A Celiac’s Gluten Free Guide to Vietnam

If I had to choose one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, I would immediately opt for Vietnamese food. I spent several winters exploring the country, with time spent in Saigon and Hanoi, in Hue and Danang, and eating as much as I could every second of every day.

As a celiac, eating gluten free in Vietnam was not only possible but gloriously easy. Once I learned the ingredients I needed to avoid, I stuck to street food where I could see dishes being made and I explored to my taste buds’ content.

The following guide will help people navigate Vietnam with an eye to avoiding gluten. I am very sensitive and have avoided some dishes at restaurants where oil could have cross-contact with gluten. The benefit of street food is that often the stalls are one-stop wonders, and if it involves something fried on the spot, the oil is only used for that product.

Eating in Vietnam was a pleasure, but also a good part of why I love to write about food. It isn’t just about taste, but the experience of sharing a meal in the midst of chaos, sitting on a blue plastic chair.

I hope this guide, twinned with my long Saigon Street Food Guide will make your time in Vietnam exciting, delicious, and filled with incredible sights.

Already know you want a gluten free translation card? You can buy my Vietnamese card here, as well as Italy, Thailand, Japan, Greece, Spain, and more! 
Hu tieu soup: one of many soups in this guide to Vietnam that is usually gluten free
Hủ tiếu, tapioca noodles that are gluten free

Eating gluten free in Vietnam: an overview

I was diagnosed as celiac in early 2000s, though I rarely wrote about it when I started Legal Nomads. Honestly, I didn’t think readers would be interested, and it was something I struggled with heavily as I travelled but I kept it to myself.

When I met readers, many mentioned they also had celiac disease, so I started making sure I provided tips for celiacs or those following a gluten-free diet. This gluten free Vietnam guide is built with an aim to help fellow celiacs, but also to encourage people to eat in the country. It’s truly some of the best food you’ll try.

In my years of living in the city, Saigon was a paradise for celiacs. I have been “glutened” inadvertently in Hanoi, where wheat (and soy sauce with wheat!) are used more frequently. In the South—Saigon and the Mekong—I have not had any trouble. I also did well in Hue and Hoi An.

I should note cross-contact is an issue for me; I am really sensitive to gluten. Though celiac patients are all advised to avoid both in order to maintain the health of their microvilli, some people with celiac disease don’t feel symptoms with smaller cross-contact, and therefore don’t avoid it. I do my best to do so, and despite this, I did not have trouble in Southern Vietnam.

In Southern Vietnam, there’s an extra reason why: many vendors use a local soy sauce that is 100% soy-based, like tamari in Japan. Ingredients are wheat-free, the packaging says “100% soy” on it, and per chefs and suppliers I spoke with multiple times, there were no unlabeled ingredients likely to be found. You can see an English translation of the ingredients here. Whether that means there is no trace gluten in the sauce remains in question, but I did not get sick when eating soy sauce dishes on the street.

soy sauce gluten free vletnam
This is the soy sauce I used and carried with me: no wheat in the ingredients.
There is some contention about soy sauce generally, as some companies have said that fermenting soy sauce removes the gluten even when there is wheat in the soy sauce. Yes, it’s true that fermenting means that testing antibodies won’t detect hydrolyzed gluten, but the peptide chains remain, and gliadin is still there.

Tourist-driven (read: fancier) restaurants often imported wheat-y soy sauce from elsewhere, so my solution was to eat everything streetside, with great success.

A detailed gluten free restaurant card for Vietnam

This card was the second in what has become a series of gluten free guides and local language cards, and I’m excited to be working with translators and celiacs to build detailed and safe cards for us to use on the road. Each of the cards in the guide has been created with celiac-specific research, mention of cross-contact, and double checked translation from locals who speak the language.

Note: The card is available for purchase via trustworthy 3rd party site that uses Stripe, so you know your information is safe.

Why is this Vietnamese 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. I will also send a second downloadable file, a PDF version that is easy to print, with English on one side and Vietnamese 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.

Click to jump over to the purchase page!

An English translation of the card will be sent to you after you purchase.

A big thanks to To Tra for enlisting her entire family’s translation services in an aim to make this card as thorough as possible without overwhelming waitstaff.

