I spent a little over a week in Chile….what a beautiful country! However, they are definitely not as coeliac friendly as their Argentine neighbours! I only visited Valparaiso and San Pedro de Atacama so I can’t speak for the entire country but from speaking to Chilean people and from my research, Chile is not the gluten free heaven that it’s Argentine neighbour is. In saying this Chile has a huge variety of naturally gluten free options for celiacs headed to this amazing part of the world. Oh, and their vino is wonderful!
They don’t have a gluten free labelling law in Chile so it’s much more difficult to find specifically gluten free foods to eat here than in countries which do have labelling laws. There are of course the usual naturally gluten free items to be found but supermarkets don’t have gluten free sections like they do in Argentina and I didn’t see any signs of a dietetica or health food store. Luckily, as Argentina is so close some Chilean stores do stock a few gluten free Argentine products. A bigger city like Santiago is likely to be much more coeliac friendly than smaller towns but unfortunately on this trip we didn’t have the time to stop in Santiago to check out their gluten free selections. Rice Cakes, crackers and gluten free bars have saved me on many occasions during my travels but it was a bit of a challenge to find these types of products in Chile. I did manage to find one lonely packet of rice cakes in a supermarket in Valparaiso but it was 4 times the price of any I’ve ever bought in the past.
What saved me in Valparaiso is that we appeared to have got there just in time for avocado and cherry season (the end of November) because they were being sold on every street corner and what’s even better is that they were insanely cheap. I nibbled literally hundreds of cherries whilst exploring this beautiful and amazingly colourful city and made guacamole to accompany my rice at dinner time. I bought plenty of eggs, rice, cheese, yoghurt, fruit and vegetables. Naturally gluten free food and access to a kitchen to cook it in saved me from starving.
San Pedro de Atacama was awesome! It’s a tiny wee gem found in the heart of the Atacama desert. The driest place on earth is beautiful and when we rented bikes to explore the valley of the moon and the valley of death (not as morbid as it sounds) I was amazed by the beauty of this area. It looks like the surface of Mars! (or how I would imagine Mars to be) Again, this small town had very few signs of gluten free food but they do sell a delicious snack at almost all of the arty markets which is gluten free and sooo yummy. It’s made of quinoa, eggs and honey and tastes great and costs $500 chilean (US$$1) for 9 small pieces. I got so addicted in the few days we stayed there that I bought 10 packets to take with me! Again as we stayed in a hostel, naturally gluten free food cooked in our wee kitchen kept me happy.
I hope gluten free travellers are not put off from travelling to Chile by my experiences of finding little gluten free food. It’s a beautiful country and there are always naturally gluten free items in supermarkets as well as fruit and veggies for sale on every corner! Just be prepared for this and you’ll be fine. I had an amazing time in Chile, I never went hungry and I didn’t get sick.
Make sure to scroll down to the comments for some fantastic gluten-free suggestions from readers who have travelled to or lived in Chile!! Thanks a lot, folks!