If you want to learn more about eating gluten free in Lima, Peru’s capital city, boy do I have a blog post for you. Lima was our first stop on our round-the-world trip and we spent two weeks here, taking a Spanish course and discovering the gluten free Lima scene.
If you are also heading to Lima (whether for the typical two to three days, or for a longer visit like ours) then this gluten free Lima Peru guide is going to be essential for you.
Let me start by saying that eating gluten free in Lima – and Peru in general – is not as straight forward as you might have been lead to believe. Sure, many Peruvian ingredients are naturally gluten free (corn, potatoes, quinoa, yucca, fruits). But dishes are almost always cooked in a way that leads to cross contact or have gluten-containing sauces added.
In fact, even after 10 years with celiac disease, I really struggled in Peru and was glutened, at least twice. My goal with writing this blog post is not to discourage you from visiting Lima, but rather to help you navigate the gluten free Lima scene better than I did, and not get glutened during your time here!
CHECK OUT MY OTHER PERU POSTS…
Gluten Free Peru: What You Absolutely Need to Know
I am working on a full gluten free Peru guide and will direct you to that here when it’s complete. That guide will go more in depth on Peruvian cuisine, naturally gluten free dishes, where gluten hides (so many places), and everything else you need to know.
For the purposes of this gluten free Lima city guide, though, I’ll briefly review some important things you need to know about eating gluten free in Peru.
1. Celiac knowledge in Peru is extremely limited.
Knowledge of celiac disease, gluten, and most importantly cross contact is limited in Peru. Even those people who have heard of celiac disease or gluten often don’t realize how important it is to avoid even trace amounts.
2. Soy sauce is everywhere and nobody seems to know it contains gluten.
I was shocked to find soy sauce in most Peruvian dishes. Due to East Asian immigration in the 1800s and 1900s, Chinese influence has permeated Peruvian cuisine. There is a special Chinese-Peruvian fusion cuisine called “Chifa,” but even traditional Peruvian dishes are now served with a healthy dash of soy sauce. The even worse news is that almost nobody in Peru has any idea that soy sauce contains gluten.
3. “Dedicated gluten free” restaurants may not actually be gluten free.
Carrying on my point above, I went to a number of “100% gluten free” restaurants (including in Lima! Read more about it below) only to review their menu and discover plenty of these “gluten free” dishes had soy sauce! In Peru, you absolutely need to inform servers you have an “allergy to soy sauce” in addition to celiac disease. If a menu marks a dish gluten free, always double check that there is also no soy sauce.
4. Don’t drink the free tea.
Yes, not even the tea is safe. There is a traditional Peruvian drink called “emoliente” that is often served for free at local restaurants. It looks innocent, but as I sadly discovered is actually made from toasted and brewed barley. My advice is never consume any drinks or sauces without double checking the ingredients – even if you’ve already had the gluten conversation with your server. Rookie mistake, I know, but bears mentioning.
5. You need to know some Spanish.
You absolutely need to know some Spanish if you’re going to eat gluten free safely in Peru. I highly recommend buying a translation card – more on that below!
Gluten Free Peru Translation Card
While traveling in Peru, my #1 tip is to always have a gluten free translation card on hand. I used the Latin America Spanish translation card by Jodi of Legal Nomads.
Unlike every other free or paid gluten free translation card on the market, this one actually discusses cross contact. Which is ESSENTIAL in Peru.
The downside is that it is quite long, and I found a lot of servers just glanced at it without reading the whole thing. I’d have to really pressure them to read it in entirety, when they’d have an “aha” moment and finally understand the severity of celiac disease and that how the food is cooked is important, too.
That’s why it’s also really useful to have some verbal knowledge of Spanish. I’ll go more in depth on important phrases to know in my full Peru gluten free guide. But my advice is to always add “no como salsa de soya” or “tengo alergia al salsa de soya” verbally when showing the translation card.
