5 countries that make going gluten-free easy
Traveling the world with certain dietary needs is easier than it sounds.
Being gluten-free has gotten easier over the years. And traveling abroad is no exception.
Even when there is a language barrier involved, you can still make it work. Allergy cards are a great way to communicate with servers, chefs and hotel staff in countries all around the world. With a card in every language explaining your dietary limitations, all you have to do is give it to your server or chef. You can print your own set of gluten-free (GF) translation cards at this celiac travel website. Even airlines have started providing GF meals to passengers who request them. So the next time you’re ready to pack your bags and go on an international adventure, here are five of our favorite locales for gorgeous, gluten-free getaways.
Because risotto is a rice dish, it can easily be prepared completely gluten-free. (Photo: Matthias Rhomberg/Flickr)
Perhaps the last country you’d expect to see on this list is the motherland of bread and pasta – Italy. Its celiac association, the Associazione Italiana Celiachia, was one of the first of its kind, founded more than 35 years ago in 1979. In fact, many of the world’s experts on celiac disease are Italian. So it's no surprise, then, that gluten-free food is so readily available there.
Dining out in Italy with a gluten-free diet is relatively easy, as most restaurants provide options for GF guests. Whether it’s gluten-free pasta, risotto or polenta, Italian restaurants are usually both accommodating and knowledgeable about their gluten-free fare.
When in Rome, try Le Sorelle, a friendly spot best known for its monkfish in saffron sauce, served with tender pumpkin in autumn months. Also stop by La Soffita Renovatio for some great GF pizza. For good grub in Florence, stop by Ciro & Sons for GF pasta in fresh pesto sauce. And if you’ll be traveling near Milan, La Cantina Piemontese has got you covered with osso buco with risotto or chicken milanese, both delicious and certified GF options. Italy is home to so many great GF spots, and we can’t include them all. Be sure to use the Primal Plate’s guide for more great gluten-free restaurants in the country.
Gluten-free travelers will find a wide array of GF options in Israel, including traditional foods like Israeli salad, hummus and stuffed vine leaves. Falafel is perhaps the most popular Israeli dish and can be found gluten-free as long as the crispy chickpea balls are fried in a gluten-free fryer.
Tel Aviv, the coastal metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea, is home to several restaurants that provide GF choices. Some of our top picks from Tel Aviv include The Dining Hall, which the folks at Gluten Free Noms highly recommend for both quality and service, calling it “impeccable … casual and lively.” Both the charred eggplant and calamari are stand-out options for GF diners. Another Tel Aviv pick is Hippo Falafel, a healthy, organic fast-food spot with gluten-free versions of falafel, pita and sabich. And don’t miss out on GreenLite, an Israeli bakery with GF fresh and frozen products available all over Israel. A few of our other top restaurants and shops in Tel Aviv include Cafe Marco, Mezze and Tandoori.
If you’ll be in Israel’s other urban center, Jerusalem, be sure to check out Machneyuda, whose Mediterranean fare is sourced locally and features GF options like parmesan polenta with mushrooms and watermelon soup with fresh fish tartare. Whether you’re visiting the Dead Sea or traversing the gorgeous Mediterranean coast, gluten-free foods are plentiful in Israel.
Costa Rica is not only one of the most beautiful places in the world, it’s also full of GF accommodations. Traditional Costa Rican cuisine is largely gluten-free, as it mainly consists of rice, plantains, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, and corn.
But if you’re looking for gourmet gluten-free meals, look no further than Arenas del Mar, a 38-room hotel and resort nestled between forests and beaches on the south Pacific coast. With two weeks dedicated to 100 percent gluten-free eating each year, Arenas del Mar stands a cut above the rest. Erin Smith of Gluten Free Globetrotter recommends the watermelon gazpacho and the Costa Rican casado, although the resort provides many options for GF travelers, including tacos with house-made corn tortillas, pancakes, spring rolls and house-made gluten-free bread.
Arenas del Mar isn’t the only stop for GF eating in Costa Rica. In San Jose, try Park Cafe, a restaurant and antique shop run by executive chef Richard Neat. Neat recommends that gluten-free guests try the tuna filet, which is prepared with aubergine purée and asparagus. Northwest of the city, hidden outside of San Lorenzo, lies a restaurant and resort called Lands in Love that offers gluten-free options in all of its many styles of cuisine, including Israeli, Italian, Thai and traditional Costa Rican. But no matter where you go in Costa Rica, gluten-free choices are available, whether in stunning resorts, urban restaurants or neighborhood markets.
Massaman curry is a gluten-free Thai dish that's sure to make your taste buds happy. (Photo: marikoiv/Flickr)
Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for travel in Asia. While much traditional Thai food is naturally gluten-free, travelers should beware of soy and other sauces that could contain gluten. Opt instead for dishes like massaman and green curry, which traditionally do not contain any gluten. White rice and rice noodle dishes like pad thai are safe to eat, as well as steamed vegetables and satay skewers.
Even Thai street food offers some gluten-free choices, like Som Tam, a papaya salad with shrimp, green beans, tomatoes and peanuts. Thom Kha soup is another tasty option made from coconut milk, lemongrass, mushrooms and meat. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll enjoy sticky rice with coconut cream or sweet Thai pancakes made from rice flour.
If you’re looking for a world-class meal in Bangkok, Gaggan is the place to go. Ranked the top restaurant in all of Asia for 2015, Gaggan offers special dietary menus for those with food allergies. Another top pick for GF dining in Bangkok is Eat Me, a restaurant showcasing international cuisine with fresh and often local ingredients. Gluten-free guests can enjoy Alaskan scallops with avocado and pancetta or heirloom tomato salad with basil and olive oil ice cream. The menu is ever-changing, so be sure to ask your server about GF options. Between the myriad street vendors, fresh markets and world-class restaurants, Thailand is the ultimate Asian destination for gluten-free travelers.
Vege Rama in Brisbane has a plethora of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. (Photo: sharontroy/Flickr)
Australia boasts plenty of gluten-free fare for those with celiac and gluten sensitivity. Whether you’ll be staying in Western Australia, Queensland or Victoria, there are options in cities all over the country. The Gluten Free Eating Directory is a comprehensive resource for GF travelers in Australia and is available online as well as through a free app.
Our top picks begin with Dare, a Sydney brunch spot and deli with a plethora of gluten-free options including egg dishes and kebabs. Our vote is for the coconut pancakes made with gluten-free flour. With three locations in Brisbane, Vege Rama is a vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free paradise, offering up ready-to-eat meals and a lot of GF choices, like curry dishes, frittatas and a black rice pudding for dessert.
Perth is home to a fantastic farm-to-table concept called City Farm Cafe, which sources all of its ingredients from Perth’s only urban farm. For lunch, we recommend the tuna potato cake and for brunch, the breakfast burger with house-made tomato relish on gluten-free bread. For the best dinner in Melbourne, try Taxi Kitchen, whose bar program alone makes it worth a visit – rhubarb-infused gin brambles, anyone? Be sure to tell your server about your dietary restrictions, but there are many different choices for GF guests, including the candied pork with coconut salad and chili dressing or the roasted King prawns with sweet corn risotto. Regardless of locale, you can enjoy all of the beauty of Australia with none of the stress of searching for gluten-free options.
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