Paris, France. The city of love… of light… and of lots and lots (and let’s just say it again: LOTS) of gluten! Crusty baguettes, flaky croissants… all drool-worthy, craveable and infinitely Instagrammable cuisine that also happens to be dangerous for the celiac individual, myself included!
Not only is France the land of bread, it’s also infamous for it’s less than welcoming approach to non-mainstream dietary requirements/preferences. Which means that France is decidedly behind on the gluten free scene. There’s a culture of associating the allergy with vegetarianism – sort of an “inconvenience that could be easily avoided”. The result is that many places will say they can do gluten free, when in reality they can do “gluten free ingredients”, but have little to no understanding of cross-contamination or the seriousness of gluten allergies/Celiac. That said, it’s still possible to be Celiac and have an amazing time in France, particularly in Paris! I’ve tracked down the best places to get your gluten free nibble on and compiled them below, along with some useful tips to keep you safe along the way!
General Gluten Free Tips for While Traveling in France:
- Blé, seigle, orge, farine = wheat, rye, barley and flour (flour is usually wheat and typically listed as “farine de blé” but it’s always good to check, especially because it’s common to hear that something “has farine”).
- Sans gluten (“sawhn glu-tehn”) = gluten free
- The EU passed a law stating that all packaged items must list any allergens in BOLD and also must list anything that could be contained in trace amounts/trace cross-contamination. That means that if you don’t see any of the words listed above in the ingredients or as a “may contain” (“peut contenir”), you should be just fine to eat it. Hallelujah!
- Always double check your condiments before noshing – it’s easy to assume that mayo and mustard are naturally gluten free, but in France both often have wheat in them as a thickener. Be sure to ask the chef or check the ingredients on the bottle before eating!
- Avoid open seasonings – it’s trendy to put out a bowl of salt or other seasonings on the table, but these become the perfect crumb catchers. Think about it: lots of hungry individuals breaking bread over their plates, crumbs flying, and every so often a gluten-y finger reaching in for a pinch of seasoning instead of reaching for a spoon. Better to steer clear or ask for a shaker!
- Crêperies often advertise gluten free, but typically share their griddles between wheat batter and gluten free batter. If you’re sensitive, avoid these by double checking that they have a “dedicated griddle” and asking them to confirm that they do not just clean the same griddle in between customers, which is what most restaurants do.
- When in doubt, go somewhere else. It can be so, so tempting to trust the well-meaning but unknowledgeable servers, but if you get red flag comments (for example, “yes we can do gluten free, just don’t eat the pasta”), it’s best to move on!
Alright, now that you have the basics down, it’s time to focus in on the good stuff: bring on the gluten free restaurants!!
Now with two locations, Wild & The Moon is trendy, slightly hipster place for green drinks and smoothies, sandwiches to stay or to go (their bread is really good!) and both warm and cold bowls (ranging from Tajine to Acai). I love the ease of this place – you can go for breakfast (I recommend their banana bread with warm cashew cream!), and take a light lunch to go for later, just in case you end up somewhere less equipped for gluten free needs, or stay a while and enjoy the people watching. *Featured image is the Wild & The Moon Acai Bowl.
Every gluten free human secretly (or not so secretly, in my case), dreams of biting into delicious French breads. And while the iconic croissant may be off the table for now (apparently it’s a universally agreed upon thing by French bakers that to even try creating a gluten free one would be an act of blasphemy), the equally delicious pain au sucre is available at Chambelland. As is some incredibly tasty bread – including a focaccia that my gluten-loving hubby couldn’t get enough of- and sandwiches to go. One of my most cherished memories is going to Chambelland early one morning before heading out to the Versailles grounds for a summer picnic. After all, few things feel more French than a loaf of bread, a bicycle and the home of Marie Antoinette!
This patisserie is so good that it’s hard to tell that it’s gluten free! Meringues, eclairs, tarts of all types… do not miss this place! Oh, and definitely go early on in the day as it has a tendency to sell out before noon!
It’s no surprise that there’s a line halfway around the block for this place every night – the pizza is to die for! Being married to an Italian, pizza-snobbery comes with the territory, and this place is definitely up to snuff! Run by Italians, about half the menu is gluten free. All the pizzas are gluten free, most of the pastas can be done gluten free and the desserts and starters are a mix of gluten free and glutenous. The kitchen is small, so cross-contamination is a concern, but they are well-informed and do their absolute best to keep things celiac-safe. I (super sensitive Celiac that I am!), ate here a handful of times during my year in France and was fine!
This hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant is one of my all-time faves, in France or elsewhere! Everything on the menu is delicious – and gluten free! – but the pad thai is out of this world. Bring friends to share because you will want to try more than one dish!
Naturalia & FranPrix
These two supermarkets both typically have a designated gluten free section with breads, cereals, rice cakes and more. Not as exciting as eating out, I know, but sometimes it’s helpful to have snacks at your hotel or something to keep in your purse for those moments when you’re hangry and in a no-go zone for gluten-free!
These are my top picks, but the list is ever-evolving! If you know of other spots, please share in the comments section – I’d love to hear about them!