I’m going to work with Jodi to hopefully develop a shortened version of this translation card that servers are more likely to read. However for the time being, this is certainly your best option available. For $8.99 it could save you days of glutening and that’s worth it, in my opinion.
Gluten Free Lima Map
Below, I’m sharing all of the gluten free restaurants in Lima. One of my best gluten free travel hacks is to use a Google My Map to navigate where these restaurants are. That way, you can explore the city at your leisure and just choose the closest restaurant to where you are.
The map below is color coded:
- Dark blue = dedicated gluten free (but read the fine print on that below)
- Light blue = gluten free options
- Green = grocery stores with gluten free options
- Red = recommended accommodations
You can download the map yourself and use it during your time in Lima.
100% Gluten Free Lima Peru Restaurants
Please take “100% gluten free” with a grain of salt here. As I mentioned above, you can’t fully trust even restaurants that describe themselves this way (as I’ll explain below). However, these are the restaurants in Lima that self describe as dedicated gluten free – and whether they actually are or not.
Veda Restaurant – Uses Soy Sauce
Veda Restaurant is a fully vegan restaurant that also advertises itself as fully gluten free. Unfortunately, I discovered about 4-5 of the dishes contain soy sauce. If you eat here, the servers may brush off your celiac concerns or gluten free translation card with “todos sin gluten” (all gluten free), but you will need to drive home the fact that you are also “allergic” to soy sauce. When I mentioned soy sauce also has gluten, they seemed quite unconcerned.
Saying that, there are a lot of gluten free dishes at Veda Restaurant, and there is definitely way less gluten in this kitchen than you will find elsewhere in Lima. So, I still recommend eating here.
We ate here twice while in Lima. I had a pretty good experience both times, Although I was shocked and disappointed about the soy sauce situation (on our second visit I had just been glutened a few days prior and was craving a “safe space” – only to realize this was not fully safe either). They have small gluten free and vegan pizzas that are super delicious. I also highly, highly, highly recommend the gluten free churros. Churros are everywhere in Peru and this is the one place where we can eat them, too!
Address: Veda Restaurant, C. Schell 630, Miraflores 15074
Twins Cafe GF – Online Order and Pick Up Only
Twins Cafe GF is one place that I saw highly recommended in all of the limited information I could find on gluten free Lima before my visit. Despite some conflicting information online, their cafe in Barranco is PERMANENTLY closed. A sad loss for celiacs in Peru.
However, after messaging with the owner over Whatsapp, I discovered they are still operating online only. You can order gluten free baked goods for pick up over Whatsapp. There is only one pick up day per week, and so this won’t work for most gluten free visitors to Lima. Sadly, it did not align with my schedule during my two weeks in Lima – but I will be returning to Lima soon and will update here if I manage to try them out!
Contact: Message them at +51 924282010 on Whatsapp to place an order.
LaLibre Gluten Free Bakery – CLOSED
LaLibre Gluten Free Bakery is the third and final place I found in Lima that is 100% gluten free. However, as far as I can tell, they are permanently closed. Their most recent reviews are from three years ago, and when I tried to contact them via email and Whatsapp multiple times I got no response.
Restaurants in Lima with Gluten Free Options
Honestly, if you hope to eat at any restaurants in Peru at all, you will have to be comfortable eating from a shared kitchen and advocating for yourself to the chef.
Saying that, there is always a danger any time you eat out, and I did get glutened twice in Lima (more on that below). I encourage you to always check with staff about cross contact, and don’t just blindly take my advice on where I ate!
Below are all the restaurants I ate at in Lima. I’m ordering them roughly in the order of my confidence in their gluten free-ness!
Awicha is a slightly upscale yet still hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the beautiful Barranco neighborhood. Their chef-driven menu is full of contemporary Peruvian cuisine. Dan and I both agree Awicha is the best meal we ate in all of Peru. Despite them not being a “gluten free restaurant” nor advertising gluten free options, it’s also one of the best and safest gluten free experiences I had in Peru.
