GLUTEN-FREE SNACKS TO SATISFY HUNGRY PARTYGOERS (AND YOUR BUDGET)
Done with laying out a fabulous holiday party spread to find what seems like half your guests have gone gluten-free? Here are delicious — and nutritious — and low-prep, low-cost gluten-free snacks to satisfy a roomful of hungry partygoers.
Chips and Crisps
Gluten-free chip and crisp choices abound. California rice grower Lundberg boasts an entire line of gluten-free rice chips, of such mouthwatering flavors as Sriracha, Smoky Maple and Fiesta Lime. Luke’s Organic offers gluten-free chips of a blend of grains such as brown rice, corn, amaranth, millet and quinoa. Most of Luke’s chips are sugar-free to boot.
Bean chips, in addition to tasting great, are a source of complete protein (in case your guests skipped dinner to bank calories). With brand names like Beanfield’s and Beanitos, these snacks are hard to miss. Most often made from navy, white or pinto beans, along with grains like rice and corn, they are a hearty alternative to more traditional snacking fare. Lately, chips of chickpeas and lentils have entered the category. Both bean and rice chips are typically baked rather than fried, a plus for anyone looking for a lower-fat option during the oh-so-indulgent holiday season.
Pea crisps from Calbee (Snapea Crisps) are widely available, but competitor brands — some of them organic — are also out there. Made from peas and rice, and baked, they also qualify as a complete-protein, lower-fat snack. Recent entrants into the crisp category include fava beans and lentils.
Farther off the beaten path, chip maker Popcorners bakes a chip entirely of sorghum, a gluten-free grain that is better known abroad than in the U.S. Among less traditional fried chip options suitable for the gluten-intolerant are sweet potato, yucca, batata and plantain. Terra brand is a well-known purveyor.
Indeed, many natural brands of potato and corn chips and crisps — baked and fried — are gluten-free. The “GF” logo on product packaging is your best signal.
Many brands of hummus — notably, Sabra — and other bean dips are free of gluten. Such flavors as roasted red pepper, chipotle and lemon twist are sure to please even the most finicky. A plus? Dipping bean chips into bean dip yields a double whammy of protein and fiber.
Cheeses are a holiday stalwart, but venturing beyond the usual cheddar and swiss varieties can spell gustatory fun for all attendees. Arrange a sampling of soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert Alouette, or Boursin. Give a nod to authenticity — and earn points with your lactose-intolerant friends — by serving mozzarella cubes made of real water buffalo milk. Go eclectic with a mix of goat cheese – like chevre or Bucheron — and sheep cheese — Greek Feta, or a dip of herbed ricotta, for example. The variety of cheeses on the market today is overwhelming. Dare to take your guests on an epicurean adventure.
Sure, a can of roasted, salted deluxe mixed nuts from the drugstore might have been appropriate party fare in the 1960s. But these days, guests of all food tolerance levels are a little more sophisticated. Consider placing a tray of less common choices like raw Macadamias, pine nuts, black walnuts, or Brazil nuts alongside a dish of gluten-free dipping chocolate. An array of toasted, pumpkin seeds flavored with chiles, curry, sea salt or spices are sure to please. Brands like Superseedz and Eden are widely available in stores and online. Raw or roasted sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios and almonds make delightful nibbles as well.
Whole Food Bars
KIND bars and Lara bars are no-brainers when it comes to gluten-free snacking. A little digging will turn up other whole-food snack bar options — most including some combo of grains, nuts, seeds and fruit — that fill the bill. Why not try a novel way to serve them? Cut bars into thirds and dip them in gluten-free dark chocolate, spiced creme fraiche or whipped cream. As much fun as fondue, but a lot less trouble.
Raw coconut treats are among the healthiest sweets on the market, thanks to healing MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides). The raw foods shelf at your neighborhood natural grocer likely boasts a sizable selection of raw macaroons in flavors that range from vanilla and lemon to dark chocolate and mocha. Many are also low-glycemic. The upside for you? Being forced to taste them all before deciding which to serve your guests. Well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
Brands like Pamela’s, Mi-Del and Udi’s specialize in gluten-free baked goods. But you know the movement’s got momentum when iconic Scottish shortbread maker Walker’s starts baking up gluten-free varieties. Made from a combo of rice and maize flours, along with potato starch, but with the same robust butter-to-flour ratio, your guests might not notice any difference from the original.
Gourmet and natural-food grocers often display an awe-inspiring selection of gluten-free chocolate. Flavored with such tantalizing elements as sea salt, coconut, truffle, chiles, and even bacon, your chief concern will be keeping the party tray filled. That said, even good ol’ Hershey’s qualifies as gluten-free, so you can just as easily head to the drugstore candy aisle to fulfill your guests’ yen for chocolate.
Gluten-free doesn’t have to mean flavor free. With a little research and a taste for adventure, you’ll be well on your way to filling the holiday party table with satisfying sweets and savories.
This article was written by Daphne O’Neal, contributor for The Daily Clutch.