What to serve a guest who is gluten-free?

Gluten-free diets are becoming increasingly common, whether due to celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or personal preference. When hosting guests with gluten restrictions, it can be challenging to come up with appetizing menu options that won’t leave anyone feeling left out.

The good news is that gluten-free cooking has come a long way in recent years, and there are now tons of delicious ingredients and recipes to choose from. With a little planning and creativity, you can serve gluten-free guests dishes that are just as satisfying as their gluten-containing counterparts.

What is Gluten?

Before diving into gluten-free menu suggestions, it helps to understand what exactly gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It acts as a glue that helps foods like bread maintain their shape.

For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, and diarrhea. The only treatment is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Safe Ingredients for Gluten-Free Diets

When cooking for gluten-free guests, you’ll need to avoid all foods and ingredients containing wheat, barley, rye, and related grains. But there are still plenty of delicious gluten-free options to create a satisfying menu.

Here are some of the most common safe ingredients for gluten-free diets:

  • Meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Rice, quinoa, gluten-free oats
  • Beans, nuts, seeds
  • Corn, cornmeal, polenta
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
  • Gluten-free flours (rice, almond, coconut, chickpea, etc.)

When in doubt, check labels carefully to confirm a product is certified gluten-free, or contact the manufacturer if it’s unclear.

Gluten-Free Appetizers

Starting off your meal with tasty gluten-free appetizers sets the tone that your gluten-free guest is included. Here are some ideas for appetizers you can make ahead or buy ready-made:

Dips and Spreads

  • Guacamole with corn tortilla chips
  • Hummus with rice crackers or fresh veggies
  • Baba ganoush with rice crackers or fresh veggies
  • Spinach artichoke dip with rice crackers or potato chips
  • Crab or shrimp dip with rice crackers


  • Caesar salad with gluten-free croutons
  • Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil
  • Arugula salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and balsamic dressing
  • Kale salad with chickpeas, dried cranberries, and lemon dressing

Flatbreads, Rolls, and Breads

  • Store-bought gluten-free crackers
  • Homemade zucchini flatbread with goat cheese and herbs
  • Gluten-free bread with olive oil for dipping
  • Gluten-free corn muffins

Other Finger Foods

  • Antipasto skewers with cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, etc.
  • Deviled eggs
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Meatballs

Gluten-Free Main Dishes

For your gluten-free guest’s main course, focus on naturally gluten-free proteins like meat, fish, and poultry. Avoid breading or cooking with wheat-based sauces. Here are some tasty gluten-free mains to consider:

Meat Dishes

  • Roast beef with potatoes and vegetables
  • Herb-crusted rack of lamb with roasted carrots
  • Pork tenderloin with sweet potato hash
  • Steak fajitas with corn tortillas and fixings
  • Bunless burgers with sweet potato fries

Poultry Dishes

  • Roasted chicken with potatoes and green beans
  • Turkey meatballs with marinara sauce over zucchini noodles
  • Jerk chicken drumsticks with pineapple salsa
  • Baked chicken parmesan over quinoa or rice
  • Crispy baked chicken tenders with roasted broccoli

Fish and Seafood Dishes

  • Lemon garlic shrimp skewers with rice pilaf
  • Seared scallops with cauliflower mash and asparagus
  • Maple salmon with roasted squash and brussels sprouts
  • Tilapia tacos with corn tortillas and cabbage slaw
  • Mussels marinara over gluten-free pasta

Other Protein-Packed Mains

  • Veggie or bean chili with corn bread
  • Portobello mushroom fajitas with fixings
  • Stir-fried tofu and veggies over rice
  • Eggplant or chickpea curry over quinoa
  • Vegetable and bean enchiladas with salsa verde

Gluten-Free Side Dishes

Round out your gluten-free meal with flavorful side dish options. Focus on naturally gluten-free whole foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, rice, quinoa, and potatoes prepared simply.

