Gluten Free Diets: A Guide to International Cuisine
If you’re living with celiac disease or another condition that requires you to eat gluten free (or if you are gluten free by choice!), it is especially important to be careful when traveling abroad. Different countries have different laws as it pertains to food labeling and food safety.
If you’re eating out at a restaurant no matter where you are, the best rule of thumb is to always ask if you have questions or if you are unsure whether their food contains gluten or is cooked alongside products containing gluten.
However, we know that it’s better to be prepared. So here is a helpful guide for all things gluten-free when it comes to international food.
International Gluten Free Food Guide
Is Chinese Food Gluten Free?
Chinese cuisine, with its diverse range of flavors and ingredients, offers plenty of options for those seeking gluten-free alternatives! Many traditional Chinese dishes are naturally gluten-free, while others can be modified or prepared using gluten-free substitutes.
Gluten Free Chinese Food Options
One popular gluten-free option in Chinese cuisine is rice-based dishes. Rice serves as a staple in Chinese cooking, and gluten-free consumers can enjoy fried rice, steamed rice, and rice noodles. These dishes can be paired with gluten-free protein options like chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu, along with a colorful assortment of vegetables and aromatic spices.
Another gluten-free gem in Chinese cuisine is stir-fried vegetables. Chinese stir-fry dishes often incorporate a vibrant medley of vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy, bell peppers, carrots, and mushrooms. These dishes are typically cooked with gluten-free sauces, such as soy sauce made from gluten-free tamari or other alternative sauces that are free from wheat. The result is a flavorful and nutritious dish that caters to gluten-free diners.
Is Mexican Food Gluten Free?
The vast majority of Mexican foods are naturally gluten-free. Mexican cuisine, known for its vibrant spices and fresh ingredients, includes several gluten-free options and even those that contain gluten can be easily adapted to accommodate a gluten-free diet.
Gluten Free Mexican Food Options
Corn is a staple ingredient in Mexican cooking and serves as the basis for many gluten-free dishes. Traditional corn-based dishes like tacos, tamales, and enchiladas can be enjoyed by individuals avoiding gluten. Corn tortillas, made from masa harina (corn flour), are a gluten-free alternative to wheat tortillas. They can be filled with various proteins like grilled chicken, beef, shrimp, or vegetarian options like beans and roasted vegetables.
Salsas and guacamole are essential elements of Mexican cuisine and are typically gluten-free as well. These flavorful condiments are made from fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, cilantro, avocado, and lime juice. They can be paired with gluten-free tortilla chips or used as toppings for gluten-free tacos and other dishes. It's important to check the ingredients or ask about any potential gluten-containing additives in store-bought salsas or sauces.
Is Indian Food Gluten Free?
Most Indian food is naturally gluten-free. While you might not be able to eat naan, roti, or other bread-based Indian food staples (although you may find gluten-free options for those too), most Indian food is based on fresh vegetables, meats, and spices, making it fairly easy to find gluten-free options to enjoy.
Gluten Free Indian Food Options
One staple in Indian cuisine that is gluten-free is rice. Rice is a common accompaniment to many Indian dishes, and gluten-free individuals can indulge in aromatic basmati rice as a base for flavorful curries, biryanis, and pilafs. These dishes can be prepared with a variety of gluten-free ingredients such as vegetables, lentils, meats, and spices.
Another gluten-free staple in Indian cuisine is dal, which refers to various lentil-based dishes. Dal is a rich source of plant-based protein and can be cooked with a combination of lentils, spices, and herbs. These hearty and nutritious dishes can be enjoyed with gluten-free rice or gluten-free flatbreads like roti made from alternative flours such as chickpea flour or millet flour.
Indian cuisine also offers a wide array of gluten-free snacks and street food options. For instance, gluten-free dosas are thin, crispy crepes made from fermented rice and lentil batter. They can be filled with a variety of fillings like spiced potatoes or paneer cheese, and are typically served with chutneys made from coconut, mint, or tamarind. Other gluten-free snacks include pakoras (vegetable fritters) made with chickpea flour, and bhel puri, a delightful mixture of puffed rice, vegetables, and tangy sauces.
Is Thai Food Gluten Free?
Most popular Thai food dishes are naturally gluten-free. While there are many popular noodle dishes that may contain gluten, in most cases you should be able to swap out wheat noodles for rice noodles as a gluten-free alternative.
Gluten Free Thai Food Options
Rice is a staple in Thai cuisine and serves as the foundation for many gluten-free Thai dishes. Fragrant jasmine rice is commonly served alongside curries, stir-fries, and noodle dishes. Pad Thai, a popular Thai street food, can be made gluten-free by using rice noodles instead of wheat noodles. These noodles are typically stir-fried with ingredients like shrimp, tofu, bean sprouts, and crushed peanuts.
