Gluten-free on the Road

(Important! If this post is cut off at the bottom, reload the page. This usually solves the problem. I look forward to your comments, shares and kisses.)


Traveling with Celiac Disease (CD) means you have to do a bit more pre-trip homework than people who can shovel any ole thing in their gobs. If you’re a little like me, you normally stick to salad bars and very plain foods that you know are gluten-free. But if you’re a lot like me—an adventureholic with a voracious appetite—you’ll want to try the local food.

The more you know, the more you can enjoy. Over the next few months, I’m going to share my research with you every Friday as I travel to London, Munich, Nice, Paris, Napels, Vancouver and New York City!

So let’s talk England, specifically my part-time home . . . London. Are you planning a trip to London and wondering where the gluten’s hiding? Well, the bad new is LOTS OF PLACES. The good news is you can avoid these hidden sources of gluten easily if you know what to look for.

Today I want to start with the condiments you’re likely to find in a typical British restaurant or pub. Condiments are a messy, gooey mindfield for people with CD or gluten intolerance.

The Tower is gluten free.
The least likely place you’ll find gluten is malt vinegar. In vinegar? Yes. Malt vinegar is made from barley, but according to Coeliac UK malt vinegar poses no problem for a person with CD. Here’s what they have to say:

"Barley malt vinegar is made using a fermentation process. The end product only contains a trace amount of protein (and therefore gluten), which is well below the level which is safe for most people with coeliac disease. In addition, barley malt vinegar is only usually eaten in small amounts, for example, drained pickled vegetables, sauces with a meal, on chips." Coeliac UK

British mustards may contain flour, so make sure you read the label, and you’ll certainly see soya sauce on the table. Soya sauce—unless it screams gluten-free on the label—has wheat in it. Stay well away from condiments that contain “natural flavourings.”

Heinz ketchup—or as the Brits say tomato sauce—contains “spirit vinegar,” which is not made from barley—yay—so you can slather your chips with ketchup and feel great about it. That said, always read the list of ingredients before you slather. Some ketchups contain the dreaded “natural flavourings.” Although some Heinz products list natural flavourings, Heinz says their ketchups are gluten free.

If you’re interested in doing a bit more research, give this list a look.

For the next few Fridays, I’ll be having a look at the typical tourist day in London—from the English breakfast, lunch on the high street, afternoon tea at The Ritz, dinner in the evening and finally landing at the pub. I’ll also be spotlighting a few gluten-free gems—including the award-winning b-tempted cakes from Sarah Hilleary—around London. You’d be surprised how gluten-free London can be.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire). His fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared widely both online and in print. Read more HERE


  1. My husband takes his own gluten free soy sauce to our favorite, accommodating Asian restaurants. I'm grateful that there more and more restaurants here are offering gluten free menus, or are knowledgeable enough to understand that you have to keep everything gluten and gluten-free foods separate during prep and cooking.

    We have a hard enough time traveling in the US. Can't imagine going all over the world and communicating that you can't eat wheat, or barley, or anything made on the same factory line, etc.

  2. It's hard enough explaining vegetarianism in some countries let alone this - you must have to be patient!

  3. wow. this must be difficult. jess is a vegetarian, and that can make things tricky sometimes. the amount of times we have explained that chicken is definitely a meat is ridiculous! some good advice and good luck on the gluten free travel road!

  4. Wow, good info, but like everyone else I can't imagine the tough time you must be having. I am traveling through Thailand with a friend who is vegetarian, and she's lucky that she likes spice because if she didn't like either she would be SOL!

  5. Wow -- you've given me an excellent gluten-education! I had no idea it hides in so many condiments. I hope you are able to find some excellent gluten-free goodies in your travels!

  6. My wifes brother is a CD sufferer and its really difficult trying to get him out for a family meal, of course Nandos is a good place for CD so there is always there if you are travelling the UK and like chicken!

  7. So nice to see a post about traveling with celiac disease. I have a gluten allergy and living in Germany I find it extremely difficult, especially when it comes to eating German food, which has flour in almost every sauce or bread crumbs coating the meat (schnitzel). I also find that it's not well known in Germany which makes it more difficult as well. Looking forward to reading more.

  8. Hey, Chris. I don't go to Nando's so much, but it would be interesting to know whether they cater for CD suffers.

    Laurel. Servus! I live in Germany too. Restaurants in Germany are learning slowly. There's a Greek restaurant near my house where the owner knows all about CD and even trains other restaurant perseonnel in the city. In Munich sauces are often thickened with potato starch, so if it's not a beer sauce, you can eat it.

  9. Hello Pretty IMBO Readers,
    This just in from Coeliac UK: Malt vinegar, despite all the information to the contrary, poses no problem to people with CD. Through the distillation process, almost all of the protein is lost from the barley. If more than the allowed amount is present in the product, it must be indicated on the label.

  10. this is great- so many people have CD and now restaurants and stores are including so many food gluten free- really great resource for london!


Post a Comment

INSTRUCTIONS FOR LEAVING A COMMENT: To leave a comment, first choose how you would like to do so by clicking on the drop-down menu Comment As and select your provider. In many cases this will be Google if you have a gmail account. The quickest way to leave a comment is to choose Anonymous. Then write your comment and click on Publish. Then the blog will ask you to confirm that you are not a robot. Do this. You might have to click on some rivers or dogs, but it takes only a moment or two. Then click on publish again. You're all set. This should work.

Popular Posts