Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Feb 6, 2007 09:07 AM

Gluten-free (and delicious!) meal ideas?

A friend of mine doesn't eat gluten, and I'd like to invite her to a dinner party. Since I'd also like to invite some Omnivorous Chowhounds, her usual diet of plain steamed fish, rice, and carrots won't do it this time. Does anyone have some ideas? I've googled around a bit, but all the gluten-free sites I find are not exactly focused on deliciousness or helpfulness... they mostly want to sell you recipes for fake-sounding baked goods. Bleagh.

I do know that my friend avoids vinegar and quinoa and, I think, oats. So she's pretty strict about the grey areas. But I certainly don't know the whole story.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. How about a nice paella? I can't think of anything in it that would have gluten, with the possible exception of the chorizo. If you choose to add it, read the ingredients on the label to make sure that gluten wasn't added.

    1. Why does she avoid quinoa and oats? Both are gluten-free, not a grey area.

      In any event, I think a paella is a nice option.

      Would she eat something with sweet potatoes? Perhaps a nice roasted vegetable (fennel, sweet potatoes, beets, whole garlic cloves, rosemary or thyme) stew topped with feta cheese after it comes out of the oven.

      Grilled salmon with roasted red peppers or with a mango or pineapple salsa.

      You can do any fish au papiette (sp?) wrapped in parchment with lemon, some aromatics, herbs and baked for 20 min. Serve on brown rice.

      Another option is an eggplant lasagna (eggplant in place of the noodles). Don't bread the eggplant. Just lightly grill and then layer with tomatoes and goat cheese and spinach, garlic, etc.

      11 Replies
      1. re: pescatarian

        Re: quinoa and oats: Dude, I have no idea. My position is just to accept what she tells me about her food choices as though it was her religion-mandated diet, since that's how she feels about it. It makes it much easier to be understanding and accomodating.

        Re: everything else: Your recommendations sound fantastic--thank you so much.

        1. re: Tartinet

          Gotcha, was just curious why they were out, but makes sense just to go along.

          You're welcome.
          Dudette :)

          1. re: pescatarian

            oats aren't entirely free of gluten as there are no strict regulations in terms when it comes to sorting them. They are quite often cross contaminated with the likes of wheat and barley.

            1. re: Hamiesam

              But there are certified GF oats now, from several producers, and they're delish! Bob's Red Mill has them for a decent price. They can get really spendy.

        2. re: pescatarian

          There is a risk of cross-contamination with certain grains that are grown near wheat fields or processed in plants that process wheat. Or, she may have sensitivities or allergies to those grains as well as gluten.

          1. re: pescatarian

            Oats and vinegar are pretty common for gluten free folks to avoid. Something like a third of the people who react to gluten have the same reaction to the proteins in oats, which is why the current medical recommendations on oats are to eat them in limited quantity and judge tolerance for yourself.

            Quinoa tastes *odd* to me, and I won't eat it, but it isn't really a gluten issue. Some people do find that it accelerates digestive transit though and that can be disturbing.

            1. re: flourless

              That's too bad. I try to keep wheat to a minimum, but I love my oats and quinoa (and vinegar!). I do not have celiac disease and I think if I do have a sensitivity to gluten it is very minimal. I think for most people (not for those who have celiac disease), eating a small amount of anything and rotating is a good way to go.

            2. re: pescatarian

              Oats are on the 'no' list for gluten sensitivity. A good friend of mine just found out she's gluten-sensitive, and the list of things to avoid is pretty scary. Oats, vinegar (processed with barley), tomato paste, some spices, almost anything processed...

              1. re: lissar

                It depends on the person. The proteins that activate celiac disease in wheat are very closely related to proteins in barley and rye. According to scientific evidence (see Gut. 50:332, 2002 and Gut 53:649, 2004) oats are thought to activate celiac only rarely because the proteins are more distantly related to the proteins in wheat, barley and rye. The analogous proteins in rice, maize, sorghum, millet, Job's tears, and tef are even more distantly related and don't activate celiac.

                1. re: lissar

                  She should use the list from one of the national Celiac organizations. The Celiac center here at Stanford now states, with the new labeling laws, that vinegars (except malt vinegar), tomato paste absent unusual additives, spices unless wheat is specified are all OK. Oats are OK for most celiacs, but not all, and only those that are free from cross-contamination (e.g. McCanns works well for most, and there is another company). Also, until the disease is under control, the diet is more strict (e.g. no oats). Of course everyone has their own comfort level and sensitivities. So, just check with the person when cooking for them.

                2. re: pescatarian

                  People who can't eat gluten must also avoid oats, rye, and barley. Gluten is contained in the protein of all these grains.

                  (I'm adjusting to living with a gluten-free person myself. There's a definite learning curve.)

