gluten free portugal guide

The Essential Gluten Free Guide to Portugal

I spent several months in Portugal, one in Lisbon and the rest on the island of Madeira. I traveled there initially to speak at a food conference; I stayed because I did not want to stop eating with friends. From fresh seafood to perfectly steamed vegetables to satisfying soups, the country left my taste buds hankering for more. This gluten free Portugal guide shares some of what was safe, what was off limits, and the lessons I learned in the process the hard way—I’m looking at you, yellow mustard.

Portugal’s emphasis on quality ingredients as the building blocks of their meals made it easy to find food safely. As with many countries, snack time is the hardest — on-the-go sandwiches are off limits, as are the amazing pastel de nata tarts, though gluten free versions have popped up around town.

The country’s grocery items were clearly marked for celiacs—a sticker applied to packaging states that it is gluten-free. As part of the European Union, manufacturers are required by law to disclose any allergen, including wheat, rye, barley, or oats, and these are identified in bold on the ingredient list. Where they are gluten free, in Portuguese they would often say isento de glúten.

For eating out, many menus of the day (larger lunchtime meals) include a simple grilled main with roasted potatoes, vegetables, and rice. These were almost always safe. Check the list of foods below, and bring the gluten free card with you, to double check. Grilled chicken and piri-piri chicken was almost always safe, unless made using a marinade or broth that had wheat. I did not have any trouble with this in Portugal, though I have at Portuguese restaurants abroad.

LAST UPDATED: JANUARY 5, 2023

Already know you want a gluten free translation card? You can buy my Portuguese card here, as well as Italy, Japan, Greece, Spain, and more! 

A detailed gluten free restaurant card for Portugal

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 https, so you know your information is safe.

Why is this Portuguese translation 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 contaminated oil for frying, 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:
✅  Immediate download, sized specifically for mobile. 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.
✅ 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 contaminated surfaces or oils are also unsafe.
✅ It is researched by a celiac and goes through two sets of translations to ensure accuracy.

Portuguese gluten free restaurant card for travel by legal nomads

An English translation of the card’s contents will be emailed to you after your purchase.

A big thanks to Celia Pedroso for translating this card from English, as well as offering up her own suggestions for this guide. She offers food tours in Lisbon via Culinary Backstreets – and can ensure that they are safe for celiacs.

Quick phrases: while the card above contains the safest way to communicate celiac disease in Portugal, here are three quick phrases that you can also use

I have celiac disease and I am intolerant to gluten, do you have anything that’s gluten free?
Tenho doença celíaca e não posso comer glúten. Você tem alguma coisa sem trigo/sem glúten?

What gluten free options would you recommend? Que opções livre de glúten você recomendaria?

Does this food contain wheat or gluten? Essa comida contém trigo ou glúten?

Eating gluten free in Portugal: dishes, ingredients, and snacks

gluten free guide to portugal
Some of the wonderful spices found in Portuguese food.

These are commonly wheat-free in Portugal, confirmed by the translator and myself (having traveled in Portugal). As with any destination, it’s best to confirm on a case-by-case basis that no flour was used for thickening purposes, as it’s possible that some restaurants will do so as it’s an easy go-to for sauces and stews. For the basics, trigo, cevada, aveia e centeio (wheat, barely, oats, and rye) are what you don’t want to eat.

