin thing?

    • PB

      The issue with nightshades is actually the alkaloid content (I’m not aware that they contain any appreciable lectin levels–lectins are a protein, and alkaloids, while similar chemically in that they contain nitrogen, are not really classified as such). Alkaloids can aggravate inflammatory conditions, and many folks (Robb Wolf included) recommend avoiding them if you are dealing with such issues. [I don't remember if this is in his book, or if I heard it on his podcast...]

  4. I never heard that about tomatoes. Thanks for the tip! Although, I never really was a big fan in the first place :) All your thanksgiving recipes look fabulous! Can’t wait to try some!

  5. Heather @ Bake, Run, Live @ bakerunlive.com

    I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner for both sides of the family, so there will be Paleo dishes and non-Paleo dishes.
    A few weeks ago, I stopped eating tomatoes and I have noticed a difference (my stomach used to get upset after eating them- raw, at least). I haven’t noticed the same reaction to white potatoes- which is good cause I love eating them. As a runner, they are my main source of carbs after my long run.
    Happy Thanksgiving Elana- to you and your family!

  6. Patty

    I am so excited about your change in diet!

    I found your website when I was eating no gluten no diary, but when I was diagnosed with prediabetes and had to go gluten free, dairy free low carb there was less and less on the website I could eat-but NOW I am going to pay attention again.

    • sandy g

      I encourage you to experiment. I was diagnosed diabetic in April, 2011 (A1C was 13). I did not want to “suffer along” as many people do when they learn they are diabetic. I began looking at alternatives and discovered this blog.(thank you Elana for sharing) I take her recipes and tweak them to suit my needs. Low carb and loving it! My A1C is now 5.7 and I have lost 88 lbs. I eat good food that is good for me.So you can do it .I am living proof.

  7. Mama Baba

    Elana.

    Your heart and diet are after mine.
    We have so many similarities in our intolerances.
    Always love your research and fantastically inspiring recipes!!
    Keep up the good work ;)

  8. Lisa

    Roasted turkey Brined in apple cider, butter pecan sweet potatoes (most Paleo people are okay with sweet potatoes and butter), sausage stuffing, broccoli salad, raw cherry apple pie AND Paleo rolls! I can’t wait!

  9. Hi Elana,

    I went to Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach a few years ago where they drink wheatgrass juice and eat only raw foods and they are definitely against tomatoes. The reasons: They are nightshade, most of them are ripened artificially and they are really a fruit and do not combine well with many foods. A lot of people get heartburn from cooked tomatoes due to the acid. So I think you are doing the right thing.

    Also, I’m glad that you went Paleo, it is the closest way to the foods eaten by our ancestors who ate only what they found out in nature that was edible. I was Paleo for several years and felt the best I’ve ever felt, then fell off the wagon and now you are motivating me to go back.

    Thanks !

  10. Crystal

    I was surprised to read your giving up agave – its in so many of your recipes. I just started to read a little bit about Paleo. Is there any approved Paleo sweetners?

    • Colleen Buchanan

      Dear Elena — I have substitued Coconut Nectar for agave as a sweeter in all of your recipes I have tried with great success. It is a think liquid (a little thicker than agave) and is made from the sap of the coconut tree and is loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and is extremely low on glycemic index. I use the same amount as your recipe calls for the agave. I have no idea if it is paleo friendly or not but it works great and is actually healthy! You can google it and find out more about it’s health benefits. the brand i use is Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Nectar

      • I agree with the coconut nectar. It subs well in most recipes. If I don’t want it quite so thick and caramel-like I will mix with some maple syrup. The vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe is amazing with coconut nectar and melted coconut oil subbed for grapeseed oil. It’s great because it is way lower in fructose than most other sweeteners that are Paleo friendly, including honey and maple syrup. Love it!

    • Saundra

      I am fairly new to gluten free eating, although we have eaten low glycemic for many years. I have used the sweetener for diabetics by Whey Low. I then began using Agave more and more after finding and reading your blog and purchasing your cookbooks. Be sure to let us know what your substitutions for agave might be.
      I am not very familiar with paleo eating. Since I don’t really like eating meat very much, I rely on legumes, brown rice, quinoa, etc. I can see that this would definitely be a huge change. I suffer from several autoimmune diseases and nightshade plants are one of the food items that have come off my food list. My husband is diabetic so my menu planning definitely works around him. However, he loves his potatoes!

