So exactly how easy is it to eat gluten free in Turkey? Would every meal be accompanied with a side of couscous, bread or even flour coated frozen chips?
About a month before our trip to Turkey I’d been to a Middle Eastern restaurant in London. Although during that meal I had avoided the obvious gluten-containing elements of the meze (like bread and filled filo pastry parcels), foolishly I hadn’t checked the ingredients of the stuffed vine leaves (assuming it was rice) or the gravy to my main course lamb stew. I know, very schoolgirl error, and it’s no surprise that I ended up being badly glutened.
Having spent several weeks recovering from that episode, I was none too keen to get ill again so I stayed away from shared meze plates where I could not see individual components.
Instead, during my holiday in Turkey, I ordered separate dishes of hummus with salad or had simple vegetable dish with it. Hummus wasn’t quite the same without bread but at least I didn’t totally miss out!
Overall how easy was it to eat gluten free in Turkey?
It was actually much easier than I had feared before my trip. Rice, not couscous, appeared to be the accompanying carb of choice for most main meals. Meaning that many items on the menu in Turkey were naturally gluten free, although of course you do need to take precautions for cross contamination.
Restaurants in Turkey were able to accommodate cooking gluten free (with the help of Coeliac Travel cards).
Almost all the meals I ate came served with plain boiled rice and grilled vegetables in varying degrees of fanciness.
As for the meat, I was quite surprised by how flavoursome the lamb was. At home I don’t eat much red meat so it was quite a treat!
One item to watch out when eating gluten free in Turkey and which I hadn’t come across before was orzo.
Orzo is essentially small grains of wheat pasta made in rice shapes. It did look quite like rice, especially over dinner when the sun had set and a couple of glasses of the delicious local Lal rose wine had been consumed!
Here are some ideas of widely available menu choices which can be cooked gluten free for your holiday in Turkey:
- Chicken shish kebab
- Lamb shish kebab
- Grilled lamb chops
- Grilled fish – try the “Akya” / silverfish – absolutely delicious grilled
Lamb shish kebab
Baked banana with flaked almonds.
The only real drawback with eating out in Turkey was that menu choices were often quite limited for me. Although this wasn’t a massive problem in the scheme of things when you see the photos above of what was on offer! On our last night we went to an up-market place located right on the harbour front of the town we were staying in for what promised to be a very special meal.
The restaurant had a very extensive menu packed full of Turkish specialties to choose from and I was looking forward to a great meal. I selected a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice from the menu’s main courses (just in case!) of dishes I thought should be safe to eat but it turned out none of them could be cooked for me. This was a big disappointment, my 3 top choices looked amazing. The waiter offered me plain grilled fish but in the end I settled on a fillet steak which came with boiled vegetables.
Not very Turkish for the last night of our holiday and I was totally underwhelmed by my meal. On the positive side, I felt the restaurant took my gluten intolerance seriously and the waiters came to check with me several times on what I could / couldn’t eat which was very reassuring at least.
What was the best gluten free meal I ate in Turkey?
When I look back on the week, the stand-out meal was probably one of the most simple.
A grilled Akya (silverfish) fillet, chunky like a thick tuna steak which came served with homemade thick hand cut chips and salad.
Not only was it delicious, but the story of how the fish got to my plate was somewhat unusual. A few minutes after I’d placed my order with the waiter, a white van from the local fish market pulled up outside our restaurant.
Out jumped a man carrying a piece of fish wrapped in newspaper and delivered it to the kitchen.
The restaurant was pretty empty and soon after the fish’s delivery and the smell of fish grilling soon filled the air so I’m sure it was my little Akya!
Sadly, it tasted so good I didn’t have time to take a photo of it.
You’ll have to take a gluten free trip to Turkey to experience it yourself!
If you are planning your gluten free trip to Turkey, you might find my guide to flying as a gluten free passenger on Turkish Airlines in Economy and Business Class helpful.
There are also many other gluten free travel guides on this site available which you might find helpful in planning a gluten free holiday:
- My guide to gluten free travel as a coeliac
- My gluten free travel guide to Italy full of tips and resources for a gluten free holiday in beautiful Italy
- The essential gluten free travel guide to France
- A coeliac’s guide to eating gluten free in London As a Londoner, I keep this guide of places I personally recommend fully up to date
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