                3. My dad is celiac and just came to visit, so I just spent a week cooking gluten-free. Some of the meals included: osso buco over polenta (don't dredge the veal in flour - thicken at the end with a little cornstarch), I made a few thai dishes with rice noodles (there is a thai soy sauce with a dragonfly on the bottle that is gluten-free - many soy sauces contain wheat), and various roasted meats served with vegetables and potatoes. Use fresh herbs and avoid any processed food labeled with "natural flavoring". If you need vinegar as an acid, any wine or rice vinegar is safe, it is distilled white vinegar that is made from wheat. Desserts can be any custardy-type dessert (flan, creme brulee, panna cotta, rice pudding - just watch using extracts, the alcohol can trigger gluten sensitivites - use a vanilla bean or some lemon zest for flavoring), seasonal fruits and cheeses, a cheesecake with a crust made with ground gluten-free cookies (Whole Foods has a good selection) or a flourless chocolate cake. There are plenty of delicious foods you could make that your other guest wouldn't even realize they were dietary restrictions in place. Some websites that have good gluten-free recipes are
                  Good luck!

                  1. To be gluten free just avoid grains. Any meat and fish are fine, along with any fruit or veg or rice. You're basically fine if you cook from scratch and don't serve bread. I have found that gluten free breads are awful (including for use as bread-crumbs) so I've given up on them. But gluten free flour makes just as good a chocolate fondants as regular flour (at least flavour-wise, they don't rise quite as much but who cares, it's a chocolate fondant). Dinner party staples - braised lamb shanks - use cornflour or arrowroot to thicken, otherwise everything you'd do normally. I'm struggling to think of a fish dish that I cook that contains gluten... ok, don't breadcrumb it or tempura it but seasoned cornflour works fine.

                    If you can't tell I had a problem with a friend coming to dinner then realised it wasn't that much of a problem, just don't give them bread or beer. My friend Paul has coeliac disease and does have a problem with 'cheap' oats, in the same way that my friend Angie has a problem with cheap chocolate (she has a nut allergy) - basically we think it's about control in the factory/farm. But, you can't beat Dean - no wheat, no gluten, no yeast, no fish (incl shellfish) and Mary - no gluten, no dairy, no poultry, no fish. They are great fun to cook for - thank god they will never be at my house at the same time!

                    Oh, I can never remember with the whole no gluten thing if soy sauce is ok or not. But I'm pretty sure nam pla is fine.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: ali patts

                      There are a few brewers starting to play around with gluten-free beers that are pretty good. I gave my dad his first beer in years and he was thrilled. It was brewed with sorghum instead of gluten containing grains. I didn't have high expectations for the taste but was hoping since he hadn't had a beer in so long, he would be happy with whatever he could get. Everyone ended up having a few with him though and agreed they were pretty tasty.

                      1. re: ali patts

                        Soy sauce has wheat. Tamari is wheat-free.

                        1. re: rockycat

                          My grocery store carries wheat free tamari and some with wheat in it. I though t it was weird, but always check asian sauces for wheat.

                          1. re: rockycat

                            walmart's soy sauce does not have wheat and many vietnamese soy sauces do not have wheat.

                          2. re: ali patts

                            My favorite dessert for gluten-free dairy-free friends:


                            You can do things with meringes and somewhere I saw a method of whipping the cream from coconut milk which would be great with tropical fruits.

                            Also many Passover cake receipes either have no flour or so little that you can sub another flour without any effect. Many are nut based like Nigella's clemintine cake.

                          3. I have Celiac and I know there have been many posts recently. Do a quick search for more ideas.

                            Here are some ideas: Braised meat with parsnip puree and roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, maybe some salad or soup too if you are hungry. Mexican food is great - Mexican bisteca for instance, with corn tortillas, or mexican potatoes. Thai rice noodles with coconut milk sauce - can add meat. Indian is great too - dosa is a fun bread that is GF.

                            For dessert: Almond cake is my current favorite (made with ground almonds and egg), custards and ice cream, you can make a cheescake crust out of gluten-free corn flakes (one's without malt), pavlova, rice puddings, souffle, roasted fruit - there are so many choices. If you have a recipe that uses just a LITTLE BIT of flour (like a tablesspoon or two), it is easily adapted too.

                            For starch, there is polenta, millet, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice of all types, corn.

                            All meat and fish is fine, as long as it isn't dredged in flour (either skip or I dredge in rice flour/corn starch mix or soy flour) or coated.

                            Vegetables are fine.

                            Things to watch out for that you may not think about soy sauce (there are wheat-free version, but they are stronger), premade stocks (many have barley malt in them), beer, and in some cases spice mixes that loosen it with wheat flour (I haven't found this to be a big problem, but I don't use a lot of mixes).

                            Nam pla (fish sauce) is fine most of the time - read the label.

                            It depends on how sensitive to gluten they are, but I have gotten sick eating sweets from others houses. My best guess is the ubiquitous double dipping when baking (e.g. use the same measuring cup for flour as for sugar) eventually contaminates the sugar enough for me to get sick. That being said, being conscious of cross-contamination