  • Arroz doce – a typical Portuguese rice pudding dessert served with cinnamon.
  • Caldo verde – a common vegetable soup that contains potato and greens, and sometimes includes the popular Portuguese sausage, chouriço.
  • Feijoada – a bean stew typically served with pork and/or beef on rice. Note: ask if the sausage in the feijoada is farinheira or alheira, in which case it should be avoided. Rarely was this the case, but if so it’s off limits, so important to ask.
  • Codorniz Assada – roasted quail, a traditional delicacy in Portugal. Roasted with garlic, paprika and Portuguese white wine.
  • Cozido à Portuguesa – a stew of various meats and vegetable, be sure to double check ingredients.
  • Tremoços – lupini beans, a traditional Portuguese snack, often served in bars with a drink. Want to try them at home? I have a recipe for them here.
gluten free portugal - snacks
Tremocos are gluten free, and tasty.
  • Sopa de abóbora – a smooth and sweet traditional Portuguese pumpkin soup.
  • Grilled meat – double check marinades, sauces and seasonings being used. Also confirm that it is not cooked on a shared surface with gluten-containing foods.
  • Doce de amendoim – a traditional candy of peanut brittle.
  • Rojões – a fried pork dish from Northern Portugal.
  • Sardines in cans, or fresh, and other fresh seafood, though as noted in the “unsafe” section below, it’s wise to check ingredients for any canned seafood with sauce.
  • Salted cod, called bacalhau, is safe “as is” (dried salted fish by itself) but be wary of it when it is on the menu as it’s often re-constituted with water and cooked with flour and other ingredients.
  • Caldeirada – a delicious fish stew made with a variety of fish and potatoes. Confirm that no flour has been added to thicken the soup.
  • Cured meat like maranhos, goat sausages that are typically stuffed with rice.
  • Chouriço sausage, mint, parsley and paprika, and wrapped in tripe.
  • Tripas À Moda do Porto – tripe cooked with beans, bay leaves, and meat, served on rice (so tasty).
  • Capão Recheado – stuffed capon, traditionally stuffed with chestnuts and eaten Christmas Eve.
  • Dry roasted nuts with no seasoning other than salt.
  • Batatas a muro – smashed roasted potatoes or fried potatoes – double check that it is not fried in a shared fryer with gluten-containing ingredients.
  •  Milho frito – baked polenta with herbs that is then cut into cubes and fried. Double check that it is not fried in a shared fryer with gluten-containing ingredients.
  • Castanhas assadas – roasted chestnuts, a traditional Portuguese snack, especially during the São Martinho (St. Martin) festivities in November.
lisbon gluten free guide
Beautiful Lisbon on a sunny day.

Celiac-safe shopping and gluten free restaurants in Portugal

There are quite a few places to buy gluten free supplies if you are visiting Portugal, from high-end supermarkets to organic stores.

Portugal’s Celiac Society lists gluten free stores or places that sell gluten free items, organized by city here. They also note that:

You can also find the APC logo on supermarket products as a way to identify what is gluten free. Continente, Pingo Doce and Jumbo are supermarkets with a lot of naturally gluten free products of their brands.

Celeiro: Health food shop that has a large variety of vitamins, organic food, and gluten free products. The website lists each of their locations around the country.

Brio: Another health food store with organic products and gluten free options.

Pingo Doce: A budget-friendly supermarket that I went to for rice cakes, which I ate a lot of with that amazing Portuguese cheese. They also had gluten-free cereals and crackers, even if the particular franchise was extremely tiny.

El Corte Ingles: More expensive department store with a gluten free / bio section in each of their grocery stores.

If you want to cook yourself, the Portuguese Celiac Society has a list of gluten free recipes here.

Gluten free restaurants in Portugal

Please see this list from the Celiac Association of Portugal, which has put together restaurants that have been certified by them as safe for celiacs. Note also that McDonalds in Portugal also has certified-safe buns, practices, and menu for celiacs if you’re in a pinch.

You’ll want to look for this trusty sign:

Lisbon

I tended to eat as I wandered, and most restaurants were able to accommodated me easily. However:

