A Gluten-Free and Vegan Holiday Season

Ah, the holidays.

There is nothing like the sound of laughter in the kitchen, the smell of carefully prepared family delicacies and the creation of new memories to tuck into that special place of the heart. However, for many of us, the dinner table is an obstacle due to our dietary restrictions.

The UH Sustainability team has compiled (and tested!) a list of recipes to accompany any meal this holiday season. These truly scrumptious recipes are all gluten-free, dairy-free and meat-free as well. Even better, these recipes all have my personal stamp of approval, so you can rest assured that they will be safe AND delectable for everyone (which is what really matters). We each brought dishes from a variety of backgrounds ranging from baked cinnamon apples and cornbread to curried sweet potatoes, baked brussel sprouts and lentils. To see the full list of recipes, visit our Pinterest board. Here are a few of our favorites:


Vegan Chili Cheese Dip (adapted from delishknowledge.com)

by Clancy Nelson

This sounds like an ambitious replacement for traditional nachos, but it will not disappoint.


Preparation and cook time: 25 minutes


  • 1½ cups cashews, soaked for at least an 1 hour, drained
  • 1 orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 2 tbsp. taco seasoning
  • 2 15 oz. cans, black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 12 oz. fresh salsa
  • Optional garnishes: cilantro, sliced green onions.


  1. Drain and rinse the soaked cashews.
  2. Place the cashews, orange bell pepper, milk, chili powder, and nutritional yeast in a high-powered blender. Puree until thick and creamy, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. In a large saucepan, add the minced onion, taco seasoning, black beans and fresh salsa over medium heat. Stir constantly until heated through, about 7-8 minutes.
  4. Add in the cheese sauce and stir to combine.
  5. Season to taste with salt/pepper if needed.
  6. Garnish as desired and serve.


Salvadoran Empanadas

by Margarita Reza

This is the most time-intensive recipe on our list, but it is certainly worth it. To appease both veggie and bean lovers, we have provided two options for the filling of this Central American delight.


Preparation and cook Time: 2 hours

Makes 35 empanadas

Preparing the dough:


  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 3 slices of white onion
  • 2 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 2 tsp of powdered tomato bouillon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ bag of Maseca corn flour (4.4 lb. bag)
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Blend the tomatoes, tomato bouillon, garlic clove, salt, white onions, tomato paste and water in a blender.
  2. Pour mixture into bowl. Add ½ bag of flour.
  3. Knead the dough until it has a thick consistency.

Veggie filling:


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp crushed garlic
  • ⅓ cup onion
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp powdered tomato bouillon
  • ½ cup of water
  • 7 potatoes
  • 5 carrots
  • 7 tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper
  1. Heat vegetable oil at med-high in a pan with crushed garlic and onion.
  2. Add tomato paste, salt, tomato bouillon and water. Set to boil.
  3. While waiting for mixture to boil, peel and chop potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, bell pepper and crushed garlic.
  4. Once pan mixture is boiling, add potatoes and leave for two minutes, followed by carrots for another two minutes, and finally the bell peppers and crushed garlic. Cover pan with lid.
  5. Once vegetable mixture is tender, drain remaining water if necessary.

Bean filling:


  • Canned red beans
  1. Heat beans and begin preparing empanadas as follows below.

Preparing the empanadas:

  1. Roll dough balls that are about 1 ½  inches in diameter.
  2. Use a flattening device such as a rolling pin to spread dough ball evenly.
  3. Apply filling along the middle of flattened dough ball.
  4. Fold the flat, circular dough over the filling as if folding a tortilla in half.
  5. To seal it, you can pinch the two halves together with a fork all along the edges.  Set aside ready-to-fry empanadas.
  6. Pour 6 tbsp of vegetable oil into pan and turn heat to high. As soon as you see the oil begin to have ripples, immediately place empanadas in oil. Turn empanadas with spatula until golden brown and crispy.
  7. Place paper towel at bottom of a bowl. Once fried, position the finished empanadas in a vertical position “standing up” in a bowl to drain excess oil.
  8. Once drained, empanadas are ready to serve. Enjoy!


Black Bean Brownies (adapted from chocolatecoveredkatie.com)

by Joanne Ma

Adding black beans to brownies may seem bizarre at first, but these insanely delicious chocolate brownies will definitely surprise you.


Preparation and cook time: 25 minutes


  • 1 ½ cups black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well) (250g after draining)
  • ½ cup gluten-free ground oats (40g)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ to ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (40g)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips (115-140g) (Not optional. Omit at your own risk.)
  • Optional: more chips, for presentation
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and blend until completely smooth. (A blender can work if you absolutely must, but the texture—and even the taste—will be much better in a food processor.)
  2. Stir in the chocolate chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top.
  3. Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. If they still look a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up!

No matter what your holiday menu typically consists of, we invite you to try something new this year. We here at the Office of Sustainability hope everyone has a filling holiday season. Bon appetite!

-Gabriela Contreras


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