A Celiac’s Gluten Free Guide to Mexico

When I based myself in Oaxaca after almost 8 years in Asia, I was relieved to be in a place where I could speak the local language and enjoy a cuisine that seemed mostly corn-based and safe for a celiac.

What I didn’t realize was that some Mexican food includes wheat or bread as thickeners, as well as sauces like salsa Inglesa (Worcestershire sauce, basically), or Maggi sauces, each of which usually contain wheat. I communicated my celiac needs in Spanish, but still got sick because the inquiries weren’t specific enough. If I asked whether a mole sauce was thickened with wheat or wheat flour, the answer was no. I would get sick only to realize later that it was thickened with bread. When asked as a follow up, I was told, “but you asked about wheat flour, not bread.”

Thus, the need for a gluten free guide to Mexico was born, and a sufficiently detailed card to make sure no one else got sick either.

Don’t get me wrong: the country is full of wonderful naturally gluten free corn-based snacks, soups that are made from scratch without pesky bouillon cubes, and a wondrous amount of tacos with corn tortillas. My point in sharing those “I messed up” stories is only to make clear that what seems safe in Mexico may not be safe for a celiac. As a result, my gluten free translation card is clear to mention bread, egg bread, and the sauces that may be added and contain wheat.

This guide will help you navigate the dishes you will find, as well as offer alternatives when you are eating out. Snack time is the best time for a celiac, as many tamales, corn tacos, and elotes (corn with cheese, mayo, chili, and lime) are often safe and absolutely delicious. As with any of the other gluten free guides, the goal is both to empower you to eat safely by listing out local names of food, and give you the tool of a celiac restaurant card specific to Mexico to help you do so with even less anxiety.

gluten free guide to mexico
Already know you want a gluten free translation card? You can buy my Latin America card, which can be used in South America and Central America as well as Mexico, or one of the other celiac restaurant cards here. If you’re heading to Spain, opt for the Spanish (Spain) card, not the Latin America one.
gluten free mexico guide: plenty of vegetables like these tomatillos and criollo tomatoes, all gluten free!

Spanish Gluten-Free Restaurant Card for Mexico and Latin America

This detailed gluten free restaurant card will help communicate your eating restrictions, and allow you to understand what is safe and unsafe from the menu. Note: The card is available for purchase via Gumroad, a trustworthy 3rd party site that uses Stripe, so you know your information is safe.

Why is this Spanish gluten free card different?

I used several different translation cards on my travels, and I still got sick. I may be more sensitive than some celiacs, but even a small amount of oil for frying that had prior contact with gluten, or wheat-thickened sauce in the food, is enough to make me ill for days. Let alone the joint pain later that week, and the fatigue. And regardless of whether we feel it or not, ingesting any amount of gluten is a problem if we are celiac.

This card is different because:
✅  It offers an instant download, sized specifically for mobile, and a printable version. You can save it to your phone and have it with you as you travel, or you can print it out and laminate it to take along. I will also send a second downloadable file, a PDF version that is easy to print, with English on one side and Portuguese on the other so that you can follow along.
✅ It uses local ingredients and lists of what you can/cannot eat help you eat safely, not just “I can’t eat gluten”.
✅ Unlike less-detailed cards, this card explains that surfaces or oils that have cross-contact with gluten are also unsafe.
✅ It is researched by a celiac and goes through two sets of translations to ensure accuracy.

This card is also different from my Spanish gluten free restaurant card for Spain, as it uses names of ingredients commonly found in Mexico and Latin America. Readers have used this LATAM card for Spanish-speaking countries in Central America, Caribbean, and South America, as well as for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.

Mexico and Latin America Spanish gluten free card for travel, by Legal Nomads
Click to buy.

A big thanks to Estela Torres Cota for her help in finalizing the translations for this card.

Eating gluten free in Mexico: dishes, soups, and snacks

The following dishes are commonly wheat-free in Mexico, as confirmed by translators. This is not an exhaustive list—but the post is over 5000 words already, and I can’t include everything. I wanted to be sure some of the more common dishes were represented so you could recognize them on the menu.

As with any destination, at home or abroad, it’s important to confirm on a case-by-case basis that no flour, bread (for mole sauces, pan or pan de yema can be used), or Maggi/Knorr condiments were used in the dishes.

Tacos (pure corn tortillas only): There are a few specific types of tacos in the “unsafe” section below, but freshly pressed or pre-made corn tortillas are often available at taquerias, even if they also use full flour. It is important to communicate that you need 100% masa / maiz as some places will press both wheat and corn together. The toppings you can get here are infinite! From tacos al pastor (slow roasted corn on a vertical spit, often topped with pineapple slices), to maciza de res, maciza de puerco, tacos de cabeza, tacos surtidos, tacos de lengua, tacos de carnitas and SO MUCH MORE. Please be sure to show them your card, or to ask that there is no seasoning like salsa Inglesa, Maggi sauce or Knorr in the taco meat. Al pastor, for example, is usually marinated in spices and chilies, and is gluten free. But some tacos are cooked on the grill with extra condiments added in, and caution is warranted as always.

(If the taco options are a bit overwhelming, you might benefit from Tacopedia, a great overview of Mexican eats.)

Quesadillas (if made with corn flour): In Central Mexico and Oaxaca, quesadillas are made from freshly pressed corn, much like memelas (explained below). Elsewhere in Mexico, these are often made from flour, including when found in the United States and Canada. Quesadilla fillings include quesillo cheese, mushrooms with peppers, chicken tinga (shredded chicken with onions, tomatoes, and chilies), and flor de calabaza squash blossoms that partner customarily with cheese.

Empanadas (made from corn flour):  as with quesadillas, Central/Southern empanadas are not the kind we are used to in North America, where they are either Argentine (small, crescent shaped wheat pockets) or Tex-Mex (flour tortillas). Elsewhere in Mexico, you must confirm what flour is used.