      • Laura C

        Saundra – Please please do not use agave if you have diabetes. It is not low glycemic!! I use a combination of Coconut Palm Sugar and Xylitol in all my baking and cooking.

      • Saundra, giving up nightshades is really hard, but it’s worth it! I have suffered from a variety of symptoms for most of my life, but with the removal of nightshades (white potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants), I’ve been nearly free of chronic pain and headaches. My doctor explained its affects like this: Night shades affect your parasympathetic nervous system. They contain Solanine which is a nerve toxin and can irritate the mucous membranes of your GI system. Solanine turnes into sugar and inhibits the enzyme breakdown of acetylcholine (a nervous system neurotransmitter). Good luck with all this. It can be very overwhelming, but definitely worth the trouble.

        • Saundra

          Thanks Amy and Laura for your comments and information. I’ll look into the coconut nectar for a sweetener.
          Amy, your explanation helps me to understand the nightshade problem. I am having quite the dilemma in cooking for my family now. Being grain-free was one thing — and easy enough to remedy. There are other options in that area. But to cook without tomatoes or potatoes is another thing. I’m not sure where to begin since I am wheat and dairy and sugar free — and now shadeplant free as well. Nothing they are used to eating is on my current eating plan. (wink)

        • Christina

          Amy,
          Have you given up the nightshades too? Are you also eating Paleo? Just wondering how to find out more information. Thank you.

  11. Elyse Early

    Elana–this is fabulous. I’ve gone yeast free, then gluten free, and now grain free (and dairy free except for SCD yogurt and occasional ghee, and this Thanksgiving recipe ensemble is perfect! I am also leaning toward the paleo route because I feel better and better the closer I get to this lifestyle.

    This will be my first Thanksgiving with my future In-laws and Thanksgiving is such a time of family favorite recipes, that it is hard to join the feast because so much of it is off-limits. I know that making some of these dishes will make a nice addition to the family table and I was just about to make my list of ideas–and several of yours are going on it!

    The one thing I just found out which is very disappointing is that I cannot have squash of any kind. No more pumpkin pie! :( I am going to sub your pecan pie from your book.

    I am looking forward to more grain free, dairy free, paleo recipes. With you paving the way, I know that I can make the transition and still enjoy good food.

  12. cindy

    I’m inspired Elana. I have the “Paleo Diet” and the “Paleo Solution” (and both of your cookbooks) but I haven’t completely gone paleo (just partly so). I’m curious what you are using in place of AGAVE since it is so prevalent in your recipes. Do tell!!!

    • Paula Brown

      I don’t know what Elana uses now in place of agave, but I think one of the important keys is to use as little sweetener as possible…only for occasional treats and in as small amounts as possible. I use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and stevia. I have also purchased some yacon syrup, which is made from a tuberous root. It is really expensive, so will have to be used only occasionally.

  13. Wow Elana,

    Congrats on taking the health plunge! I too have cut out some of these foods and although it seems difficult at first I find that the results are amazing. I haven’t cut out tomatoes yet, but I do know they aren’t good for me. You should post what you eat on a regular day to give some of us inspiration on going completely grain-free and tomato-free. :-)

  14. Maria

    We’re spending Thanksgiving with family, but there tend to be a lot of things on the table that I don’t eat. I cannot tolerate the starchiness of white potatoes so mashed spuds are out, and my mother-in-law makes a sausage stuffing but sausage doesn’t agree with me either. People also like to put corn and lefse on the table (again, starch issue) and that yucky canned cranberry sauce, which is pretty much just sugar. I don’t end up with many options.

    Last year I brought along your mashed cauliflower and gravy, which was great. This year I think I might just bring along several veggies to roast in the oven – including your carrot fries, which are mighty tasty. I don’t really need much besides the fresh organic turkey I’ll be bringing for everyone…. and a bunch of veggies. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  15. Monique

    I’m grain and dairy intolerant, legumes and seeds aren’t my friends either so I cut those out too. At first, I was bitter and confused so I’d call myself an ‘involuntary paleo’. Several weeks and much improvement later, I’m fine with it.
    I’m trying to cut nightshades out because of my joint pain, but occasionally cheat. My mother’s potato salad recipe with homemade mayo is just too tempting!
    I just bought “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” but I’m not sure I’m going to try the SCD, because I’m allergic to several of the allowed foods :(

    Last night, I used leftover almond pulp, with other ingredients, for stuffing in a roasted duck – it was amazing! I highly recommend it!

