Sure, cooking a Thanksgiving meal for guests with food allergies can be tricky, but in the spirit of the holiday, creating a welcome place at the table for all is definitely worth your while. First, the good news: Most of the Thanksgiving classics—turkey, potatoes, green beans, corn, cranberries—are low on the list of common allergens (though you should always check with guests to make sure of any allergies, common or not). The more challenging news? Many of the ingredients that accompany those classics are common allergens. Dairy, butter, nuts, eggs and wheat can be dangerous triggers for people with allergies.
If you're hosting, ask your guests if they have any food allergies before you plan your menu—that way, foods to avoid will be top of mind. If someone has a mild nut allergy, preparing an allergy-friendly feast could be as straightforward as opting for a pumpkin pie instead of a pecan one. If a guest has a severe allergy, though, you'll need to be more careful than simply omitting certain ingredients (for example, if you used a pan to toast nuts and then used that same pan to roast vegetables, traces of nuts could remain on the pan and cause a reaction for someone who is very sensitive). Aside from cross-contamination issues and making sure you read all labels closely, here are a few ways to work around common Thanksgiving ingredients you may need to omit
Some of us consider mashed potatoes just a vehicle for butter and cream, but there is a way to make them delicious without dairy. Swap in chicken stock for the dairy; add smashed, roasted garlic, or a small amount of truffle oil for flavor. You can also use a milk substitute such as soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk (if no guests have soy or nut allergies, that is). Non-dairy milks and vegan butters (which are often made with plant-based oils such as soybean, canola, and olive oils) will work in dinner rolls and some pie crusts, too.
Egg-free Thanksgiving desserts absolutely exist—especially if you're willing to stretch your definition of "Thanksgiving dessert." A no-bake cheesecake with a spiced gingersnap crust, for example, is one delicious option; most fruit pies and fruit crisps starring apples, pears, and other traditional fall fare are also great egg-free options.
Yes, slivered almonds can add welcome textural contrast to sautéed green beans, and toasted pecans are a nice touch over sweet potatoes. If you're looking for crunch and need to avoid nuts, try fried onions, roasted chickpeas, or buttered and toasted bread crumbs. And in salad dressings and baked goods, remember to watch out for nut oils and nut milks—people sometimes forget that almond milk, for instance, is in fact made from nuts.
Avoiding wheat has never been easier, with the incredible array of gluten-free breads now available everywhere from specialty bakeries to chain supermarkets. Again, read labels closely and if a guest is extremely sensitive, avoid any bread made in a facility that is not gluten-free. There are many non-wheat desserts; crust-free options and pie made with gluten-free crusts (and with gluten-free filings).
Other Common Allergens
Lastly, keep in mind that fish, shellfish, and peanuts (which are actually legumes, not nuts) are also common allergens, although they're not traditional Thanksgiving foods—so they may not be an issue.