Paleo Plan

Thanksgiving – Paleo Style!

UPDATE: We’ve added a meal plan and shopping list to go along with this post, and added a few more recipes as well. Download the Paleo Thanksgiving meal plan here.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I LOVE this time of year. Growing up in a divorced/remarried family meant I spent a lot of time in a car on Thanksgiving going from one house to the other so I could see my mom’s, my dad’s and my stepdad’s sides of the family. While the traveling was kind of a pain in the butt, I’ve always been incredibly grateful that there were – and still are – so many loving arms to welcome me every Thanksgiving.

At the end of Thanksgiving day, I always had dinner with the most, er, boisterous side of the family, where dancing, singing, political arguments, Trivial Pursuit, Karaoke machines, gambling and drinking were – and still are – the norm. Thanksgiving was fun. And delicious. There were pies – banana cream, pumpkin and pecan were favorites. And the dinner spread looked something like this: huge turkey with stuffing, corn casserole, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, 7-layer salad, marshmallow fruit salad, and I think I remember the cheesiest of cheesy potato casseroles with Corn Flakes on top (sound right, Mom?).

I looked forward to those foods, and the thought of them is pretty nostalgic. Obviously, you can’t really make some of those recipes Paleo, but you can certainly come close! Below are some recipes that are re-dos of traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Some I co-created with my awesome cook of a boyfriend, Seth, and some I outsourced or adapted from other sites. If you make the following dishes, you’re sure to impress your family and avoid that grain and sugar-induced hangover haze. None of the following recipes contains any dairy, but if you’re a Paleo dairy eater, substitute and add as you please. And please add to these recipes in the comments if you have Paleo Thanksgiving dishes you love. We’ll be putting them up on the site in the next week for you to enjoy.

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Turkey and Gravy

Photo courtesy culturemob.com

Turkey

Here’s a really good brine recipe with detailed instructions from allrecipes.com. These instructions call for you to put the turkey in a bucket overnight in your fridge, but I know that I wouldn’t be able to fit a big bucket in my fridge. You can buy a brining bag at grocery stores, instead. Here are some instructions for doing it that way. Brining will make a moister, more flavorful turkey every time. After you brine it, you can cook it whichever way you like – roast it, BBQ it.. Just don’t deep fry it in vegetable oil!

Gravy

This recipe is from Jim Lytton, my boyfriend’s dad. Thanks, Jim!

innards and neck from turkey
4 cups water
4 cups (1 quart) chicken stock
drippings from turkey
5-6 large carrots
5 stalks celery
1 medium onion
2 large cloves garlic
same herb mix you used on turkey
salt to taste (optional)

Dice the carrots, onion, and celery and mince the garlic. Save the innards and the neck from the turkey. Combine the water, stock, vegetables, herbs of choice, innards and neck in a large pot and heat on medium high until it starts to boil. Turn it down to low for a couple of hours until it starts to thicken and the meat starts to fall off the neck. Remove the neck and cut off the meat from it – discard the cartilage and bone. Place the neck meat back in the pot and blend with a submergible blender until smooth. Alternatively, you can use a regular blender. When your turkey is done roasting, place the drippings (skim off the big fat globules) into the gravy mixture and incorporate with the blender until smooth. At the very end, add salt to taste.

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Cauliflower Mashers

Photo courtesy Whole Foods

This recipe was created by my boyfriend and me. One head of cauliflower serves about 4 people.

1 large head cauliflower
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
2 Tbs coconut oil
1/3 cup fresh chives
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 sprig fresh rosemary
sea salt, pepper to taste

Roughly chop the cauliflower, removing all leaves. Place in steamer and cook until it’s easy to stick a fork in it. In the meantime, mince the garlic and finely chop the chives. Sauté the garlic, chives and rosemary in coconut oil until the garlic is light golden brown. Use a food processor or a masher to mash up the florets. Put the mashed florets into a pot on the stove and add coconut milk, coconut oil, and the chive and garlic mixture. Cook on medium low heat and mash with a masher in the meantime. Or if you have a submergible blender, use that to blend mixture while it’s in the pot. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

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Paleo Stuffing

Photo courtesy Everyday Paleo

This recipe came verbatim from Everyday Paleo here. It serves 5-8 adults. Thanks, Sarah!

1 lb mild Italian pork or chicken sausage, casing removed (Sarah used chicken sausages from her local butcher)
4 ½ cups mushrooms, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, diced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon diced fresh sage
½ tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
½ cup dried cherries, finely chopped
½ cup slivered almonds
½ tablespoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. In a large soup pot, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the sausage and brown. Add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, chicken broth, cherries, almonds, sage, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the veggies begin to absorb the chicken broth. Transfer to a large glass baking dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

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Paleo 7-Layer Salad with Simple Salad Dressing

This is SORT OF what your salad will look like – minus the cheese, etc… (photo courtesy myrecipes.com)

Adapted from yummyfitness.com here. Serves about 6 people.