Arroz: Rice, a staple in menu of the day meals and many main courses, is readily available — often when off menu. I’ve had great success asking for rice when the side dish is something like soup with pasta in it, or pasta on the side. Be sure that it was not cooked in bouillon cube-enhanced water, which can occasionally be the case when you are getting it as a side to seafood.

Memelas: A memela is a Oaxacan specialty, a round corn snack with curled edges that is toasted on a comal (a clay or metal flat surface that is powered by fire or natural gas). Memelas are almost always freshly pressed from wet masa (corn flour) and made to order. Confirm that the flour is pure corn, but I have yet to encounter a Oaxacan stall that adds wheat flour to the mix. These are usually topped with pork lard (asiento), then beans, then cheese—either queso fresco or quesillo 

Tlayudas: Also from Oaxaca, these “pizzas” are actually made from large, crispy corn tortillas and are either served open faced (see below) or more frequently, folded in half and grilled over a fire until even crispier. They’re usually topped with pork lard, beans, avocado, shredded lettuce, and quesillo cheese — then topped with a meat of your choice. Tasajo (Oaxacan-style air cured beef, thinly sliced) is my fave, but you can choose others from chicken to pork to other beef cuts like arrachera. These are almost always gluten free, they’re filling, and delicious. Highly recommended! If eating outside Oaxaca, do confirm tortilla is fully made of corn.

gluten free eating in Mexico: a oaxacan tlayuda, the size of my face
Me with a giant tlayuda in Oaxaca

Tamales: Ah, tamales. I love them so much. The word tamal derives from the Nahuatl tamalli, which means steamed cornmeal dough. Nahuatl, the language of Aztecs, was spoken as early as the 7th century, but tamales existed long before then in Mesoamerica. Historians believe that the tamal may have originated as early as 8000 BC to 5000 BC. It was (and remains) a perfect foodstuff to prepare in large quantities, easy to pack up for travel, and had the added bonus of helping small quantities of meat or fruit last longer, and feed a larger number of people. The Maya even had a hieroglyph for the tamal, which highlights just how important it was for pre-Hispanic civilizations.

For gluten free tamale options it is important to avoid most moles. Mole negro, mole rojo, mole coloradito and sometimes mole amarillo are all often made with breadcrumbs. (See this post  for more.)

Safe fillings: rajas (chicken with spicy peppers), elote (corn), cambray (chicken with olives),  flor de calabaza / quesillo (squash blossom and cheese), dulce (sweet tamale, usually red on the outside and made with pineapple and sweet condensed milk inside), chepil (a delicious herb), and more. Mole verde with chicken has always been gluten free when I’ve asked. Given the variety of tamales throughout Mexico, the important part is making sure there is no pan or pan de yema in the filling.

gluten free mole mexico
This is why we can’t have some mole sauces – BREAD.

Carne Asada: Grilled meat, often served in a menu of the day or a-la-carte dinner menu, with side of rice and beans. Be sure to check spicing to make sure no hidden gluten. These are rarely marinated in a wet marinade (but can be spiced, as with cecina enchilada below), but can sometimes include the dreaded Maggi for seasoning!

Cecina / cecina enchilada: Not to be confused with enchiladas, cecina enchilada consists of boneless pork that is coated in chilies and then cooked. The dry spice blend often involves several types of chili, bay leaves, garlic, oregano and more. The cecina itself refers to a thinly sliced, salted, partly dried sheet of meat – it can be beef or pork. The meat is cut finely (it’s impressive to see!), then folded into an accordion of meat. This cut / type of meat is found on top of dishes like tlayudas, but is also available as a carne asada — so I gave it a separate bullet point.

Chorizo (Mexican sausage): As with many Portuguese sausages, bread or flour fillers in chorizo seems to be the exception and not the rule. Chorizo is usually a deep red colour, as the meat is — of course! — spiced with chilies before it is stuffed. There are other options, such as a green chorizo, seasoned with green chilies and cilantro (spoiler, it’s awesome). Unlike Spanish chorizo, it is sold raw — the Spanish version is often dried and cured sausage in a casing. You’ll find this meat option in tacostlayudascarne asada and much more. It’s fab.

chorizo is customarily gluten free in mexico, and does not contain wheat as a filler
Chorizo in Mexico: all meat, no wheat!

Consommé: This dish is a lamb or goat soup, but not the thin broths you’re thinking of. In Mexico, the soup is actually deeply rich, as it’s the liquid that the barbacoa goat or lamb is cooked in. Flavoured with avocado leaves, garlic, and spices, it comes in smaller sized bowls because it packs a huge punch. Given how it’s made, there has yet to be a place that adds flour or any thickeners. If you’re at a restaurant (instead of a barbacoa stall) it is always worth asking.

Garnachas/Huaraches: These are mini disks of corn that are deep fried, and then topped with meat, onions, crumbled cheese, and pickled vegetables. I have no idea why these haven’t taken North America by storm, because they are bite sized snacks of awesomeness. (These are similar to sopes or gorditas). The key here is ensuring the oil has no cross-contact with gluten.

Chocolate and corn drinks like champurrado or atole or hot chocolate drinks such as agua de chocolate so long as you ask for it without the pan de yema (an egg bread often with the chocolate drink). The corn and chocolate drinks are made with only corn, no extra fillers (but lots of delicious spices).

Horchata (rice milk drink): horchata is made from rice, milk, water, and spices. It can be topped with cantaloupe and walnuts, and comes in a variety of tastes and styles throughout Mexico. Often incredibly sweet, it’s a refreshing option with tacos on a hot day.

Flautas/Taquitos/Tacos Dorados: These thin, crunchy taco tubes are served topped with lettuce, fresh cheese, and often refried beans. They’re a wonderful snack but beware of cross-contact as many vendors will serve them with chile relleno, which are often dredged in flour. Again, make sure the tortillas used are pure corn.

Alambres: While the name sounds like it may have something to do with dancing (is that just me?), alambres are actually a very filling plate of grilled beef or pork, onions, sweet peppers, bacon, cheese, salsa, and avocado. Of course, it is served with corn tortillas on the side. The word alambre means “wire” – sadly nothing to do with dancing. But it refers to the fact that in parts of Mexico the meet is often cooked on a skewer! It’s basically a Philly cheesesteak, swapping out the bread for tortillas. Can’t go wrong! Confirm tortillas are corn, and none of the sauces mentioned at the top of the post were in the meat.

Chapulines: Eating bugs may not be your thing, but they are delicious. In Oaxaca, these fried, spiced grasshoppers are found in a variety of dishes or just on their own. Naturally gluten free.

Totopos: In North America these are just referred to as tortilla chips, but totopos is the name found in most of Mexico. Confirm chips are made from corn tortillas, and fryer / oil has no cross-contact with gluten.

Huitlacoche: This is a really cool looking grey corn fungus that tastes wonderful in quesadillas or cooked into rice. Since it’s an unfamiliar ingredient to many, I wanted to make mention and to note it’s completely gluten free.

Enfrijoladas or entomatadas if made from corn tortillas, and no mole sauces are used. Both are usually breakfast foods.

Chilaquiles: Breakfast of champions! Tortillas gone stale, re-fried or baked in the oven and smothered in with green or red salsa — or the delicious “divorciados” option with both. Topped with raw onions, cheese, herbs, and sometimes crema (cream), they’re finished off with a meat of your choice or an egg.

Jicama: Crunchy, refreshing vegetable that looks like a giant turnip. It’s part of the yam bean family, and — fun fact — got to Asia via the Spanish who found it in Mexico. Often served with chili and lime, and safe for celiacs.

Nopal: Cactus! Specifically the Opuntia cacti that we call prickly pear. There are hundreds of varieties of Opuntia in Mexico, and they’re used for traditional medicine, the fruit is used for desserts, soups, salads, and ice cream, and the pads are de-spined and then cooked for tacos and other dishes. Nopales are a bit slimy for some, but cooked with chilies and sauce they are very tasty.

Flor de calabaza: These refer to bright orange squash blossoms, which I have started to see at markets in Montreal — these were definitely not for sale when I was growing up in the city! They aren’t just beautiful, however, they’re delicious and gluten free.

quesadilla with flor de calabaza and quesillo: in oaxaca, quesadillas are naturally gluten free
Quesadilla with flor de calabaza and quesillo — delicious, and gluten free!

Chicharrón: Fried pork rinds are now trending as a snack food in North America, but here in Mexico they’ve been eating them for a long time! They are sold in big sheets in the markets, or softened with tomatoes and salsa and made into tacos, or served as a crunchy snack in bars or at tiny ambulant street vendors. Celiacs: be sure to confirm they’re made of actual pork skin and not flour instead. I have not encountered a flour version but others have, and it’s important to ask.

Tostadas: Thin, round disks either baked or fried, tostadas are usually made of corn and then topped with beans, cheese, guacamole, and a protein of your choice. Confirm made of corn, and fried in oil that has no cross-contact with gluten.

Queso fresco, panella, Chihuahua, Cotija, and quesillo: These are but a few of many cheeses produced in Mexico, and all listed here are gluten free. To look out for: processed cheeses in supermarkets or fast-food stalls.

Flan: A delicious, simple desert made of water, sugar, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and milk, and one that really satisfies! Popular dessert throughout Mexico. Confirm no flour was used to thicken, but recipes do not call for it and traditionally-made flan will be safe.

Fruit: Don’t miss out on all of the amazing fruit that Mexico has on offer! From tuna (prickly pear cactus fruit), to papaya, guanabana, mamey, zapote negro/zapote,  and much more, they are a great refreshing snack on a hot day.

Elote / esquites: Both are corn snacks, decadently topped with mayo, cheese, lime juice, chili powder, and salt. Elote refers to the corn on the cob version, a popular snack for kids. Esquites are the same concept but taken off the cob and served in a little cup, served from a steaming metal pot. One of my favorite snacks!

Pozole: A thick stewed soup with hominy, meat (you can get pork, chicken, beef, and more), shredded cabbage, radish, cilantro, and lime. And spicy salsa to top it off! Regional varieties differ, so it’s hard to call it “one” dish, but my advice is to try each pozole and make up your mind about what’s best. Doubt check broth contents for Maggi, but restauranteurs were appalled when I asked, as it suggested their broth wasn’t in ‘original’ form. A comforting dish on a cool day.

Sopa de lima: A Yucatan specialty, though it’s found elsewhere, this delicious “lime soup” is tangy as its name would suggest, with crunchy fried tortilla strips (confirm not made of flour), shredded boiled chicken, and vegetables like chayote and carrots.

Guacamole: No doubt you’re familiar. Avocado, lime, onions, and occasionally a grasshopper or two. Some places serve it with cheese on top. Note that when you’re getting guacamole with totopos as an appetizer, this will be the guacamole you may be used to if you’re from North America. However, when eating tacos or other snacks, the guacamole often comes in a squeezable dispenser and is more watery/blended.

Salsa rojo, hitomate, salsa picante, salsa verde: These are all versions of salsas that you can find to top your dishes on this list, and again since Mexico is a huge country there is a wide variety in salsa types! Confirm that these are made from scratch with no flavoring condiments like Maggi, but if made by the restaurant/vendor they are usually safe.

gluten free salsa in mexico
Salsas aren’t always made for the table, but when they are I take a picture.

Cochinita pibil: This consists of a delectable pulled pork dish that is braised for hours in achiote and spices. Ask if bread or flour added but traditionally it is made celiac-friendly. I can’t do it as much justice as Serious Eats, so I’m quoting from them: “Real cochinita pibil is far from mild or dry. True, it’s not spicy (the heat comes in the form of intensely hot condiments on the side), but it has a uniquely sweet, earthy aroma imparted by bitter Seville oranges, achiote, charred garlic, and a host of other spices. That earthiness is backed with the herbaceous aroma of the banana leaves it’s cooked in, along with smokiness from hours of slow cooking.” Sounds good right? Go eat some.

