Steal This Meal: Thanksgiving, Part I

Our two part Thanksgiving Steal This Meal series starts today, with a request posted by a reader of our blog.  Chris wrote,

“I usually cook Thanksgiving Dinner for my family, and this year my goal is to make it Whole30 compatible. Whenever I tell my family about how the Whole30 works, they immediately say, ‘That that sounds too hard’ and ‘I could never give up breads and grains’ and ‘How do you make that food taste good?’  So this year I intend on cooking the whole delicious meal Whole30 compatible, and then after tell them, “Oh by the way, you just had an entire meal with no grains, potatoes, or legumes!”

We want to help Chris (and you!) show your family and friends that eating Whole30 compatible is not that hard – and that our Good Food can still be delicious and satisfying.  So we decided to Whole30 transform the two toughest Thanksgiving recipes – stuffing and cranberry sauce.  Now, you readers know we wouldn’t normally “Paleo-ify” a poor food choice (like bread-laden stuffing or sugar-drenched cranberry sauce), but in the once-a-year case of a family-centric, culturally significant holiday like Thanksgiving, we believe it’s okay to recreate a dish that is reminiscent of what we used to eat. (Paleo-ifying stuffing for an annual family dinner is not the same thing as justifying your “healthy” Paleo pancakes every morning for breakfast!  But you already knew that.)

Note, these recipes aren’t designed to taste just like the original – that would be impossible, and disappointing for your guests.  Instead, we encourage you to present these Whole30 dishes as alternatives – traditional Thanksgiving fare with a twist.

Steal This Meal:  Whole9 Thanksgiving “Stuffing”

This dish serves 8-10.  We’ve used extra-lean ground beef and soaked walnuts, along with traditional spices and herbs, to give this “stuffing” the same feel and flavor as the original bread-based dish.  Note, the extra-lean ground beef is the key – buy the leanest available.  This will keep the stuffing from tasting too much like, well… ground beef, as much of the beef flavor is carried in the fat.  This is best right out of the oven, and it smells just like the dish Dallas’ Mum makes.  We thought it delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to turkey.


  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef (we used the 95% lean, organic, grass-fed beef from Whole Foods)
  • 2 cups walnut pieces, very finely chopped/ground and soaked overnight (rinse several times before using)
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 apple, cored and finely diced (we used a Minnesota Honeycrisp)
  • Several springs of fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, and marjoram (poultry mix), finely chopped
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Chop all the veggies, the apple, and herbs.
  • Saute the beef and celery for 3-4 minutes on medium heat, making sure that the beef gets broken up into really small pieces as it cooks.  (Big chunks are not very stuffing-like!)  We used a big saucepan for this, as we didn’t want the contents to overflow once everything was mixed.
  • Add the onion and apple, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the herbs, garlic powder, walnuts, and salt, and mix thoroughly. The beef should NOT be totally cooked at this point – there should still be some pink.
  • Pull everything out of the pan, and dump it into a 9×13 baking pan (or two 6×9 pans), and bake uncovered at 375 for 30 minutes.  Serve hot from the oven.
We couldn't believe how much this looked - and smelled - like real stuffing!

Steal This Meal: Whole9 Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce

Serves 8-10.  While we normally don’t recommend using fruit juice or dried fruit as a substitute for sugar, some added sweetness was necessary to offset the serious tartness of the fresh cranberries.  We’re okay with figs and apple juice as a sub for sugar in a special occasion dish like this.  However, make sure your guests know that our more traditional sauce is still pretty tart in flavor!  The flavors do meld with time, and this sauce tastes even better the second day – which means you can make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge.  This was so amazingly good, we put it on everything this week – eggs, baked Alaskan cod, even our burgers.


  • 2 – 12 oz bags of fresh (not frozen) cranberries
  • 1 cup of 100% pure apple juice (no added sugars)
  • 1 large navel orange, washed
  • 10 dried black mission figs, very finely chopped (make sure you cut the stems off)
  • A dash or two of each: nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves


  • Place the cranberries, apple juice, figs, spices, and ½ cup of water into a covered saucepan on medium heat.
  • Bring the mixture to a low boil for 10 minutes (until the cranberries “pop”), and turn down to low heat. Simmer (still covered) for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Squeeze the juice from the orange into the sauce, and finely grate the orange zest (use the whole orange peel!) into the saucepan.
  • Keep on low heat (simmer) for another 15 minutes. Store in airtight container in fridge until ready to use.  Serve cold for the best flavor.
Delicious and pretty on your plate, our cranberry sauce is sure to be a hit!

Stay tuned for STM – Thanksgiving Part II next Friday, as we feature our best reader-submitted Thanksgiving day dishes.  And as always, if you’d like to contribute your best Whole30 approved dish, send your Steal This Meal entry (along with photos and YOUR Whole30-inspired story!) to [email protected].  (Want to see our other selections?  Just  select “Recipes” from the category list on our sidebar.)