Gluten free party planning: all you need to know to plan prep & serve gluten free guests

This article will help you throw a successful party that caters for and is safe for anyone who is gluten free or coeliac as well as everybody else on your party list.

While not all of your guests will be gluten free, there’s lots of things you can do to make it easier for anyone who is and to make them feel at ease when choosing what to eat, be it at a table or from a buffet, including adults and children alike.

Enjoy the read & be sure to ask me any Q’s in the comments box at the bottom of the page!

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What can gluten free people eat at a party?

How do you host a gluten free party?
– First things to consider

How do you cater for gluten free guests?
– Steps to take to avoid cross contamination of gluten when cooking

How do you serve gluten free guests?
– 5 steps/tips for serving gluten free guests safely

What buffet foods are gluten free?

What party food can Coeliac’s eat?

What do gluten free people miss out on?

Gluten free recipes of mine you might like to try

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What can gluten free people eat at a party?

There are a myriad of options when it comes to what you can serve to your gluten free guests.

The most simple way to look at this is to think of creating a gluten free version of the main meal for your guests.

This way, everybody is eating the same thing except for a few potential switch-outs from normal ingredients to a specific gluten free one.

Alternatively, you could cook something which is naturally gluten free.

By this, I mean ingredients and recipes which don’t use any gluten-containing ingredients at all and so are naturally gluten free.

As a general rule, serve foods that are either naturally gluten free including whole foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy products with nothing added, meats and fish. Or, serve recipes which are easily adapted to a gluten free person, such as switching non-gluten pasta dishes to gluten free pasta.

These whole food ingredients seem simple but a wide and tasty variety of dishes can be made using whole foods with the addition of seasoning, herbs and spices as well as being healthier at the same time.

If you’re new to gluten free in any way, it might be helpful for you to read this article of mine before you start your planning and prepping for your gluten free guests:

It’s called what does gluten free actually mean.

It’s great for understanding someone’s needs when they have Coeliac Disease, as well as the needs of those with Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity, and what the differences are for the two conditions.

For a detailed list of what gluten free people can eat you can check out this article of mine here which will also help you.

The article I mention is great for giving ideas about what ingredients you could use that are gluten free in your recipes.

If you’re planning on having a buffet or something else similar to that for your party, you have similar options to those mentioned above.

You could create a buffet or grazing table which only has naturally gluten free foods on it, keeping it simple, healthy, attractive and safe for everybody eating it.

Here’s a picture showing how much fun a grazing table can be for your party, even when it’s made up of mostly whole foods.

If you include crackers, bread, breadsticks or other similar products on your table though, you’ll either need to buy and serve only gluten free ones and keep it safe for all attending.

Alternatively, have a separate table which contains the normal crackers, bread etc., and a third table with the gluten free bread, crackers etc., on.

The reason I think it’s better to separate tables for gluten free foods and non-gluten free foods is because you can easily sign-post guests using fun signs on the tables.

At the same time, you ensure your gluten free guests feel confident that no one has accidentally contaminated their gluten free food with breadcrumbs or something like that from non-gluten free foods!

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    How do you host a gluten free party?

    The First 7 things to consider:

    1. Start your party planning for any gluten free guests by working out how many people attending have gluten free dietary needs.

    If possible, find out whether these guests follow a gluten free diet out of choice or because they have Coeliac Disease.

    2. If a guest has Coeliac Disease, cross-contamination of gluten into gluten free foods poses a medical risk to these guests.

    Even a tiny crumb of gluten can damage their intestinal lining and make them very ill.

    3. If someone eats gluten free out of choice and not because they have Coeliac Disease, then cross contamination of gluten onto gluten free foods does not pose a medical risk to these guests.

    However, cross contamination must still be taken seriously and is something to bare in mind when creating the gluten free foods to keep these guests happy.

    4. Next, decide whether you’re going to make everything gluten free or have just some things gluten free and others not.

    5. If you have a lot of guests with gluten free needs, it may be easier to create a spread which is entirely gluten free so there’s no confusion or worry involved.

    6. However, if there’s only a few guests who are gluten free then it’s probably not worth doing everything gluten free, as it could potentially cost more (depending on what you plan to serve).

