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It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving and your brother-in-law’s just declared he’s following “the caveman diet.” Don’t panic! He hasn’t lost his mind. The Paleo diet is a very real regimen popular today, with an estimated one to three million American practitioners at last count.
Paleo harkens back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Supporters believe that our ancestors experienced fewer food-centric disorders thanks to unprocessed pre-agricultural plant and animal foods, plus plenty of physical activity. Studies associate the Paleo diet with significant weight loss, improvements in cardiovascular risk factors and a decrease in liver fat.
The Paleo diet allows meat and fish, eggs, veggies, fresh fruits, nuts and seeds. However, grains, legumes and potatoes are not permissible. These didn’t show up in our diets until the Neolithic period, which brought forth the agricultural revolution. Plus, prehistoric man didn’t raise animals for meat or milk. While meat could be had through hunting, it would’ve been impossible to regularly milk wild animals. So, dairy is also shunned on the paleo diet.
That’s what complicates things about the Paleo diet during the holidays. It can be hard to imagine a Thanksgiving table without mashed potatoes, butter-smothered corn and, of course, bread-based turkey stuffing. That’s why we’ve compiled the following paleo-friendly recipes. If you or your loved ones are on the Paleo diet this Thanksgiving, you’ll want to scatter these recipes throughout your menu.
A Paleo-Safe Platter
The Paleo diet’s strict no-dairy rule means conventional boards loaded with cheeses and crackers are a no-go. That’s where this Middle Eastern Mezze Board comes in. Loaded with Paleo-friendly goodness, this grazing board is as satiating and mouthwatering as any charcuterie. Muhammara, a Syrian roasted red pepper dip, is the perfect Paleo-friendly sub for Paleo-unfriendly, legume-loaded hummus).
Grain- and Legume-Free Salads
Salads often rely on beans for texture, grains for satiation and dairy-infused or sugar-loaded dressings for flavor. But not these beauties. These vibrant salads are made with harvest-season staples that are totally Paleo-permissible.
This romantic fruit-scape features a roasted medley of figs, grapes, apples and nuts. Serve up on a bed of greens coated in a sharp, mustardy shallot vinaigrette.
This abundant salad is a smorgasbord of fall favorites. Roasted sweet potatoes and sweet Italian sausage nestled in kale and massaged in a homemade vinaigrette. You can make all the elements in advance and simply assemble and toss in the vinaigrette right before serving.
Paleo-friendly sides and salads are all well and good. But what of Thanksgiving’s most classic dishes? Worry not. These takes on the traditional are Paleo perfection.
If you just can’t go without turkey on Thanksgiving, this recipe was made for you. We get away with a completely stuffing-free turkey because we make this bird so delectably juicy on its own. Our secret? Wrapping your turkey in cheesecloth as it roasts to lock in the moisture. A simple glaze made from orange marmalade and a jus made with arrowroot round out the dish.
We temper the sweetness of traditional cranberry sauce with jalapeño chile peppers in this spicy rendition. Thanksgiving is hard work — that’s why we keep this recipe short and sweet.
Most gravies call for wheat flours, which are noncompliant with Paleo. Luckily, we have the solution. Simply substitute the wheat flour with cassava flour, as we do in this easy recipe.
Savvy Swaps for Standard Sides
The average Thanksgiving menu calls for decadent meat pies and potato dishes. With these recipes, we pay homage to fan favorites like shepherd’s pie and loaded baked potatoes. We just cleverly swap out non-Paleo ingredients for equally mouthwatering substitutes.
This classic comfort dish is easily made Paleo-compliant with a couple simple changes: Almond milk in the mash, cassava flour as a thickener and a satisfying cauli-based topping.
What do we turn to when we can’t eat potatoes? Sweet potatoes, of course. These festive spuds are loaded with a creamy spinach topping that’ll surprise you with how easily it comes together.
Green Beans Gone Paleo
Green beans, like all other beans, are a legume. So how exactly do we Paleo-fy a dish like this? Our answer: Leggy veggies shaped like beans but served to play up their own unique flavors.
This exclusive recipe was shared with us by Camila Alves McConaughey (yes, that McConaughey). Colorful heirloom carrots are topped with maple syrup and cashew cream for a simple, wholesome, delicious dish.
Asparagus is a close dupe for green beans in this stunning stir-fry. We cook bite-sized sirloin strips, meaty mushrooms and the aforementioned asparagus in the orange juice and zest. Garnish with sliced almonds, toasted for smokiness.
With dairy, wheat flour and (obviously) added sugar out of the picture, are Paleo desserts possible? We think so. These sweet treats aren’t your average cassava-flour cookies. We’re keeping these end-of-meal beauties just as Instagrammable as your conventional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
In place of cream cheese, we’re using the magic of cashews in this dreamy dessert encased in a nutty crust. Top with fruits of your liking (we went with blackberries and golden berries for stunning color and contrast).
Ice cream gets a Paleo-friendly makeover with this no-churn dairy-free “nice” cream. We create a luscious, rich base with frozen bananas and dark chocolate studded with cherries, almonds and cacao nibs.