Gluten Free Finland

Gluten Free options

The words I long to see..

Finland is a gorgeous country where you can see reindeers. I was driving down from the north of Finland, it was snowing and I saw a whole bunch of reindeers! One of the most amazing sights ever!

Moving on..It’s also a country with a whole bunch of celiac friendly options. My experience of Finland doesn’t truly represent the celiac friendly nature of the country. I arrived in cities late and night when most restaurants had stopped serving. Finland is definitely not an up-all-night kind of place but there are a lot of gluten free options if you get there when things are open! :) If you are headed to Finland you should have no problem finding safe, gluten free options both in restaurants and grocery stores.

After reaching the most northern point of mainland Europe, the only option was to head South. The end of the rally (we were driving 5000 miles from Scotland to Estonia via the northernmost tip of mainland Europe over 10 days!) was Tallinn so this meant driving down through all of Finland. It took us five days to reach the top of Norway and we were now heading to the south of Finland in only two.

ROVANIEMI – As a result of the long drive and the hour time difference, it was after 9.30pm by the time we got around to looking for dinner and being a fairly small town the only eateries open were fast food places. I noticed a couple of pizza places with gluten free options marked on the menu but they was closed already so no gluten free pizza for me. There was also a South Indian restaurant with plenty of naturally gluten free options but again it was closed. I decided to buy a tub of boiled rice from a chinese restaurant and managed to find the one supermarket still open at that time to get some tuna and fresh tomatoes to eat with it. This obviously wasn’t the most exciting meal of the trip but all I can say is thank you for late closing Chinese restaurants -they can always provide a desperate and hungry Coeliac with boiled rice! In reality, sometimes when you’re travelling gluten free this is the type of thing you have to do to stop from getting hungry, especially if you don’t want to risk getting sick. That evening was the big get together for all involved in the rally and thankfully vino is gluten free so whilst everyone else drank their beers I enjoyed a few glasses with my new rally buddies.

Again it was late in the evening when we arrived in HELSINKI. The drive from Rovaniemi was almost 600 miles and the walk from our hostel into town was a few kilometres. What was I going to eat tonight? I caught a glimpse of a couple of restaurants in the centre of town which had gluten free options (oh how I wish we had arrived earlier!) but they weren’t open so I quickly walked on in search of something that was. Everywhere but bars and nightclubs seemed to be shut, the supermarkets were closed for the night and only a few 24 hour deli’s were open, which had nothing but glutenous things to offer. I almost gave up on the idea of eating that night when my friend called to say they were finishing dinner. They were at an Indian restaurant, which was now closing, so I asked if she could get me a portion of boiled rice. How exciting, right? But at least this meant I wouldn’t starve. When I met them a short time later they had rice and chicken korma for me. I had no idea what was in the korma so my boyfriend took that while I stuck to the rice. Unfortunately, unlike the previous night, there wasn’t anything I could find to make my ‘meal’ a little more interesting…

Gluten Free Hummus

My boyfriend fancied some chips with his curry so we stopped by a small street vendor selling various fried, meaty treats. We started talking to the guy who owned this vendor and ended up having a really interesting chat. He was from the States and had been living in Finland for the past couple of years. On noticing that I was eating plain rice he asked if there was anything he could get for me to make it taste better. We explained my situation and he began looking through everything he had to see if he could find something for me. He felt bad for me and went above and beyond to look for something to give my rice flavour. We checked the salsas and sauces he had but nothing was gluten free. He asked if I wanted some meat or cheese but everything was processed. He even offered to cut up some tomatoes for me but I didn’t want to risk contamination. I thanked him for trying and said that I would be fine with my rice. He gave me a complimentary bottle of water and apologised for not having anything safe for me to eat. It’s nice when you meet people like him in life….

The following day before heading to the Ferry terminal, we decided to walk into town again to find something for lunch. The boat to Tallinn was 2 hours and I was looking to make myself a packed lunch for the trip. It was before noon and a Sunday so again many places were closed but fortunately today the supermarkets was open. I’m happy to report the supermarkets in Helsinki carry a bunch of clearly labelled gluten free products! Cereals, breads, rice cakes, crackers, sauces, pasta, bars, snacks – they have it all so preparing and cooking safe, gluten free food here would be pretty simple. I bought a variety of gluten free crisp breads and some fresh slices of salmon, a tub of hummus labelled as gluten free and a box of red grapes. I felt a bit queasy on the boat as we bounced through rough waters but my lunch meanwhile was delicious!

