If you’re new to following the Paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP), you might be more than a bit worried about how Thanksgiving is going to go this year. We’re here to say—don’t be! It’s easy to become focused on what you (and potentially your family and guests) will miss at the table, but in reality, many favorite Thanksgiving foods are AIP friendly—namely turkey, of course. Luckily, so are favorite sides like root vegetables, squashes and sweet potatoes; seasonings like sage, rosemary, thyme and cinnamon; and fruits like apples and cranberries. And of course, everyone loves bacon.
We’ve created seven flavorful dishes—including a moist and tasty, no-fail turkey with rich gravy—upon which to build an AIP Thanksgiving. We’ll be serving this menu ourselves, setting out crudité with coarse salt alongside the crackerbread and shrimp for an appetizer, adding a vegetable side dish like simply roasted Brussels sprouts, and serving an AIP fruit crisp for dessert.
A few additional tips:
Before you head out to the grocery store, clear and organize your refrigerator to make room for the bounty of gorgeous vegetables—and turkey!—you’ll be bringing home.
Make sure you have a roasting pan that will accommodate the turkey, and make sure that roasting pan fits in your oven.
If you know your guests will miss stuffing—and we wouldn’t blame them if they did—ask one of them to bring a dish of their favorite version to bake while the turkey rests. Ditto a non-AIP appetizer, or bread or rolls for the dinner table.
Don’t toss the turkey carcass! As you clean up after the dinner, you can chop up the carcass (preferably with some meat still attached for extra flavor), put it in a stock pot, fill with water to just cover, and simmer the pot overnight in a 180ºF oven. In the morning, strain the stock and either freeze it or make soup.
Don’t forget to have fun.
Happy AIP Thanksgiving!
Since the trick to a relaxing meal (and life) is to plan and work ahead, we’ve included a loose plan for you to follow, as well as a basic shopping list to get the ball rolling.
We’ve provided you with some recipes from start to finish!
- Rosemary Crackerbread
- Pancetta-Wrapped Shrimp with Sage
- Apple Cider Shrub Syrup (to add to sparkling water)
- Herb-Roasted Turkey & Gravy
- Roasted Parsnip & Sweet Potato Purée with Caramelized Onions
- Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Makes 3 round crackerbreads, roughly 30 pieces when broken apart
1 cup sweet potato flour
3/4 cup arrowroot starch
1 TBSP chopped rosemary
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup water
Coarse sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 400∞F with an upside-down baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven.
2. Add the sweet potato flour, arrowroot starch, rosemary and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to combine. Add the olive oil and pulse to combine. Slowly add water, a bit at a time, until the dough just comes together. You may need less than 1/3 cup or a bit more.
3. Divide the dough into three portions. Place the first portion on a large (14-inch-by-14-inch) square of parchment paper (not wax paper). Place a large square of plastic wrap on top of the dough and use a rolling pin to roll the dough very evenly and thinly, being careful that the center of the dough is rolled as thinly as the edges; otherwise it will be soft, not crunchy. Peel off the plastic wrap and save it for rolling the next two pieces of dough. Sprinkle the dough lightly with coarse salt.
4. Using a pizza peel or a baking sheet, transfer the dough and parchment paper to the preheated baking sheet or pizza stone (you will bake the crackerbread on the parchment paper). Bake until the edges are browned and the center is no longer soft, 8–10 minutes, watching carefully. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and discard the parchment paper. Repeat the process for the next two rounds.
5. When cool, break into shards. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.
Pancetta-Wrapped Shrimp with Sage
Makes 20 shrimp
40 thin slices pancetta (or prosciutto)
20 large peeled, deveined wild-caught shrimp
20 fresh sage leaves
3 TBSP avocado oil or bacon fat
Lemon wedges for serving
1. Lay two slices of pancetta on a work surface, overlapping slightly. Lay a shrimp at one end of the pancetta and top with one sage leaf. Roll the shrimp in the pancetta, smoothing down the ends as you go. Cover and refrigerate. (Can be prepared one day ahead.)
2. Add the oil to a 12-inch skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add several of the shrimp (without crowding the pan). Fry the shrimp until the pancetta is golden brown and crispy on all sides. Transfer the shrimp to a platter as you continue to fry them all.
3. Serve the shrimp with lemon wedges.
Apple Cider Shrub Syrup
Makes 2-1/2 cups of syrup
Note To serve, combine the syrup with sparkling water to taste. For friends who drink alcohol, this syrup is delicious with a splash of bourbon or topped with sparkling wine.
1 gallon apple cider or apple juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
6 thin slices fresh ginger (or more to taste)
1 bunch sage leaves
1. Pour the apple cider into a large saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2 cups, about 1 hour.
2. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Stuff the sage leaves and ginger in a quart jar. Pour the hot syrup into the jar and cool, uncovered, to room temperature.