Birria: Birria is a slow-booked stew flavored with chilies, herbs, and spices. It’s customarily made from goat or sheep, and is thick and hearty. Made from scratch, it is traditionally gluten free. As with any meat dishes, confirm no gluten-filled condiments.

Caldo de pollo, caldo de res: Caldo is soup, and these refer to chicken and beef soups. Unlike birria or some of the other dishes, the chicken and beef soup broths are usually clear, served with a generous portion of vegetables and occasionally rice. Confirm the base has no bouillon cubes. This has otherwise been a consistent go-to for my day-to-day eating.

Barbacoa: This refers to a style of cooking, one that can be made with lamb or goat.  It’s rich and flavorful, with smoky aftertastes and the lingering smell of avocado leaves. No gluten goes into these recipes. Same broken record about condiments but traditionally made babacoa will be gluten free.

Mezcal and more: gluten free drinks in Mexico

A lot more than what is mentioned here, but I wanted to make note of:

  • Mezcal, tequila, and pulque – These are alcoholic beverages made from the agave plant, and all very different in taste and process. None use malt, and they are safe.
mezcal gluten free
Mezcal from Oaxaca offers no shortage of gluten free drinks for celiac visitors.
  • Agua frescas: In between water and juice, these “fresh waters” refer to lightly flavoured cold drinks, with fruit and sugar, including my favorite — Jamaica (hibiscus flower).
  • Beer: At this time, there are no Mexican-made gluten free beers on the market. (Despite the rumours, Corona is not gluten free.)

Gluten free restaurants, shops, and all-inclusive resorts in Mexico

I’ve added an extra section here because readers have asked for all-inclusive resorts frequently. As with any of the other guides, I will keep updating this section as I receive more information.

All-inclusive resorts in Mexico: which are safe for celiacs?

  • Grand Velas are luxury resorts with locations in Los Cabos, Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit. Each resort has a selection of restaurants, most of which have gluten free dishes identified on the menu, as well as room service that can accommodate gluten free needs. The head chef at Grand Velas Riviera Maya says that guests’ dietary needs are registered into the resort’s computers upon arrival, so that staff are automatically notified when guests provide their room number. He also assures that separate cookware and utensils are used in order to avoid cross-contact for gluten free dishes.
  • Iberostar resorts in Mexico have a reputation for accommodating the needs of Celiacs thoroughly. It is however, important to check with the individual resort before booking, and to double check when you arrive. This is one place the translation cards come in handy!
  • Similarly, Valentin Maya resort in the Riviera Maya is known to be Celiac-friendly, with gluten free breads and treats available in the dining rooms and gluten free dishes clearly marked on restaurant menus.
  • For elsewhere in LATAM, Karisma group of hotels and resorts offer an all inclusive gourmet experience that caters to a variety of dietary restrictions, including celiac disease. Their resorts used to include Mexico destinations, but they have sold those properties to Lomas Hospitality and readers report that those properties (El Dorado Spa Resort and Generations Riviera Maya) are not longer celiac-friendly options under the new management.
  • Secrets Resorts are high end adult-only resorts with locations in Baja California, Huatulco, and Puerto Vallarta, as well as multiple locations near Cancun, Riviera Maya and Cozumel. Each of the locations can accommodate Celiac guests.
  • Seadust Cancun Family Resort rolled out a new gluten free menu in May 2019, resort-wide. The gluten free Cancun menus are in the resort’s 10 restaurants. The new menu includes breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings, such as gluten-free cereals, pancakes, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches and, for dessert, gluten-free pineapple pie and apple pie.

Shops with gluten free products in Mexico

  • Chedraui is a Mexican grocery and department store chain that carries gluten free items, many of which I purchased when I lived there. It had gluten free pancake and waffle mixes, to sauces, and a lot more. Very robust items but often spread out throughout the shop by food/product type, and not in a fixed “gluten free” section.
  • Superama is a supermarket chain owned by Walmart that carries gluten free products and has locations all across Mexico. So does Walmart itself.
  • KuidaT is a vegan and gluten free brand that makes a variety of products from breads to hamburger buns, cookies, pizzas and cakes. They have an online store that offers various monthly box subscriptions, as well as the ability to order individual loaves of bread or boxes of donuts. Numerous natural grocery stores across Mexico carry their range.
  • Cuesco Fino Sabor Natural (fine, natural flavor) in San Luis Potosí.
  • Ecobutik in San Angel, Mexico City sells gluten free dry goods.
  • Distrito Foods makes a gluten free mole and sells other gluten free flours at their Mexico City store.
  • Tonari Mercadería Gourmet in Chihuahua has gluten free products on offer.
  • La Miscelánea and Xiguela are two smaller shops in Oaxaca that sell gluten free and organic products. Xiguela also offers online shopping.
  • Súper Gluten Free in Monterrey (Nuevo Leon) is a dedicated gluten free food shop. They also have products that are dairy free.
  • Organic Select México in Puerto Vallarta sells a good selection of gluten free products, as well as locally grown organic vegetables.

Gluten free restaurants in Mexico City

In addition to pure corn-based or rice-based Mexican food listed above (the street food options aren’t to be missed!) , the following spots offer gluten free eating in Mexico City:

  • La Otilia is a dedicated gluten free bakery in Mexico City that values nutritious food, well trained staff, and your four legged pals as well (they get special treats!). They offer up a selection of cakes and pastries, baguettes and buns, and a breakfast and lunch menu to boot.
  • Vecchio Forno is not dedicated gluten free but they serve yummy gluten free pasta dishes – which are prepared separately and very safe to eat. While they do have GF pizza and focaccia bread, cross contact is a risk as all pizzas and focaccia are cooked in the same oven. – done
  • Los Loosers is a Mexican and Japanese vegan restaurant with gluten free options. GF noodles are available on request for their ramen dishes, and the tacos and empanadas are quite good. Staff are helpful, but please use your LATAM gluten free translation card to ensure handling / cross-contact is respected.
  • Hadasa Gourmet in Mexico City offers gluten free pastries, sandwiches and other specialties, and will cater parties and banquets in your home as well for those who are staying longer term, or in Mexico City for a special occasion that comes with a bigger crowd.
  • Ojo De Agua is a café serving gorgeous breakfasts with a number of gluten free options, as well as vegetarian and vegan.
  • Pan Filio, yet another gluten free bakery in Mexico City, this time in San Ángel. Offers cupcakes, bread, empañadas, cupcakes and much more.
  • Chef Vanessa Hernández specializes in gluten free food that is also keto, dairy free, vegan, and sugar free. Her bakery, Chokolat Pimienta Bakery, is in the Condesa neighborhood, and a popular spot for celiacs. Vanessa’s keto baking classes are not Mexican food and separate from the bakery shop.
  • Amsterdam Market, with gluten free breads as well as nut butters and other baked items. A list of their stores by area on their Origines Organicos site, here.
  • The ice cream at Nieve de Olla is gluten free and made with local ingredients. Also located in Condessa, they are focused on sustainability and zero waste practices.
  • In Coyoacán is also Las Mamazotas Kitchen, certified by AcelMex (the Mexican celiac association) as safe for us to dine at happily. They offer cakes, croissants, and sandwiches, as well as other baked goods.
  • For those with the budget, Pujol is not dedicated gluten free but the staff are very knowledgeable and accommodating. Opened by Chef Enrique Olvera in 2000, Pujol has been in the top ten of the world’s best restaurants for over a decade. It is a truly unforgettable dining experience.
  • Café Urbano located in Hotel Presidente Intercontinental, was certified the Mexican celiac association, and is an option for people who want upscale, safe dining.
  • Chez Atzin Santos uses artisanal Mexican ingredients at his restaurant, Limosneros, in Centro Histórico. Many of the dishes on the menu are gluten free, but they are not marked. The staff are well informed about celiac needs and the kitchen takes great care to ensure there is no cross contact. 

***A note about Pan Gabriel: this is an organic and self-described safely gluten free bakery with two locations in Mexico City. It used to be in this guide, and I called to confirm their safety status before I included it. However, readers have written in to say they got sick when eating there, even when in person asking about whether it is safe for celiacs. One of them ended up in the hospital for severe symptoms caused by consuming gluten. I have thus removed it and wanted to make mention for full transparency.

Gluten free restaurants in Oaxaca de Juárez

I lived in Oaxaca for several years, and truly loved my time there. One thing to note is most mole does have breadcrumbs in it to thicken the sauce. Certain moles may not have wheat added, but it’s important to know to ask. See my post on mole sauce and wheat, here.

  • Chef Mateo grew up in Mexico City and grew up making pizzas with his Argentinian mom once a week. He continued his pizza making education in Brooklyn during breaks from his work as an architect at a museum in Oaxaca. La Matatena Pizzeria, which he opened with his wife Sarai, has delicious gluten free pizzas, gluten free beer, and a lovely atmosphere. It was one of my favourite places to enjoy eating at when I lived in Oaxaca, and you can read more Mateo and Sarai’s story here.
  • Santa Hierba has a wonderful gluten free menu with dishes like garbanzo ceviche, tostado, waffles, cakes, and tarts. The food here is health-forward and many dishes are vegetarian and vegan as well.
  • The menu at Criollo features local ingredients and changes with the seasons. Gluten free foods are not indicated on the menu, but most were naturally safe and I was able to eat there without an issue. My meal involved a languorous tasting menu, and while I love my street food it was a very delicious and different experience to enjoy the artistry of Enrique Olvera’s meals. If you can’t make it to his Pujol, in Mexico City, Criollo is a lovely alternative.
  • Mercado Orgánico La Cosecha is a farmer’s market on Calle Macedonio Alcalá, a vibrant cobblestoned street that leads down to the main square in town. There is a variety of vendors here, and many have foods that are safe. Show your GF card, and enjoy your meal seated in the small park across the way. 
  • Chef Thalía Barrios uses ancestral cooking techniques to create delicious traditional Oaxacan dishes at Levadura de Olla. The menu clearly notes which dishes contain gluten.
  • Newly Michelin-starred restaurant, Los Danzantes, serves traditional Mexican food made with cultivated organic ingredients. I’ve eaten there many times, and when guests came to visit during my years of living in Oaxaca, one of our ‘fancier’ meals would be here. Gluten free dishes are clearly marked on the menu, and include Mayan octopus, blue corn gnocchi, and Quelites (Edible Herbs in Nahuatl) Soup.
  • Casa Oaxaca was the other higher-end spot that I took family to when they visited. Staff understood the assignment, there are many naturally gluten free items on the menu, and the food by chef Alejandro Ruiz was always delicious. Reservations recommended.
  • Masa de Maíz does not have a gluten free menu but several dishes are naturally safe. Avoid the mole as they can contain breadcrumbs. The tacos, memelitas, and tasajo tlayuda are delicious. 
  • Humar is a seafood restaurant with a few GF dishes on the menu. Tacos are made with corn tortillas, and the shrimp aguachile is also quite good. The staff were knowledgeable and happy to help.
  • Hierba Dulce is a feminist vegan cafe where organic local ingredients shine. The Wall Street Journal has written about their vegan moles, a rarity, but there is so much more to love. There are no processed foods in the kitchen, and special care is given to those with food allergies and intolerances. 
  • Celia Florián and Fidel Méndez have been serving traditional Oaxacan dishes at Las Quince Letras since 1992. Corn, mezcal, and mole are the main inspirations here, and while GF foods are not indicated on the menu, many dishes are safe — though most moles are made with breadcrumbs, so best to opt for something else unless absolutely sure it’s safe.
  • At Restaurant Tierra del Sol, Chef Olga Cabrera uses ancestral cooking techniques to create dishes packed with flavour and tradition. While the menu does not indicate which foods are GF, many dishes are safe to eat. The foods are made with great care and beautifully plated. This is a Michelin recommended restaurant.
  • The food at Origen is as beautiful as it is tasty. Chef Rodolfo Castellanos uses a variety of heritage corn, herbs, vegetables, chilies, and meats in his dishes, all locally sourced. Gluten free foods are not indicated on the menu, but many dishes are safe. Inquire about cross-contact.

Gluten free restaurants in Puerto Escondido

Note: When I lived in Oaxaca I took a weekend trip to the coastal town of Puerto Escondido and wrote this post on where to swim, where to eat, and where to stay. Unfortunately, a couple of the restaurants (Fresh Restaurant, Costeñito Cevichería, and Coco Fish) are no longer in business.

  • Huevos Oaxaqueños, eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and topped with quesillo is my favourite thing to eat for breakfast at El Cafecito. Gluten free foods are not marked on the menu so it’s best to ask the staff for recommendations. Read more about my favourites in the post linked above.
  • The food at Almoraduz Cocina de Autor is artful and full of flavour. Gluten free dishes are clearly marked on the haute cuisine men. There is risotto negro, made with squid ink, pesca del día (fish of the day with chimichurri), grilled asparagus with serrano ham, and more that can be eaten safely.
  • Dulce Tierra Bakery & Coffee does not have a gluten free menu, but they have banana bread, peanut butter cookies, an almond tart, and smoothie bowls that are gluten free and vegan. 
  • Spirulina is a health-forward restaurant a short walk from the beach. They do not have a gluten free menu, so it’s best to ask for recommendations. Power bowls can be ordered without granola, but be aware of cross contact. The juices and omelettes here are also popular bets.
  • Piyoli is a vegetarian restaurant with gluten free dishes clearly marked on the menu. Kick off your day with an order of chilaquiles, enchiladas verdes, or vegan rice pancakes. The also have cold pressed juices and shots.

Gluten free restaurants in Playa del Carmen

  • Dive into delicious traditional Venezuelan food at Kaxapa Factory – where Vilma’s amazing cooking will make you think you’re sitting at her kitchen table. Kaxapa (ground corn pancakes) are her specialty, and the arepas (also corn-based) and patacón (plantain-based) are quite good too, and gluten free.
  • Osteria de Roma does not have a gluten free menu, but they do have a few pasta dishes that can be made on request. Show your card and be clear, as they sometimes bring a courtesy bread basket out of habit.
  • Po Thai clearly marks gluten free foods on the menu, and the staff are very friendly and knowledgeable. The menu is packed with Thai foods that I’ve enjoyed during my travels in Thailand. Yellow curry with soft crab is a specialty here, and honestly rarely a dish to be missed when a restaurant has it on the menu. The other curries are great too. For dessert, have some mango sticky rice!
  • Serving the vegan and vegetarian communities in Playa del Carmen, Bio & Natural is an organic food shop. The menu clearly marks GF foods: vegan ceviche, curry with tofu, grain bowls and salads.
  • Chef Xavier Perez Stone was named Mexico’s Best Chef in 2011 and opened Axiote Cocina de México shortly after. The food here is made from 100% Mexican ingredients. The tacos and chips with guacamole are delicious, but be sure to ask for baked tortilla chips as the fryers are shared and the fried totopos can’t be enjoyed by us.
  • Experience the regional foods of the Yucatan at Amate 38, near Playa del Carmen’s 5 Avenue walking street. Gluten free foods are not marked on the menu, but they are well versed on food restrictions and will point out which dishes are safe. Similar to above, they use 100% Mexican ingredients and the wine list is filled with Mexican wines.

Gluten free restaurants in Tulum

  • The Better Donut is a celiac favourite in Tulum. They made organic donuts in all sorts of delightful flavours, and the gluten free donuts are prepared and cooked separately from the organic wheat ones. They even have vegan milkshakes! 
  • Featured in Travel and Leisure magazine, Mestixa is run by Chef Jose Luis Hinostroza, with a menu that focuses on Mexican-Asian fusion. While GF foods are not marked, the restaurant are happy to make adjustments to make foods as safe as possible for celiacs.  
  • Burrito Amor is run by husband and wife team, Cameron and Paula, who decided to focus on clean eating after one of their children was diagnosed with severe food allergies. While not everything on the menu is GF, there is a lot to enjoy. Burritos are the specialty, but they also serve breakfast all day.
  • The owner of Akuma Tiger Sushi has celiac disease, and much of the sushi here can be made gluten free. It is quite possibly the best gluten free sushi place in Mexico. Definitely go more than once.
  • A lot of Indian dishes like biryani or curries are naturally gluten free, so if you have a curry craving head to India Express Curry House. Before eating, always best to confirm that that if they use hing (asafoetida) in their dishes, it’s compounded with rice or corn flour, and not wheat flour.

Gluten free restaurants in Sayulita

  • Santas Iguanas is an Italian restaurant close to the center of town. They do not have a gluten free menu, but the pasta dishes can be made GF for an additional 50 pesos. 
  • Yah-Yah Cafe is an institution in Sayulita, a must for good coffee and delicious snacks. They have gluten free sandwiches, waffles, and smoothies. They also serve vegan and GF baked goods.
  • Dulce Abejita Healing House is a gluten free, lactose free, and refined sugar free restaurant on the edges of Sayulita. The menu is small but tasty—mostly pancakes, huevos, and avocado toast. They also have a Pad Thai bowl and great smoothies. 
  • The owner of La Rustica was born and raised in Sayulita, and opened the restaurant in 2013. The menu has a large variety of Italian-inspired dishes. Gluten free dishes are not indicated on the menu, but the restaurant has gluten free pasta on offer that can be substituted in. Please confirm safe preparation when ordering.

Gluten free restaurants in Merida

  • Trattoria Di Alfredo is an Italian restaurant with a small outdoor patio. They do not have a gluten free menu, but many of the pasta dishes can be made with GF pasta, cooked separately. They have great risottos that are gluten free, too.
  • Taquería De La Unión serves delicious tacos, guacamole, and margaritas. They do not have a gluten free menu, and it is best to show your GF card before ordering. 
  • Mentioned in the New York Times, Merida’s Pancho Maiz is an homage to the varieties of corn in the Yucatán. The dishes are beautiful and flavourful, and several are gluten free. 
  • Also featured by The New York Times, Micaela Mar & Leña clearly mark the dishes that contain gluten on their menu. They cook several of them on a smoky wood-fire grill, including grilled octopus, grilled cauliflower, and more. Enjoy dishes like aguachile, tacos, tostadas, and more.

Gluten free restaurants in Guadalajara

  • D’ Almendra Keto Bakery is dedicated gluten free and sugar free. They make beautiful cakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, donuts, and muffins. A great stop when your sweet tooth needs extra love.
  • Piaf Repostería Alternativa is a another dedicated gluten free cafe in the Zapopan district. The menu is small, with cakes, cookies, and desserts. The coffee is good, too.  
  • Restaurant Pierrot is a French restaurant with crisp white tablecloths, armed wicker chairs and a classic French menu. Gluten free foods are not indicated, but the kitchen can make adjustments to the meals upon request. Be sure to confirm cross-contact concerns.
  • Barbarella also does not indicate which dishes are gluten free on the menu, but as with many Italian restaurants, there are options like carpaccios, salads, and grilled or roasted meat dishes that are safe. This spot also serves tacos; be sure to confirm tortillas are pure corn. They have a large menu of Italian dishes, and an impressive cocktail menu too.

Gluten free restaurants in San Cristóbal de las Casas

  • At Inina Cafeteria, the menu is dedicated gluten free. It is also gluten free and none of the dishes contain peanuts, garlic or onions. They have things like beetroot and bean burgers, Moroccan salad, and mint and chocolate cheesecake.
  • Bangcook serves up Thai street foods. They don’t have a GF menu but traditionally safe Thai dishes like tom khai gai soup, pad thai, tom yum soup, and several curries are on the menu. Inquire about soy sauce or salsa inglesa and cross-contact before ordering.
  • Bek Semilla de Vida is a vegan restaurant with a large menu. Gluten free dishes are clearly marked, and includes tacos dorados, hot cakes, and veggie bowls. Confirm cross-contact concerns when ordering for the fried items. It’s a cozy restaurant just a couple of blocks from Catedral de San Cristóbal Mártir.
  • Sweetbeat is a family-run cafe. The menu features eggs, panini sandwiches, quesadillas, and crepes. All breads can be replaced with corn tortillas or tostadas as well.
  • Santo Nahual has gluten free foods clearly marked on the menu. They serve delicious Mexican food, and GF dishes include salmon, aguachile, tacos, and salads. It’s located in the centro historico near the cathedral.

Gluten free restaurants in Puerto Vallarta

  • La Bendita is a dedicated gluten free restaurant that also serves vegan and keto-friendly foods. On the menu are waffles, huevos al gusto, chilaquiles, and smoothie bowls. They also have desserts.
  • Since 1959, La Palapa was the first beachside restaurant in town, opened by Rodelinda and her husband Guy Dickies. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and many of the dishes are gluten free (and clearly marked on the menu).
  • The chef and team at Hola Arepas take extra care to make gluten free dishes that are safe and delicious. Arepas and empanadas are the main dishes here, but they also serve patacón and cachapa. The arepas are 100% gluten free (made from corn), and there are a number of fillings with vegetables or meat that are free of gluten as well.
  • Veggitalia is a health-forward Italian restaurant near the Malecon. The menu has foods for gluten free diners, as well as vegetarians and vegans. Try one of their GF pizzas, polenta, or zucchini spaghetti. 
  • The outdoor terrace at Barcelona Tapas has a gorgeous ocean view. It’s a lovely spot to watch the sunset while enjoying wine and tasty tapas. Gluten free dishes are not marked on the menu, but the staff are very knowledgeable. 
  • The gluten free menu at Mezcal & Sal has a nice selection of tacos, tlayudas, and tetlas. They also have a poutine, mahi mahi ceviche, and gorgeous mezcal cocktails.
  • Daiquiri Dick’s on the beach is an instagrammable beachside restaurant serving breakfast, brunch, and dinner. It’s been a part of PV’s food scene since 1972, and a popular spot with tourists. The menu clearly marks gluten free dishes, which includes birria short rib tacos, beet salad, and blackened salmon.

Gluten free restaurants in San Miguel de allende

  • Soltribe Cuisine is a dedicated gluten free and vegan restaurant near Hotel Real de Minas. The ingredients used are organic, sustainable and locally sourced. Mindfulness is the focus here, and the menu features a mixture of cuisines. There are oyster mushroom ceviche, pineapple Thai yellow curry, cauliflower “fish” tacos, and more.
  • The Restaurant has been featured in Travel and Leisure, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vice. Led by chef Donnie Masterton, the menu is focused on local, sustainable, organix ingredients. While gluten free foods are not indicated, the staff and chef are very accommodating. Truly one of the best restaurants in San Miguel de allende.
  • Rustica is a trendy little restaurant near La Hacienda de San Miguel. Gluten free dishes are clearly marked on the menu and the staff are quite helpful. They have tostada, tuna sashimi, tacos and brownies.
  • Cent’anni Ristorante does not have a gluten free menu, but they do have gluten free sauces and pastas on request. Most pastas are made tableside, as well as their Ceasar salad. It is best to show your translation card before ordering to avoid confusion or cross-contact.
  • El Pato Barbacoa y Mixiotes is about a 30 min walk from the main square. It is highly rated on Trip Advisor, and they do not have a printed menu. The owner, however, is very friendly and takes great care when preparing gluten free dishes like barbacoa, and other streetside barbecue eats.