4-8 cups greens (spinach, lettuce, chard, etc.)
1 red bell pepper
1-1/2 cup grape tomatoes (Set a few aside to put on top of the salad.)
6 jumbo black olives
12 oz cubed chicken breast
4 hard-boiled eggs

2 avocados

Chop up the red pepper into small cubes, and slice your tomatoes in half. Cook (roast or pan-fry) the chicken breast and chop it up into small cubes. Boil the eggs and then slice them into layers. Slice the avocados up into bite-sized pieces. Put the lettuce on the bottom of a medium-sized bowl (preferably clear so you can see the layers) and then layer the sliced eggs on top of the lettuce. Then add the chicken cubes, tomatoes, avocados, and red peppers in individual layers. You can get as creative with this as you want – add a layer of mushrooms, nuts, broccoli, bacon, artichoke hearts, or anything else that you like.

Next make the dressing (recipe here) in a separate bowl. Pour the dressing on top of the salad and let it saturate the salad layers to taste. Put the remaining tomatoes and black olives on top.

Keep refrigerated.

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Sweet Potato Casserole

Photo courtesy tastespotting.com

This was created by my boyfriend and me. Serves about 6 people.

3 large sweet potatoes, or about 2 pounds (any kind)
1/4 cup dried cherries
juice from one orange
1 tbs orange zest
3/4 cup chopped nuts of choice (just not peanuts)
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs raw honey (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 400. Cut sweet potatoes into square inch cubes. Place sweet potatoes in a casserole dish and pour dried cherries, orange juice, orange zest, coconut milk, cinnamon, allspice, coconut oil, and honey (optional) over the top of the sweet potatoes and place the chopped nuts over the top of it all. Cover and bake for about 60 minutes or until sweet potatoes are easy to pierce with a fork.

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Cranberry Sauce

Photo courtesy blogs.babble.com

This was created by my boyfriend and me. Serves about 5-8 people.

2 12-oz bags of fresh or frozen cranberries
juice of 1 orange
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs honey (optional)

Combine cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon and optional honey in a saucepan and heat on medium. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until consistency is jam-like. Smash the cranberries with a spoon while they’re cooking, or leave them whole for a chunkier consistency.

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Everyday Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Photo courtesy CrossFit Reebok Firepower

I’m gonna leave this one to Sarah Fragoso at everydaypaleo.com, as my attempts at pumpkin pie have not gone over well lately :( She has an instructional video and everything, along with this recipe verbatim here. Serves 5-8 adults.

Crust

1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 cup pecans
4 tablespoons melted organic grass fed butter
pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Place the nuts in a food processor and process until the nuts are a flour like or almond meal like consistency. Pour into a small mixing bowl, add the butter and salt and mix into a thick dough. Using your hands, spread evenly into a pie pan and back for 10 minutes.

Filling

14 oz can of organic pumpkin puree (nothing added, just pumpkin)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 eggs
1/2 cup raw organic honey
1/2 cup coconut milk

While the crust is in the oven, whisk all of the pie filling ingredients together. Pour into the crust that has been baked for 10 minutes, return to the oven and bake for and additional 45 minutes.

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Vanilla Ice Cream

Photo courtesy Whole Foods

You need an ice cream maker for this one. You can buy a good Cuisinart for $70 at Bed Bath and Beyond. This is a regular in our household and was adapted from Hula Lula Ice Cream.Makes about 2 cups of ice cream.

1 can full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup raw honey or coconut sap
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
dash sea salt

Blend all ingredients in blender. Place in ice cream maker until mixture takes on ice cream consistency. Store in freezer (if there’s any left over!).

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8 Comments

  1. This looks amazing, Neely! There is no reason to think that eating Paleo during the holiday has to be a struggle…unless you head to someone else’s house and don’t have much control over the menu, I guess. In any case – great suggestions. I’ll be trying several of these recipes soon.

  2. Thanks, this is great, I am new to Paleo, and really missing by bread. I plan on copying these off and trying them out. This site is a great source of receipes and idea’s. I am having a great time trying out new ways to do Paleo on my own. Again thanks

  3. I just wanted to say thanks for putting this meal plan together. Everything on the menu looks delicious. I can’t wait to try it out.

  4. Thank you so much for the meal plan. This is my one stop for my Thanksgiving menu!

  5. This is my first official Gobble till you Wobble Day- Paleo style… your recipes are making some of my most cherished non-Paleo casseroles become possible again!! Quick question with the Sweet Potato Casserole though, I don’t see where the Coconut Milk is being used in the directions. I’ve read over it a few times, but seem to be missing something. So where does it come into play?

    • Crystal – Thanks for catching that! I changed the recipe to include the coconut milk in the directions. Hope that helps!

  6. I am going to my future-in-laws place for Thanksgiving and will have no control over the menu at all. Given the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, what can I fit into a paleo diet?

    • Neely Quinn

      harrison – Well… maybe the turkey? But probably not the gravy because it’ll have flour in it most likely. Salad? But it’ll probably have dairy in it. It really depends on the menu…

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