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Paleo Thanksgiving: 3 tips for a caveman-approved holiday meal (with recipe!)

Sure, the traditional feast includes turkey legs. But stuffing and pumpkin pie are hardly Paleo. Here's how to change that.


At first glance, Thanksgiving dinner may seem like a perfect fit for a Paleo eater, what with the turkey legs and all. But making a caveman- or woman-approved holiday meal may be trickier than you think.

“I call it the gut-busting meal of the year,” says private chef Jesa Henneberry. “Where I grew up, everything was processed, out of a box, or covered in sugar, there were bouillon cubes with hidden gluten…and marshmallows.” Not to mention the stuffing and the bread basket.

Henneberry, a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, helped New Yorkers leave that approach behind in favor of creating a whole foods, grain-free, paleolithic dream feast, at a recent Paleo holiday cooking class at The Works Personal Training Studio in Chelsea. (There will be more scheduled soon!)

So what does she advise? It’s all about keeping it simple, she says. “Turkey is a solid lean protein choice, so make a simple pan gravy with the drippings and some coconut flour,” she offers. We asked her to share a few more tips (and a recipe!) for an unforgettable Paleo Thanksgiving meal.

sweet potato pie
Henneberry’s Sweet Potato Pie Truffles.

1. Skip dishes that come with sneaky dairy. Butter and cream are often hiding in places you wouldn’t expect—like the green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. “Potato dishes often have heavy cream and butter in them, and that would not be Paleo and is also going to spike your blood sugar like crazy,” Henneberry says.  She suggests making something like a mashed cauliflower instead. Swap the creamy green bean casserole for a pan-charred green bean dish.

2. Make salad festive. Greens are an essential part of a healthy Paleo meal, and you’ll need them to balance out all of the protein and roasted root veggies. But you can’t expect people to get excited about a salad that looks a lot like the one they eat daily for lunch. “Try making a festive salad that incorporates all the flavors of the table in the dish,” she suggests. “A kale salad with caramelized butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, cranberries, radicchio, and celery with a pomegranate vinaigrette, and then put an avocado on it for some extra good fat.”

3. Go crustless. Just because you’re Paleo doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy desserts, even if they’re normally gluten-heavy. Henneberry suggests making crustless versions of classic recipes, like sweet potato pie truffles or pumpkin pie mousse. Thankfully, we got her recipe for the latter, below, which not only leaves out crust, but also ditches dairy and includes healthy fats like coconut milk and oil. —Lisa Elaine Held

Pumpkin Pie Mousse with Toasted Coconut Sprinkle

Plan to make this the night before, as the mousse needs time in the fridge to set. The sprinkle in this recipe is Dukkah, a Middle Eastern condiment that’s traditionally made using nuts, seeds and spices, is often savory. Henneberry puts a sweet spin on it here. This recipe makes extra Dukkah, which can be stored in an airtight jar for several weeks.

Serves 6-8, Serving size: 1/3 cup of mouse topped with 1 tablespoon of Dukkah sprinkle


1 14-oz can of organic pumpkin puree
⅓ cup full fat coconut milk
⅓ cup melted coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt

Sweet Dukkah

2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
¾ cups unsalted toasted mixed nuts
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp cacao nibs
2 tsp bee pollen granules
1 tsp orange peel granules
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt


1. Place all of the mousse ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender and whip until smooth.
2. Allow the mixture to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
3. In the meantime, toast the coconut flakes in a skillet on low heat. Allow to cool.
4. Blitz the nuts in a food processor to a medium to small chop. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine, then stir in the reserved coconut flakes.

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