Paleo & Whole30 Thanksgiving Recipes

Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I don’t have a hard and fast menu for what I think makes the perfect celebration. I mean, there was the year we ate Elvis sandwiches, and the year we just got take-out from a local restaurant, and the year we marked the occasion by having my thyroid removed. This year is our first November in Prague, and we’re taking a decidedly untraditional route. So far, we have plans to visit the DOX Museum, to eat at Big Ben Foods Vietnamese restaurant, and to go to the opening of our friend’s art exhibit. (Of course, this is all subject to change if I’m struck by nostalgia. Then I’ll be roasting a duck, whipping coconut milk for Cranberry Waldorf Salad, and baking my favorite Grain-Free Apple Cake.)

Are you cooking this year? Joining in a potluck? Whatever your plans, here are some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, pulled from my cookbooks and blog archives.

Astute readers will notice that I didn’t cover turkey in this list. Turkey and gravy are really easy to make paleo-friendly with small modifications. The turkey and gravy recipes below link to  the New York Times archive, and there are trustworthy, delicious classics. They’re endorsed by Sam Sifton, the Times Food Editor and the author of the book Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well. The guy literally wrote the book on this holiday, so his recommendations are top-notch. (And by the by, I adore that book. He has very strong opinions and a charming writing style—plus his Thanksgiving meals sound heavenly.)

Roast Turkey—replace the butter with ghee

Make-Ahead Gravy—replace the butter with ghee; use arrowroot instead of flour; and use bone broth for the base

Classic Pan Gravy—replace the flour with arrowroot and omit the wine


Enjoy a little something-something in the afternoon before your meal to take the edge off or to fuel a mad session of tabletop games.

Pumpkin-Spiced Pepitas | meljoulwan.comPumpkin-Spiced Pepitas – omit sugar for Whole30

Cookup Tips: These can be made up to 10 days in advance and still taste crisp and fresh, so you can make them before the Turkey Day mania starts.

Marinated Olives | meljoulwan.comSpiced Olives – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: These can also be made up to 10 days in advance and still taste vibrant, so make a batch or two well in advance to minimize cooking stress as the big day approaches.

Chopped Chicken Livers | meljoulwan.comChopped Chicken Livers – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: You can make this on the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and it will taste great on Thursday. It doesn’t take much time or effort, so it’s a good weeknight recipe. You could even cook the chicken livers on a back burner while you’re making your Monday or Tuesday dinner!

Spiced Nuts | meljoulwan.comSpiced Nuts – omit sugar for Whole30

Cookup Tips: Spiced nights taste great for weeks, so you can make these anytime between now and Thanksgiving and be in good shape.

Savory Paleo Granola | meljoulwan.comSavory Paleo Granola – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: This also holds up well for weeks, so you can make this granola anytime between now and Thanksgiving.

Pear and Bacon Bites | meljoulwan.comPear and Bacon Bites – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: These taste best when you cook the bacon and eat them right away. Gather everyone in the kitchen and play cards while you bake  the bacon, then have an assembly party.


A soup course is a nice way to get some extra veggies in on holidays—plus it helps everyone slow down and ease into dinner.

Cookup Tips: All of the soups will taste fresh for up to 5 days after cooking them, so you can make these on the weekend before Thanksgiving and reheat slowly before dinner.

Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon | meljoulwan.comSweet Potato Soup with Bacon – Whole30 compliant

Golden Cauliflower Soup | meljoulwan.comGolden Cauliflower Soup – Whole30 compliant

Roasted Carrot-Caraway Soup – Whole30 compliant

Veggie Sides

These veggies sides add bright colors and texture to your table—and it’s never a bad idea to eat more veggies.

Cumin-Roasted Carrots | meljoulwan.comCumin Roasted Carrots – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: Cut the carrots a few days in advance and store them in an airtight container with a little water in the fridge to keep them crisp. Pop them into the oven about 30 minutes before your turkey is done roasting and let them finish in the oven while the turkey rests on the counter.

Lemon-Maple Kale Salad with Dates & Almonds

Cookup Tips: This tastes best within a few hours of being prepared, but you can make it Thursday morning and store in the fridge until mealtime.

Balsamic-Grilled Butternut SquashBalsamic-Grilled Butternut – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: You can cut and marinate the butternut squash 1-2 days in advance, then grill (or roast it in the oven at 375F for 30 minutes) just before eating..

Coconut Almond Green Beans | meljoulwan.comCoconut Almond Green Beans – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: Prep everything in advance: clean the green beans, dice the onion, make the spice blend, and store separately in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, follow the cooking instructions.

Mashed Cauliflower | meljoulwan.comMashed Cauliflower – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: If you use frozen cauliflower, defrost it in the fridge, starting on Tuesday. On Thanksgiving, simply heat all the ingredients over medium heat until warm, then process in the food processor or with a stick blender.