We arrived right at their 12pm opening time and were seated immediately. I informed the waiter of my celiac disease and he read my entire translation card, then went and got the chef (Jason Román). Jason marked up every option on the menu that could be made gluten free (which was almost all of them) and took me through item by item describing each one in depth. I was so impressed.
Dan and I both ordered traditional fresh limonatas. I got the duck confit with native potatoes and pesto, and Dan got the spicy chicken. This is a restaurant where the food truly brings joy and happiness because it is that good. I feel lucky we stumbled upon it and can’t recommend it more highly.
Address: Awicha, Jirón Domeyer 296, Barranco 15063
Tanta is an upscale chain restaurant owned by the famous Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio (of Astrid y Gaston Michelin star restaurant fame). There are quite a few locations, but we ate at the Larcomar (cliffside shopping mall) and Lima airport locations.
The menu marks gluten free options, which include four gluten free pasta options! However, some of these dishes had fried or breaded ingredients in the description. I’m not sure if they would have just adjusted the dish, but both times I decided to play it safe and order dishes that sounded gluten free (bolognese and mediterranean pasta).
At both locations I found the waiters quite good. They read through my entire gluten free translation card, and were very careful when I asked for fresh water and a fresh pot and colander for my pasta.
Address: Check locations here.
Raw Cafe is a healthy food cafe in Miraflores with quite a few gluten free options. In fact, their menu actually marks which dishes contain gluten, rather than those that are gluten free. When we visited, I found that the server was pretty knowledgeable (for example, she actually knew that soy sauce is not gluten free, which indicated to me the menu may be appropriately labeled).
I ordered their hot chocolate – which was a little herby and weird – and the Kitchari – which seemed safe as it sounded naturally gluten free anyway, and ended up being super delicious.
Address: Raw Cafe, C. Independencia 596, Miraflores 15074
Matria is a chef driven restaurant in Miraflores that I wanted to go to for a few reasons. First, I saw online that they mark gluten free options on the menu (a rarity in Lima). Second, the chef Arlette Eulert is a woman (which is also quite rare) who has her own cooking show. Third, Lima is known for its Michelin star restaurants, and while that wasn’t in the budget, I did want to go to at least one up and coming, really good restaurant.
Our experience at Matria was pretty good. The waiter did read my gluten free translation card in entirety and show it to the chef. However, I was told quite a few of the dishes marked gluten free on the menu were not an option for me. I’m not sure if this is because they were out of ingredients, or if they were not truly gluten free to start with.
Instead of the fresh homemade bread, I was given some store bought rice crackers with olive oil and vinegar to start (this was pretty funny – Dan had to beg for them to bring him the fresh bread, they were so cautious that they didn’t even want to put it on the table). I ordered the Shrimp Massaman which was salty (but I like that) and very flavorful. Dan ordered the chicken which was a little plain but still very good.
Address: Matria, Av. Gral. Mendiburu 823, Lima 15074
Bam Bam y Sus Conchas Negras
Ceviche is a Peruvian staple made from raw fish (yep), citrus juices, and usually a side of raw corn kernels and maybe some sweet potato. I knew I had to try it because it is naturally gluten free.
In Lima, we ate our first ceviche at Bam Bam y Sus Conchas Negras. The waiter read my translation card and he seemed to have seen it before and understand. In fact, he knew enough about gluten to tell me not to eat the chifles (plantain chips) and popcorn kernels (canchitas) served alongside the ceviche because they were fried with a small amount of flour – before I even asked.
The ceviche itself was probably very good, but unfortunately this is when I discovered that… I don’t like ceviche. If you, however, do like ceviche, then this is a safe place to try it out in Lima.
