Easter meals can be hard to plan for at the best of times. Apart from hot cross buns and chocolate eggs, there doesn’t really seem to be a defined Easter cuisine, so knowing what to cook for your relatives can be a bit of a challenge. And it only gets more complicated once you factor in everyone’s dietary requirements! If you’re scratching your head wondering how to plan a gluten free Easter meal for your gluten intolerant relatives, then this post is for you. Simply follow these 8 easy steps, and you’ll be planning gluten free Easter feasts like a #boss.
Ready? Let’s get started!
1. Find out what your guests need.
Not everyone who follows a gluten free diet is a coeliac (me included). Some people have non-coeliac gluten intolerance, or follow a FODMAP diet, and others have chosen to omit gluten from their diets for other reasons. Finding out which of these categories your guests fit into will allow you to plan your meal prep processes properly. Gluten cross-contamination can be a serious problem for coeliacs, with even small traces of gluten causing allergic reactions. If your guest is a coeliac, you’ll need to take precautions to make sure you’re not accidentally introducing gluten into their meal (e.g. don’t put the gluten free bread in the same basket as the wheat bread). Finding out how sensitive your guests are to gluten is the first step to planning a safe, gluten free Easter meal.
2. Know what gluten is (and isn’t).
Gluten doesn’t just mean wheat. There are a number of grains that contain gluten, so it’s important to know what a coeliac/gluten intolerant person can and can’t eat. It’s also important to understand if your guests have any other dietary requirements. Often, caterers create dishes that are both gluten free and vegan in order to cater to a larger range of dietary needs, but if your guests aren’t vegan, then there’s no need to put further constraints on what you can cook. If you do happen to find yourself needing to cook for a gluten free vegan, rest assured that there are plenty of suitable recipes out there in the wide world of the internet. Pinterest is your friend.
3. Ask them what they like.
There are a ton of pre-packaged gluten free meals and food products available these days. Unfortunately, they tend to vary in quality considerably. Have you ever tried a slice of gluten free bread and immediately wanted to spit it out? Yep, we’ve all been there. Buying up a bunch of gluten free products from your local supermarket might seem like a great way to appease your guests, but if you’re not familiar with the brands, you risk presenting your guest with something less than appetising, no matter how good your intentions are. The best way to avoid this is to simply ask your guests what they like. If you plan to have bread on the table, ask them what their favourite brand is. If you’re confident you can source the right ingredient, consider asking them to bring some along themselves. Pretty much everyone eats bread, and most people wouldn’t mind bringing along a slice or two if it means they can participate fully in the meal without risking their health.
4. Don’t let them feel left out.
There’s nothing worse than being the only person at the dinner table not eating. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to events with pre-set menus where the waiter has brought out the next course and told me “this one’s not gluten free, but the next one will be”. It’s really awkward sitting there with an empty plate while everyone else is eating – not just for the gluten free person but for everyone else at the table too. Whatever you decide to serve, make sure the gluten free guest is accounted for at each course. Whether this means preparing a variation of a dish specifically for that person, or something completely different, making sure they always have something to eat will help them feel more included in the meal.
5. Always read the labels.
Gluten can hide in the most surprising places. Many pre-made sauces and seasonings contain gluten, so it’s important to always read the labels on the ingredients you’re planning to use. Alcohol and chocolate can both be problematic: many popular products have gluten in them, so make sure you check the label. This is also a good time to check with your guest if they have any recommendations for gluten free drinks/nibbles, or if they’re happy to supply some of their own.
6. Cut down on prep time – choose naturally gluten free dishes.
A quick Pinterest search for “Easter meals” revealed a list of vegetable-based sides and roasted meats like lamb and glazed hams. The good news? Most of this stuff is naturally gluten free. Make life easier for yourself and forego the pies and cakes in favour of gluten free dishes like roast lamb with green beans and a new potato salad. Or maybe a mixed vegetable frittata with some glazed carrots and a green salad. Having an entirely gluten free Easter will save you preparing extra dishes, and allow you to spend more time with your guests!
7. …Or choose easy gluten free alternatives.
Have you joined the zoodle craze yet? There are plenty of ways to replace traditionally glutinous ingredients to create new gluten free dishes. Try substituting quinoa for couscous, zucchini noodles for pasta, or an almond meal crust for traditional shortcrust pastry. You could make a flourless chocolate cake for dessert, or whip up a batch of buckwheat pancakes. If you love cooking, this is a great opportunity to experiment with new ingredients. You may ever discover a new favourite recipe!
8. Don’t make a big deal about it.
If you’ve offered to cook for someone who doesn’t eat gluten, chances are they already know that this will be a hassle for you. It is likely that they have adopted this diet for health reasons, so they know how frustrating it can be to adapt to it. Many people feel like a burden when they have to ask their friends or family to accommodate their dietary requirements, so try not to make them feel worse by talking to the whole dinner table about how hard it was to plan the meal. It can be challenging to feed a large crowd of people with differing food preferences and allergies, but if you keep in contact with your guests, make an effort to understand their needs, and ask for their advice, hosting a gluten free Easter probably won’t be as hard as you might have imagined. Your guests will be really grateful that you’ve worked so hard to accommodate them.
When planning a meal for a large group of people, the most important thing will always be the atmosphere. If you’re stressing about everyone’s dietary requirements, your guests will notice and feel uncomfortable. But if you plan ahead, and talk to your guests about what they need, you’ll feel more relaxed on that day, and actually be able to enjoy your own party!
Check out some of my favourite gluten free Easter recipes for inspiration: