Gluten Free Chile

Tasty Guacamole with rice

Valparaiso is full of colourful street art

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.

In the Atacama

Quinoa treats!

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!

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  • I like your website! I am looking into traveling to Chile myself. I may have some info to share with you after I have done all my research.

  • Susana

    Apr 4th, 2011

    You know I must tell you, I really enjoy your blog site.
    Well as it turns out I have changed my mind on traveling to Chile. I even contacted a gastro who then referred me to:
    Helga Santibáñez W.
    Coordinadora Fundación Convivir

    Helga is the coordinator for “Convivir” a foundation for people with Celiac. She only gave me one supermarket called JUMBO at Mall Alto Las Condes y el Tottus de Kennedy frente al Mall Parque Arauc which had the best chance of having some things gluten free. She gave me a couple other markets but told me to contact them first:
    Panaderia El Pueblo
    Mundo Celiaco

    Helga was not able to provide any information for restaurants or hotels. For now, I am going to focus on traveling to other places where it is a bit easier for celiacs.

    I think you were pretty brave to travel there! 🙂

  • Hey guys! You are absolutely right, it IS difficult to find gluten-free food in Chile… but there’s hope 🙂 I spent 4 weeks there, and happened to find a small store in Santiago that sells lots of gluten-free food, even frozen bread for toasting (delicious!), cereals, pasta, cookies and stuff… It’s on the first floor of the shopping center “Paris” that’s right next to the Metro Station “Los Leones” in Santiago (Barrio Providencia). Additionally, it was possible to find gluten-free food in the huge supermarkets (Jumbo, Lider) in Valparaíso and La Serena. You can ask the sales assitants for “dieteticos”, usually there is a section where you can find at least some pasta, cookies, cereals and rice crisp bread.
    One bad thing is that you cannot be sure about stuff like yoghurt, juices and chocolate… ALL of it contains lots of additives like thickeners and artificial flavours, and I got the feeling that it affected my stomach in some way, so for drinks you shoud stick to fresh juice and water (which is far healthier anyway, claro :). Most hostels I stayed in had a common kitchen, so cooking was no problem (Casa Roja in Santiago, Casa Aventura in Valparaíso, Casa María in La Serena, Hostal Triskel in Valle de Elqui and Hostal Mama Tierra in San Pedro).
    In most restaurants, it was possible to get naturally gluten-free food like “pollo a la plancha” (grilled chicken) with rice or french fries and salad. Also, the waiters were always very nice and helpful, e.g. asking the cooks whether the sauces contained wheat etc.
    So, it’s not easy in Chile, but it’s possible, and you shouln’t miss this beautiful country!

  • Catrin, I’m so happy to hear that you were able to find gluten free stuff in Santiago and thanks for sharing your discoveries! You’re right, Chile is certainly beautiful and not to be missed. How amazing is the Atacama desert?! 😀

    I found the same thing for cooking. All of the hostels we stayed in throughout the country had their own kitchens so preparing meals was simple. When you talk about eating naturally gluten free in restaurants did the staff seem to understand the threat of cross contamination? Were many people familiar with what celiac disease is? Personally I’m always a bit nervous about eating anywhere that doesn’t either have gf signage on their menu or doesn’t at least know which of their dishes are gluten free but perhaps that’s just me being over cautious..

  • Tiffany

    Aug 11th, 2011

    Hi, all! I just moved to Santiago and live in Providencia, right next to the Los Leones metro stop … close to the GF selection in Paris! Jumbo at Alto Las Condes has a decent selection of GF cookies, crackers, pastas, cereal bars, etc., and if you have access to a kitchen and like to bake, GF flours abound, as South America is the home of quinoa and generally favors cereals other than wheat.

    The yogurts were initially a problem, but CONVIVIR has a website that publishes a list of all GF products available in Chile, by type of product and brand name. Colun yogurt is GF, so enjoy! Yoplait, while GF in the USA, is definitely not GF in South America. So that takes a little adjusting. And as an additional tip, the soy sauces Sakura and Marco Polo are both gluten free. 🙂

    I actually find it much easier to eat out in Chile than in the States. I’m very, very gluten-sensitive and can tell within about 30 minutes if I’ve been “stealth glutened.” I’ve had no bad experiences in Chile so far. Waiters are tremendously helpful and friendly, and extremely curious about celiac. There are far fewer heavily processed foods used in restaurants here (in my experience), so the chefs and waiters can breezily rattle off all ingredients. I adore seafood, meat, fruits, and vegetables, all of which abound in Chile. Very few meat and food preparations involve flour, which is refreshing. The only really hard part is avoiding the empanadas and the lovely pastries … sigh.

    Hope this was helpful!

  • Thanks so much for the info Tiffany! It’s so great to hear that gluten free life in Santiago is working out for you and this will give hope to other gluten free travellers to the area.
    It’s interesting that you say food in restaurants is a lot less processed there in your experience. I would agree with this..I felt the same way eating out both in Argentina and Mexico.
    Have you found any place that makes gluten free empanadas there yet? If not try making them yourself…so delicious!

  • Groceries and supermarkets are useful for gluten-free diets! Loads of exotic fruits and vegetables to try! 🙂

  • Hi Everyone,

    Just an update: in Pucon, Chile, there is a large supermarket on the main street O’Higgins. Across from the produce, there is a great little gf/df section. I found delicious cookies and animal crackers from the company No-Glut (bright yellow packaging). This was as of April 2014.

    Happy Travelling!

  • I compiled a list of places where I found gluten-free and dairy-free products. Hope this is useful to future travellers in South America: