Dining Gluten-Free in Puerto Rico!

Meet Paola … student … foodie … blogger! Below she shares her health journey leading up to a diagnosis of both gluten and lactose intolerance and also provides great tips for dining out in Puerto Rico!

Hello, my name is Paola! I was born in Puerto Rico and still live here with my family and my dog Cleopatra. I’m a recent LLM graduate of UC Berkeley specializing in Intellectual Property and will soon study at Indiana University, Bloomington. I also have a JD and BBA in Accounting and Human Resources from the University of Puerto Rico. In the future, I plan to pursue my JSD. I am also a foodie with gluten and lactose intolerance.

A little bit about my blog “Culinary Road Trips, Puerto Rico” and my experience leading to my diagnoses of gluten and lactose intoleranceIn 2010, I decided to blog about food and travel because I enjoy both writing and eating. I united these two passions and began reviewing restaurants. I couldn’t give the blog much attention because I was either studying or suffering from what I thought were ‘allergies’. For most of my life, I didn’t know what was causing my symptoms and my mom and I searched high and low for solutions or tried “remedies” that made my symptoms worse. It got so bad that I couldn’t do simple things like drive, sleep or study because I was constantly sneezing or recuperating. In 2013, I shared with my mom that if I didn’t get to the source of my symptoms, I was going to drop out of school. This was very sad because that meant postponing my dreams of becoming a lawyer. Finally, I visited a naturopathic doctor and she finally discovered why I had been suffering all these years. To my surprise it was an intolerance to both gluten and lactose. Within a few weeks of avoiding gluten and dairy, the progress in my health was notable. Finally with my health back, I questioned what I would write about.  A light bulb went off that changed the course of my blog forever and I decided to write about my experiences dining out in Puerto Rico, to show that one can still enjoy food, while also avoiding dairy and gluten. I hope you will visit my blog and one day visit Puerto Rico!

 

Dining Gluten Free in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s autoctonos food is known as “Criollo” food, a mix of Spanish, African and Taino culture. Criollo, if made the traditional way, is gluten free. However, there are some exceptions where gluten may be used, for example if a restaurant takes a modern approach to the dish.

Some foods you may want to avoid altogether or most definitely question, are fried finger foods such as empanadillas, empanadas, arepas, alcapurrias, relleno de papa (Arancini), sorullitos (fried corn in the shape of cylinders). Alcapurrias and Relleno are not made from wheat, but flour may be used to give them shape and prevent them from sticking. The general rule with these finger foods is that they are fried which means they’ll probably be cross contaminated from other foods that contain gluten. Some restaurants use cornstarch and a separate fryer, but I recommend to always ask before placing order. With respect to Arepas, the traditional recipe calls for them to be made with corn, but again many restaurants use a corn and flour mixture because they find that the Arepa holds its shape better.

Modern takes on Criollo food use flour and milk as thickening agents to speed up the process of making the food. I have also found places that use beer as a flavor and thickening (for example in paella, mamposteao and in the sauce for beans, so be sure to question these items!

Some Puerto Rican restaurants have trained staff in the more common allergens such as egg, milk, nuts and fish; but not so much on gluten and which foods contain it. I suggest that when you go to a restaurant, state your special dietary requirements to the waiter, and if you feel you are not being understood, use examples and try out some of the phrases noted below in Spanish if the server does not speak your language.

With respect to traditional drinks of Puerto Rico, like pina colada, cuba libre, coquito and rum drinks, most are gluten free, but they may not be lactose free. Question if any are made with ‘mixes’ which may contain gluten.

In Puerto Rico, you can find other cuisines such as Asian, Mexican, American, Italian, Spanish, etc. They are fused with Criollo food most of the time, creating interesting and innovative flavors.

You can certainly enjoy eating out at many wonderful restaurants in Puerto Rico, just be sure to make it very clear to your server, manager or chef of your dietary need to avoid gluten and also dairy, if you are lactose intolerant, like me.

 

Here are a few helpful phases, with Spanish translation, that may help you during your visit:

 

“I cannot eat gluten — no wheat, barley (malt) or rye”
Yo no puedo comer gluten, es decir, no puedo comer trigo, cebada ni Centeno

 

“Is wheat flour used and do you have a dedicated fryer?”
Usted utiliza Harina? Usted tiene un freidor aparte para las cosas sin gluten?

 

“I cannot have dairy”
Yo no puedo comer productos lacteos, que tengan leche y sus derivados

 

“I will become very sick if I eat gluten/dairy”
Me pongo grave y enfermo cuando ingiero productos con gluten y/o lactosa

Here are 10 restaurant/bakery options located in Puerto Rico that are worth mentioning because of their inclusive cuisine, and where being allergen-free, vegan and vegetarian is the rule and not the exception.

 

1.  GFree Foods

 (Previously known as Glutenfrei)

Address:  Carretera 174 S/N Bayamón, Puerto Rico 00959

Telephone: (787) 240-8967

Facebook

Instagram

Note: ALL GF menu items are identified. Also dairy-free options, 100% GF dedicated kitchen. I have personally bought cookies from this company and they have excellent consistency, taste, and affordable price. May be difficult to find because owner sells products at special events, organic markets and in specialty stores.

 

2.  CIAN Centro integral de alimentacion y nutricion

Address:  no storefront but products can usually be found at the Placita Roosevelt Market

Email:  mayrasalvador5@gmail.com

Telephone:  (787) 233-5042

Note: All GF menu items are identified, Separate kitchen for GF food. I have bought gluten-free cakes from CIAN and they have excellent consistency, taste, and affordable price. May sometimes be hard to find because owner sells products at special events, organic markets and in specialty stores.

 

3.  Cafe Berlin

Address:  407 Calle San Francisco, San Juan, 00901

Website    

Telephone:  (787) 722-5205

Note:  Gluten-Free Menu, All GF menu items are identified. Vegan and Vegetarian options available. The plates are so good you won’t miss the meat! Very conscious about GF, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. You can read a more detailed review here.

 

4.  Peace n loaf

 The first Vegetarian\Vegan pizzeria in Puerto Rico!”

Address: 1402 Ave Americo Miranda, Caparra Terrace, PR 00921

Website  

Note: Gluten-Free Menu, All GF menu items are identified. No separate kitchen but they do take safety precautions to avoid cross contamination. I have not been here, but many friends say it is a great place.

 

5.  La Hogaza

Address:  9 Calle B Villa del Rey, Caguas, Puerto Rico 00725, you can usually find their bread at the Roosevelt Market

Facebook  

Telephone:  787-745-5989

Note:  Gluten-Free Menu, No separate kitchen but they do take safety precautions to avoid cross contamination. I have bought cakes from this company and they have excellent consistency, taste, and affordable price. May sometimes be hard to find because owner sells products at special events, organic markets and specialty stores. 

 

6.  El Grifo

Address:  Calle Betances S/N, Caguas, Puerto Rico 00725

Facebook  

Telephone:  (787) 666-8466

Note: Gluten-Free Menu. No separate kitchen but they do take safety precautions to avoid cross contamination. I have not visited El Grifo yet, but at a special event called Saborea that I attended they were serving GF foods. Find detailed review here

 

7.  Juan Pan Pizza

Address:  1117 Av. Jesús Toribio Piñero, San Juan, 00921

Facebook  

Telephone:  (787) 792-6735

Note: Gluten-Free Menu. No separate kitchen but they do take safety precautions to avoid cross contamination. I have not been, but I hear from friends that Juan’s is a great place!

 

8.  Marco’s Pizza

Address:  Guaynabo, 00969

Website  

Telephone:  (787) 665-2424

Note:  Gluten-Free Menu. No separate kitchen but they do take safety precautions to avoid cross contamination. I have not had the chance to go here yet, but I have heard from friends that it is a great place.

 

9.  Poliniza

Address:  San Juan, PR 00911

Website  

Telephone:  (787) 613-7227

Note: Gluten-Free Menu. No separate kitchen but they do take safety precautions to avoid cross contamination. I have not been, but friends say it is wonderful.

 

10.  Fairy Cakes

Address: 375 B Calle Cesar Gonzalez San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918

Website 

Telephone:  (787) 200-8388

Note:  Gluten-Free Menu. No separate kitchen but they do take safety precautions to avoid cross contamination.

 

Do you have a favorite restaurant offering safe Gluten-free, Dairy-Free food in Puerto Rico?

 

Sources:

  1. Search in Google maps using keywords:  gluten free restaurants, restaurantes sin gluten
  2. https://www.yelp.com/collection/F0_3JqtRb5qmBCSszQj6cw
  3. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g635887-zfz10992-Puerto_Rico_Gran_Canaria_Canary_Islands.html
  4. Personal experiences (I’ve linked to detailed review)

Disclosure on Photos:

Photos that say “from Facebook page/Website” are from the restaurant or products website/social media due to fact that some of the products are difficult to find because they are sold in limited quantities in specialty stores, only available during a limited time during the year or sold at special events. All other images are mine.

 

Gracias Paola!

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On March 2nd, 2019, posted in: CeliacCorner Blogs by
4 Responses to Dining Gluten-Free in Puerto Rico!
  1. Thanks for posting this about Puerto Rico. I am going to share with my readers!

  2. Thank you for this article, it was perfect timing. I do plan to visit Puerto in April and have been worried whether I would find any restaurants with glutenfree food.

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