Paleo Stuffing Alternatives, Gluten/Grain/Dairy/Egg Free, with Vegan Option

stuffing2Have you ever left a restaurant, wishing you had the recipe for something, so you could make it over and over again? It happens to me every time we eat at the Union Square Cafe in New York City.

The first time we ate there, my husband and son ordered fried calamari, but my daughter and I couldn’t eat it. What a pleasant surprise it was when the chef made us a breading/gluten free, sauteed alternative.  It was so delicious, yet simply prepared, and yet, we can’t quite make it the same way at home.

The second time we ate there, I swapped out a gluten containing side dish for a root vegetable based one that came with a different entree. I had it with lamb, and it was sooooo delicious that I’ve had it on my mind to try to replicate it ever since.

Well, months have gone by, and I haven’t been able to come up with as tasty a recipe, until now. The truth is, all this time, I’ve been a little intimidated by root vegetables! I didn’t really grow up eating them, other than your basic carrots, onions, and garlic. Turnips? Yes, I’ve had those, but no one else in my family likes them as a stand alone side dish. Parsnips? Rutabagas? Totally foreign to me, until their flavors came together so beautifully that night at the Union Square Cafe.  Somehow there, the chefs are able to take simple, yet unusual ingredients, and transform them into subtly complex bites of deliciousness. It’s enough to leave you wondering, how did they create that?

Yes, it’s pricey, but as a fellow food sensitive eater, how many times have you been able to go into a restaurant and know that the staff was way ahead of you in keeping you safe from accidental exposure? Who wants to serve you food that’s not only free of what you can’t eat,  but full of flavors and textures that you’ve never quite tasted in exactly the same way before?

We don’t eat out very often, but when we do, we seek out the extraordinary.  And that’s what we get at Union Square Cafe. Now, on with the recipe, which is about as close to high end restaurant quality as this amateur home cook will ever get.

I’ve come across a variety of root veggie based recipes, since I took an interest in the Paleo lifestyle. None of them has ever really peaked my interest, though, so most of those recipes just sit waiting to be made. Maybe it’s because of my experience at the restaurant. I just didn’t want to make something and be disappointed.

This Thanksgiving, I really wanted to make some kind of Paleo stuffing, so I wouldn’t miss the traditional kind so much. I knew I wanted it to contain two of the main root veggies that I knew were in the side dish I’d had at the restaurant: parsnips and rutabagas. I couldn’t find one,  other than a simple roasted veggie recipe. So I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to make roasted root veggies as a side dish, and add my favorite grass fed beef sausage to make an alternative to stuffing as well?  And since I recently discovered how much flavor bacon adds to all kinds of roasted veggies, I wondered how I might incorporate that as well.

What I ended up with was one recipe that could be made three ways. One is a vegan recipe, without any meat or animal fat. Another is the gluten free, Paleo stuffing alternative, with sausage added. And last but certainly not least, a sweet and salty Paleo side dish with bacon crumbled on top (instead of sausage).  How perfect for a holiday like Thanksgiving, when there are so many eating preferences and restrictions!

Please note that stumbling upon Wellness Mama’s  Savory Grain-Free Stuffing recipe, was the final bit of inspiration I needed to create a 3-in-1 root veggie recipe that will remind me of that special meal at the Union Square Cafe for years to come.  I love the combo of herbs and spices that she uses, and a huge shout out goes to Katie for sharing her  delicious recipe.  Here’s mine:

Paleo Root Vegetable Side Dish or Stuffing Alternative, Grain/Gluten/Egg Free!

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: 6 to 8 servings (side dish size)

Gluten/Grain/Egg Free Root Vegetable Side Dish or Holiday Stuffing alternatives, full of color and flavor, nutrients, and healthy fat. Can be made with meat/animal fat or without, to accommodate the needs of both vegan and Paleo eaters.

