These days, hosting events can seem tricky with the rise in special diet needs. But it doesn’t have to be! I have a full menu, additional tips, and even favor ideas to help make the day memorable for everyone. It was inspired by a bridal shower that I recently cohosted. The bride-to-be has Celiac disease, and she avoids both gluten and dairy. We wanted to make sure she could eat everything at her own event, which was easier than you might think. You can read all of the helpful details, or jump ahead to sections with the following links:
Dairy-Free & Gluten-Free Baby or Bridal Shower Menu
If you only listen to one piece of advice from this article, it should be this: Stick with food that naturally fits the dietary needs or only requires minimalistic swaps. This keeps the menu appealing for all guests, not just special diet ones. For example, we used gluten-free tamari and sauces, which are a seamless swap for wheat-containing soy sauce based options and are similar in price. But we avoided things like gluten-free breads or other items relying on gluten-free flour blends and finicky dairy alternatives like cheese and sour cream. This also kept the cost down!
I’ve included full details on our dairy-free and gluten-free bridal shower menu below, with options for other themes and dietary needs. This guide also works great for baby showers and brunches.
Having snacks out when guests arrive is helpful, just in case your food schedule doesn’t go as planned. Count on late attendees and other delays that might make you push your food timeline back. And keep it simple! You can certainly chop up your own veggie and fruit platter, but there’s a lot to do! We decided to buy all snack bar items, and chose readily available items that tend to be popular with all who try them.
- Vegetable Platter
- Fruit Platter
- Enjoy Life Lentil Chips (we served Sea Salt and Barbecue)
- Bitchin Sauce Dips (we served Original, Caramelized Onion, and Chipotle)
Nut-Free Needs: Bitchin Sauces are made with nuts. Switch to hummus, guacamole, and/or salsa if you have nut allergic guests. Most brands of these are naturally dairy-free and gluten-free, or you can easily make your own.
If you’re hosting lunch or dinner, I highly recommend a build-your-own bowl bar. It’s on trend, easily special diet friendly, and lets people choose what foods work for them. You’ll just need simple bases, proteins, toppings, and sauces, and plenty of bowls! The bride-to-be at our bridal shower said she never gets to order poke bowls since the sauces always contain gluten. Poke bowls are naturally dairy-free, and making them gluten-free is easy, so we surprised her with this food theme. We also kept our bowl bar nut-free.
Bases: Salad Greens, Rice
To keep things easy, we bought a tub of organic mixed greens. We also chose white rice, since it suits most people, and made it with my easy low-arsenic rice cooking method. These two bases work for almost any bowl theme, but cauliflower rice and millet are two other multi-purpose options. If making rice or millet ahead, store it in the refrigerator and reheat for a couple minutes in the microwave just before serving. Cooked grains only keep safely for about 2 hours at room temperature. I would avoid gluten-free noodles as a base; they don’t typically maintain a good texture when made ahead.
Proteins: Plain Poke Fish, Marinated Tofu
Most poke counters have a plain ahi option with no sauce added. You’ll need about 1/3 pound of fish per person. Or you can buy sashimi grade ahi and cut it yourself. I purchased the poke the day of the event and refrigerated it until serving time. If you’d prefer cooked protein, use simple roasted and chopped chicken instead of poke. The day before the shower, I drained, pressed, and cubed two packages of firm tofu, and then placed them in two separate bowls. I marinated one in Gluten-Free Teriyaki Marinade and one in Gluten-Free Korean BBQ Marinade for vegetarian and vegan options, respectively.
Sides/Toppings: Edamame, Kimchi
We could have gotten fancier with the toppings, adding chopped avocado, diced green onion, julienned carrots, sliced almonds, etc. But we had a lot to do, and decided to keep this simple. We also skipped furikake, as all the brands at the stores in our area contained milk and/or wheat. We found both the edamame and kimchi at Costco. The edamame even came in smaller microwave steam bags, which made last-minute preparation a snap.
Sauces: Selection of Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Asian Sauces
I contacted San-J to find out more about their gluten-free options. When they heard about this guide, they offered to send us a selection of sauces. So we had a wonderful spread of their classic gluten-free tamari, low sodium tamari, soy-free tamari, splashes, and thicker sauces. The Umami Splash, ponzu-style Citrus Splash, Teriyaki, and Korean sauces were the most popular. And yes, they have a soy-free sauce, too! Fortunately, San-J gluten-free sauces are all relatively affordable, and you can usually find several types at your local stores.
Other Bowl Theme Ideas
Southwestern or Mexican Style – Serve beans, pulled chicken, and/or pork for the proteins, an array of vegetable toppings (corn, chopped zucchini, black olives, tomatoes, etc), and salsas and hot sauces. Instead of sour cream, make coleslaw for topping or consider a chipotle aioli for drizzling. For that extra homemade touch with minimal effort, whip up a fresh batch of guacamole.
Mediterranean – Chickpeas and fish are popular Mediterranean proteins. Roast vegetables, like chopped eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Serve an assortment of olives along with some fresh diced vegetables, like cucumbers and avocado. Hummus, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil are great for topping. If you’re feeling fancy, offer sliced sun-dried tomatoes or chopped pancetta, or make dairy-free tofu feta. It’s surprisingly delicious and simple!
Choose Your Country – Offer chickpeas and a basic meat (chicken, pork, and/or beef) and put out a range of toppings. Look for what’s in-season and on sale. Then purchase a selection of global sauces. Target and Trader Joe’s each have a fun array of international sauces that are dairy free and gluten-free.
Mixing a few homemade elements in with affordable store-bought options makes the dessert table special without too much fuss or expense. I baked two types of dairy-free gluten-free brownies, because I couldn’t decide on one. Both were simple and flourless, so they didn’t require any funny ingredients. I topped them with dairy-free strawberry white chocolate butterflies to suit the bride’s colors and the bridal shower theme. We also included the makings for dairy-free gluten-free ice cream sandwiches or sundaes. Leftover strawberries (from the drinks) and coconut milk mochi (from a guest) rounded out the amazing dessert table and added more pink items to tie in the color theme.
- Fudgy Flourless Brownies (naturally dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free)
- Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies (also flourless; I adapted this recipe)
- Strawberry White Chocolate (I used a butterfly mold for our theme.)
- Enjoy Life Cookies (I chose their allergy-friendly crunchy Birthday Cake and soft-baked Monster cookies)
- Breyers Oatmilk Vanilla Ice Cream (it’s gluten-free; So Delicious offers great oat-free options)
- Dairy-Free Mochi (brought by a friend, and she shared her recipe!)
- Enjoy Life Chocolate Minis (can alternatively be on the snack table)
More Seamless Sweet Treats
- Meringues – These little airy puffs are so easy to make and don’t require any dairy or gluten ingredients. You can flavor and/or color them and even do a last minute dip in dairy-free chocolate.
- Pudding Parfaits – Dairy-free gluten-free pudding tastes quite “normal” and can be layered with fresh fruit for pretty presentation and fresh flavor.
- No Bake Cookies – These classic treats don’t require any flour or dairy, and have a nostalgic sweet taste that no one can resist.
- Peanut Butter Cookies – You don’t need many ingredients to bake these beloved cookies, but they have endless add-in options.
- Overnight Oatmeal Cookies – These are another flourless favorite that takes just a few inexpensive ingredients and minutes to toss together.
- Fresh Fruit – If the main is your focus, just put out a seasonal selection of chopped fruit and berries for guests to enjoy.
We were having a garden party, so we opted to make Strawberry Lemonade. It was amazing! We doubled the strawberries in the recipe, and it made enough for about 12 people. If making lemonade or another from-scratch sweetened drink, make sure to prepare the simple syrup a day ahead. It needs time to fully cool.