    7. During this planning phase, you’ll also want to devise a shopping list and a budget for any foods that you’d like to serve, be it a sit down meal or buffet.

    Check out my gluten free knowledge-based articles here for lots of helpful information before you get started.

    How do you cater for gluten free guests?

    Remember that cookware and utensils will need to be thoroughly washed between uses if you’re using them to cook both gluten free and normal dishes.

    This is so to avoid cross contamination of gluten in your gluten free foods.

    As noted in the previous section above, this is crucial for any guest with Coeliac Disease.

    See the notes below for more information on avoiding cross contamination of gluten when prepping both gluten free and normal foods for your party.

    If you missed the first section of this article then I’d recommend reading this section first to find out what things to consider when planning a party which includes gluten free folk.

    Steps to take to avoid cross contamination of gluten when cooking:

    • Thoroughly cleanse surfaces between cooking normal dishes and the gluten free dishes.

      Either hot soapy water and a sponge or a surface spray and sponge will work. Antibacterial sprays are not necessary.

    • Thoroughly clean any cookware, utensils or serving platters between gluten free foods and normal foods.

      Use either hot soapy water or run these items through the dishwasher before re-using.

    • Separate cloths and sponges for washing up these items are not necessary.

    • Using separate bread boards and cutting boards for gluten free food and normal food can be helpful for some, however, it isn’t necessary, so long as the boards are washed thoroughly using the methods mentioned previously, between uses.
    • If a toaster is needed during cooking you have two options.

      1. Use a separate (clean and un-used previously) toaster for gluten free products and a second toaster for normal products.

      2. Use one toaster but put any gluten free products inside clean toaster bags before placing into the toaster.

      This will ensure it doesn’t get contaminated by the gluten containing products the toaster has previously held.

    • If using a fryer, the oil must be changed and the fryer cleaned between cooking normal foods and gluten free foods.

      If you place gluten free food into a fryer previously used to cook normal foods, it will be contaminated by gluten and will no longer be gluten free or safe to eat for anyone with Coeliac Disease.

      Alternatively, use a separate, clean fryer for gluten free foods.

    • Ensure that when decanting spreads and other ingredients out, that you use different spoons/utensils to do so, so you don’t contaminate spreads and other products with gluten.

      For example, use one spoon to decant peanut butter onto normal bread and another spoon to decant peanut butter onto gluten free bread.

      Never double dip the normal bread spoon into the peanut butter tub, otherwise it can easily get contaminated with normal bread crumbs, making it not gluten free anymore.

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      How do you serve gluten free guests?

      When it comes to serving food for gluten free guests there’s a number of things to consider so that your efforts in keeping everything gluten free during the cooking phase are not wasted and your gluten free food remains safe for those eating it.

      If you’ve reached the phase of serving, we assume that you’ve followed the recommended steps during the planning and cooking phases of hosting gluten free guests – but if not, don’t worry!

      Head further up in this article by clicking here to read these sections first and then return here after.

      Below is a list of five things which you should consider and put into place when serving, whether its at a table or when setting up a buffet at a party.

      Depending on your set up, some or all of the steps below may apply to you.

      I would advise reading through the entire list first and then applying those which are relevant!

      5 steps/tips for serving gluten free guests safely:

      1. Decide whether you will be serving individual plates of food to gluten free guests and non-gluten free guests, or whether you will be offering self-serve options such as a buffet, “floating snacks”, finger foods or canapes through-out the party.

      Self-serve options including
      buffets, snacks, finger foods,
      canapes, etc.
      Less maintenance as guests can grab and go as they please.

      If labelled well by you, gluten free “zones”
      can be created so everything is kept
      separate and safe for your guests.

      Reduced washing up, potentially.

      Increased options in gluten free “zones”
      and non-gluten free zones could mean more
      options for your guests, so if they don’t like
      one thing you’ve made, they can
      try something else suitable for them.
      Potential for cross-contamination of gluten
      via serving utensils if guests don’t return them to where they came from.