Gluten Free Vietnamese Food: Dishes and Snacks

Before I went to Vietnam, my familiarity with the cuisine was quite shallow. Even now, after years of time in Ho Chi Minh City, I am likely missing some of the great dishes in my repertoire. One of the most rewarding things about Vietnam travel is how excited people are to share their food with you. As a celiac, the best weapon against anxiety from the disease is an understanding of the building blocks that go into each dish. Vietnam makes this easy for you.

One of the most helpful aspects of Vietnamese eating is that the dish names are profoundly descriptive. What we in the west call phở is not only a soup name, it refers to the noodle used in the soup. Same for many other dishes, such as the litany of bún or bánh dishes, referring to the starch that defines them from other dishes.

 Please see my VERY long food guide to Saigon Street food for photos and a more thorough description of each of the dishes below — this should be read alongside the current gluten free Vietnam guide to provide you with the most thorough information prior to your visit. 

Condiments — the plum or hoisin sauce with phở, for example — ought to be chosen quite carefully, but the most common condiment of all, fish sauce, was gloriously gluten free.

That said, Andrea Nguyen writes in her post on Asian gluten free eating that some fish sauces have hydrolyzed wheat protein:

Note that occasionally fish sauce will have an ingredient called hydrolyzed wheat protein, which is not gluten free. I have not seen fish sauce with this used in Vietnam very frequently but it merits checking if you are celiac. The Vietnamese ingredient name is “protein lua mi”

That said, when wheat is fully hydrolyzed, it means that it has been processed in a way that removes the offending gluten content from its structure and a study has shown safety for celiac patients. That said, there are different processing techniques and molecular weights for hydrolyzed wheat protein (HWP) and a more recent study found large variability in each of the HWPs tested. For now, I avoid products with HWP. The fish sauces I saw and used in Vietnam also did not have HWP , but it is worth mentioning in the event it becomes more common.

Note that eating gluten free in Hanoi was more difficult for me than in the central or southern areas of Vietnam, due to the Hanoi and northern Vietnamese dishes’ use of soy sauce more frequently than in the south where fish sauce rules.

Some of the gluten free condiments found in Vietnamese food
Fish sauce aplenty, to stay or to go.

Gluten free Vietnamese dishes, soups, and noodles

  • For bánh xèo and bánh khọt, please be sure to ask if their batter has wheat and rice flour. The recipe is meant to be made with rice flour but some places are using pre-made mixes, in which case it is not safe for celiacs. See here for a recipe for bánh khọt that I’ve made many times since I lived in Vietnam.
  • Hủ tiếu (tapioca) noodles – these can be found in hủ tiếu Nam Vang a soup that was one of my favourite breakfasts. It’s important to note that some forms of hu tieu soups don’t actually use hủ tiếu noodles. As I wrote in my Saigon Street Food Guide, hủ tiếu soups can come wet or dry, with dry noodles stir-fried or lightly pan-fried and the broth on the side. There are also a few types of noodles commonly served with hủ tiếu soup, (1) (egg noodles, see below for UNSAFE foods where these wheat-based noodles reside in this guide), (2) hủ tiếu noodles, made with tapioca starch so they’re springier, and (3) phở or bún noodles, made with rice flour.  Only (1) is off limits for us celiacs.
  • Gỏi cuốn– fresh spring rolls, which are wrapped in rice paper. Often called summer rolls in North America.
  • quảng – the exception to the “mi / my” category below, mì quảng noodles are actually made of rice, served with a smaller amount of broth that is tinted with turmeric. They are wider than phở noodles and quite delicious!
  • Miến (mung bean flour) noodles. Miến noodles can often be found in stalls that sell phở, and one of my favourite dishes to get when I had a cold was miến gà, chicken noodle soup with mung beans as the noodle base.
  • Phở (rice flour or rice starch) – while we often use phở as the name of the soup, the soup’s name comes from the noodle itself, which is made from rice flour.
  • Bún (rice flour or rice starch) – there are a whole slew of bún soups – bún bò, bún ốc, bún mắm, bún cá, bún thang, bún mọc, bún măng vịt, and many more. For those growing up in the West, please do explore the extraordinary variety of Vietnamese soups beyond phở. Many of these soups do not have soy sauce in them, but it is always important to ask.  Whenever I had a cold, bún mọc, a pork and mushroom meatball soup with rice noodles, was my favourite go-to to help me feel better.
gluten free dishes you can find in vietnam
Bún noodles are made from rice and are gluten free.
  • Bánh canh (tapioca and rice noodles), often served in bánh canh cua, an incredible crab noodle soup that I often ate for breakfast near my apartment in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Chả giò, or nem rán are fried spring rolls, wrapped in rice paper) Northern-style Vietnamese restaurants will call these nem. Note that for celiacs eating in Hanoi, and with more and more frequency in the south, they are not always made with rice paper as the wrapper. Northern nem are sometimes dipped in bread crumbs before being fried, so again please be cautious if not in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. These days, it’s important to ask if the fried rolls are made using bánh tráng (rice paper) or won ton or flour wrappers.
  • Cơm (rice) – cơm tấm (broken rice), cơm tấm sườn (rice with pork chop), cơm hen (rice with baby clams) — cơm anything, really. The cơm itself is safe, but as with any protein dishes you need to confirm that the meat or seafood was not marinated in a marinade that includes soy sauce. During my years of living in Southern Vietnam, soy sauce was not prevalent, but readers report it is more and more common in the south.
  • Cháo lòng – this is a congee-like porridge, made with rice and some deliciously nutritious offal like lungs and intestines, as well as blood cubes. It’s not for everyone, but it is amazing if you enjoy your grisly parts. Note that they usually come with bread on the side, or chopped inside, but you can just decline them.
  • Oc – ốc is technically the word for snails, but an ốc restaurant will not only serve snails but also a dizzying variety of delicious seafood, from grilled scallops to lemongrass clams, and so much more. Often these are cooked over the fire or steamed, and I did not encounter breaded options very often. Unlike the fried oysters or breaded scallops of Canada, I was able to partake in almost all of the seafood at these stalls, and it was incredibly tasty. For a primer, please see Vietnam Coracle’s Snails and Seafood guide.
Lemongrass clams, a delicious gluten free meal
Lemongrass clams, served street-side. One of my favourite ốc meals.

Gluten free Vietnamese snacks: so good!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the snacks.

One of the hardest parts about being a celiac is that often the “on the go” snacks that countries offer are made from wheat. It makes sense; the sandwich or pastry are both easy ways to transport food without making a mess. With the exception of Mexico, where corn snacks are everywhere, I’ve had a hard time with mid-meal noshes.

Not so in Vietnam! From bánh tráng nướng (grilled rice paper rolls), below, to bánh tráng tron (rice paper shredded and mixed with quail egg, peanuts, chili oil, and green mango into a salad), to bánh tráng cuốn (rice paper rolls with similar ingredients but rolled and cut into a bag), I never felt hungry when soups were lacking. None of these had any wheat.

Banh trang nuong: delicious snack that is also gluten free
Bánh tráng nướng: delicious snack that is also gluten free (as always, check condiments!)

Gluten free hotels, restaurants, and shops in Vietnam

Unlike my other guides, Vietnam is less robust on the gluten free products – but that’s ok, because you can essentially cook yourself with a metric ton of rice noodles or bánh. For those wanting to cook from home, AirBnb is still your best bet. Otherwise, go for street food like I did, or opt for nicer hotels.

Prior celiac guides were written with my own restaurant recommendations, tested from travels as a celiac. In 2017, my life took a big turn when a botched lumbar puncture left me with a chronic spinal CSF leak, and disabled. As a result, the recommendations in this guide are partly put together via community crowdsourcing, and have not been personally tested by me specifically. While I have lived in Vietnam, my recommendations are outdated, and I have turned to fellow celiacs to help fill that gap and keep you as safe as possible.
Gluten free restaurants and hotel in Da Nang

Friends and I visited Danang and Hoi An in one trip, and had a long list of places to eat at before we left Saigon. Situated roughly halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang’s strategic location eventually made it a valuable port city, but it was Hoi An that was the star of the region for much of its history. During French colonial rule from 1888 to 1950 it was known as Tourane, though Da Nang has had many different names over the years depending on who was in change. The city’s port became more important once European ships were allowed to trade with central Vietnam, and it soon grew into a hub for trade and cultural exchange.