3. Remove the sage leaves and vinegar, and cover and chill until ready to use. Can be prepared up to 1 week ahead.
Herb-Roasted Turkey & Gravy
1 (14–16-lb) organic turkey (not self-basted), fresh or thawed, giblets removed and reserved, rinsed
2 gallons cold water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
Several bunches fresh herbs (e.g., 1 each of thyme, sage, parsley and/or rosemary)
1/2 head garlic, cloves smashed
1 small onion, quartered
Several bunches of fresh herbs (e.g., 1 each of thyme, sage, parsley and rosemary)
1/2 head garlic, cloves smashed
1 small onion, quartered
2–3 cups (canned low-sodium organic or homemade) chicken broth
Reserved turkey neck and giblets (from above)
8 cups (canned low-sodium organic or homemade) chicken broth
1 onion, quartered
2 bay leaves
3 TBSP tapioca starch
3 TBSP water
1/4 cup avocado or olive oil
3 TBSP minced herbs (assortment of those used above)
1 clove garlic, minced
Tuesday evening: Brine the turkey
Line a large bowl, stockpot or other container with enough capacity to hold the turkey and brine and fit in the refrigerator with an XXL Ziploc bag or oven-roasting bag, also large enough to hold the turkey and brine. Add the salt, syrup, herbs, garlic and onion to the bag. Slowly pour in the cold water. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Lower the turkey into the brine and seal the bag with a twist-tie. Transfer the container to the refrigerator and set a skillet or heavy plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged in the brine.
Wednesday evening: Dry the turkey
Cover a large baking sheet with cookie racks, so the turkey won’t sit in moisture. Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out; drain carefully and pat dry. Place the turkey on racks on a baking sheet and refrigerate overnight, uncovered. The goal is to dry the skin so that when roasted, the turkey will achieve a deep golden and crispy skin.
Wednesday evening or Thursday morning: Make the gravy base
Combine the turkey neck and giblets, broth, quartered onions and bay leaves in a saucepan. Simmer until reduced to 6 cups, skimming occasionally, about 1 hour. Strain and discard the solids. (If prepared the day before, cool to room temperature, then cover and chill. Reheat in a large saucepan before continuing.)
Thursday: Roast the turkey
The next day, remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before you begin roasting. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Place the turkey on the rack in a roasting pan. Pour 1 cup of chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Stuff the turkey with herbs, garlic and onion. In a small bowl, combine the oil, minced herbs and garlic. Rub some of the herb oil over the turkey. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey and tie the legs together to hold its shape. Cover the breast loosely with foil. Roast the turkey for 1 hour. Baste with the remaining herb oil. If there aren’t a lot of juices in the bottom of the pan, add more chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, so that the drippings don’t burn. Roast for another 2 hours, and remove the foil from the breast (unless the breast is browning nicely under the foil—if so, keep the foil in place; the shield it provides keeps the breast meat moist). Continue roasting the turkey until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170–175ºF (for a total of about 3-1/2–4 hours).
Finishing the turkey and gravy
Transfer the turkey to a large platter. Tent loosely with foil. Pour the juices from the pan into a large glass measuring cup and let sit for a few minutes so the fat floats to the top; spoon off the fat.
Set the roasting pan over medium heat and whisk in the defatted pan juices, stirring up any browned bits. Stir into the gravy base and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, combine the tapioca starch and water. Whisk into the gravy base and heat until thickened (it doesn’t need to boil). If you want thicker gravy, combine 1 more tablespoon of tapioca starch and water and whisk into the gravy. Season to taste with salt.
Roasted Parsnip & Sweet Potato Purée with Caramelized Onions
4 lb parsnips, peeled, woody cores trimmed away and discarded, remainder cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
4 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup avocado oil, divided
1 TBSP freshly grated horseradish (optional)
2 yellow onions, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1. Preheat the oven to 400∞F. Arrange the racks in the middle of the oven. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Add the parsnips and sweet potatoes to a large bowl. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the oil and season with kosher salt. Toss to coat the parsnips and sweet potatoes thoroughly with the oil.
3. Spread the parsnips and sweet potatoes evenly on the baking sheets. Don’t crowd the pans—if you have smaller baking sheets, use another one or more and roast in batches. Roast two pans at a time for 15 minutes. Turn the parsnip and sweet potato pieces over, rotate the pans in the oven, and roast for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and just browning at the edges a bit (the goal is tender but not deeply browned vegetables).
4. Working in batches, purée the parsnips and sweet potatoes in a food processor, adding water as needed to achieve a smooth, thick purée. Transfer the purée to a large bowl and stir in the horseradish and salt to taste. Spread the purée into a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan or other similarly sized casserole dish.
5. While the vegetables roast, start the caramelized onions. Heat a large (14-inch) skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil and when the oil is hot, add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Stir the onions to coat them in the oil and sauté slowly, stirring frequently, for 45 minutes or until the onions slowly caramelize and become very tender. Don’t try to rush the process by turning up the heat.
6. When the onions are done, scatter them over the top of the purée. Cover and chill for up to two days. To serve, bring the dish to room temperature for 1 hour and bake uncovered at 350∞F for 30 minutes.
Orange-Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2-1/2 cups
Note Taste and season the sauce for sweetness when it’s cool. Sweetness is easier to taste in cold foods than in hot.
1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (perhaps more, to taste)
Zest of 1/2 orange, minced
Juice of 1 orange
1 TBSP minced fresh ginger
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1. Combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer until most of the cranberries pop, about 10 minutes.
2. Cool to room temperature and add more honey or maple syrup, if needed.