Don’t strain your brain trying to think of menu ideas for your gluten free guest. This is my list of TOP 10 Quick and Easy GF Meals. These are those classic comfort foods especially loved by kids - perfect if you are having a gluten free child for as your guest. Grown ups will love these too! Better yet - these meals can be prepared in under 30 minutes which means less time in the kitchen and more time to enjoy your guest! I included some tips on safe food preparation, but don’t forget to review my quick guide on how to safely prepare gluten free food. This guide summarizes important steps to take in the kitchen so you don’t unintentionally contaminate your guest with gluten. The last thing you want to do is make your guest sick!
It's Taco Time
Did I hear someone say it’s taco time? Most people who don’t have a GF person in their home are not aware that taco seasoning packets often contain wheat. McCormick brand makes certified gluten free taco packets that are usually easy to find. No one will know the difference, so you can make gluten free tacos for everyone. The wheat in the taco seasoning is just a filler, there is no sacrifice in flavor without it.
Clean frying pan and spatula very well with soapy water before use. This helps remove residual traces of gluten from previous use. To be safest, you might use a newer pan that has been lightly used, or choose a stainless steel pan.
Use fresh ground beef.
Brown hamburger in standard fashion. Add water and gluten free seasoning packet as directed on packet instructions. Serve these with the following wonderful gluten free ingredients:
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- Salsa (check the label to make sure gluten free. Red cactus mild salsa is our family favorite)
- Old El Paso taco shells
- Mission gluten free soft taco tortillas
- Also delicious served with Fritos Scoops
Great Value brand nacho cheese chips are gluten free and taste very close to Doritos (Doritos Nacho cheese chips may be cross-contaminated with wheat in the factory so we do not use)
The only food group missing is fruit. Serve with your favorite fresh fruits and ENJOY!
Annie's Gluten Free Mac and Cheese
Our favorite GF mac and cheese in a box is Annie’s. Once again, no one will know this is gluten free so you can prepare the GF version for everyone. The downside is that it is a little bit more costly than regular mac. If you are also preparing regular mac and cheese, make sure you boil the pasta in a separate pan of water and wash the colander really well with warm soapy water before draining the gluten free pasta. Also, don’t share the same stirring spoon between the two kinds of pasta or you will contaminate the gluten free pasta. Many meat companies now make gluten free hotdogs. Look for the words gluten free on the label. We like Bar S or Oscar Meyer Natural Selects hotdogs.
Prepare Annie’s gluten free pasta as directed on the box. Adding the optional butter does make it creamier, but be sure to use a fresh stick of butter that is not contaminated with crumbs.
Heat and dice the gluten free hotdogs on a clean plate. Add to the mac and cheese.
If you also plan on preparing regular mac and cheese, make sure you boil the pasta in a separate pan of water and wash the colander really well with warm soapy water before draining the gluten free pasta. Also, don’t share the same stirring spoon between the two kinds of pasta or you will contaminate the gluten free pasta.
Done! Serve with:
Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets
There are several delicious brands of gluten free chicken nuggets and tenders. Our top 3 favorites are Golden Platter Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets, Perdue gluten free chicken breast tenders, Applegate Naturals gluten free chicken nuggets, When our kids have friends over, they have no idea these chicken tenders are gluten free! The downside is they are expensive. The Golden Platter nuggets are our all time favorite. They are certified gluten free. You can buy a nice big bag that will feed a crowd, or you can use a little at a time and keep the rest frozen.
You can bake gluten free chicken nuggets in the oven at the same time as regular chicken nuggets, but you must use separate pans. Also, as an added layer of protection, cover the pan for the GF nuggets with parchment paper or foil (if you use foil, spray with a little cooking spray to prevent sticking). Bake as directed. Make sure to avoid contact between the two types of nuggets. Many people are using air fryers these days. The baskets collect bits and pieces of gluten residue from breaded products. It is safest to use a baking sheet in the oven. If you wish to use the air fryer make sure the basket is cleaned out very well with warm soapy water (or according to the manufacturer’s instructions). Also, I recently discovered there is perforated parchment paper specially designed for air fryers on Amazon. Make sure to get paper that is compatible with your air fryer. This will help reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
We like to serve our chicken tenders with:
- Stubb’s sticky sweet BBQ sauce or Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ sauce or ketchup
- A fresh lettuce salad or cottage cheese (safe dressings include Hidden Valley Ranch and Ken’s Steakhouse dressings)
- Bush’s Country Style baked beans - YES all Bush’s baked bean varieties are now gluten free!