  16. Betsy

    I eat modified paleo for auto immune disease (MS) lean grass fed meats, wild fish, veggies and some fruit and I feel great! My paleo nutritionist recommended I give up nuts as well and it has made a world of difference for me. I believe the ratio of omega 3’s to 6’s were way off and the imbalance causes inflammation. Glad to see your going in this direction. Paleo has really turned things around for me!

  17. Alicia K

    Hi Elana,

    My husband and I recently began our Paleo journey as well. So far, it has been a great experience and has opened my eyes to some responses to foods that I was not even aware I was having.

    Eliminating sugar has made a HUGE difference in the way that I feel on a daily basis. I no longer feel sluggish when my alarm goes off and my previous craving for something sweet after a meal is almost nonexistent. Both my husband and I feel so much “calmer” and realized that we are getting a long so much better since changing our eating habits.

    With the holidays approaching, I have begun to worry about how I will avoid eating sugary desserts and side dishes, without offending my host. My MIL in particular. If you have any suggestions or can offer some advice on how you usually navigate these situations, I would be greatly appreciative!

    Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes!

    Alicia

  18. Trilby

    My husband and I are mostly on Paleo, being celiac I must avoid all grains & grain-fed meats as Dr. Peter Osborne (GlutenFreeSociety.org) advocates. I can’t tolerate any nightshades or legumes now, but hope to learn how to sprout beans to enable digestion.
    A recipe for Herb Baked Onion Bloom (a baked grain-free, resembles bloomin’ onion that is battered & fried):
    1 large onion (3-3 1/2 inches wide) –I cooked several
    1 tablespoon butter or margarine
    1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
    1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
    salt & pepper, to taste
    parsley or paprika, if desired
    Cut about 1/2-inch off top of onion; peel onion. Cut into 12 to 16 vertical wedges, leaving root base intact. Set bloomed onion on 14″X10″ foil piece (I line with parchment paper inside foil to avoid heated aluminum absorbing into food). Top with butter,thyme or oregano, rosemary & salt & pepper, to taste. Wrap foil around & pinch edges together tightly. Place wrapped onion upright on pan. Bake @ 425 for 30 min. or til tender & cooked but “petals” still have body & stand upright. If desired, sprinkle w/ minced parsley or paprika. Baked wrapped onion may be held in warm location for up to 1 hour before serving. (sweet onions are good, can vary herbs)

    • Linda C

      Trilby, thanks for the onion recipe! Sounds like we eat alike; however, I can’t tolerate any of the spices made with nightshade plants as well as the nightshade plants themselves. This means no paprika, cumin, chili powder, asian pepper sauces, etc., so I’ll use parsley on the onion when I make your recipe.

  19. Sharon

    Elena, have you tried using coconut sugar as an alternative to agave? It’s supposed to be equally low if not lower on the GI and have beneficial nutrients b/c of being made from coconut flowers.

  20. Laura @ GFPantry @ glutenfreepantry.blogspot.com

    Thanks for posting your fantastic recipes! I am going to try the kale and cranberry recipe next week.

  21. K

    love the sugar-free and super food parts, but nothing can ever replace a *compassionate* cruelty-free thanksgiving!

  22. Hannah Willette @ thewholekitchen.com

    Elana-

    Your Paleo Thanksgiving looks delicious! I’ve been a paleo eater for over a year and I have found relief in my gut by choosing the right food to eat. I plan on making the mashed cauliflower for the pot luck I am attending for Thanksgiving.

    I saw you linking Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf. Have you visited Mark Sisson at the Daily Apple? He has a wealth of information too.

    I enjoy your recipes – keep them coming. I will be linking you soon in my paleo blog. Feel free to stop by and take a look.

  23. Becca

    I tried the kale with cranberries salad yesterday. It was absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing something new and different. :)

  24. Cs

    So what are you using for sweeteners? I’m still waiting for you to fall in love with date syrup.