Vegetable Side Dishes

  • Roasted broccoli with garlic and olive oil
  • Sauteed spinach with pine nuts and goat cheese
  • Honey glazed carrots
  • Roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce
  • Green beans almondine

Fruit Side Dishes

  • Berry salad with balsamic dressing
  • Roasted spiced apples
  • Honey ginger glazed peaches
  • Grilled pineapple slices

Grain and Potato Side Dishes

  • Quinoa tabbouleh salad
  • Rice pilaf with almonds
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Garlic roasted potatoes
  • Loaded baked potato

Other Gluten-Free Sides

  • Peas with mint
  • Corn salad with red bell pepper
  • Refried beans
  • Tomato cucumber salad
  • Guacamole

Gluten-Free Desserts

Part of making your gluten-free guest feel welcome is offering a tasty gluten-free dessert. Look for desserts made with naturally gluten-free ingredients like fruit, nuts, dairy, dark chocolate, coconut, and gluten-free flours.

Fruit Desserts

  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Baked apples with cinnamon crumble topping
  • Peach cobbler with gluten-free topping
  • Mixed berry crisp with gluten free oats

Chocolate Desserts

  • Gluten-free chocolate cake
  • Flourless chocolate cake
  • Chocolate pots de creme
  • Chocolate dipped strawberries

Other Gluten-Free Desserts

  • Panna cotta with berry compote
  • Coconut macaroons
  • Almond thumbprint cookies
  • Pumpkin pie with gluten-free crust
  • Vanilla rice pudding

Foods to Avoid When Cooking Gluten-Free

When preparing a gluten-free menu, it’s important to be very careful about cross-contamination. Even tiny amounts of gluten can make those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity ill. Here are some key foods and ingredients to steer clear of:

  • Wheat, barley, rye in any form (flours, bread crumbs, pasta, etc.)
  • Oats, unless certified gluten-free
  • Beer and malt vinegar
  • Soy sauce and teriyaki sauce
  • Gravies and sauces thickened with wheat flour
  • Croutons, bread stuffing, batter coatings
  • Foods cooked on shared surfaces or with shared utensils that touched gluten

Whenever possible, use separate work spaces and cooking equipment to prepare gluten-free dishes. Carefully read product labels and call manufacturers if unsure about whether a food contains gluten.

Extra Tips for Hosting Gluten-Free Guests

Hosting guests with dietary restrictions takes extra thoughtfulness. Here are some additional pointers for making gluten-free guests feel welcome and included:

  • Have gluten-free snacks on hand they can munch on
  • Offer a salad with gluten-free dressing as a starter
  • Grill proteins and veggies separately from gluten-containing foods
  • Use a clean spatula and tongs only for gluten-free dishes
  • Offer gluten-free rolls or bread so they have something to eat alongside dishes
  • Make sure gluten-free guests have dedicated butter, sauces, condiments
  • If serving family-style, serve gluten-free dishes in separate chafing dishes or on separate platters
  • Have to-go containers ready so guests can take home safe leftovers
  • Read all food labels carefully to double-check gluten-free status
  • Make sure alcohol, desserts, and coffees are also gluten-free options

Sample Gluten-Free Menus

Planning a complete gluten-free menu may seem tricky at first. Here are some sample gluten-free menus to give you meal inspiration:

Italian-Themed Dinner

Appetizer Antipasto Platter with gluten-free bread
Main Dish Shrimp Scampi over gluten-free pasta
Side Dishes Garlic broccolini, Caesar salad with gluten-free croutons
Dessert Chocolate pots de creme

Mexican Fiesta

Appetizer Guacamole and salsa with corn tortilla chips
Main Dish Chicken fajitas with corn tortillas
Side Dishes Spanish rice, black bean salad, corn on the cob
Dessert Churros with cinnamon sugar

Spring Picnic Spread

Appetizer Crudite platter with hummus
Main Dish Lemon herb roasted chicken
Side Dishes Potato salad, pasta salad with vinaigrette dressing, fresh fruit salad
Dessert Assorted gluten-free cookies


Hosting guests with gluten restrictions doesn’t have to be challenging or stressful. With some simple swaps and delicious naturally gluten-free ingredients, you can create a menu everyone can enjoy together. The key is focusing on fresh, whole foods prepared separately from gluten sources. With a little planning and care, your gluten-free guests will feel happy, included, and satisfied.

Leave a Comment