How to Prepare a Perfectly Paleo Thanksgiving Feast

We believe following a paleo lifestyle is the best way to nourish our bodies, and that includes allowances for special occasions and celebrations.

As a cooking team dedicated to creating delicious paleo recipes, Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday for the two of us. Through the years we have learned how to maintain a balance between enjoyment and indulgence while spending time with family and friends. But if you are just starting a paleo diet, holidays might be a time when you are tempted to fall off the wagon.

It doesn’t need to be this way, though. We believe following a paleo lifestyle is the best way to nourish our bodies, and that includes allowances for special occasions and celebrations.

Tips for a Paleo Thanksgiving Feast

If you are preparing a paleo Thanksgiving, you can do so by combining old traditions and classic dishes with new, grain-free recipes. Simply put, paleo meals generally consist of a main course that has a protein source at its core, a few side dishes that are vegetable-centric, and possibly some appetizers or desserts that recreate some grain-free favorites.

When planning your paleo Thanksgiving, remember: timing is everything. Here are some ways to organize your time before Thanksgiving dinner:

  • A few days before the meal, start shopping for ingredients and decorations.
  • If your turkey is frozen, begin to defrost it in the refrigerator at least three days in advance.
  • Prepare the pie and set the table for guests one day ahead of time. If any dishes have multiple components, these can also be prepared at this time.
  • Depending on its size, the turkey could be placed in the oven up to five hours before dinner, while side dishes can be prepared an hour prior to meal time.

Recipes for a Paleo Feast

Side dishes are critical to the success of a good Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, the turkey is the star of the show, but having a variety of good side dishes will make the feast exponentially better. Oven-roasted green beans, cranberry relish, or a harvest salad are all classic side dishes that are already paleo.

But what about the stuffing? It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a little stuffing, and most recipe options are grain-based. This veal-based stuffing is a great bread-free alternative, and is a satisfying substitute for traditional stuffing.

RELATED: Thanksgiving Dinner: Fresh vs. Processed – Does It Make a Difference?

Apple Veal Stuffing

Yield: Serves 10


  • 3lb ground veal
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon anise
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 24 ounces white mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 celery hearts, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces dried cranberries
  • 6 1/2 ounces chopped and cooked chestnuts
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 cup thyme, minced
  • 1/3 cup sage, minced
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples


  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the ground veal with the garlic powder, anise, onion powder, black pepper, fennel seeds, paprika, salt, and cayenne.
  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the meat, leaving it slightly under-done. Remove the skillet from the heat, and set the meat aside. When the meat has cooled, place it in the large bowl.
  3. Add the mushrooms, celery, and onion to the skillet, and cook them until they are tender.
  4. Transfer the vegetables from the skillet to the bowl. Add the cranberries, chestnuts, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and sage.
  5. Allow the mixture to cool, and refrigerate it overnight if necessary.
  6. Peel, core, and chop the Granny Smith apples. Then, add them to the meat mixture.
  7. Bake the dish uncovered for the last 30 minutes during the cooking of the turkey.

Stuffed Turkey Rubbed With Duck Fat and Herbs

At the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving table sits the turkey. Now, turkeys aren’t all that fatty. That’s why we smother our turkey in duck fat, which also greatly enhances the flavor.

Yield: Serves 10



  • 3 Tablespoons duck fat
  • 1 Tablespoon rosemary, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Stock for Basting

  • 1 onion
  • 3 large carrots
  • 5 stalks celery, plus the leafy heart
  • Turkey neck and giblets
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Rinse the turkey under cool water, and pat it dry, including the body cavity. Carefully lift the skin away from the meat.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the compound mixture using two tablespoons of duck fat, the rosemary, and the thyme. Rub the duck fat compound under the skin, covering as much of the breast and legs as possible.
  4. Sprinkle the body cavity with salt and pepper. Rub the outer skin of the turkey with the remaining tablespoon of duck fat, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
  5. Stuff the bird cavity with the stuffing (if you are cooking it in the bird), tie the legs with butcher’s twine, and tuck the wings under the breast.
  6. In a medium saucepan on the stove, place the onion, carrots, celery, turkey neck and giblets, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cover with water and boil.
  7. When the water has come to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Allow the stock to simmer while the turkey is cooking.
  8. Place the turkey in a roasting pan filled with 1 inch of water.
  9. Roast the turkey at 325 degrees for 12 minutes per pound. Baste the turkey every 45 minutes with the stock. When the turkey is golden brown, cover it with a foil tent. The turkey will be finished when a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast.

Paleo Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is a tried and true Thanksgiving dessert. If you and your guests have saved any room for pie (which you should have), a slice wil taste delicious with a cup of coffee.

Yield: Serves 10


Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup palm shortening, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup date mixture
  • 6 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup grass-fed butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves for garnish


  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a separate small bowl, combine the melted palm shortening, maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until it reaches a dough-y consistency.
  5. Pat the dough into a 9-inch glass pie dish, and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
  6. Remove the crust from the oven to cool. Keep the oven set at 325 degrees.
  7. In a standing mixer, combine the eggs, maple syrup, molasses, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  8. Place the dates and 1/4 cup of water in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  9. Microwave the dates 45 seconds, mash the dates with a fork.
  10. Add the date mixture to the standing mixer, and combine them with the other ingredients. Add the salt, coconut flour, and melted butter, and mix until smooth.
  11. Lay the chopped pecans on the bottom of the pie crust. Pour in the filling, and bake the pie for 20 minutes.
  12. Remove the pie from the oven, and garnish it with the pecan halves.
  13. Put the pie back in the oven, and bake it for an additional 30 minutes. Allow the pie to cool, and refrigerate it until time to serve. It can be made a day ahead of time.

However you decide to celebrate the holidays, we hope they are full of happiness and good memories. Bon appetit!

Photos courtesy of Primal Palate.

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