Address: Bam Bam y Sus, Jiron luis 224, Surquillo 34
407 Bistro is a Venezuelan restaurant in Miraflores that I discovered solely because it was very close to our Airbnb. Venezuelan food (arepas in particular) tend to be pretty gluten free naturally, so I decided to test my luck.
The waitress here read my gluten free card and assured me that the arepas were gluten free. She even checked with the chef and hand wrote a list of arepa fillings that were also gluten free. I also confirmed that it was cooked on a clean surface.
We ate here once for dinner and once for lunch and had a good experience. They even remembered me the second time which made things easier. The second time, we came with three (non gluten free) friends from our Spanish school who absolutely loved this place!
Address: 407 Bistro, C. Berlín 407, Miraflores 15034
Sabor y Vida
Sabor y Vida is a locally owned, vegetarian restaurant in Miraflores that was also right across from our Airbnb. There is a set menu (menu del dia) which changes every day and is extremely cheap (18 soles / $4.50 USD for two courses). We ate here for lunch three times, and honestly, I want to tell you that I love this place and you should eat here, but I have some serious caveats.
Let me start by saying the owner and the staff here are so friendly, kind, and really tried hard to accommodate me. On our first visit, they read my gluten free translation card in entirety and assured they could serve me. Only to give me a vegetable stir fry full of soy sauce. Luckily, I noticed the dark brown color and spoke to the owner, and they remade it for me.
On our second and third visit, they were ready and waiting for us and immediately told me which options were gluten free. They even made a special soup for me and brought me fresh papaya instead of the gluten dessert.
The bad news is that the free drink was the aforementioned emoliente (full of barley). Stupidly, I drank it just assuming it was tea. I’d just spent 20 minutes discussing gluten with the owner so I didn’t think this drink could possibly have gluten. The first time, I only drank a bit and felt off the next day but couldn’t identify why. The second time, I drank the entire thing. My reaction was delayed but let me just say, things were not good for multiple days. Thank goodness in Spanish class we actually discussed emoliente and that’s how I learned it was full of gluten!
This was long winded, but I have mixed feelings about Sabor y Vida. They do not understand celiac disease but they tried very hard. Would I recommend Sabor y Vida? I’ll leave that to your own discretion. The food is great and cheap but you will need to advocate for yourself.
Address: Sabor y Vida, Calle Gral Recavarren 156, Miraflores 15074
Armónica (Do Not Recommend)
Armonica is a cafe in Miraflores that I ate at, but cannot recommend to celiacs, or anyone who is gluten free for that matter.
We decided to come here because the menu marked gluten free options. I showed the waiter my gluten free card and he read it with some prompting. The sandwich they brought me did not look like gluten free bread, but I confirmed about four times that it was. The waiter told me it was “sweet potato bread.” The texture was very unlike gluten free bread so I was pretty concerned the entire meal and did not enjoy it.
That week, I was pretty sick, and it is hard to identify if that is from this restaurant, the emoliente drink with barley, or a combination of the two. I will say I got a very bad gut feeling about this place and I cannot recommend it. I just want to mention it here because you will probably read about it elsewhere when you try to research gluten free Lima options.
Address: Armonica, Av. Mariscal La Mar 955, Miraflores 15074
I am listing Arepa Cafe last not because it’s bad, but only because I haven’t eaten here myself yet. This is a Venezuelan restaurant in Barranco that has quite good reviews online for gluten free options. If you eat here, please comment below and let me know your thoughts!
Address: Arepa Cafe, Av. Almte. Miguel Grau 624, Barranco 15063
Grocery Stores in Lima with Gluten Free Options
I cooked a lot for myself in Lima and I recommend you do the same, if you want to truly avoid gluten. Compared to pretty much every other city in Peru, the grocery stores in Lima have the best gluten free options so this is a good place to cook for yourself and pick up some gluten free essentials for the rest of your travels through Peru.
This is the more “upscale” grocery store in Lima, although we price compared and honestly found it to be similar to the other shops. I would describe it as a “toned down” Whole Foods, if you’re American. We shopped here the most as it was a 5 minute walk from our Airbnb.