In more recent times, Da Nang has modernized rapidly, transforming into an urban center with new and substantial infrastructure investments. These include skyscrapers, conference centers, and bridges—including the famous Cầu Rồng (dragon bridge), which opened on March 29, 2013 and does, in fact, look like a dragon. It even breathes fire if you’re there during the fire show hours, held Fridays, Saturdays,and Sundays at 9pm local time. I may have come to the city for the food, but I enjoyed the dragon show.

Da Nang’s modernization has also made it a magnet for digital nomads, with a tech scene, working spaces, and cafes with high-speed internet that are easily accessible and relatively affordable. Fun trips in the region also make it an inviting spot to spend a longer amount of time. The Ba Na hills (and their cable car), the Marble Mountains, and UNESCO World Heritage site My Son ruins, a series of tower temples that mark the former religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom.

And of course, the food. Mì quảng soups, tiny rice discs of bánh bèo, freshly grilled seafood and clams, cronchy and satisfying bánh xèo and much more, including the grilled pork skewers below, wrapped in lettuce and topped with fresh herbs.

Lots to see, and — if you’re careful — lots to eat for a celiac included. I loved my time there and I hope you do too.

eating gluten free in Danang
Pork skewers aplenty!
  • Hyatt Regency Da Nang: Restaurants at this hotel were very accommodating to celiacs, per Blends by Orly, who writes that The Green House restaurant made them gluten free pumpkin bread (which was more like sponge cake),  and adds that, “The Green House offers gluten free spaghetti at lunch and dinner as a substitute to all pasta dishes on the menu. In fact, the box of gluten free pasta is on display with the other regular pastas, which is pretty cool!”
  • Craft Cafe, whose slogan “more espresso, less depresso” also has gluten free waffles with a bunch of different toppings, and a robust coffee and smoothie menu for you to enjoy.
  • Readers have recommended Limoncello as an option for risotto or salads, though no GF pastas or pizza are on offer. Be sure to confirm with the kitchen that surfaces are separate enough for the risotto and no Knorr seasonings are used.
Gluten free restaurants in Hoi An

Tucked next to the Thu Bon River, Hoi An has a storied history and beautiful views. In the 15th to 19th centuries it was a bustling trading port that fed traffic to the Silk Road. Today, its ancient town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its well-preserved buildings and a blend of Chinese, Japanese, and European influences. Because most of the buildings were built in wood, repairs were necessary over the years. But what makes the city so unique is that the basic structures from the 17th-18th centuries were repaired using traditional methods in the 19th century — repairs that are still holding now.

Hoi An is charming day or night, and even in a massive downpour — which is how I first visited the city. With narrow lantern-lit streets, traditional architecture, and a fascinating mix of old and new, it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Vietnam.

Gluten free Hoi An Vietnam
Hoi An on a cloudy day from my visit (after the rain!)

Food-wise, Hoi An is known for cao lầu, a flavorful noodle dish made with pork, greens, and crispy croutons, all soaked in a savory broth. Did you hear that crispy crouton part of the soup? Sadly this one is a miss for us celiacs.

Still there are plenty of other specialties to enjoy, like white rose dumplings (steamed dumplings filled with shrimp or pork), served with a special dipping sauce — we can try those at Miss Ly, below. The ‘regular’ version isn’t celiac-safe or gluten free.

But celiacs and non-celiacs alike will find fresh seafood and snails grilled to order, amazing desserts like black sesame pudding, served warm, and one of my absolute favourites, mì quảng. Mì quảng is found across Quảng Nam province and in Saigon as well, and the star of the show are quảng noodles, which are flat, chewy rice noodles often infused with turmeric to make them yellow. They’re covered in a small amount of broth, alongside herbs, a quail egg or two (hard boiled), pork, beef, and other proteins, and topped with rice crackers and roasted peanuts.