Gluten free restaurants in Guanajuato

  • Casa Valadez opened its doors in March 1950, and is one of the 50 best restaurants in Mexico. Today, the kitchen is led by chef Karen Valadez Burstein, who has competed on Iron Chef Mexico. Gluten free foods are not indicated on the menu, but the kitchen is very accommodating. A truly unforgettable meal.
  • Bar Tradicional Luna does not have a gluten free menu, but many of the dishes can be made with corn tortillas. They also serve salmon, aguachile, and chicken dishes. Show your translation card and ask questions before ordering as some sides, like beans, can have traces of gluten.
  • Tazón de Barro, Comida Medicinal is a vegan restaurant near the Centro Historico. There are several dishes that are gluten free, each one beautifully plated. The restaurant’s ambiance is vibrant, making it a favourite among visitors to Guanajuato.
  • Gluten free dishes are not marked on the menu at Escarola, but several dishes are safe. Corn tortillas are used for tacos, and corn flour for quesadillas.

What is NOT gluten free in Mexico?

As I mentioned at the top: beware of condiments like Maggi, Salsa Inglesa or Knorr cubes/seasonings. I got sick at tacos made from scratch where they were frying up and seasoning the meat using Salsa Inglesa. The gluten free Mexico restaurant card accounts for these and should help keep you safe.

In addition, people may get glutened with:

  • oil that has cross-contact with gluten (frying products in the same oil as breaded products)
  • tortillas that are a mix of corn and wheat (more common in the North, less so in Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, and San Cris)
  • mole sauces that are used as flavouring in tamales, especially mole negro and coloradito
  • rice cooked with bouillon cubes, or flavoured with condiments above.

Tortas: Sandwiches. All off limits.

Pastel: Cake. Rare to find gluten free baked goods here — even the corn breads have wheat flour — unless you seek out a gluten free bakery.

Certain mole sauces / Tamales with those mole sauces:  Mole negro, mole rojo, mole coloradito and sometimes mole amarillo are all often made with breadcrumbs. (See this post  for more.)

tamales filled with mole: not all are gluten free because most mole sauces use bread in them.
My attempts at making mole tamales, with special bread-free version for my own celiac stomach.

Chile relleno: Some stuffed chile peppers are dredged purely in egg and fried, instead of with egg and wheat flour. It seems to be the exception and not the rule, and you will be wise to avoid this snack.

Processed soups if base is made with Knorr or Maggi seasonings

Tortillas de trigo (wheat tortillas), which are found a lot more commonly in the North of Mexico and the Yucatan, including for quesadillas and empanadas. In the more Southern/Central areas of Mexico, corn tortillas are the prevalent option.

Burritos: These are almost always made with wheat tortillas. These aren’t as common, but are found in some parts of Mexico.

Some enchiladas: An enchilada can be a variety of things, and refers to a corn tortilla that is rolled around a filling of meat or cheese and bathed in salsa. Note that if the salsa is, as with other dishes, made from a thick mole sauce – it’s probably thickened with bread and off limits.  Enchiladas with salsa rojo or salsa verde are usually safe.

Churros: I weep for my lack of churros, fried dough sticks often dipped in chocolate that look amazing. Sadly they’re made from wheat.

Panque de elote: If you ask, most vendors will say their corn cakes are made from corn — but I’ve yet to find a spot that doesn’t include some wheat flour added in. Best to verify with the restaurant but I would urge caution.

MicheladaThis includes beer, and often Worcestershire sauce/Salsa Inglesa, and is a no go.

Cream-based soups: Per the Mexican woman, also celiac, who translated this card on the 2nd round: cream based soups in Mexico are often thickened with flour.

Salsa Inglesa – this is the common name for Worcestershire sauce, some of which is non-branded and made in Mexico. While not all Worcestershire Sauce contains wheat, almost all of the ones in Mexico do – with the exception of  Inglesita, a Guadalajara-based Worcestershire sauce that gluten free, aged in a white oak barrel, and vegan. You can find Inglesita at La Miscelánea in Oaxaca, but the sauce company’s Facebook page is fairly responsive so you can send them a message to ask about where to find it elsewhere in Mexico.

A option for gluten free Worcestershire sauce in mexico is ingelsita, which is a new artisanal sauce
Inglesita Worcestershire sauce is a Mexican-made, artisanal sauce that is gluten free and vegan. Thanks to Rebecca Rinke from La Miscelánea for the picture.

I got glutened during a taco binge because they were dousing the grilled meat with it. It is thus important if you are getting tacos to ask if it was used in marinating or grilling. Yes, my celiac card notes that it’s off limits because 99% of the Worcestershires / salsa inglesas are with gluten.

Celiac disease in Mexico

According to the nonprofit organization Asistencia al Celíaco de México, the prevalence of celiac disease in Mexico is approximately 1 per 150 people. Population-wide studies estimate that approximately 800,000 Mexicans had celiac disease as of October 2018, though as with many countries the condition is likely underdiagnosed. Per researchers, the prevalence of celiac disease in Latin America is similar to that reported in Europeans, i.e. approximately 1% of the population.

For your travel purposes: the Mexican Celiac Association costs about 550 Mexican Pesos to join (about $30USD). Membership comes with access to their mobile app, which lists gluten free establishments that are safe for celiacs.

Best books to read about Mexico

For those of you looking to visit, here are some wonderful books to help learn a little more about Mexico and its food before you get there.

For food books and cookbooks about Mexico:

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