Here, I found Noglu and Gullon brand cookies, crackers, pasta, corn flakes, and even gluten free bread. In retrospect, I wish I’d bought gluten free bread in Lima because I didn’t find it anywhere else in Peru.
Wong is probably the most popular and biggest grocery store chain in Lima. They have a small “sin gluten” section as well as some gluten free items mixed in with regular pasta and baked goods.
If you go to the location in central Miraflores, like we did, be sure to go to the very top floor because this is where the gluten free section is located (right by the escalator).
Metro is another big grocery store in Lima, owned by the same company as Wong. Its reputation is as the cheapest store, but honestly we found the prices comparable to Vivanda and Wong.
I didn’t see a “sin gluten” section here, but I did find quite a few gluten free products (including gluten free pasta, and Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flours) mixed in with the regular products.
Where to Stay in Lima if You’re Celiac
I absolutely recommend staying somewhere in Lima with a kitchen, for obvious and previously mentioned reasons. We stayed in this Airbnb which is centrally located and 1 minute walk from Sabor y Vida and 407 Bistro. It suited our needs but the downside was it was a little damp and the hot water lasted four minutes, tops.
I’ve done some research and selected a few other places in Lima that I recommend you stay.
Miraflores is the main tourist neighborhood in Lima. This is where we stayed on our first trip to Lima, and where most people stay. It’s also where the majority of gluten free restaurants in Lima are located.
Where to stay in Miraflores:
- Black Llama Hostel ($): A highly rated hostel in Miraflores very close to the Airbnb we stayed at.
- Selina Miraflores ($-$$): A popular South and Central American boutique hostel and co-working chain with a central location.
- Luxe Miraflores Apartment Pardo ($$): A renovated apartment with a great kitchen and two pools.
Barranco is the other main tourist neighborhood, but more relaxed, bohemian, and artsy. This is where we are going to stay on our next trip to Lima. It’s also where Awicha, Twins Cafe GF, and Arepa Kitchen are located.
Where to stay in Barranco:
- Kokopelli Hostel ($): A really well rated hostel in a historic mansion in Barranco. Private ensuite rooms available, and dorm beds have privacy curtains. There’s a shared kitchen on site.
- Designer Loft in Barranco ($): A highly rated apartment with a beautiful, well equipped kitchen.
I’ll be honest, a lot of travelers to Peru don’t go farther than the Lima airport, because they’re heading straight to Cusco. I do recommend you give Lima a chance, but if you have a tight schedule, staying near the airport can save you some stress. While at the airport, you can grab a safe gluten free pasta dish at Tanta.
Where to stay near Lima Airport:
- Costa del Sol Wyndham Lima Airport ($$): A four star hotel within the airport itself.
- Holiday Inn Lima Airport ($$): Another well known hotel chain within the airport.
Is Pisco gluten free?
Pisco is a Peruvian brandy. It is made from grapes and is naturally gluten free. Pisco sours are the national cocktail and those are also gluten free (although check about any added flavorings). I recommend Museo del Pisco in the historic center of Lima for a gluten free pisco sour.
Where to eat gluten free in the Lima airport?
I got a safe gluten free meal from Tanta at the Lima airport.
Do I recommend any gluten free cooking classes in Lima?
I highly recommend ChocoMuseo’s bean to bar chocolate making class in Lima. This was one of my favorite things we did in Lima, and is totally gluten free, apart from Oreo toppings as an option at the end (kept in a separate sealed jar).
Gluten Free Lima Peru: Final Thoughts
As you can see, eating gluten free in Lima wasn’t the easiest experience for me. Thank goodness for my gluten free Latin America translation card.
However, I deeply hope that the mistakes I made and what I learned along the way can make YOUR experience in Lima that much easier!
Please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions, or any tips from your own time in Lima.