CeliacChicks Around The World, INDIA, Travel

Gluten-Free India

37 Comments 27 March 2009

Gluten-Free India Taj Mahal
Please welcome today's guest blogger who has chosen to be identified as the mysterious Gluten-Free Family Of Four In Boston. ~Kelly

We are just back from a trip to India, specifically the Golden Triangle comprising the cities of Delhi, Agra (location of the Taj Mahal), and Jaipur (the capital of Rajasthan.) We are a family of four, with two gluten free girls, ages 8 and 11. Complicating matters is that one of the girls is mostly vegetarian and the other is a ravenous carnivore.

Overall the food in India is fresh, unprocessed, gluten-free and delicious. The majority of food (with the exception of the obvious breads naan, chapati, and puri) is gluten-free. It is much simpler in India because you are not dealing with processed food so there are few hidden ingredients. A lot of the food is lentil and chickpea based and is almost always served with rice. 

Gluten-free India

Many meals, particularly in restaurants, start with papadam, which is made from lentils. This is great because so often my girls don’t get anything to eat until the main course and have to sit watching others eat bread sticks, etc. In India they ruined their appetites with papadam and I happily let them. Another great appetizer is pakoras. Pakoras are similar to vegetable tempura but with chickpea flour (aka gram flour.)

We ate dosa every day. Dosa is a very large crepe made from lentils and rice that is eaten plain or with a variety of fillings. The most common is masala dosa, which is the crepe, folded over spiced potato. My girls loved the crepeness of it.  Often meat is not served in restaurants that serve dosa. This was hard on my carnivore. We compromised by eating in hotels instead of more local joints so she could have meat. In the end, although the atmosphere was lacking, the dosa’s were still really good because it is a staple and hard to mess up. (WARNING:There is one dosa batter that does contain wheat. It is called Rava dosa, so be careful to stay away from it. I did not know this before going so now I know to watch for it here as well.) We never took it for granted that the dosa batter was wheat-free. We asked at every meal. When language was a problem we called someone on a cell phone who could translate for us (we have friends in India but a good choice is your hotel concierge for example). But most of the time there was always someone around that spoke English well enough to figure it out. The word for wheat in Hindi is aata.
Gluten-free India market

The meat dishes like tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, chicken/lamb curry, and others are almost always gluten-free. The same goes for the vegetable curries. For the most part they do not use wheat flour as a thickener in India, but again we always asked.

It is very tempting to eat from the street stalls that are everywhere. I think it could be done if you know the language, but there are 49 official languages in India and that doesn’t include scores of other dialects. The street vendors as a rule did not speak English so we stayed away with one exception. I tried something and I was 99.8% sure that it was made from chickpea flour so I let the girls try it. So good and greasy. Tea (chai) is very big in India. Even if you don’t drink tea here, in India you will begin to crave it just like the locals. Indian chai is sweet, milky and satisfying. And gluten-free so drink up!

We had a spectacular trip. My girls enjoyed every minute we were there. India is a visually spectacular place, rich in history, with diverse cultures and religions and lucky for us delicious gluten-free food!

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37 Comments so far

  1. 1
    H.Peter says:

    A brilliant post from a brilliant country.
    I love India, warts and all.

  2. 2
    Victoria says:

    India is one of my favorite travel destinations.
    Before opening my gluten free bakery, I was buying home decor for my husband’s import business. And one of the places we imported from was India.

    As you wrote, teh food is so diverse and flavorful. Now that I read your post, I have the urge to go back soon

  3. 3
    Gina says:

    I just had Indian food tonight. My sister is vegetarian, so Indian is one place we can both go and get something we like. I love it that most options are naturally GF. I’ve found that the more Americanized places are the most likely to sneak in some flour for thickening the sauce, which is completely unnecessary if you make a curry traditionally. I always wondered how traveling to India itself would be – now I know! It sounds like a great place to travel for a gluten-free foodie. Thanks for an entertaining and informative post.

  4. 4

    For a guest blogger you’re doing pretty darn good! I came here to tag the Celiac Chicks, but since you are the officail ‘blogger du jour’ I guess I now have to tag YOU! http://glutenfreepost.com/?p=967

  5. 5
    J says:

    I love pakoras, but in US restaurants I’ve stopped ordering them because they are usually fried in the same oil as the samosas (wheat). Is this a problem in India?

      Swati says:

      Hi J!

      Using the oil again and again for frying isn’t a healthy idea and is practiced by people producing food stuff for commercial purpose (hotels, restaurants, road-side stalls etc). Indians don’t do that at home.

      Source: I’m an Indian 🙂

  6. 6
    Bea says:

    I just traveled to India last year – I was concerned about the food being gluten free – but I found it was WAY easier to eat there than in the states. Most people in the states don’t know what’s in their food because of all the processed foods we eat – not so in India. Thanks for the great post!

