A dining table set up and ready for Christmas dinner. With red napkins, wine glasses and candles.

How to have the tastiest free-from Christmas dinner

Are you catering for a free-from guest this Christmas? Perhaps they’re following a gluten-free or a dairy-free diet? And you’re now wondering what you’re going to cook for them?

Don’t worry, you aren’t alone when it comes to tackling this culinary challenge. More-and-more people are following free-from diets for one reason or another, a trend that’s reflected by the fact the UK free-from food market has grown by 43% since 2015.1

But as interesting as that stat may be, it’s not going to help you cook up gluten-free Christmas treats, gluten-free Christmas dinner, or some other sort of free-from menu, is it? Don’t worry, this article is:

Gluten-free Christmas food

Gluten-free starter

Pear and Manchego Salad2


  • 1 tbsp good-quality clear honey
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 tsp olive oil , plus a drizzle for toasting the nuts
  • 2 tbsp blanched hazelnut
  • zest ¼ lemon
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 75g mixed leaf (we used red chicory, watercress and rocket)
  • 1 ripe pear , halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 25g manchego (or a vegetarian hard cheese)


  1. Heat the honey and rosemary in a small pan with one tbsp boiling water. Bring to a simmer and let it bubble for around 30 secs. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse.
  2. Heat a frying pan and drizzle in a little oil. Add the hazelnuts and toast until golden. Remove from the pan, allow to cool, then chop roughly to make a rustic crumb. Mix with the lemon zest and some seasoning.
  3. To make a dressing, combine the olive oil and balsamic vinegar with some seasoning. Toss the salad leaves in most of the dressing, then arrange on serving plates or a platter, layering the leaves with the pear slices. Top with shavings of manchego and the hazelnut crumb, then drizzle over some of the rosemary honey and the remaining dressing.

Gluten-free main

Baked glazed ham3


  • 1 raw smoked gammon on the bone (about 5-6kg), rind left on
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 200g apricot jam
  • 300g light brown soft sugar
  • 12 whole cloves


  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Put the ham on a wire rack or trivet set over a large roasting tin, pour in 480ml warm water and cover tightly with foil. Put the ham in the oven, immediately reduce the heat to 160C/140C fan/gas 3 and cook for 5 hrs.
  2. Put the maple syrup, apricot jam and brown sugar in a heavy-based pan and stir in 50ml water. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  3. Take the ham out of the oven. Increase the temperature to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Remove the rind from the ham by inserting a sharp knife under it at the opposite end to the knuckle bone, gently lifting it away from the fat (try to keep as much fat on the leg as possible so that it protects the ham and stop it drying out).
  4. Decorate the ham by scoring the fat with a knife to make large diamond shapes, taking the knife from one corner to the other, then making parallel scores 4cm apart. Repeat in the opposite direction. Put a clove in the corner of each diamond. Brush the ham with the sugar mixture, pushing it into the scores with the brush.
  5. Return the ham to the oven, placing it back on the trivet over the water. Bake for a further 45 mins until deeply coloured. Serve hot or cold.

Gluten-free dessert

Gluten-free Christmas Cake4


  • 850g dried mixed fruit
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup gluten-free plain flour
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam


  1. Place the dried fruit and 2/3 cup brandy in a large airtight container. Mix well. Cover and stand overnight or preferably for a week, stirring occasionally.
  2. Preheat oven to 150°C. Lightly grease a 7cm deep, 20cm (base) round cake pan. Line base and side with double layers brown paper and baking paper. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well.
  3. Sift the flours and spices over the butter mixture. Add fruit mixture and stir until well combined. Press mixture into pan. Smooth surface. Decorate the top with almonds.
  4. Bake the cake for 2 to 2 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Pour the remaining 1/3 cup brandy over the hot cake. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
  5. Place the jam in a heatproof, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until warm. Remove the cake from the pan and brush top with warm jam. Allow to set and serve.

Some top tips to remember: ready-made roast potatoes may be coated in flour that contains gluten; use cornflour or arrowroot to thicken your gravy instead of flour and make gluten-free stuffing from gluten-free bread.5

Dairy-free Christmas food

Dairy-free starter

Vegan eggnog6


  • 25g pitted dates
  • 25g cashew nuts
  • 25g dried apricots
  • ¼ tsp mixed spice
  • 100ml brandy
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only
  • 1l sweetened almond milk
  • Ice, to serve
  • Nutmeg, to serve


  1. Soak the dates, cashews, apricots and mixed spice in the brandy overnight.
  2. The next day, tip the mixture into a blender and add the seeds from the vanilla pod and the almond milk. Blitz until smooth, then pour into eight tall glasses (use a sieve, if you like) with ice and grate some nutmeg on top.

Dairy-free main

Lentil Roast7

(This recipe is dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy free and vegan).


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot grated
  • 400g tin of cooked kidney beans, rinsed
  • 400g tin of cooked puy lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free tamari soy sauce, or coconut aminos for a soy-free version
  • 2 tbsp mixed dried herbs
  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 135g rolled oats, (gluten-free, if needed)


  1. Preheat oven to 180c / 350f and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the mushroom and carrot and cook for another 5 minutes until softened.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and use a masher to combine. Don't over-mash, just enough so that the mixture comes together. Add a drop of water if the mixture is too dry, if it's too wet, add more oats.
  4. Transfer the mixture into the loaf tin and cook for 40-45 minutes until the outside develops a crust and the inside is firm..

Dairy-free dessert

No-bake Coconut Snowball Cookies8


  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
  • 3 cups digestive biscuits
  • 2 cups chocolate chips - (or dairy-free chocolate chips)
  • 3 cups coconut flakes


  1. Combine the coconut milk, agave and salt in a large saucepan with high sides. Bring to a boil over a high heat. Adjust the temperature to keep the mixture boiling, but not boiling over and boil for 30 minutes or until the mixture has reduced to about 1 ¾ cups and is a light amber colour.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper.
  3. Combine the cooled coconut milk mixture with the digestive biscuits in a large mixing bowl and stir. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the coconut flakes into a bowl or dinner plate.
  4. For each cookie drop about 1 tablespoon of the cookie mixture into the coconut flakes and roll into a ball. Place the cookie on the prepared pans and repeat with the remaining mixture.
  5. Put cookies in the refrigerator until hardened, about half an hour.

Some top tips to remember: avoid using butter when you cook your roasties in the oven; if you’re using the meat juices to make your gravy, make sure it hasn’t been basted with a dairy product and look out for sausage meat stuffings, they don’t tend to contain butter.9

Shop Free From Food

Last Updated: 12th October 2020