Thank you to my lovely friend and fellow gluten free traveller, Sofia Morais, for writing this article on living gluten free in Portugal, and in particular Lisbon, where she currently lives. I am yet to explore the beautiful country of Portugal but meeting her and hearing about living gluten free in Lisbon makes me eager to visit!
What I love most about my country is the generally warm and sunny climate, the beautiful beaches and the food. I adore simple delights such as eating fresh grilled fish on a terrace overlooking the sea. Finding a relaxing place to recharge is not difficult in Portugal.
If you are considering planning a trip to discover what Portugal had to offer, don’t let the challenges which come with being coeliac or being restricted to a gluten free diet make you have second thoughts. I have been living gluten free in Lisbon for over a year now and through my experience I can safely say that whilst travelling gluten free in Portugal may not be the easiest of tasks, it’s definitely possible if you come prepared and know the right places to look for safe and delicious food.
Don’t expect your average Portuguese man or woman to know what coeliac disease is or what the word gluten means. They probably won’t. Someone in his 20’s/30’s may have a vague understanding of what it is but is unlikely to know which foods contain it unless someone close to him is coeliac or gluten intolerant. In saying this, during the past year I have seen a variety of new products with clear gluten free labelling arrive on the market. I have also seen more restaurants which include gluten free options on their menus. I have even had a few people tell me stories about friends or relatives who have a similar issue with gluten. Often you are not aware of how your city caters for a group of people until you become that group of people so now that I can’t eat gluten, I’m slowly learning how Portugal caters for locals and visitors who can’t eat gluten either.
The most popular supermarket chains around the country have gluten free sections and these stores can be found in many cities throughout Portugal including Lisbon. These large supermarket chains provide gluten free sections..
Unfortunately there aren’t too many options when it comes to having a meal out or finding a bakery with gluten free options. Your choice is to eat at one of the few coeliac friendly places or explain your situation and what you can and cannot eat to any restaurant that takes your fancy and make the decision yourself on whether or not you can trust them to keep you safe.
These are my favorite restaurants if you find yourself in Lisbon looking for somewhere delicious and gluten free to eat…
- La Trattoria which is located on Rua de Artilharia 1 in the centre of Lisbon has a gluten free menu which includes various pasta dishes for around 12-14 Euros. Since the only gluten free dish they do is pasta this is what I always order but I make sure to vary my choice of sauce each time.
- Open Brasserie Mediterrânica on Rua de Santa Marta 48, also in the centre of Lisbon, has a gluten and lactose free menu. I’ve only eaten here once but I loved it. I had fish and vegetables for my main course followed by a dessert made with melon. It even came with a little heart design on it.
- Telepizza is a chain with various locations in and around Lisbon as well as in other cities across Portugal. Their gluten free pizza menu is varied and suitable for coeliacs. Their website includes information on how they prepare their gluten free pizzas to avoid cross contamination and to keep customers safe.
The staff in these restaurants seem to understand the basics regarding coeliac disease and gluten free dieting. Whenever I ask questions that they aren’t completely sure about such as how they prevent cross contamination they ask the chef and report back to me.