How to Host a Gluten-Free Potluck

Summer is the season for barbecues, pool parties, and getting together with friends. Its also a time of relaxation and chillin’ out. So it’s the perfect time to host a potluck!

When the word "potluck" first entered into the English language in the 16th century, it usually referred to accepting the contents of an innkeeper's pot … no matter the ingredients. Now the term refers to hosting a party in which guests each bring a dish. This means less pressure on the host, and a more informal way to get together with friends. The host can now socialize more with her guests (and also save some money on ingredients!). Pot lucks are also a great way to host an event for a church group or little league team, where everyone pitches in for the party.

Back in April, I hosted a potluck at my house, for members of the Gluten Free in Houston Meetup. It was great!  Everything was gluten-free, and since it was a small group of us, we made sure to account for other food allergies as well. As one guest commented after she left, “it suddenly occurred to me that I could eat everything there!”

But what if you are hosting a pot luck and not all your friends are gluten-free? You can help them by suggesting meals that are inherently gluten-free. Salad is an obvious one!  But of course you have to make sure there are no croutons (not even to be picked off later!), and that the salad-dressing is GF, too. Think of it as a fun and educational opportunity for your guests. You should also gently remind them about the dangers of cross-contamination: they'll need to prepare food on a clean surface, with clean utensils. If it’s a small group, you could even invite any confused, non-GF friends to prepare their dish at your house. If it’s a large group, you may have to settle with the idea that not every dish will be GF, but there should be enough dishes (at least two) to feed yourself and other guests with food allergies. And if there are other food allergies? List all the allergies for all guests to be aware of, during the planning stages of the party. Your guests can try to come up with dishes that are completely allergen-free, or you can help them by suggesting at least two dishes that you and your gluten-free/food allergy guests will be able to enjoy.

Here are 7 more tips on how to host a gluten-free potluck:

Organize the courses with your guests. You don’t want 5 salads, 6 desserts and no main course. Let people offer first, since they probably have a favorite recipe they’d like to share, then fill in the gaps with polite suggestions to those who are still thinking about it. If it’s a big group and you want a main course, you could put a few people in charge of cooking pots of gluten-free pasta (for instance) and another in charge of big pots of sauce. If it’s a small group, the host should generally provide the main dish, unless your party consists of “heavy hors d'oeuvres”. Also, don’t forget the beverages! 

Create a theme. You can base your theme on a type of cuisine (e.g. Indian) or the time of year (e.g tropical). Of course this is a fun idea, but not always necessary.  Gluten-free is already a theme in itself! J

Encourage advanced preparation.  Dishes that can be prepared in advance, and either eaten cold (roasted veggie salad, cookies), or re-heated easily in the host’s oven or stove top (soup) are best. Otherwise, you may get a very crowded kitchen and disorganization will ensue quickly!

Mind your portion sizes. For a small group of people  (less than 10), you want to be able to feed everyone a decent-sized portion. But as the guest count increases, so do the amount of dishes. Not everyone will try everything. Or if they do, they will only sample the dish. So for groups larger than 10 consider making enough for only half of the crowd.

Turn it into a recipe swap.  Ask your guests to bring recipe cards for their dish. Not only will everyone walk away with new recipes to try at home, but you will also be able to certify that the ingredients used are indeed GF (sneaky, right?) J

Be prepared for leftovers.  Leftovers are great! It means you get a break from the kitchen for a few days. But you will likely have way more than you can eat after a potluck, so tell your guests to bring some containers so they can take some extra food home, too!

Be prepared for set up and clean up. I don’t make my guests setup before a party or clean up afterwards, potluck or not. I see that as part of my job as hostess! Although many times, people do like to help clear the table, anyway. But if you are hosting a big potluck at a public place, you may want to enlist someone to help with the setup and cleanup, too. As part of the setup, be sure that you have plenty of serving utensils, serving dishes, plates, napkins, etc. If hosting at your house, you can take a trip to your local thrift store and see what they have in the way of serving items. Better to reduce, reuse and recycle, then to throw away tons of “disposables!”

So what have we prepared for our summertime pot luck? Here’s the spread:

Kale Chips by Heather Jacobsen

Stuffed Mushrooms by JimmyBoswell

Sweet Potato "Fries" by Heather Jacobsen

Niçoise-style Tomato Soup by Chef Alain

Greek Salad by JimmyBoswell

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata by JimmyBoswell

Spinach & Artichoke Frittata by Cara's Cravings

Mint Tisane by Heather Jacobsen

Basic Braised Pork Shoulder Sandwiches by Stephanie Meyer

BBQ Sauce by JessicaDean

Jicama Cole Slaw by Heather Jacobsen

Grilled Peaches by Heather Jacobsen

Watermelon Granita by kumquat

Coconut-Lemon Thumbprint Cookies by Free Eats

Do you have something you want to contribute? We’d love for you to join our potluck, too! Submit your recipe anytime.