Recipe © 2013 Transformed By Food


  • 2 small turnips (about 1 lb in total)
  • 2 small rutabagas (about 1 lb in total)
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 small parsnips
  • 2 medium red onions (or 3 to 5 shallots)
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 c plus 4T beef tallow or coconut oil (use bacon or sausage drippings, if possible)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sage powder
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary (dried, add more if fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme (dried, add more if fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp Celtic Sea Salt (to taste)
  • 1 lb brussel sprouts (optional)
  • 1 lb of grass fed beef (or pastured pork) bacon OR sausage (I used Kielbasa) and drippings (optional)


    Step 1 (if using meat):
  1. Place 2 T of coconut oil in large frying pan.
  2. If using bacon, fry up until crispy (can be made a day ahead), saving bacon grease to roast veggies in.
  3. If using sausage, remove casing and use your hands or a knife to crumble small pieces to place in pan. Saute until cooked through. Remove from pan and cover to keep warm, but save drippings to roast vegetables in, and pan to saute onions and celery in.
  4. Step 2: Roasted Vegetables, with or without meat
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Place bacon/sausage fat, beef tallow, and/or coconut oil in 13 x 9 baking pan (I use Pyrex). If not already melted, place in oven for about 5 minutes.
  7. Rinse, peel, and chop turnips, rutabagas, sweet potato, carrot, and parsnips into 1/2 inch cubes (thinner for carrots, like coins). Make sure you cut off any green flesh under peel of rutabaga.
  8. Clean and cut brussel sprouts in half (if using).
  9. In small bowl, combine herbs, spices, salt and pepper.
  10. Place root veggies and brussel sprouts in baking pan, tossing to coat with fat. Add herbs and spices and mix to coat evenly.
  11. Put pan in oven for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. While you are waiting, go on to Step 3.
  12. Step 3: Saute the onions (or shallots), celery, and fresh garlic
  13. Peel and chop the onions and garlic. Set aside, while cleaning and cutting the celery.
  14. Using the same frying pan you used to cook the bacon or sausage, add 1 or 2 T of coconut oil, along with onions. Once they are soft, add celery and saute for another 3 minutes, until it softens slightly.. Finally, add fresh garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
  15. Step 4: Put it all together!
  16. Once the vegetables have roasted for about 45 minutes or so, add the onions, garlic, celery, and sausage to the baking pan. Combine evenly, and put back in oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until all vegetables are soft and slightly browned. If you can put a fork through them, they are done.
  17. Please note that if you are using bacon and want to keep it crispy, you might prefer not to bake it along with the vegetables. Instead, you can mix it in, or add it on as a topping, each time you serve it.

Food for thought:

As always, please use organic ingredients, and grass fed/pastured meats whenever possible.

Feel free to modify your choice of root vegetables. If you prefer a sweeter taste, add more sweet potatoes and some beets.

Cremini or shitake mushrooms would work well with sausage too, when sauteed with the onions, celery, and garlic.

Recipe can be doubled or tripled for large gatherings.

When I first made the sausage stuffing, I wasn’t going to call it stuffing at all. It just wasn’t combining the way a traditional stuffing would. It wasn’t until I reheated it for breakfast the next day (which filled me up for hours), that the vegetables softened as much as they needed to, and the flavors really came together quite beautifully.  So, I am planning on making this dish a day ahead of serving it (and chopping the vegetables a lot smaller too), which really takes a load off my plate for Thanksgiving day. I love recipes that can be made ahead of time, don’t you?

Of course, stuffing season usually only comes once or twice a year, but I’ll be sure to also make it without the meat/animal fat more often, and with bacon occasionally. If your family members don’t like roasted vegetables yet, try adding bacon! It makes everything taste good.

I love Thanksgiving. Food brings families and friends together in ways that other types of holiday gifts do not.  With everyone so busy these days, and rarely able to sit down to a complete meal together, it really is an especially meaningful holiday, don’t you think?

I’m thankful that there are still chefs, farmers, and even manufacturers who still care about the quality of the food they provide.  Once you seek them out and find them, life in the kitchen is never quite the same. Your whole relationship with food starts to shift. You suddenly want to eat your way toward not only better health, but a more extraordinary life. One bite at a time.

Does the food you’re eating fuel your best, most authentic self? If you could design your own life through food, like a professional chef, what would your plate look like?

Please note that this post has been shared with the Natural Living MondaySlightly Indulgent Tuesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Party Wave WednesdayGluten Free Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, and Allergy Free Wednesday blog carnivals.

About Dawn

As a Certified Health Coach, I provide motivated individuals with the resources, tools, support and encouragement they need to make the gradual changes in food and lifestyle that could completely transform their lives. Contact me.

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