  • Open Brasserie Mediterranica in Lisbon has a gluten free menu, organic food, and focuses on sustainability, and is worth a visit.
  • La Trattoria also clearly marks their menu with ‘no wheat’ for their gluten free items, and was delicious
  • Gluten free pizza with many creative toppings (or you can make your own) at Spanish chain Totale Pizzeria, now in Lisboa.
  • Pistola y Corazon, Mexican food in the heart of Lisboa. Homemade corn tortillas, many gluten free options on their daily menu. And MEZCAL, oh the mezcal. (Sure, they’ve got tequila too, but with a part of my heart in Oaxaca, it’s mezcal forever over here.)
  • For those with a sweet tooth, Gelato Davvero has gluten free cones and gelato to choose from — as well as locations in 3 cities. Choco & Mousse has gluten free cakes on offer, and they’re ridiculously good. They also serve a fully gluten free breakfast.
  • Vegan and vegetarian places often serve gluten free dishes, and Jardim dos Sentidos is no exception.
  • Honest Greens is another Spanish franchise that has opened in Lisbon, and has bowls, salads, and great sides to eat, with many gluten free options and knowledgeable staff.
  • I was obsessed with the duck rice at Ze da Mouraria. Be warned, bring 4 people because the portion size is insane.
  • Gluten free pasteis de nata (REJOICE, EVERYONE, AND GO STUFF YOUR FACES IMMEDIATELY) at Zarzuela in Lisbon.
  • Pastelaria | Padaria Gluten’Out: As the name suggests, this is a dedicated gluten free bakery, with breads, banana cake, and other treats that are made with rice and buckwheat flours, primarily.
  • The Time Out Market in Lisbon has a slew of stalls to choose from, highlighting some of the best places to eat in Lisbon. Their piri-piri chicken stall was gluten-free, and amazing. Many others to choose from and the best part is you can wander around and keep eating for hours.
  • Chutnify Lisbon: Southern Indian food is full of gluten free treats, and this great casual spot is in my Germany gluten free guide. Now they’ve got a Lisbon outpost, full of dosa for your snacking needs. Truly one of my favourite things to eat!
  • For those of you, like me, who love sarasin (buckwheat) crepes, Crêperie du Bairro has 100% buckwheat options, both savory and sweet, for celiacs and non-celiacs alike. (They’ve also got other crepe options for the non-celiac set)
  • For fresh seafood that will make your eyes pop, Phoebe from Feed me Phoebe recommends Pinoquio over the more-famous Ramiro. I tried Ramiro and it was fine but not stupendous; I’m excited to give this other option a try during my next visit.
  • I’m For Real is a fully gluten free take out spot with pizza, bread, and great salads, certified by the celiac association.
  • Cantina Do Avillez is another fish-filled reco from Phoebe, with gluten free items clearly marked on the menu. She swears by the fish curry and I see no reason to disagree.
  • Beiju is a “tapiocaria,” specializing in all things tapioca – a grain that is naturally gluten free. From sweet pancakes to savoury cheese breads, this chain — they also have other locations in Porto. Note that they’re not a 100% gluten free facility – they do serve some dishes with croutons and whole wheat pasta, so best to make sure what you’re getting is safe when you visit.
  • Lisbon has a GROM now! Can’t miss their delicious gelato and gluten free treats. They also sell their tubs of ice cream in convenient snack sizes around town. If you can’t get to Italy, GROM can at least come to you.
  • Batarda’s is fully gluten free and serves amazing breads but — and this is why it’s amazing — also different flavours of rissoles, Portuguese croquettes/turnovers that are covered in breadcrumbs. These ones are safe for celiacs, and amazing.
gluten free lisbon
The light in Lisbon never fails to amaze.
Porto
  • A special mention for Tasquinha do Bé in Porto, which offers gluten free francesinha (as per the below, a Portuguese sandwich served with cured meat, sausage and topped with a tomato and beer sauce.) Call ahead for reservations/notice for this dish, as it’s a popular one and they need prep time. This restaurant is not 100% gluten free, but does have gluten free beer and is aware of celiac disease and the stringent requirements.
  • Com Cuore is a 100% gluten free bakery in Porto. Everything is safe, and everything is delicious!
  • Italian Restaurant Sergio Crivelli is accredited by the Portuguese Celiac Association and has a full gluten free menu online to peruse. It’s located not far from Porto, in Matosinhos.
  • There’s a Porto Honest Greens as well, on Rua Santa Catarina — great spot for a quick meal that’s safe and delicious.
Gluten free restaurants in the rest of Portugal
  • In the Algarve, see O Grão da mesma mó, certified by the celiac association. It offers cakes, breads, and rice dishes for celiacs to enjoy.
  • Also certified is the Pena Park Hotel, in Ribeira de Pena in Northern Portugal (northeast of Guimaraes). Their staff will be able to accommodate any meals when visiting the area.
  • Celícias – Gluten Free Company in Vila Nova de Gaia sells cakes and cookies that are fully gluten free, with curbside pickup or purchase in store.
  • Pizzeria Italiana Con Essenza in Maia is certified with the celiac association and has plenty of dishes for celiacs to choose from.
  • Fully gluten free, Boca de Leão in Póvoa de Varzim, offers sumptuous cakes and tarts, as well as other desserts. Started by Teresa Bernardes, who wanted to build an inclusive sweet shop that her celiac daughter (and others with food restrictions) could eat at happily.
  • In Braga, Bonna Pastelaria sells pizzas, bread, pastries, croissants, desserts, and more. Certified by the celiac association.
  • In Ponta Delgada, on the Azores, Longe da Espiga is a fully gluten free bakery that sells bread, Portugese egg tarts, tapioca cheese balls, cookies, and more.

