Thanksgiving for All (+ Dessert Recipes)

A naturally flourless whole grain crust bolsters a creamy pumpkin pie filling that demands a place at the Thanksgiving table. Plus a few recipes for naturally flourless pumpkin desserts and notes on cooking holiday meals for those with unique diets.

When the holidays loom there’s often a bit of trepidation on the part of the host when faced with diners who may have particular dietary needs. If you’re like me and you don’t want to ask your lovely guests to bring their own food — or resign them to ‘just fill up on sides!’ — you’ll want to branch out a bit and seek recipes that ensure everyone leaves the table wholly satisfied.

I wrote an story for NPR a few years ago about the gluten-free (and vegan) holiday table and have written extensively here and there about vegetarian/vegan Thanksgiving as well as Thanksgiving (and/or Christmas if you celebrate) on the lighter side. In my own smallish family there’s a vegetarian, someone who eats low fat/low cholesterol, and someone who keeps gluten-free. When I’m cooking Thanksgiving I like to make sure there’s a lot of vegetables prepared simply and healthfully, a hearty main course vegetarian dish (often vegan) that all who are gathered round can enjoy, and most likely a turkey served with vegetarian (and perhaps gluten-free) gravy and vegetable-cornbread stuffing that’s quick as anything to make gluten-free. I find it easy and also enjoyable to cook with an eye towards accommodating all but I also know it can be daunting. With that in mind I’m going to share some links, thoughts, and recipes in the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday in hopes of helping make your meal preparations less about stress and more about enjoying the day and your company.

Because why save the best for last, I’ll start things off with dessert. Specifically, a recipe for gluten-free pumpkin pie.

[She liked it.]

I adapted this recipe from Alice Waters’ ‘The Art of Simple Food’ and as is my preference I used heavy cream (or what approximation of that I can get here) instead of evaporated milk in the filling. The crust turned out to be amazingly flaky and light despite its lack of gluten – the secret is in the chilling and the blind baking – and in truth it’s one of the best crusts I’ve made gluten or no gluten. I will note that is it not grain-free nor dairy free but there are a few simple substitutions you can make if needed (details below). The combination of oat flour, brown rice flour, and ground almonds plus plenty of butter and ice-cold water create a melting, perfectly crisp and flaky crust that could be used as the base for an open-faced apple pie, a galette, or a tarte tatin. I will mention that gluten-free/flourless crusts are a tad more finicky than their gluten counterparts and I do a mix of roll and press of the crust into the pie pan in order to make it work. I haven’t tried a double crust pie but I think it would be doable if a bit trickier to get that top layer just right.

I’m also including a few recipes here for vegan and flourless pumpkin custard as well as an adaption of my beloved pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, a plate of which I like to have close by in the kitchen as I do my Thanksgiving cooking. The holiday has crept up on me this year and I’m still wrapping my mind around that it’s occurring next week. Though there’s a decided chill in the air here at last it by no means really feels like fall and/or like winter is fast approaching. And there’s a peculiar strangeness to celebrating a very traditional American holiday when you’re not in America; to everyone around you of course it’s just an ordinary Thursday. Nonetheless, there are persimmons in the market and pumpkins and butternut squash on my counter and sweet potatoes cozying up to apples and pears in the fridge so at least my kitchen knows what’s going on.

If you want to branch out beyond pumpkin, try this delicate and delectable flourless apple tart. A chocolate cream pie might not be refused if it graces your desserts sideboard. There’s also a pretty, crustless cheesecake with lemon curd, or baked maple apples, or an Indian pudding, or a fall fruit crisp from my cookbook that might appeal if you’re looking for something a bit less traditional but still fall-appropriate.

To whet your appetite and get the wheels of inspiration turning, a few posts on Vegetarian Thanksgivings past:

Appetizers: sweet potato dip and cranberry margaritas for the gluten-free set, plus sweet potato biscuits and phyllo-vegetable parcels for those who can partake.

Vegetable accompaniments: potage Jacqueline (sweet potato soup), pumpkin-leek soup, vegan cornbread (swap one cup brown rice flour for the AP flour in the recipe), potato and celery root mash …

Main dishes: If you need to, substitute two tablespoons brown rice flour for the all-purpose in the gratin recipe and you’ll be good to go.

Next week I’ll share a few more flourless/vegan/vegetarian recipes for bits and bites, but I wanted to get these desserts out today because, well, you can never start thinking about dessert too early. Happy holidaying wherever you are and however you celebrate.

nicole spiridakis © copyright 2023