If you opt to serve alcohol, check for allergens first. Some wines do use top allergens in the fining process or as flavor. Vegan wine is usually a safe option for both dairy and gluten, but be sure to check. Most beer brands in the store are dairy-free, but for gluten-free needs, seek out gluten-free beer specifically. For mixed drinks, rum and tequila are typically both dairy-free and gluten-free. So daiquiris, rum punch, or margaritas can be good options for a lively event. But if it’s brunch hour, mimosas could be in order. Most champagnes or sparkling wines are dairy-free and gluten-free, but again, verify before purchasing. Barnivore is a great place to check for dairy.
For coffee and tea service, ideally offer a couple types of “milk” or creamer. Oatmilk and almondmilk are the two most popular, and will cover the bases for most people. Just be sure to check if gluten-free oats are okay for any gluten-free guests. If you don’t want a simple milk alternative, look for an oat creamer and almond creamer in your local stores. For a shelf stable option, I highly recommend nutpods creamer. It’s great for both coffee and tea. For a fancy coffee bar, use a dairy-free gluten-free barista “milk” and offer a few types of flavor syrups. Monin syrups are all dairy-free and gluten-free.
Best Favors & Prizes for All at Your Baby or Bridal Shower
Prizes make the silly games at baby showers and bridal showers even more fun, and it is customary and sweet to send guests home with a thank you party favor for coming. I thought a couple Kiss My Face De-Stress products were perfect for the latter. It’s a dairy-free and gluten-free line that’s pretty, affordable, sustainable, and offers much-needed zen for everyone before weddings and babies arrive. (Yes, skincare can be an issue for dairy and gluten!) Since our bridal shower party wasn’t too big, we chose to do a generous favor with a few items (listed below) and put them in these cute butterfly bags.
- Kiss My Face De-Stress Body Butter (Lavender + Ylang Ylang)
- Kiss My Face De-Stress Bar Soap (Neroli + Gardenia)
- Kiss My Face Face Factor Mineral Sunscreen SPF50 (for the midday garden wedding ahead!)
Budget Option: Choose just one item and put it in a little reusable bag. If only doing one, I would personally choose the Kiss My Face De-Stress Soap (available in Orange + Grapefruit and Neroli + Gardenia). It’s lovely, practical, and perfectly themed for a bridal shower or baby shower. Put them in little reusable burlap bags for that sweet, custom vibe.
Most bridal shower and baby shower prize guides go a little overboard with expense. These are budget-friendly options that people will love just as much! And they fit our foodie and special diet theme nicely.
- Themed Reusable Bag – There are so many available that it’s easy to find a reusable bag that suits the party theme or the guest-of-honor’s personality. We bought this butterfly/sunflower canvas bag, which was just as lovely in person.
- Themed Mug – It’s relatively easy to find a mug that fits the baby shower or bridal shower theme and/or colors. I prefer a ceramic mug for gifting rather than a travel style mug. They’re prettier, heftier, and more value oriented.
- Magnetic Measuring Spoon Set – I was quite the salesperson for this useful tool. After I demonstrated every thoughtful aspect, everyone at the bridal shower wanted one!
- Lip Balm Set – Hypoallergenic lip balm in a range of flavors or colors is a gift that almost anyone will enjoy, but it can easily cost $10 or less!
- Journal or Planner – Their are dozens of quality journal options from Peter Pauper Press, but I’m currently loving the Zicoto undated planners. Both are thoughtful, and will most certainly get used.
A special thank you to the following people for making our gluten-free dairy-free bridal shower such a success:
- Jazzy, the event host and bridal shower co-conspirator.
- Crystal, our crafting director and owner of the Cricut Crafting Machine. She led us through making all decorations and custom sashes for the bridal shower.
- Sharleen, the homemade mochi maker. I hadn’t thought of this dessert idea and it is an ideal dairy-free and gluten-free option!
- Rene, the last minute set-up assistant.
- Kiss My Face, the beautifully affordable favor and prize ideas I was seeking.
- Enjoy Life Foods, the best allergy-friendly snack and treat company in the world (IMHO).
- San-J, producers of an incredibly huge line of dairy-free and gluten-free sauces.