  • Several readers report that the Four Seasons Nam Hai in Hoi An can also accommodate you fully as a celiac. Given my travels are usually slow-travel, long term wandering, I didn’t test this one out but it is in line with other Four Seasons properties around the world. For that price, I’d hope so!
  • La Siesta Hoi An prepared gluten free bread and food that was safe for celiac readers.
  • Morning Glory Restaurant (The original – there’s a second one!) will accommodate celiacs and know about CC and what is safe for us.
  • Baby Mustard Restaurant is not in town – it’s about 3.5km away – but it features beautiful, fresh food in a rural setting and is a great spot to eat safely.
  • Good Eats Hoi An, an Australian vegan/vegetarian spot, also accommodates gluten free diners and has sandwiches and other menu items that can be prepared safely, as well as the usual cafe fare when it comes to drinks.
  • LAGOM Bakery and Cafe has gluten free rice-based mochi waffles, as well as GF breads and pastas on offer. Readers report this spot is knowledgeable about celiac disease and can accommodate us safely.
  • Another bakery option is Fika Cafe – All day breakfast, which opened in December 2023. This is a sister spot to Good Eats, above, and can similarly accommodate us celiacs! They have brunch, cheesecakes, coffees (including iced coffees!), and sandwiches and desserts.
  • Mate Hoi An serves both Vietnamese and western-style Chinese dishes, and is a family-run restaurant by a husband and wife who were born and raised in Hoi An. They’ve got a gluten free menu, but as always show them your translation card and make sure they are aware of the need to take care with cross-contact.
  • Red Dragon Hoi An restaurant has a menu that marks gluten free items, and readers report that it is a safe and knowledgeable place once you communicate your need for safety using your translation card. They’re also a cooking class, so it may be worth asking if they can accommodate you for GF classes!
  • For cooking schools, I can actually recommend, though, I suggest Vy’s Market Cooking School. They are able to accommodate gluten free dishes and cooking, and know what is safe/unsafe for celiacs.
Banh xeo in Hoi An Vietnam
bánh xèo in Hoi An during my rainy visit.
Gluten free restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon
  • Rawberry is a refined sugar free, 100% gluten free, dairy free bakery that has made many a celiac happy.
  • Annam Gourmet Hai Ba Trung: I bought quite a few gluten free products here during my years in Vietnam. They carry pasta, cereals, frozen items, and more.
  • Ciao Bella: Italian restaurant that offers gluten free pasta. Confirm cross-contact is not occuring when you visit; read reports are mixed.
  • Duxton Hotel Saigon: the upmarket hotels tend to have more knowledge of celiac disease, and readers report a great breakfast spread here, with staff who can accommodate safe food. I don’t eat breakfast myself so I haven’t’ personally tried it.
  • Eden Coffee House D7: Western food abounds at this cafe in District 7. Their menu is clearly marked for gluten, but note that while they do have a dedicated fryer, their kitchen is shared and they only say “gluten sensitive” on the menu not GF. While readers have eaten here, I am not sure I’d risk it with celiac disease, as extensive as the menu is!
  • Kem Bach Dang Ice Cream: I ate here many times during my years in Vietnam, and while there are quite a few spots to get ice cream this one is a fave. Most of the flavours were gluten free. For safety, ask for a separate scoop so as to avoid cross-contact (a translation card should help for this!), and ensure that you get a plate or bowl, not a cone. The coconut ice cream is not to be missed.
  • There’s also Gluten Free Gourmet, which offers celiac-friendly savoury and sweet items in the same city, in District 2. They supply several restaurants with gluten free products to use in their menus, too.
  • In’Joy Café & Bake, a fully gluten free spot that has bread, croissants, and bánh mi, as well as other dishes and snacks. SO GOOD! Can’t be missed, and a great opportunity to see what all the bánh mi fuss is a about. (Spoiler: it’s totally justified)
  • The Vintage Emporium has gluten free bread to substitute for their meals, but is also knowledgeable about celiac disease and can modify the menu accordingly. It’s a Sydney-style cafe with a full bar and delicious brunch options.
  • Craving Mexican food? Gringo Tacos has corn tortillas and staff who are knowledgeable about what gluten free is, and about cross-contact.
  • L’Herbanyst is a spot to get brunch in a relaxing (cushion-filled) setting, with a pool view. A vegan/vegetarian self-billed “health food” spot, they have gluten free options available and clearly marked on the menu, and can accommodate celiacs. Confirm CC before ordering, as this one is a reader report and not somewhere I’ve tried.
  • When I lived in HCMC, I would bring my own gluten free soy sauce (purchased at L’Annam, below) and eat it with sashimi at one of the many great sushi restaurants in Japantown.
  • Vietnam House has an extensive menu and staff are knowledgeable about how to safely eat gluten free. It is also a beautiful spot for a meal.
  • If street food is intimidating, opt for Vietnamese homecooked flavours from Den Long: Home Cooked Vietnamese Restaurant restaurant. The gluten free menu is extensive, the food is amazing, and the staff understand celiac disease.