Thai curries are another gluten-free option. Traditional Thai curries such as green curry, red curry, and massaman curry are typically made with a base of coconut milk and a fragrant blend of herbs and spices. These curries can be enjoyed with gluten-free rice or paired with gluten-free protein options like chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu.
Thai salads, such as som tam (green papaya salad) and yum nuea (spicy beef salad), are also gluten-free options. These salads contain fresh ingredients like herbs, vegetables, lime juice, and fish sauce. It's important to ensure that any dressings or sauces used in these salads are gluten-free, as some may contain soy sauce or other gluten-containing ingredients.
Is Vietnamese Food Gluten Free?
The majority of Vietnamese food is gluten free, as Vietnamese dishes are mainly based on vegetables, rice, broths, meats, and spices. Banh Mi, a popular Vietnamese sandwich, can be made gluten-free if made using gluten-free bread. Other noodle-based dishes may be gluten-free depending on whether or not they use wheat noodles or rice noodles.
Gluten Free Vietnamese Food Options
Rice is a fundamental component of Vietnamese cuisine and serves as the base for many dishes. Traditional Vietnamese dishes like pho, a fragrant noodle soup, can be made gluten-free by using rice noodles instead of wheat-based noodles. Pho typically features a flavorful broth infused with spices, herbs, and tender meat or tofu, creating a comforting and satisfying meal.
Rice paper rolls, known as goi cuon or spring rolls, are another popular gluten-free option in Vietnamese cuisine. These fresh and healthy rolls are made by wrapping rice paper sheets around a combination of fresh vegetables, herbs, cooked shrimp, or grilled meats. They are often served with gluten-free dipping sauces such as nuoc cham, which is a tangy and savory sauce made from fish sauce, lime juice, and other aromatic ingredients.
Vietnamese salads, such as goi, are typically gluten-free. These salads feature a refreshing combination of ingredients like shredded vegetables, herbs, and often protein like grilled chicken or beef. The dressings for Vietnamese salads are usually made with gluten-free ingredients such as lime juice, fish sauce, or rice vinegar.
Is Ethiopian Food Gluten Free?
Almost all traditional Ethiopian dishes are gluten-free and can be enjoyed without any modifications.
Ethiopian Gluten Free Food Options
Injera, a staple in Ethiopian cuisine, is a spongy and slightly sour flatbread made from fermented teff flour. Teff is a gluten-free grain native to Ethiopia and is packed with nutrients. Injera serves as both a utensil and a base for various dishes. It is used to scoop up flavorful stews, vegetables, and legume-based dishes called wats. The injera acts as a gluten-free alternative to bread and adds a unique and delicious element to Ethiopian meals.
Ethiopian wats (stews) are often made with a combination of vegetables, lentils, and meats cooked in a flavorful blend of spices. These stews are typically gluten-free. Dishes like Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew), Misir Wat (spicy lentil stew), and Atakilt Wat (spiced cabbage, carrots, and potatoes) are other gluten-free options.
Ethiopian cuisine also offers a variety of vegetable-based dishes that are naturally gluten-free. Gomen (collard greens), Tikil Gomen (spiced cabbage), and Shiro (ground chickpea or lentil stew) are popular examples.
Is Mediterranean Food Gluten Free?
Mediterranean food contains more instances of gluten than most of the other international dishes discussed here. That said, there are plenty of gluten free mediterranean food options for those visiting the area or who want to enjoy the cuisine.
Mediterranean Gluten Free Food Options
Salads such as Greek salad, tabbouleh, or fattoush are popular choices that incorporate vibrant vegetables, herbs, and zesty dressings. These refreshing salads are naturally gluten-free and can be enjoyed as appetizers or as part of a main meal.
Gluten-free grains play a significant role in Mediterranean cuisine. Quinoa, rice, and corn are commonly used alternatives to wheat-based products. For example, couscous, a traditional Mediterranean staple made from semolina, can be substituted with gluten-free options like quinoa or rice couscous. Additionally, gluten-free flatbreads such as socca (made from chickpea flour) or pita bread made from alternative flours can be enjoyed with a variety of Mediterranean dips like hummus or baba ganoush.
Seafood, a key component of Mediterranean cuisine, is naturally gluten-free. Grilled or baked fish such as salmon, sea bass, or sardines are common choices, often seasoned with aromatic herbs, olive oil, and lemon juice. Paired with fresh vegetables and gluten-free grains, seafood dishes offer a healthy and delectable gluten-free option.
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