      Sharing snacks or finger foods poses
      a risk for cross contamination of gluten
      if guests who are not gluten free put their
      hands in non-gluten free snacks and then
      into gluten free snacks.

      Possibly more expensive than individual
      plates, depending on the size of the spread
      and how many choices of food you provide, particularly to gluten free guests.
      Individual plates/bowls
      dished up and served by
      you to your guests.
      Increased control over cross contamination
      risk because you will know from having prepped
      or cooked the food what is gluten free and can
      follow the necessary steps to keep a gluten free
      guests food safe whilst serving.

      Its possible to create a like-for-like version
      of a dish for those gluten free guests, so they
      get the same food as your other guests, just in
      gluten free form. This might help make a guest
      feel more comfortable as you wouldn’t need to
      let anyone else know their food is gluten free.
      (Useful for children especially, so
      they don’t feel “different”.)

      You can talk to your gluten free guests in
      advance and discuss what you plan to cook for them
      and ensure it’s fine before making it. With a buffet, you
      might cook lots of things in order to fill a table for gluten free folk, but will it all get eaten?
      If you make something a gluten free guest
      does not like, you might not be able to offer
      an alternative.

      If you need to use a different gluten free ingredient to
      make their food gluten free, it could look different to
      others’ food at the table – would this make this guest feel uncomfortable if so?

      2. Ensure that the serving plates, serving utensils, drinking glasses/cups and utensils for guest-use have been thoroughly cleaned prior to the gluten free guest using them.

      Make sure that absolutely no gluten foods/drinks have come into contact with this serving-ware so that their food stays gluten free and does not become contaminated with small or large amounts of gluten from other people’s food.

      3. When serving food with condiments, gravy, sauces etc., ensure that the gluten free guest either has their own gluten free version which will be used only by them or that the gluten free guests and the non-gluten free guests are given separate serving utensils used to decant these food items.

      If you follow this second option, the non-gluten free guests should also not double-dip their serving utensil into the sauce/condiment etc., after using it because it’s possible they may have touched gluten containing foods on their own plate with this serving utensil.

      If they do double-dip after using on their non-gluten free food plate, the sauce pot may then be contaminated with gluten and the sauce will no longer be gluten free or safe to eat by someone with Coeliac Disease.

      4. Labelling foods with their ingredients or their allergens is a useful way to indicate to guests what dish at your party contains what, and allows them to make a safe decision without having to seek you out to ask.

      This obviously works best at a buffet or where food is freely accessible to guests.

      I would recommend also making a sign for your table which clearly tells guests not to move serving utensils around and into different pots/dishes after using, to avoid cross-contamination of gluten or any other allergen.

      5. Another option for labelling or sign-posting for gluten or other allergens is to create a free-from space at your buffet or area where the food is being laid out.

      This creates a clear separation for guests, not only visually but physically.

      This allows for easy finding of gluten free food for those guests that need it as well as a physical space between gluten free and non-gluten free foods which means less chance of accidental cross-contamination.

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        What buffet foods are gluten free?

        There’s loads of options for making your buffet food gluten free, whether you’re serving more of a grazing board style buffet or dishes mixed with grazing options.

        The best place to start is to consider whole foods that are naturally gluten free.

        Here’s a few ideas for naturally gluten free foods which you could choose to place instantly on your buffet table without much hassle:

        Consider leaving them whole, with stems still attached for effect.

        Cut into fancy shapes or use decoratively whilst still being available to eat.

        Create cocktail sticks or kebab skewer style snacks with fruits, cheese and meats attached.

        Create fun individual smoothies or juices with straws, umbrellas (any anything else fantastical) for grabs by guests.

        Vegetables/vegetable sticks

        Some people like to eat raw veggies, so consider serving a mixture of fresh raw veggies with dips.

        Create veggie skewers with meats and cheese attached.

        Create salads and coleslaws.

        Consider stuffing vegetables with delicious fillings and making the whole stuffed vegetables a plate unto themselves for people to serve up onto their plates.

        Consider juicing veggies and creating individual glasses/tumblers of juices.


        Serve cooked anti-pasti style cold meats next to delicious cheeses and fruits.