Gluten Free hotels and restaurants in Ha Noi

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, was founded in the 11th century by the Ly Dynasty. Named Thang Long, ascending dragon, legend has it that Emperor Ly Thai To saw a dragon rising into the sky and found it to be an auspicious time.

Throughout its long history, Hanoi has served as a centre of power and culture, serving as the capital of various Vietnamese dynasties and kingdoms. During the French colonial period in the 19th century, it became the capital of French Indochina, reflected in some of its lingering boulevards and villas that are still in the city today.

Hanoi played a pivotal role in the struggle for independence during the 20th century. It was here that Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from French rule in 1945, marking a significant turning point in the country’s history. However, the city also witnessed the ravages of war during the Vietnam War, particularly during the intense bombing campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, visitors to Hanoi can explore its historical sites like the Temple of Literature, a centuries-old center of learning, Hoan Kiem Lake with its picturesque Ngoc Son Temple, and the bustling Old Quarter with its narrow streets filled with shops, markets, and street food vendors.

And speaking of food: this is a city that is harder for celiacs to enjoy than Southern Vietnam’s culinary explorations. Like the South, phở features prominently, though it differs slightly to the version found in the south. In the south, the broth is slightly sweeter thanks to the common addition of a little bit of rock sugar and caramelized onions or shallots. In the north, phở is has a clearer broth but with more savoury / aromatic notes, and served with fewer condiments than I found in the south. You may find each style in the opposite part of the country, but it was fun to try them all and see what tasted different.

Pho hanoi gluten free
It’s almost 🍜 time!
gluten free hanoi vietnam
Ah yes, get in my belly.

Another Hanoi must-eat: Bún chả Hà Nội, one of my favourite things to enjoy. I don’t usually eat breakfast, but in Hanoi I make an exception: grilled, marinated pork patties, pork belly, fresh rice noodles, fresh herbs, and an amazing dipping sauce with fish sauce and pickled vegetables make this the perfect meal.

  • For accommodation, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel in the Hoan Kiem district of Hanoi has a restaurant with clearly marked gluten free items, and a chef knowledgeable about what to eat to keep celiacs safe. When in doubt, that’s always an option.
  • For groceries, Annam Gourmet Hai Ba Trung is where I bought quite a few gluten free products here during my years in Vietnam. They carry pasta, cereals, frozen items, and more.
  • LN readers have said that Hanoi Social House is very aware of, and able to cater to, food allergies—including celiac disease.
  • There’s a Gluten Free Gourmet in Hanoi now! Like its HCMC outpost, which came first, this 100% GF cafe is a great spot in Tay Ho for treats you know are safe.
  • There’s also La Studio, a vegan spot with many gluten free offerings. Please do double check, however, as their soba noodles (for example) were not 100% soba and did have wheat in them.
  • Koto Van Mieu Restaurant KOTO is a not-for-profit social enterprise that empowers at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam through hospitality training programs, and this restaurant in Hanoi is their flagship spot. The staff speak English and can accommodate celiac disease.
  • Bun Cha Ta Ha Noi: readers report that this spot is gluten free, and while traditional Bún chả Hà Nội uses fish sauce and nuoc mau (a thickened, caramelized fish sauce) to marinate the mean, it is important to confirm that soy or oyster sauce is not used when you visit, nor is Knorr powder with pork flavour as that flavour is (per Knorr’s own Vietnamese site) not gluten free. As with many other spots in Hanoi, they use rice paper wrappers for their spring rolls, and had no wheat on site so the fryer was safe when readers visited. Sarah from Endless Distances recently visited the Hoi An outpost and was told they did use Knorr pork seasoning there, but confirmed none was used in Hanoi.
  • For a taste of Mexico, try Hanoi Taco Bar — they make their own stone ground corn tortillas that are celiac-safe. As with any restaurant, do inquire about condiments used, like any soy sauce or “salsa inglesa” that may have wheat.
  • For a lovely grilled marinated beef noodle salad, called bún bò nam bộ, visit Bách Phương Restaurant. Confirm no oyster sauce or wheat-based soy sauce in the beef marinade.
  • Chain restaurant iVegan supershop has a menu that notes which of its trendy smoothie bowls can be made gluten free, but as always it’s important to confirm staff are aware of how careful one must be with the scooper between toppings for us celiacs! I have not tried this restaurant personally, but it came recommended several times from readers.
  • For bánh xèo and bánh bèo, two delicious rice pancake treats, opt for Nha Hang Mr Bay Mien Tay. 2024 note: a reader writes in to say that this location DOES now use wheat in their batters, so you’ll need to avoid the rice pancakes but that they “more than make up for it with their other dishes”.
  • You can also follow Gluten Free Hanoi on Instagram for ideas of where to (and what) to try when visiting the city.
cha gio hanoi gluten free
Gluten free, amazing spring rolls (nem) in Hanoi. The square spring rolls are made from crab, lean minced pork, spring onion, glass noodles, shiitake mushroom wood ear and egg