- Your favorite fresh fruit
ALL FOOD GROUPS COVERED! ENJOY!
Gluten Free Fish Sticks
Much like the chicken tenders, these taste almost like regular fish sticks but I would not feed them to a crowd unless you want to empty your wallet. Just being honest.
You can bake Ian’s gluten free fish sticks in the oven at the same time as regular fish sticks, but you must use separate pans. Also, as an added layer of protection, cover the pan with parchment paper or foil (if you use foil, spray with a little cooking spray to prevent sticking). Bake as directed. Make sure to avoid contact between the two types of fish sticks. Many people are using air fryers these days. The baskets collect bits and pieces of gluten residue from breaded products. It is safest to use a baking sheet in the oven. If you choose to use the air fryer make sure the basket is cleaned out very well with warm soapy water (or according to the manufacturer’s instructions). Also, I recently discovered there is perforated parchment paper specially designed for air fryers on Amazon. Make sure to get paper that is compatible with your air fryer. This will help reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
We like to serve these with:
- Kraft or Hellmans tartar sauce
- Easy homemade coleslaw (make the night before). I use the shredded packages of cabbage and carrots in the produce section so I don't have to spend the time shredding. I don’t buy premade coleslaw as I worry about the possibility of gluten contamination.
- Cooked peas or sweet corn
- Ore-ida french fries (most varieties are gluten free, check label)
- Lays classic potato chips
- Fresh fruit or mandarin oranges
Another meal done! ENJOY!
Gluten Free Frozen Pizza
Our favorite gluten free frozen pizzas are Freschetta and Bellatoria. These frozen, thin-crust pizzas bake very QUICKLY. They take only 8-12 minutes depending on your oven. Keep an eye on them because they will easily burn. They taste great, so sharing with people who aren’t gluten free won’t be a problem. If you are ambitious and want to make a pizza crust from a box, our family LOVES Mama Stoen's GF Pizza Crust Mix. It is quite sticky so moisten your hands with water when you are ready to press it in the pan. Be sure to cover your pan with parchment paper first. It rises as it bakes so be sure to press it out pretty thin or it may get too thick. Try it if you prefer a thicker gluten free crust.
If you are having a pizza party, in most cases, you will only need enough gluten free pizza for one or two people. Please remember to keep the GF pizza separate from the others so the kids don’t mix them up. It is best to clearly label the gluten free pizza. I still do not have great faith in ordering gluten free pizza from restaurants. They have to have the perfect kitchen set up to be safe - and staff that are very well trained. Often this is not the case. There are a few restaurants that have it mastered, but most are not there yet.
It is OK to bake a gluten free pizza and wheat crust pizza at the same time, but they should not come into contact with one another. Use separate pans and, as an added layer of protection, cover the gluten free pizza pan with parchment paper or foil. We love to top our GF cheese pizza with our favorite toppings (canadian bacon and pineapple, or veggie toppings, to name a few). Bake according to instructions. They bake FAST. Check frequently to prevent burning.
Remove from oven and use clean pizza cutter to cut the pizza. Don’t share the pizza cutter between the two kinds of pizzas without washing it first. Serve with parmesan cheese. Add a tray of fresh veggies with Hidden Valley Ranch dip and ENJOY!
Gluten Free Burgers
Who doesn’t love a good, juicy burger? Fresh meat from the deli is usually gluten free unless it has been added in seasonings, sauces, or marinades. Meat can also get contaminated unintentionally behind the counter. It is never a bad idea to check with the meat manager to make sure your ground beef or fresh meat is free from gluten.
Since burgers are naturally gluten free, the problem comes with the preparation. Burgers can be fried on a griddle, in a pan, or on the grill. The meat can be exposed to gluten on any one of these surfaces. You must make sure the frying pans or griddle surfaces are cleaned well with warm soapy water. This helps remove residual traces of gluten that build up over time. To be safest, you might use a newer pan that has been lightly used or choose a stainless steel pan. If you use an older non-stick pan, make sure to wash it really well. Cover grill grates with foil before grilling a burger that is meant to be gluten free. Grill grates also hold onto a lot of residue that contains gluten.
Good gluten free hamburger buns have been hard for us to find. Most of them seem too dry and crumbly. Udi’s buns are easiest to find and the best we have found on the market. In my opinion, there is too much bread, so use just one half of the bun or you will have way more bun than beef. An alternative option is to use your favorite gluten free bread and forget about the bun. It’s a good idea to keep a loaf of gluten free bread on hand in your freezer. It keeps well in the freezer for a long time. And you will be glad you have it for your GF guest!
The following additions make a good burger even better:
- Lettuce, tomato, onion, mushrooms, peppers, pickles (as long as they don’t contain malt vinegar - distilled vinegar is fine, malt vinegar not fine - read label), bacon (make sure the bacon label says gluten free) ketchup, mustard, mayo.
- We like corn on the cob with our burgers in the summertime.
We also like burgers with:
Gluten Free Crispy Grilled Sandwiches
I will start by saying these sandwiches are awesome! Better yet, they are easy! Gluten free bread is not great. It is OK and certain companies have developed recipes that are pretty darn good. Still, you just can’t beat the taste and texture of bread made with wheat flour. HOWEVER, when it comes to toasting or grilling, gluten free bread is the winner! There is something about toasted gluten free bread that is crispy and very tasty! Try it for yourself!
You first need to make sure your pan surface or griddle surface is cleaned well with warm soapy water and free of old residue that could contain gluten. Do not place gluten free sandwiches in same pan as regular sandwiches as they will come in close contact. Use separate pans. If you have a large griddle you may share the same griddle but make sure there is plenty of space between the sandwiches. Next, use a fresh stick of butter to butter two pieces of your favorite gluten free bread. Remember, don’t use butter from an old tub or stick as it will be contaminated with crumbs. Use a fresh supply of butter. Our favorite GF bread is Canyon Bakehouse 7 grain bread. If you prefer white, many people like Udi’s delicious soft white bread or Schar Artisan Baker white bread. Place bread on griddle (or in pan) butter side down.
Top with gluten free sliced sandwich meat and your favorite cheese. We use Hormel Natural Choice honey ham or turkey and sliced Colby jack, provolone, or swiss. Use a clean spatula to flip your gluten free sandwich. Don’t share the flipping spatula between sandwiches without first washing or you will contaminate your gluten free sandwich. It is best to use a separate spatula altogether and designate it for the gluten free sandwich. Grill both sides until nice and crispy and the cheese is melted. I sometimes lay the meat slices directly on the griddle for a minute to warm them up before placing them on the sandwich. If you bought a loaf of GF bread and use only a few pieces - place the leftover in the freezer. It freezes well for a long time and you will have it on hand when your GF guest returns. You can serve these sandwiches with fresh veggies and/or fresh fruit and you’ve got yourself a tasty GF meal! ENJOY!
Gluten Free Chili
Some people only eat chili in the winter months. Our family eats chili all year round! This chili is hearty and satisfying - a nice combination of a tiny bit spicy and a little bit sweet. Kids will love it. This recipe can be prepared in minutes. Some people are not aware that chili seasoning packets often contain wheat. McCormick makes a gluten free chili packet that is available in many stores and supermarkets. There is ZERO lack in flavor so you can make GF chili for everyone.
Use fresh ground beef. Clean frying pan and spatula very well with soapy water before use. This helps remove residual traces of gluten from previous use. To be safest, you might use a newer pan that has been lightly used, or choose a stainless steel pan. If you use an older non-stick pan make sure to wash it really well. Brown 2 pounds hamburger in standard fashion. If desired add ¼ cup grated or chopped onion to the hamburger. Clean a soup pot well with warm, soapy water. To the pot add:
- Two 28 oz cans Dei Fratelli tomato sauce (or any gluten free tomato base of your choice)
- 1 large can Bush’s Country Style baked beans
- 1 15 ounce can Bush’s Best black beans
- 1 16 ounce can Bush’s Best kidney beans
- 1 packet gluten free McCormick chili seasoning
- 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar
- If you like it more spicy, add a little McCormick Chili powder
- If you like it more runny, add more tomato sauce
- For a little more sweetness, add another tablespoon of brown sugar
- Serve with these awesome Schar gluten free saltine crackers
- Fritos corn chips
- Sour cream
- Cheddar cheese
- Your favorite fresh veggies and fruits
This will feed 10-12 people.