  25. Chelsea

    Bacon wrapped pecan stuffed dates are my go-to thing to make for a non-paleo crowd. Since I’ll be eating with one this year, I’m planning on making those as well as your stuffing recipe. I don’t really care if anyone else tries the stuffing, I’m bringing that one as a comfort food just for me!

  26. nel

    My dinner will be GAPS/Paleo friendly:

    Turkey, brined and roasted with gravy
    Mashed cauliflower
    Kale, either braised or crisped
    Simple salad with butter lettuce, lemon vinaigrette, etc
    A fermented cranberry sauce and I think your raw sauce
    Either coconut flour or almond flour biscuits
    Baked apples

    We’re just skipping the stuffing this year and making it all simple-

  27. Primal Toad @ primalsmoothies.com

    This is awesome! Maybe I’ll have to host Thanksgiving when I’m older and reference this :)

  28. I was so excited when I read this post. When I first went gluten free and sugar free a year ago you were the place to go when I wanted desert (which is often)! However because of continuing symptoms I have had to go the paleo route. I am excited at the prospect at more paleo desert recipes. I love your sunbutter ice cream recipe, it has been my saving grace on the paelo diet! I took that as a base and have made several flavors: mint chocolate chip, cookie dough, apple pie, almond cluster, and recently chocolate brownie. I made a small website to share the recipes for family and friends http://www.wix.com/cmeicecream/icecream. Thanks again!

  29. We are on GAPS so our Thanksgiving will be grain free too! I love being grain free and feel so good (it’s been 3 months). We’ll be having brined turkey, fresh cranberry sauce, faux tatoes (mashed cauliflower with bone broth, butter, and salt), grain free stuffing, roasted asparagus, and pumpkin pie souffle (on your most recent tart crust). YUM!!

  30. Hello Elana. We are having the kale & cranberries for Thanksgiving and can’t wait. Thank you for such great recipes! I am a family caregiver and have created a website about caregiving to pass along links to good, practical information and websites. [www.caregivingcafe.com] Surely some of them care for loved ones on gluten-free diets. They’ll have a hard time choosing what to prepare! Happy Thanksgiving!

  31. Amy @ Chefbasket @ buychefbasket.net

    This is a great recipe for the family this Thursday. My husband is celiac and glad that I came across your blog and will be trying out your recipes. Happy Thanksgiving!

  32. I love kale and look forward to trying your Kale and Cranberries recipe. I put together a paleo pecan pie recipe recently that I’m pretty happy with. It uses dates, unsweetened applesauce, maple syrup and a bit of molasses as sweetener. http://paleospirit.com/2011/paleo-pecan-pie-tart/
    Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for all your great recipes.

  33. Alicia

    My mother in law made the pecan pie…I tried it cold and then warmed up in the microwave. What a difference warming it up made. It tasted like the regular pecan pie

  34. Alexandra

    I have suffered for many years being unable to eat wheat and gluten and having “gluten free” never worked for me, and then one day I found almond flour and never knew what exactly to do with it. So it was a constant struggle and disappointment to be eating healthy but no way of knowing how to make it taste good and wanting to always be “normal”. I often would eat things that would make me sick, just to seem normal. Thank you so much for your recipes! You gave me the first Thanksgiving ever where I could eat deliciously and not be harming my body and everything I made was so delicious my non-gluten free family was trying to eat my food over theirs. I will never go back to making myself sick again! You and your recipes are a g-d send! Thank you!

  35. Christina

    What is there left to eat on the Paleo diet? I am gluten and dairy free. Please advise how to find out what to eat? Elana, do you have any other Paleo diet recipes available? Any help from anyone else is greatly appreciated, especially if taking out nightshades? I feel like this is too limiting. Why no grains or legumes either – they are supposed to be healthy food for vegans. Not sure which direction to turn. Please help! Thank you!

  36. Ella

    Hi Elana!

    I just found your site through a Swedish Internet book store :) (just got your books) and I think it’s amazing! Thank you for sharing all the great tips and recipes.

    I read that you avoid agave since it tends to bloat you. I have noticed that agave is used in a lot of your recipes – is there a substitute one can use instead?