Mustard Garlic Brussels Sprouts | meljoulwan.comMustard-Garlic Brussels Sprouts – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: Wash and cut the brussels sprouts in advance and store in an airtight container, then pop them into the oven about 20 minutes before your turkey is done roasting. Let the sprouts finish in the oven while the turkey rests on the counter..

Kickin' Cranberry Sauce | meljoulwan.comKickin’ Cranberry Sauce – Whole30 Compliant

Cookup Tips: This tastes better the longer it sits, so make it up to a week in advance—and make a double batch so you have leftovers!

Cranberry Waldorf Salad | meljoulwan.comCranberry Waldorf Salad

Cookup Tips: Prep the fruit and roast the pecans on Tuesday or Wednesday and place the can of coconut milk in the fridge. Store the roasted pecans at room temp in an airtight container and put the fruit mix in the fridge. On Thursday, a few hours before dinner, make the whipped cream and fold into the fruit. Refrigerate until it’s time to eat.

Velvety Butternut Squash | meljoulwan.comVelvety Butternut Squash – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: Roast the squash and garlic a few days before Thanksgiving, then on Thursday, purée the remaining ingredients and bake the casserole during the last 15 minutes of the turkey roasting time.



These grain-free desserts are not-too-sweet treats to help you celebrate without getting a sugar hangover and most of them can be made several days in advance.

Grain-Free Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Maple-Vanilla Frosting | meljoulwan.comGrain-Free Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Maple-Vanilla Frosting

Cookup Tips: This tastes even better after a day or two, so make it on Tuesday or Wednesday and store int the fridge. It taste great cold and at room temp.

Sweet and Salty Fudge Bombs | meljoulwan.comSweet and Salty Fudge Bombs

Cookup Tips: These hold up great, so you can make several days in advance. Store them covered in the fridge and let them come to room temperature before eating.

Grain-Free Apple CakeOld-Fashioned (Grain-Free) Apple Cake

Cookup Tips: Make this on Wednesday and cover with plastic wrap until you eat it on Thursday. If you’re making the whipped coconut cream, don’t forget to put the coconut milk in the fridge when you bake the cake.

Spiced-Nut Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream | meljoulwan.comSpiced-Nut Vanilla Coconut Cream Ice Cream

Cookup Tips: This can be made on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

macaroons_overMaple-Pumpkin Coconut Macaroons

Cookup Tips: These taste great for several days after making them, so they can be a weekend project or thrown together on Thursday morning—they just need to chill for an hour.

Paleo Ambrosia Salad

Cookup Tips: Prep the fruit and toast the coconut on  Wednesday and place the can of coconut milk in the fridge. Store the toasted coconut at room temp in an airtight container and put the fruit mix in the fridge. On Thursday, a few hours before dinner, make the whipped cream and fold into the fruit. Refrigerate until it’s time to eat.


Leftovers are my favorite part of Thanksgiving, but when you’re tired of Thanksgiving foods, you can transform your turkey into something a little spicier.

Taj Mahal Turkey Curry – Whole30 compliant

Cookup Tips: This comes together super fast when you have cooked turkey in your fridge. Relax and enjoy.

Tuesday 10: Paleo Pumpkin Recipes

I tried to deny it, but I can't resist. The internet has given me Pumpkin Fever. Everywhere I click, there are orange-colored treats beckoning me...

Read More
Turkey & Cranberry Meatballs

Thanksgiving – a.k.a, my favorite holiday – is just two weeks away. If you're anything like me, all of the recipes popping up in my...

Read More


  • Carey says:

    I should know this, but I just don’t. What I said a dried date (cranberry relish recipe)? I know you don’t intend the chopped dates covered in sugar.

  • Gail Brown says:

    Just wanted to tell you that I tried the roasted carrot caraway soup this week. It’s a winner and will definitely be on my weekly soup rotation. Love it for breakfast!

  • Amy says:

    Mel, second message in a week…I have made nearly all of the recipes in your Thanksging 25 over the last three weeks! Love them. I am creating a OneNote quick notebook to cook from my iPad. I will share with my sister and her family. We are both celiac and 3 of our 4 kids are too. Can be a challenge at the holidays. Thank you for being awesome! I love your cookbooks. I love your blog. While I am not strictly paleo as I love wine, see my blog and especially my instagram that shows what I am drinking and sometimes with food, I do focus on health, exercise and wellness, while balancing the family and a long term career, as do many. Cheers, and thank you!

    • AH! This is all so great! I’m very glad you’ve been enjoying the recipes—its *is* tough this time of year to have eating restrictions. I hope these recipes make your holiday season a little more fun! All the best to you and yours.