Before heading to Portugal I did a little bit of research into the gluten free scene in the country. From all accounts Portugal was painted as a country that is not very aware of what gluten free really means, and that there are few options available for the gluten free traveler. I found it hard to pinpoint stores or restaurants offering safe options, and even read about places that claimed to offer gluten free options, but then the food came out served on top of bread or something similar.
The bad news is that as a whole, Portugal is not as gluten free friendly as some other European cities, notably Barcelona, London, or Rome. However, I did find some great options for my son everywhere we went, even if it took a bit more work.
Traditional Portuguese Food
I always like to remind people that the easiest way to eat gluten free is to start with naturally gluten free foods, and thankfully Portuguese cooking uses a lot of them. We found juice bars and smoothie places everywhere, which were great for breakfast on the go or a quick snack while out exploring. The Portuguese also eat a ton of fish, and even have dedicated sardine grills. Choosing grilled fish with boiled potatoes and fresh veggies on the side is a delicious, filling meal that is naturally gluten free, inexpensive, and easy to find.
That being said, Portugal is known for its pastries, and unfortunately, most of them are not gluten free. I did not find and dedicated gluten free bakeries either, so unfortunately most traditional pastries will be out of bounds.
Across the Country:
Pingo Doce: A discount supermarket that offers a small selection of gluten free packaged goods. They are rarely located in a separate aisle, so you may have to do some searching.
Celeiros: This is a health food chain that carries an extensive selection of gluten free items, both shelf-stable and frozen. We found cereal, crackers, cookies, ice cream cones, frozen dinners, and more here. They carry brands like Schar as well as smaller brands. In some larger locations they even have a small onsite restaurant, such as a few in Lisbon. Generally found in malls.
El Corte Ingles: This is a department store that has locations across the country. They typically have a grocery store located in the basement. The stores have a gluten free section (usually located near the organic section), and also carry several gluten free items placed on the shelves alongside non-gluten free options, so take your time when shopping.
Markets: While not technically grocery stores, the large fruit and vegetable markets found in pretty much every city and town offer a great selection of fresh products at reasonable prices. You can also find whole grains, spices, as well as fresh meat and fish. A great alternative to grocery stores, and often at better prices.
Gluten Free Restaurants, Bakeries, and Cafes
Pasta Fresca e Pizza (rua Brito Capelo 75, Matosinhos, Porto): This Italian restuarant is the real deal. The Chef Sergio Crivelli won the prize for the World's Best Gluten Free pizza. If that's not enough to convince you, the restaurant hosts special event to commemorate World Celiac Awareness Day, and even has a link to their YouTube page that has a video on Celiac disease. With 13 different pasta dishes and 17 different pizzas on the gluten free menu, you're bound to find something you like.
Pop 101 (Rua de Tras 101, Porto): This vegan restaurant/cafe/bar offers vegan and gluten free options for diners. Located close to the Torre dos Clerigos, it's a convenient location for a bite during a long day of sightseeing. It's also an interesting space with a focus on the arts, including some exhibits and events.
Cruioso (Praca da Republica on Rua da Almada): This restaurant is also vegan and gluten free. Mostly raw-food dishes. They also offer classes on a variety of topics and personal chef services. You know, in case you need them!
The Yeatman Hotel's Restaurant (rua do Choupelo): This hotel's restaurant is a Michelin starred gastronomic restaurant located in Porto's luxury Yeatman hotel. The restaurant menu is not exclusively gluten free, but I have read several reviews indicating that the chef is happy to substitute and accommodate for gluten free without trouble. Something to consider if you're looking for a special dinner in one of Porto's most beautiful locations. Located across the river in Vila Nova da Gaia, it offers gorgeous views over the city.
Some other options: In Ribeira, as well as on Rua das Flores and rua Santa Caterina there are a number of small cafes and restaurants concentrated in a small area. Many restaurants have their menus posted outside, which should give you an idea of what's available. Again, simple dishes, like grilled fish and vegetables, are always a good idea. Also, there are a number of juice bars that offer smoothies and juices at reasonable prices. We ate at Forno Dos Clerigos, and they had a very extensive menu that included many naturally gluten free dishes. We explained my son's restrictions to the waiter and ordered him an omelet, and had no issues with the food at all.
La Trattoria (rua Artilharia 1 79, Lisbon): This Italian restaurant offers a great selection of gluten free dishes for the hungry soul, and has a separate gluten free menu that you can check out online. The prices are reasonable and there are several dishes to choose from, including pasta, risotto, meat and fish, as well as starters. They even have a gin bar! The restaurant has been managed by the same family for 40 years, so they must be doing something right.
Open Brasserie Mediteranica (rua Santa Marta 48, Lisbon): This restaurant is a lovely open space that offers a variety of dishes both gluten free and not. The menu is set up to clearly show which items are gluten free, vegetarian, etc. so that it's easy to know what's safe to order. The menu changes seasonally.
Creperie do Bairro (rua da Rosa 39, Lisbon): A small creperie that offers gluten free crepes, both sweet and savoury. I'm not sure how much of the menu is gluten free, and I recommend asking about cross-contamination.
La Creperie da Ribeira (rua da Moeda 1A, also in Amoreiras Mall): A creperie that offers regular crepes but also offers gluten free galettes.
Food Court at Amoreiras Mall: This mall is open until 11pm each day, and offers an incredible selection of food choices. Many of the spots offer fresh, naturally gluten free food. Go Natural is one of the spots that offers simple dishes that are clearly labelled, but it's not the only great restaurant choice there. A good option if you're near the Marques de Pombal area of town.
Ribeira Market: The Ribeira market is an indoor market sponsored by Time Out that has a huge selection of cafes and restaurants to choose from, offering every type of cuisine available. Might be a good place to find a hidden gem!
Parque Das Nacoes: This waterfront location right near the Oriente Train Station, is located across the street from the mall. A large length of waterfront is populated with restaurants and cafes, and there's certain to be a few that offer gluten free menus. If not, stick to the ones serving up simple Portuguese grilled meats or fish.
Praia da Luz:
Praia da Luz is a small beach town located close to the bigger resort town of Lagos. Surprisingly, it offered a good selection of gluten free options.
In Praia da Luz, there are a few chain grocery stores, such as Intermarche, which have a selection of gluten free items available. Baptista is a local grocery store, and they have a huge display right behind the cash registers of brands like Schar and Gerble. In the same plaza, Harmony Earth is a health food store that also carries a nice selection of items, some from brands not found at Baptista.
Chicca's (rua da Varzea 3, Praia da Luz) This small restaurant is a local and tourist favourite, and is perfect for the gluten free traveller. The signs are in English, and the menu items that are gluten free are clearly marked. There is also a request to let your server know if you are Celiac, so that extra precautions will be taken. All the food is homemade. Menu changes daily.
Paraiso (on the beach): this restaurant does not have a gluten free menu, but so much of its menu is naturally gluten free that I had to mention it. Grilled and baked fish, meats, and even a vegetarian menu (beware the ratatouille, it comes with spaghetti, so perhaps substitute rice). Plus, the location! It's the only restaurant in town located right on the bridge, with a boardwalk leading out to it. I recommend going at sunset for gorgeous views over the water and the town.
In Europe, food that contains gluten containing ingredients must be labelled properly, usually by placing the top allergens in bold. They also typically have the word "gluten" included as an ingredient. "Sem Gluten" is the typical way that a gluten free product will be labelled in Portugal.
Pharmacies and health food stores often carry some gluten free items, and most hotels can provide a selection of gluten free foods at their breakfast buffets if requested in advance. Telepizza is a pizza chain that also offers gluten free pizzas, but they must be ordered up to two hours in advance.
The Portuguese Celiac Association has an online page with information for tourists, written in English. Likewise, they have a searchable database of stores that sell gluten free products by city (in Portuguese), with the address included. On the tourist info page is a printable sheet with the names of gluten containing grains in Portuguese, as well as a paragraph statement to provide employees at stores and restaurants to help explain what gluten free means. It's a great resource, particularly if you do not speak any Portuguese.
Have you found a great gluten free spot in Portugal that's not on the list? I'm looking to expand this page and write another post with more cities. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or send me a message via the contact sheet.