Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s meant to be spent with family and friends, showing love and reflecting on the positive things for which we are grateful. But in addition to those warm feelings of thankfulness, just about everyone can agree that food is the main event. This can be challenging for those who have dietary restrictions, such as a gluten allergy or sensitivity, but these recipes from top Philadelphia chefs give a few Thanksgiving favorites a makeover so that even people eating gluten-free can enjoy the holiday.

REX 1516 (Credit, Michelle Hein)

Chef Justin Swain
REX 1516

1516 South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
(267) 319-1366

Philadelphia native Chef Justin Swain brings his own experiences with classic cooking techniques to REX 1516’s Southern-influenced cuisine. Chef Swain attended the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia and worked at local restaurants Bridget Foy’s and 1601 before taking on the position of Executive Chef at REX 1516. His gluten-free pumpkin pie is the perfect alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving dessert, so that those with a gluten sensitivity don’t miss out on this holiday favorite.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/4 cup ground raw hazelnuts
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 9 dates, stoned


  1. Mix hazelnuts and cocoa powder in a large bowl, being sure to break up lumps.
  2. Add coconut oil to the bowl and mix to combine.
  3. Mash dates in a small bowl using a fork.
  4. Add dates to the large mixing bowl, and combine with the dough-like mixture using your hands.
  5. Press crust into a 9-inch pie pan, spreading evenly.
  6. Refrigerate the crust while preparing the pie filling.

Pie Filling:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)


  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until creamy and smooth. The mixture should be very soft to ensure a lump-free filling.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add vanilla, molasses, pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice to the bowl. Beat until thoroughly combined. If the filling has any lumps, you can pass it through a mesh strainer into a bowl to create a smoother consistency.
  4. Spoon the pumpkin filling into the chilled pie shell. Cover and refrigerate overnight to set. (Do not skip the chilling overnight, or it will not set properly.)

Related: Top Champagne Drinks From A Philadelphia Mixologist

Chef Shane Cash (Credit, Michelle Hein)

Chef Shane Cash
Rat’s Restaurant at Grounds for Sculpture
16 Fairgrounds Road
Hamilton, NJ 08619
(609) 584-7800

Chef Shane Cash took over the role of Executive Chef at Rat’s after “Top Chef” winner Kevin Sbraga went on to open his own restaurant in Center City back in 2010. Boasting an impressive resume himself, Chef Cash had formerly worked with Starr Restaurants as the Chef Consultant at Atlantic City’s The Chelsea, the opening Executive Chef at Philadelphia’s Butcher & Singer and the Divisional Chef of Stephen STARR Events. Before joining Starr, Chef Cash spent eight years perfecting his skills in New York, gaining attention from Forbes Magazine, The New York Times, Gourmet Magazine and the New York Post. His gluten-free apple cider brine will infuse your turkey with a fantastic salty-sweet flavor while also keeping it extra moist and juicy.

Apple Cider Turkey Brine


  • 2 gallons water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 12 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bunches fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup juniper berries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot.
  2. Heat on the stove to bring to a simmer.
  3. Remove pot of brine from the stove and chill.
  4. Once the brine is chilled, submerge the turkey in the brine and marinate for 12 to 24 hours.
  5. Remove the turkey from the brine and dry it.
  6. Rub butter over the entire turkey.
  7. Roast the turkey at 325 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.


Brendan Mullan
Bridget Foy’s
200 South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 922-1813

Specializing in modern American cuisine, Brendan Mullan has been the longtime chef at South Street’s Bridget Foy’s. Chef Mullan strives to use local seasonal ingredients in his cooking as much as possible; in fact, he even has his own herb garden on the roof of the restaurant. His favorite meal is the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner, and this gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake is the ultimate dessert.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cheesecake


  • 2 (8 oz each) packages of gluten-free ginger snap cookies
  • 4 tablespoons butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Using a food processor, crush the ginger snaps to create crumbs.
  3. Add cold cubed butter and pulse just until the butter combines with the cookie crumbs.
  4. Press the cookie mixture into a spring form pan that has been sprayed or greased. Cover the bottom and half of the sides of the pan.

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 3 pounds cream cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until fluffy.
  2. Add sugar to the bowl and mix until smooth.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between each addition.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing until smooth.
  5. Pour cheesecake filling over the prepared crust.
  6. Using a water bath, bake the cheesecake for one hour.
  7. After an hour, turn the oven off. Leave the cake in the oven for another hour.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to come to room temperature. This will prevent cracking.
  9. Chill the cheesecake in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Slice and serve with fresh whipped cream.

Related: Top Gluten-Free Menus In Philadelphia

Michelle Hein is a copy editor for a women’s fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn’t pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery…perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer boyfriend would love to open.


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