    Yours sincerely,
    Ella

  37. anita

    Hi Elana,

    I am on the same page as you regarding diet for the most part and thus love your abundance of recipes and frequently pull up your site on my Iphone in the kitchen when needing a certain dish.

    Recently, a local nutritional teacher (who has helped many folks around here with chronic illness including cancer and inflammatory conditions), has been warning about the effects of all nuts on our liver and pancreas as they are lectins and not meant to be eaten in excess. Knowing that you do extensive research on these things, I was wondering if you have some positive news on almond flour that would help legitimize it for me? Did I mention I LOVE your recipes and don’t want to give them up? He says nuts can only be eaten in very, very small amounts only now and then and only with coconut oil to help get it through our system, if we must have them at all.

    Help. I will say that I have a good diet, exercise well, but still cannot seem to get rid of some pain now and then in my upper stomach so I am curious if this is the issue!

  38. Nicole@ethanksgivingday.com @ ethanksgivingday.com/recipes.html

    Hello Elana,

    I love reading through your blog, I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation. I love the cooking very much. I like to cook many new thing for every occasion. Now learning some recipes for thanksgiving occasion.

  39. Leila

    My family loves sweet potatoes and in the past I’ve always made a sinfully delicious recipe loaded with marshmallows and brown sugar. This past week I experimented with mashed garlic sweet potatoes. They were very good. I think I will be making them for Thanksgiving. All I did was microwave the sweet potatoes to cook them. Then I scooped out the potato and put it in a dish mixing them up good to mash them. I added a half cup of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of butter, a half teaspoon of salt, and about a tablespoon of minced garlic. Mix it all up good, and they were yummy!

  40. Kendra

    I am working my way towards paleo again. I was before I got married, then fell off the wagon. I didn’t know how to blend my food with my husband’s tastes for the SAD diet and simply was tired of cooking two meals every night. Thank you so much for making a thanksgiving menu! It just might work for him ;)

  41. Linda Whitlow @ sanctuarynaturals.com

    About chocolate: Do you know about a company called MXI that produces Xocai RAW dark cacao products using a cold process (done in Belgium)…retains nearly all its antioxidants, and most of their raw dark cacao products are sweetened only with berry blends, including acai, blueberries etc. Check them out on the web!

  42. Bonnie

    Hi Elana,

    I am eating “mostly” a Paleo diet. Dairy/wheat free and mostly grain-free, for example. I am having difficulty with some baked goods. I usually base cake/cookies on pumpkin and work from there. However, I have developed anaphylaxis to several nuts. Ironically NOT peanuts, which of course are a legume. So Brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds are absolutely out. I am giving my body a break from nuts for a while, hoping not to set off an allergy to other nuts. It was years from becoming allergic to Brazil nuts, then hazelnuts, then gradually almonds, etc.

    So, with all that said, what would you recommend I use in place of almond flour? I use coconut milk in place of almond or soy milk. Could I substitute a smaller amount of coconut flour for the almond flour?

    Your suggestions would be appreciated!

    Thank you,

    Bonnie

  43. Karen

    I have been gluten free for 7 years due to a diagnosis of celiac disease and have been trying to be Paleo for the past year due to other autoimmune issues. I have had a lot of success with the recipes on this blog. However, it seems like everyday there is another list of foods not to eat. Most people who post seem to embrace this as an exciting challenge. Does anyone else mourn all the foods they can no longer eat? This is getting so limiting I find it discouraging.

  44. Wanda Ball

    Why did you decide to give up goat products?

  45. Elena

    I commend you for giving up chocolate for someone who makes so many chocolate treats!! Love your recipes!!! And your cook book! Perfect for this paleo family!

  46. Kate

    This will be my second completely paleo Thanksgiving – it was a hit last year and I do a week long grazing of Thanksgiving food items instead of a huge stuff yourself day but Thanksgiving Day usually has the the turkey. Of course, I have already started on the desserts–gotta test those extra, how else are you going to get into the proper frame of mind???

    I have not traveled or hosted in several years so this makes so much more sense, I can eat and everyone who visits or stops by likes my food, whether they know it is paleo or not.

  47. Maggie

    Southerner.Must.Have.Sweet.Potatoes.

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