        Cook whole joints with delicious gluten free ingredients and serve whole once cold, with the option for guests to carve their own meats off.

        Cook raw meats ahead of time and serve cold on the day. Think cocktail sausages with honey and mustard.

        Nuts & Cheeses

        Serve loose nuts amongst fruits, meats and cheeses. Consider first if any guests have nut allergies too of course!

        Consider having bowls of nuts or just scatter them across the table if making a grazing board.

        Crackable nuts are fun, but always leave a nut-cracker if serving these style of nuts!

        Here’s some recipes of mine which could work for your party too:

        Rice cakes and multiple toppings ideas

        Easy gluten free prawn cocktail – in individual cocktail glasses

        Peppermint crisp tart pudding – in individual tumbler glasses

        Raspberry Cheesecake – also vegan friendly

        Banana, cranberry & choc chip oatballs – bite size, a little gooey and stackable

        Rice Crispy Treats – halloween idea included

        Super Fudgy Brownies – also vegan friendly

        Teriyaki Chicken Sushi Bowl

        Chicken, Apple & Walnut Salad

        Roast Carrot & Parsnip Soup

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          What party food can Coeliac’s eat?

          This question is very similar to the previous section of this article, however, having Coeliac Disease rather than Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity does mean that stricter processes during cooking and serving must be in place to keep any Coeliac guest safe from gluten.

          You can read this article of mine which will explain in more detail about the differences between Coeliac Disease and Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity.

          This will help you understand why keeping you guests safe from gluten is so important.

          If you’re looking to create a buffet table of food for your Coeliac guests then I’d recommend reading this section of the article instead for lots of ideas for foods to serve plus some recipes of mine.

          If you’re thinking of making a more intimate meal for your coeliac guests, such as at a table where you’ll serve everyone their own individual plates of food then:

          read this section of the article on how to serve those guests safely
          this section on planning food for these guests and what options you have.

          If you’re looking for recipe ideas for a dinner setting, check out my different recipe sections here for some delicious ideas:

          Breakfast & Brunch

          Light Bites & Snacks

          Dinner & Larger Meals


          What do gluten free people miss out on?

          Some of the top complaints from gluten free folk and what they miss out on when it comes to parties, eating out, on-the-go eating and other scenarios like this.

          This might include bread, pastries, gluten free desserts and puddings, noodle dishes, take-away style foods like pizza, kebabs, Chinese and Thai, among many other things.

          If you’re looking to cook something or serve something at your party which your gluten free guests might usually miss out on, I’d suggest creating one or more of the items above, in a fun and new way, to make it your own.

          Use gluten free ingredient swaps or by looking up recipes that are based upon one of these food groups but with gluten free in mind.

          There’s plenty of pre-made options for pasta, pizza bases, noodles and puddings which can make it easier to create something gluten free at your party which your gluten free guests might not usually get offered or given the choice of at a party.

          Gluten free recipes of mine to try:

          Click to view my gluten free recipes by category:

          Breakfast & Brunch

          Light Bites & Snacks

          Dinners & Larger Meals


          My recipe suggestions for you:

          Gluten Free Granola

          Easy Gluten Free Cocktail – in individual cocktail glasses

          Pitta Bread Pizzas

          Coconut Cauliflower Curry – also vegan friendly

          One-Pan Chicken Puff Pie – also dairy free

          Chicken Tikka Masala Curry – mild, great for little ones too

          Ham & Creme Fraiche Puff Pastry – with ready made gf pastry

          Satay Chicken with salad

          Leek & Porcini Mushroom Risotto – also vegetarian

          Gemma Hartshorn

          Gemma is a mum to twins with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and has been living a gut-health focused life for many years herself. She has 5 years adult nursing experience in the UK and achieved a distinction in her Diploma of Higher Education in Healthcare from Oxford Brookes University. She is currently completing a BSc in Health Science and has a keen interest and knowledge of all things gut health. Listen to her Gut Be Good podcast or join her on the Gut Be Good youtube channel for more insights, sharing and helpful information on all things gut health related alongside her website here. Contact Details: Unit 80366, PO Box 6945, London, W1A 6US

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