Do you have Coeliac disease / gluten intolerance and are planning a trip to France? Wondering where to visit and where to eat gluten free in France if you’re visiting locations outside of Paris? I hope these gluten free travel tips to France can help you to find the confidence to eat out in France as a Coeliac.
Many people struggle to eat out successfully with a gluten free diet in France. Paris is full of gluten free bakeries and restaurants but outside of Paris eating sans gluten is a challenge but it can still be successful! Coeliac disease is – in my experience – poorly understood in restaurants. Waiters are not always fully aware of the condition and cross contamination issues as is the case in other places around the world.
But with preparation it is possible to eat out safely in France as a gluten free traveller.
Here are my top 11 tips for eating gluten free in France:
1. Take the Celiac Travel cards to explain to restaurants what your dietary restrictions are. These gluten free travel translation cards should explain what you can/cannot eat as well as clearly explain cross contamination issues in French.
2. Learn some French phrases to explain both your gluten free 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 when communicating your gluten free dietary needs. 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. Just ask! 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. Seek out the naturally gluten free: 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. Do extensive research before visiting places you’ve found online. Restaurants open, close, change chefs and gluten free menus.
In the era of COVID-19 this is especially relevant as sadly not all businesses will survive the impact the Corona virus will have on their operations.
For example, 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.
9. There ARE gluten free bakeries and patisseries in France where you can pick up the coeliac’s dream of an authentic French gluten free croissant. My top pick in Paris is the 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. Don’t forget the French Coeliac Association! The website for “Association Francaise des Intolerants au Gluten” for information on eating gluten free out and in supermarkets while on your holiday in France
A couple of photos of gluten free food choices in France to whet your appetite:
Naturally gluten free buckwheat galette containing Mediterranean vegetables and goat’s cheese, Vezelay. Utterly delicious.
Duck (served without gravy), Semur en Auxois
Gluten free 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!
Another naturally gluten free menu item, Crème brûlée, Semur en Auxois.
There were raspberries lurking under here.