What ISN’T gluten free in Portugal

During your visit to Portugal these are foods that you should avoid, and are not safe for celiacs.

  • Quite a lot of desserts, as with most countries we visit! Pasteis de nata (custard tarts), almond tarts, coconut cookies, and serradura (sawdust pudding – pudding with crushed cookies).
  • Sangria. I KNOW. But I found that bars added beer to their sangria occasionally, so be sure to ask. Or, you know, just stick to Portugal’s world-famous wines instead!
  • Seasoned rice: some restaurants will cooked their rice in bouillon, unfortunately Knorr is the monopoly in this game. Since their bouillion cubes have wheat in them, I tended to ask for plain white rice and if the restaurant did not have any, I got roasted potatoes or veggies instead.
  • Trinchado (braised beef) – flour is typically used to thicken the sauce of this traditional spicy Portuguese dish.
  • Migasà Alentejana – a savory bread pudding served with meat.
  • Bacalhau pie – a traditional Portuguese cod fish pie, which contains flour in the béchamel sauce.
  • Acorda – Portuguese bread soup.
  • Francesinha – Portuguese sandwich served with cured meats, sausage and topped with a tomato and beer sauce.
  • Broade avintes – a traditional bread from Northern Portugal.
  • Bolo de serta – a flatbread made with corn and what flour, or bola de carne – flatbread containing meat.
  • Queijadasde batata doce – sweet potato cupcakes popular in fall.
  • Rissole -a small croquette rolled in breadcrumbs, usually baked or deep fried. The filling has savory ingredients, most often minced meat, fish, shrimp, or cheese. Often a side dish.
  • Meat or fish that has been breaded or battered.
  • Meat or fish canned with sauces: check ingredients before eating.
  • Some sausages and charcuterie contain wheat, such as alheira and farinheira sausages. It’s important to ask if they have flour or bread in them as a thickener. I found more charcuterie than not was safe, compared to travels elsewhere in Western Europe, but it’s always important to ask. Alheira definitely off limits.
what to avoid celiac portugal
ix-nay for eliacs-say. Alheira is off limits.
  • Toasted nuts and dried fruit with seasoning, as these were often dredged in flour first.
  • Note that yellow mustard (I KNOW RIGHT?) often contains gluten in Portugal! Check labels before using.

Best books to read about Portugal

For those of you looking to visit Portugal, here are some wonderful books to help inform your visit.

Guidebooks

  • For those wanting an idea of what to do in Lisbon, the 101 Coolest Things series has a new guide to Lisbon available here. Also see Roads and Kingdoms’ Know Before You Go for Lisbon here.
  • For a more long-form guide to Portugal, I used the Lonely Planet Portugal book. The link is to their newest edition (published September 2021).

Historical Reads About Portugal

Food books

  • Portugal: The Cookbook, by Leandro Carreira. A 2022 publication with a stunning cover, this huge cookbook (550 recipes!) shares dishes from coast to coast, from stews to soups and pastries to make your mouth water. Wonderful introduction to the variety the country has to offer.
gluten free portugal
Funchal’s painted doorways, on Madeira.

Happy and safe eating in one of my favourite countries!

-Jodi

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