Eating Gluten Free in France

The subject of dining out gluten free in France has been raised a couple of times recently, notably during the gluten free “tweetup” last week. Many people seem to have had a particularly poor time eating gluten free in France.

Yes it’s true, France sans gluten is a challenge but I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s certainly not Italy with its waiters and chefs who take Coeliac disease seriously and are normally fully aware of the condition and cross contamination issues. But with preparation it is possible to eat out safely in France. Previous posts on eating out gluten free France can be found here and here.

As a frequent traveller to France, I can offer a few tips which have helped me:

1. Take the Celiac Travel cards to explain to restaurants what your dietary restrictions are

2. Learn some French phrases to explain both your dietary needs and also the words for the naturally gluten free food items you’re likely to see in French restaurants. Lookout for these items on menus. If you don’t see them and you’re feeling bold, ask if they can be cooked for you. Useful food preparation words would be:

à la vapeur– steamed, au four – baked, à l’etouffée– stewed, en daube– stew, casserole, grillé – grilled

3. Be extra polite to waiters. I think anyone who’s ever been to Paris will have experienced at some point the particular breed of Parisian waiter who is super brusque. It’s just how it is, ensure you are very polite in communicating your requests and needs and ignore any surly attitude.

4. Most restaurants I’ve visited have been able to tell me either which menu items are naturally gluten free or those which can be adapted – just as you would do anywhere in the world.

5. Visit a crêperie for a savoury galette made with naturally gluten free buckwheat flour (farine de sarrasin or blè noir). You must check that 100% buckwheat flour is being used as sometimes there can be a mix of flours.

6. Desserts including crème brûlée and meringues are naturally gluten free (but always double check).

7. Be prepared to politely walk away before ordering if you’re not happy with your chosen restaurant, it’s your health after all

8. If you’re in Paris, please note the dedicated gluten free restaurant “Des Si et Des Mets” in Montmartre has closed according to their website. I wouldn’t normally point out where not to go, but this restaurant is referenced in many places online as the only gluten free restaurant in Paris and I wouldn’t want you to make a wasted trip out there. Hopefully it will reopen again soon.

9. Instead, Paris now has its own gluten free patisserie, Helmut Newcake which is located in the 1oth arondissement near the quirky boutiques of the Canal St Martin area. Surely a must for anyone visiting the City of Light.

10. Check out this French dining out website here, which has lists of gluten free restaurants in various French cities and reviews on them. It’s in French but you could use Google translate.

11. The website for “Association Francaise des Intolerants au Gluten” (French association of the gluten intolerant) for information on gluten free France

A couple of French food photos from our recent trip to Burgundy:

Buckwheat galette containing Mediterranean vegetables and goat’s cheese, Vezelay. Utterly delicious.

Duck adjusted to be served without the gravy it was meant to be served with, Semur en Auxois

Roast chicken, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. This beautiful little village was the location for the film Chocolat. This was eaten in a ferme auberge where all the products were sourced locally. I’d actually just wanted an omelette but the locally produced eggs had run out!

Crème brûlée, Semur en Auxois. There were raspberries lurking under here.

Do you have any good gluten free tips for eating safely in France? Have you visited a restaurant which cooked particularly good gluten free food or offered exceptionally understanding service? Please do leave a comment and let me know.

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16 Comments

  1. Janey
    November 25, 2011 / 6:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing these tips on gluten free France. We’re visiting next summer so have bookmarked your post.

    • November 29, 2011 / 8:40 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Whereabouts in France are you visiting?

  2. November 27, 2011 / 10:16 am

    What a wonderfully informative post for when I travel to France next time.
    Thank you. (And I find number 3 so difficult)

    • November 29, 2011 / 8:36 pm

      Thank you. I agree number 3 is tough but it seems to get results!

  3. Adina @ Gluten Free Travelette
    January 12, 2012 / 10:29 pm

    Hi There! So happy to have found your blog and all the wonderful gluten free traveling recommendations for France. I’ll be headed to Burgundy for a wedding in September and then off to Spain for a week or two. Any recommendations for gluten free in Spain?

  4. Sylvain
    October 10, 2012 / 11:24 am

    “6. Desserts including crème brûlée and meringues are naturally gluten free”
    Please note that meringues is gluten free only IF done with a traditionnal receipe, almost all meringues in French supermarkets are NOT gluten free, I know it because I was looking to a simple way to do a nice birthday cake in France this summer and an Italian semi-freddo would have done the trick if… if I had been able to find some gluten free meringues… I was not 🙁

    • October 13, 2012 / 6:05 pm

      That’s interesting. I’ve only ever seen gluten free meringues in shops but it’s a very good point that one should always check ingredient labels carefully to be sure.

  5. Sylvie
    November 1, 2013 / 10:44 am

    Hi. I’m a french woman and I just discovered my son ( Who is 15 ) has this coeliac illness. Indeed, it´s difficult to eat gluten free in France, but more easier when you speak french, I understand.. He must go to London with his school during one week and I worry about. Is it really easier to eat gluten free in London ? Have you some advices ?
    Tank you for answering
    Sylvie

  6. Sylvie
    November 30, 2013 / 8:34 pm

    Thank you for your answer and all the adress . We learn more and more about coeliac disorder and all the family is now gluten free. So I discovered I feel much better and I am no more exhausted when I wake up, and I am wondering if I am also gluten intolérant . My students said I was better mooded… Our doctor said me he doesn ´ t know this disease , so we have to do by ourselves, it´s a bit difficult. Thanks to internet..
    The school of our son is now looking for a ” gluten free” family which could welcome our son Alexandre during his trip to London. Hope they find one.
    Again thank you ( and sorry for the english mistakes..)
    Best regards
    Sylvie

    • December 1, 2013 / 2:05 pm

      Hi Sylvie, As Coeliac disease is a genetic disorder which can run in families I would strongly recommend that you / your family is also tested for coeliac disease. However in order for the test to be accurate, you must be eating gluten. I know it’s hard to do this when you’ve excluded it from your diet and feel so much better.

      I can very highly recommend the website of Coeliac UK who are a charity supporting those with coeliac disease and gluten intolerance in the UK. https://www.coeliac.org.uk/home/

      They have a huge amount of information on their website from what you can safely eat, to places to eat out and even country guides for when you travel.

      I hope that your son finds a family who are able to support his diet on his trip to London. It may be worth providing the link of Coeliac UK to the host family so they can read up on Coeliac disease.

      Finally, I can recommend the following book written by a health journalist specialising in digestive disorders:
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Coeliac-Disease-What-Need-Know/dp/1847091318

      I don’t know if this book has been translated into French? Could be useful to provide to your Doctor!

  7. Sylvain
    December 1, 2013 / 11:51 am

    Hello Sylvie,

    I am a French leaving in Italy where the coeliac disease is well known… be carefull about what you may read on internet, above all on blogs and so on, a lot of things of this kind are “medically wrong” !!!

    Fo all those who want to travel in Italy, there is the AIC website, there is a subsection for hotel and restaurants, thousands are listed in the Progetto alimentazione fuori, just type it on google…

    Sylvie, if you wanna know (in French) what is the state of the art of the Italian medical knowledge on this disease, do not hesitate to write to me : sylvriv@msn.com

    • December 1, 2013 / 2:06 pm

      Sylvain – thank you for your comment too. You are right there is a lot of information out on the internet on blogs etc which may not be medically correct and it’s important to understand the background of the source of the information. I travel to Italy a lot and I think the AIC website is fantastic. I love being able to find safe gelato from their lists!

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