Young and GF: Gluten-Free Parties

Attending parties (or concerts, bar crawls, or other social events of the young*) can be tricky when you are young and gluten-free. Usually, parties are much less formal and planned spontaneously or with little regard for the food intolerances of potential guests.

audience party

For a discussion about how to prepare for a formal event, like a wedding, please click here.

The following tips may help you feel a little less awkward at parties:

party balloons

Learn to Cook and Bake

It is sometimes easier to host a gluten-free party than attend one. If you enjoy socializing with friends on a regular basis, use the opportunity to cook and bake for them. You can always ask guests to bring wine or decorations if you want to minimize risks of gluten contamination.

Be prepared to bake your own birthday cake and/or desserts, especially if you have multiple food sensitivities. Self-sufficiency is a virtue.


If you are bringing a dish to a party, always bring a main entrée or hearty side dish so you know you will have something filling to eat. It is also helpful to make a dish that is not easily contaminated  or has its own dippers.

Always serve yourself first and/or set some aside so that you have something to eat if it does get contaminated. If you want to avoid the “gluten conversation,” avoid bringing gluten-free treats or other foods that need to be kept separate, labeled, or announced as “gluten-free.” Stick to naturally gluten-free options like quinoa salad, guacamole and (gluten-free) tortilla chips, or chicken wings and (gluten-free) sauce.

Know Your (Gluten-Free) Stuff

It is critical to understand common sources of gluten contamination in order to prevent accidental glutenings at parties. Educate yourself about ingredients, hidden sources of gluten, and safe alcoholic beverages. Avoid mixed drinks or mix them yourself. Additionally, get to know local gluten-free bakeries and restaurant options (if available) so that you can suggest safe dining options for spontaneous nights out.


Be Respectful

Oftentimes, friends and family members want to prepare safe dishes for their gluten-free loved ones. Understanding the subtleties of gluten-free food preparation can be difficult even for someone living gluten-free, so it is up to your discretion to decide whether or not you are comfortable eating food prepared on your behalf. If you’re unsure, you can always “save it for later” and take the item home.

It is important to be gracious and respectful of people who have gone out of their way to include you in the event. If a loved one is interested in learning how to safely prepare gluten-free food, it may be helpful to review best practices with him or her. Show your loved one how you prepare gluten-free food or offer for them to use your kitchen.

cooking lesson

*I can’t claim to be young anymore, but I’m fortunate to have sisters who are young and gluten-free—a big thank you to them for helping me compile information for this series.

What’s your favorite dish to bring to gluten-free parties?