What ISN’T gluten free in Vietnam?

Don’t eat these things!

This list is blissfully shorter than many countries out there, but is worth memorizing the names – nui, mỳ, won ton – so that when you see it on menus you know what to avoid. The Vietnamese card also has these foods to avoid.

  • nui (macaroni noodles)
  • mi or mỳ noodles (egg noodles with wheat)
  • hủ tiếu won ton (won ton soup with egg noodles) – however, hủ tiếu Nam Vang is fine as it is made with tapioca noodles and the broth isn’t seasoned with soy sauce.
  • bánh mi (bread, obviously)
  • fish or meat that is deep fried, as they are often dredged in flour first.
  • nem / chả giò in the North: the north of Vietnam does use more soy sauce from China, which has wheat, and will also use wrappers that are wheat-based instead of made from rice. You must double confirm that  your food in Hanoi and the north is 100% gluten free. I was lucky to have a friend who could take me to a crab-and-pork street food spot (see picture above) but I have since learned that they are using soy sauce to marinate the meat and it is no longer safe. Namely: no soy sauce, that the wrappers are made from rice if you are eating in and around Hanoi, and that no wheat was used to make the nem.
  • As noted above, marinated meats are in the “ask” category: worth asking if soy sauce was used to marinade. Soy is often used to marinate grilled meats used in bún bowls, though the bowl above is from Saigon and the soy sauce used did not have wheat as an ingredient.
  • Mexican restaurants get a “pass” in many Vietnamese gluten free guides: in my experiences this is RARELY the case. Among the issues I’ve found: tortillas that are half wheat, half corn (found this one out the hard way), wheat tostadas, fryers with cross-contact, and more.
  • Koki flour: used more in Thailand than in Vietnam, but it’s a batter that includes flours like wheat. A no-go. Really, other than the chả giò etc in the North, I’d avoid deep fried stuff in Asia.
  • Knorr seasoning: not all Knorr powder has wheat, but unfortunately per Knorr Vietnam’s site the pork flavour does — and Vietnamese food is full of pork. It’s important to confirm that where you are eating is not using this powder in the preparation of your food.

Celiac disease in Vietnam

The prevalence of celiac disease in different populations around the world ranges from 0.3% to 1.25%. As of 2016, no data existed for Vietnam and a study took place as recommended by the World Gastroenterology Organization, to try and establish a baseline prevalence of celiac disease in Hanoi.

Using two phases, the study tested children over 24 months of age. First, they used rapid tests and positive patients were then given an ELISA test for anti-tTG antibodies. In the second phase, a sample from each child was examined for anti-tTG, as well as for anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA), HLA DQ2/DQ8 genes, and H. pylori antibodies.

The study found a low prevalence of celiac disease, but did find that the prevalence of human leukocyte antigens HLA DQ2 and DQ8 was similar to that of other countries. The researchers hypothesized that the lack of consistent gluten in Vietnamese food/population consumption habits may have resulted in a lack of celiac findings for the non-genetic testing.

Further reading about  Vietnam

For those of you looking to visit Vietnam, there are some wonderful books to help inform your visit. The country is a complicated one, with a history that includes war and migration of citizens and a deep love of food.

My suggestions for more historical background:

My suggestions for food books:

Happy and safe eating!

For the rest of my celiac translation cards and guides, see here.


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