This post about hosting your gluten-free friend will tell you what you need to know and do to safely feed your gluten-free friend a meal. She is so happy to come to your house, but she is nervous too. This post will help you safely host her and will tell you all things she may be afraid to tell – or ask of – you. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
If you have a gluten-free friend who has celiac disease or cannot eat gluten, I’d like to share with you some tips to hosting him or her for dinner (or a meal).
Before I get into my tips, however, I first want to say, “Thank you!” You are a good friend.
You are supporting your friend beyond belief at a time when most are too afraid to host her and at a time when your friend is scared to eat outside of her house.
These tips might seem like a lot or way too overwhelming; perhaps you’ll even think your friend is a diva for having so many demands.
I assure you, however, that these suggestions are to help you keep your friend healthy. The last thing you want to do is make her sick!
Please know that your friend likely has a lot of anxiety about eating at your house.
While you invited her and want to host her, she is likely feeling torn. On one hand she wants to go and be with you, feel amicable and normal again; on the other hand she is worried about putting you out, creating trouble for you, and of course, getting sick.
PS: I spoke about how to host your gluten-free friend for a meal with my friend and podcaster, Amy Long, on her podcast called Conversations with the Hostess.
10 Tips to Hosting Your Gluten-Free Friend for Dinner
Many people with celiac disease will never share their true list of demands when it comes to properly hosting them.
And since they won’t tell you how to properly and safely host them for a meal, these 10 tips will help you.
(1) Decide On a Menu and Discuss It with Your Friend
Many of my friends ask me what they can make me, and I happily provide suggestions or recipes. It’s easy to come up with some ideas of your own, too.
Great side dishes are vegetables, rice, potatoes, corn chips and guacamole, etc.
You can search my gluten-free recipe index for ideas and inspiration.
Please don’t assume your gluten-free friend be okay with a salad when everyone else is having pizza. It’s important to make her something comparable to everyone else.
When my friend told me she was serving pizza at her dinner party, I offered to bring my own food. However, my friend insisted that she would make me something.
When I got to the party, I learned that she made me a lettuce and tomato salad. I didn’t communicate with her well and therefore I didn’t get something comparable. I wish I had brought my own pizza so I could have enjoyed pizza along with everyone else.
(2) Clean Your Prep Station and Utensils
Understand that someone with celiac disease can get sick even if a crumb of gluten makes its way into your dish.
To avoid cross contamination, or having the food you’re preparing for her come in contact with any gluten crumbs, run your pots, cooking utensils and serving platters through the dishwasher (or make sure they’re really clean before using them).
Also, avoid coming in contact with any gluten during the cooking process. This means you can’t prepare yourself a sandwich while cooking tonight’s dinner. Always keep your hands and cooking station free from gluten.
If you’re going to grill, use a grill mat or grill her food wrapped in foil (or bake it). A grill that has been used to grill something with gluten (like soy sauce-marinated steaks) is not safe for your friend’s food to be cooked on that same surface. You can buy grill mats on Amazon and always have them for times when you’re hosting your gluten-free friend.
(3) Check Ingredient Labels
Gluten is hidden everywhere, so I suggest avoiding packaged food and using fresh ingredients when making food for your gluten-free friend.
Of course there are times where you may need to use sauces, spices and other items to prepare your meal, and this is when label reading is a must!
Most spices are fine (although fresh spices are better), but just do a double take to make sure the only thing inside your spice jar is that spice. Salad dressings, seasoning packets (including onion soup mixes), store-bought chicken broths, and other condiments are notorious for hidden gluten, and most ingredients aren’t clearly stated as “gluten” on the label.
Avoid obvious gluten ingredients like wheat, barley and rye, plus look at the “contains” statement at the end of the ingredient list. Many manufacturers will disclose if their ingredients contain any of the top allergens like milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, etc. (Please note that gluten is not an allergen, but wheat is. A product may be labeled “wheat free” but it doesn’t meant it’s also gluten free as it may contain barley.)
To avoid have to decode labels, use fresh ingredients like onions, garlics and salt and pepper to season your food. If you must use other seasonings, check labels first and avoid if in doubt.