On the boat we took a walk around as usual to check out any possible gluten free options. Interestingly the ferry did a buffet and their menu states which of the items are gluten free. The cost was around 23 Euros per person so a bit steep for lunch but it was good to see that for any coeliacs who find themselves hungry on the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn or vice versa, you are catered for!

Gluten Free buffet options

Buffet on the Ferry



So my trip to Finland was a little unusual as I was there as part of a crazy 10 day, 5000 mile rally. I look forward to returning for the gluten free options I noticed were definitely available in restaurants but which I was unable to try due to arriving in towns so late. I walked past a tonne of closed restaurants with gluten free menus or gluten free options so you will definitely be fine in terms of finding safe, gluten free food if Finland is your destination.

If you are headed to Finland on your gluten free travels be sure to check out the Finnish Coeliac Society for tips on travelling in Finland as a coeliac as well as information on where to eat out and where to shop gluten free. They have a great list of restaurants/cafes/stores etc where travellers to the country can find gluten free food. A great starting point for any celiac headed to this lovely country. 😀

Have you travelled gluten free to Finland in the daylight hours? Share your experiences in the comments below?

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Comments

  • Hello Laura!

    I just have to comment on this. Finland is the country with the biggest number of people suffering from this disease (%) in the world, so you will definitely find everything you can think of in Finland! Your post gave the impression that you can’t find any glutenfree restaurants or products in Finlans, which just couldn’t be further from the truth. It is often described as the glutenfree paradise!

    I’ve visited maaany countries and Finland is the only one where in almost every restaurant they mark the glutenfree options with a G. It is a very well-known disease so people are very helpful in assisting you to find food suitable for you. I don’t understand why you settled for just rice – why didn’t you ask the waiters for a glutenfree sauce to go with it? I can guarantee that in 100% of Finnish restaurants you will get glutenfree food. And I’m not even talking about just one or two options – I’d say it’s normal that at least half of everything on the menu is marked with a G for Glutenfree.

    And supermarkets aren’t open very late, that’s common in all Nordic countries and for example Germany. But the variety of products you’ll find there is great. You don’t have to look far, almost all stores have glutenfree products. Maybe not the very smallest ones but still. The products are mostly frozen, but you will also find e.g. Schär on the normal shelves and in bigger stores also fresh bakery products.

    So please, give Finland a lot more credit! 🙂

  • Hi Mary,

    I have no doubt that Finland is coeliac friendly. I have a couple of friends from Helsinki who have told me this too. This post however is my personal experience of arriving there late at night when almost everything was closed and there really was nothing for me to eat.

    As I say in the article, my friend bought me the rice at the restaurant she was at right before it closed and there was nowhere open for me to ask for some sort of gluten free sauce.

    I’m sure that many gluten free products and meals can be found in Finland normally but on this occasion (late at night) no supermarkets or restaurants were open so I had to eat what I could get which was plain rice. Sometimes situations like this happen. Sadly I was a newbie Coeliac and not prepared. I learned from this and similar experiences and haven’t found myself in a situation like this again. 🙂

  • Also, next time I visit Finland I will make sure I try to find something to eat during daylight hours 🙂

  • Hi Laura!

    Welcome to Finland again, please 🙂
    When you go to restaurant, you can tell them, that you need gluten free food, they will point out the gluten free platters on the menu and they can also tell you which platters can be prepared gluten free even though the “original” ingedients would contain gluten.
    On menus you can find characters G or GL, which means that the platters are gluten free.

    In Tampere, you can get gluten free burgers from http://www.diner.fi/menu.html
    They will prepare allmost any burgers gluten free, if you just ask.

    Yesterday I was eating in http://www.ravintola.fi/en/bellaroma and their risotto was very delicious!

    Only places where I can´t find food is gastro pubs, because almost every dish is deep fried or breaded and the same oil is used in both of the dishes.

    You can find links to Tampere restaurants from http://www.huviopas.net/tampere/restaurants_1.php

    And theres always Kotipizza, McDonalds & Hesburger, where you can find gluten free fast food:)

    Have a nice summer! 🙂

  • Jonna, Thanks so much for this information! It’s very helpful. I will certainly take your advice the next time I visit your beautiful country..I hope you have a great summer too 😀

  • Finland is simply amazing when it comes to gluten-free. I do a lot of travel and I found Finland to be the easiest place to eat gluten-free (since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I’ve also traveled to Iceland, Estonia and all over the US). Much easier to eat there than than the United States, where I live. I found nearly everyone to be knowledgable about the diet and about CD. Just about all the restaurants had clearly marked menus as to what was gluten-free. The supermarkets had a wide variety of GF products. Definitely want to go back.

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