ENJOY a full and happy (and possibly gassy) crowd!
Gluten Free Pancakes with Sausage or Bacon
We sometimes have breakfast for supper at our house! My son would eat pancakes for every meal! We had to try several brands of gluten free pancakes before we found our favorite. The winner for our family is Krusteaz gluten free buttermilk pancake mix. These do not taste grainy or gritty and they have the perfect amount of fluff. Our guests claim they cannot tell the difference. Everyone has different taste, however, so you may want to ask your guest if they have a favorite GF pancake mix. To make them extra delicious you can add some fresh blueberries or chocolate chips to the batter. Processed meats like sausage and bacon may contain gluten. Just make sure you purchase a brand that has gluten free printed somewhere on the label. We prefer Smithfield sausage links. If you like your sausage with a hint of sweetness try Applegate chicken and maple sausage. For bacon we like Smithfield bacon or Farmland thick-cut bacon. Our kids have never had issues getting sick from these meat products.
First, make sure your griddle or pan is well cleaned with warm soapy water to remove any residual traces of gluten from previous use. Make sure your utensils are good and clean. Using a clean mixing bowl and spoon, mix gluten free pancake mix as directed on the box. I would not advise use of an electric mixer or KitchenAid as these appliances harbor residual traces of gluten that can contaminate the food. Also if you are making a batch of regular pancakes at the same time, do not share utensils between the two. Let pancake batter rest while you prepare the meat. Drop meat onto clean griddle or pan and brown as directed. Next prepare pancakes. Spoon batter onto surface of clean griddle. Make sure to cook the gluten free pancakes before the regular pancakes so that they do not come into contact with one another. Place pancakes in a warm dish or bowl until ready to serve, once again keeping them separate from regular pancakes.
Serve your pancakes with your favorite syrup. You may have pure maple syrup on hand, if not, our family favorite is Hungry Jack. You can also serve pancakes with crushed strawberries and Cool Whip or Rediwhip.
Serve this meal with some fresh pineapple or strawberries and you are GOOD TO GO!
Gluten Free Omelets with Hashbrowns
On weekends, we ROCK brunch at the Stegen house. Omelets are central to our brunch. Omelets are typically gluten free and can be loaded with delicious veggies, meats, and cheeses. Eggs are naturally gluten free, high in protein, inexpensive, easy to prepare, and filling - SLAM DUNK! Hashbrowns are a nice addition to omelets. We love our hashbrowns brown and crispy. We use Ore-ida shredded hash browns. Most frozen hash browns are gluten free but be sure to check the label. Toast is always good, but risk of contamination is high. Unless you have a toater that is desinated for gluten free products, I would skip the gluten free toast. There will be plenty of carbs in the hashbrowns! Again, I will emphasize the importance of careful preparation as kitchen prep is where the cross-contamination occurs.
Wash your griddle or pans well with warm soapy water to remove traces of gluten that may be left behind from previous use. Make sure utensils are also good and clean. Start by heating 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil in larger pan (I prefer this over olive oil for hashbrowns). Add hashbrowns to oil making sure it doesn’t get too hot. Melt a few tablespoons of butter and pour over top of hashbrowns. (make sure to use butter from a fresh stick). Next, sprinkle with salt and pepper. You must use salt and pepper or they will be bland. Allow them to fry several minutes without stirring. You can even press them down flat with the spatula. When they are ready, flip over and fry for 3-5 more minutes until nice and golden brown. While you wait on the hashbrowns, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in another pan. (I prefer olive oil for eggs). In a bowl, mix 10 eggs, 3/4 cup milk, diced peppers, diced onion, Farmland diced ham, salt and pepper. Beat well with fork or wire whisk. Pour into pan and cook on medium heat. Stir and flip frequently with spatula. When cooking is nearly complete, top with shredded cheese (unless dairy intolerant) and allow to melt. Cover to keep warm. Serve hashbrowns with ketchup. Add some fresh fruit to the meal and mission accomplished! ENJOY!
Did you like these ideas? Be sure to check out my list of TOP 12 GF Snacks Kids Love for quick and yummy snack ideas.
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