(4) Avoid Ingredients Where Gluten Lurks
Every time you butter your bread, you’re contaminating your tub of butter with gluten crumbs. Think about it. You take some butter, spread it on your bread, then maybe take a little more butter. Crumbs are everywhere in your tub of butter. The same goes for your butter, peanut butter, jelly, mayo jar, and the bag of sugar. Think about when you bake and dip the measuring cup in the flour, then into the sugar. Yep, your naturally gluten-free jar of sugar may now contain bits of gluten!
Please use a fresh tub of butter and a fresh container of sugar when cooking for your gluten-free friend.
(5) Don’t Use Your Electric Mixer
Your electric mixer likely has bits of flour that has made its way into the crevices of your mixer. This is why you shouldn’t use this same mixer to make your friend baked goods.
Intead, mix everything you make for her by hand and line your cookie sheets and bread pans with foil or parchment paper to keep cross contamination at bay.
When considering what to make for dessert, either ask your friend to bring it or buy some foolproof baking mixes (I like this one a lot) that you can easily prepare at home without having to buy a ton of gluten-free flours. I also have a ton of dessert recipes on my blog if you dare venture into the world of gluten-free baking.
Some good baking mixes to try include mixes from Namaste or Enjoy Life; however, grocery stores are filled with all sorts of gluten-free mixes today. Pick one that sounds good and make it. Chances are all you’ll have to add is some eggs, oil and/or water.
(6) Avoid Using Previously Glutened Surfaces
Avoid using plastic or wood cutting boards and utensils if possible. Simply cut items on a glass cutting board, paper plate, or even one of your regular dinner plates that has been cleaned in the dishwasher. Wood and plastic surfaces retain food (aka, gluten) and it’s best to stick with glass, paper or porcelain items for cutting.
Never use your toaster to prepare her meal either – that is a gluten-infested chamber. Just leave her bread untoasted. And never use the same strainer used to drain gluteny spaghetti as the one you’re using to drain gluten-free pasta.
(7) Wash Your Hands
If you’re going to serve a dish with gluten at your meal, make sure you wash your hands between touching the gluteny foods and the gluten free foods. If you can make the entire meal gluten-free, even better. Your friend will feel so much better eating at your house and there’s really no sense is cooking things that not everyone at your dinner party can enjoy anyway.
(8) Let Her Take First
Again, if you are going to serve gluten-y foods at your dinner party, let your friend take her food first. This way she can fill her plate before other people cross contaminate the food with gluten. I’ve watched people put bread on their plates, then take salad and touch the salad utensils to the bread crumbs. The entire salad then becomes contaminated with gluten.
I’ve also watched people swap the serving utensils between dishes, etc. The spoon for the gluten-free potato salad somehow made its way into the the couscous salad, which is not gluten-free. Oops! A simple error like that can compromise the entire meal you worked hard to make safe for your friend.
(9) Take Her Diet Seriously
Take cooking for someone with celiac disease or food allergies seriously. This is a real, medically necessary diet. There are a lot of gluten-free jokes floating around, but this is no joke for your friend, this is her reality.
If that doesn’t motivate you, remember you don’t want to make your friend sick. Do your best and take every precaution you can. Nobody is perfect, but if you stick to using naturally gluten-free ingredients and read labels carefully, there really is nothing to worry about. It’s as easy as a [gluten-free] piece of cake!
(10) Assure Her
There is nothing more comforting than a friend who tells me what she did to prepare for my visit. She’ll often tell me she soaked and washed the pots and cooking utensils, mixed the cake batter by hand (no electric mixer), she’ll list out all the ingredients and even show me the packaged items she used.
All of this makes me feel confident that my friend not only took my diet seriously, but also that she took great care in hosting me. These are the kinds of friends I’m so grateful for!
TIP! There is nothing worse than someone who “can’t remember” exactly what she put in it or that she “thinks” it’s gluten free. That shows me she cooked for me mindlessly, and that puts my health at great risk! If you can’t remember or don’t know if it’s gluten-free, I can’t eat it.
It’s Not Easy Being Gluten Free
As you probably experienced first-hand in preparing this meal for your gluten-free friend, this gluten-free stuff is not easy. Certainly no one would choose this lifestyle if they didn’t have to eat this way for health reasons.
You might breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you only have to take such precautions when hosting her, but remember, this is your friend’s reality day-in and day-out. Your empathy for her will greatly increase and your act of kindness will be felt ten-fold.
Thank you again for being a great friend and taking every precaution needed to safely host your gluten-free friend for dinner. You are a true friend and it will be duly noted!