  7. 7
    Simi says:

    Love Indian food! Great post. I have it linked to two of my sites – my gluten-free blog and my http://everythingindian.blogspot.com/

  8. 8
    Muralidharan says:

    it would be in most cases. Gluten sensitivity is a problem not recognised in India. It took me 20 years to get diagnosed with it. All along I was treated for its symptoms. Though various options are available in India food cooked outside your home can always be a problem. It is not just pakoras that can be cooked in the same oil as that used to cook samosas (made from wheat flour), sometimes they even add wheat flour to the dough used to make pakoras (when there is a shortage of gram flour, as I discovered at a restaurant, though it is not done usually). Even the oil used for making puris can be used for cooking something else. In India labelling is also a problem and products that contain gluten cannot be easily identified. It is only years later that I came to realise that even some branded potato chips contain gluten, though it is not mentioned on their packs. Same with ice cream and a lot of other products.

      Swati says:

      Hi Muralidharan!

      Could you please tell me how you got diagnosed? I had been to an ENT at Apollo and he said tests for food allergy are out of fashion as the patient may even collapse due to reaction during the test. Is it so?

  9. 9
    Tulika says:

    its nice to read about your good gluten free experience in India. but not all gluten free travellers to India(specialliy North India where the staple diet is wheat)) and not all Indian celiacs have reported good experiences. So to make gluten free living simpler in India, we have created a range of gluten free foods which we sell in all parts of India… we have atta(flour to make chappattis etc), Maida(all purpose flour), sooji(semolina, used to prepare a variety of breakfast dishes), Dalia(porridge), choco fudge cookies, butter cookies, jam cookies, bread, garlic buns etc. you may visit us at http://www.sunirafoods.com ir write to me at sunirafoods@gmail.com

  10. 10
    Muralidharan says:

    This is the message I got on trying to log into sunirafoods.com

    What is the current listing status for sunirafoods.com?

    Site is listed as suspicious – visiting this web site may harm your computer.

    Part of this site was listed for suspicious activity 2 time(s) over the past 90 days.

    What happened when Google visited this site?

    Of the 69 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 7 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2009-11-13, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2009-11-13.

    Malicious software includes 7 exploit(s), 2 scripting exploit(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 1 new process(es) on the target machine.

  11. 11
    shevafruitman@hotmail.com says:

    i am in india and have had gluten free continental food at the rambagh hotel and the sheraton hotel both in jaipur including gluten-free bread. in delhi the lalit hotel and claridges also cater to gluten-free customers.le marche grocery store in delhi also has a small gluten-free section.
    many indian dishes are gluten-free, but after a while it is very nice to be able to eat western dishes gluten-free as well.

  12. 12
    Arati says:

    interesting post. I am living in delhi, and am gluten/dairy/soy free. Life is tough when there is so much great fresh indian breads around, but delhi is an accomodating city. I would love people living in India, and living gluten free to check out a blog I am working on http://www.gluten-free-gluttony.blogspot.com

  13. 13
    SHWETHA says:

    bangalore can go gluten free now!!!

  14. 14


    E-7/10, KRISHNA NAGAR,
    9810540809, 011-22093416…

  15. 15
    Willy says:

    Is there any shop of gluten free whiskey/vodka/Tequila in Delhi

  16. 16
    Anand says:

    my daughter is 5 year old find Celiac Disease i want to know gluten free products name

      Jade D'Cunha says:

      India is the best country for easy availability of gluten free products.
      Rice – try to get unpolished rice, because of nutritional factors for the child.
      All Beans and Daals (lentils/pulses) are gluten free.
      All Millets eg Bajra, Ragi/Nachni/Maddua and Sorghum (Jowar) are gluten free.
      All foods taken on fasting days like Amaranthus (Ramdana/Rajgir), Buckwheat(Kotu), Sago(saboodana)etc are gluten free.

      Anuj Agarwal says:

      To make gluten free living simpler in India, we have created a range of gluten free foods which we sell in all parts of India… we have atta(flour to make chappattis etc), Maida(all purpose flour), sooji(semolina, used to prepare a variety of breakfast dishes), Dalia(porridge), noodles and biscuits.
      Home delivered pl call at 9811771875 or visit http://healthsewak.com. All products are certified gluten free from government of India and are as per Indian taste. (few are imported but vegetarian).

  17. 17
    Willy says:

    Its better to go in for wheafree.com. You will find a number of gluten free stuff, Its distribution stores are all over India. I am 65 and I was diagnosed sensitive to wheat last year. Now I do not face any food problem.

  18. 18
    Valerie says:

    I have found that the indian spice asofetida ( LG) contains wheat flour. Probably used to prevent caking of this spice. Asofetida is used in many dishes including pappadum and spice packets. Be careful!

  19. 19
    Prachi says:

    Hi, We are selling in India some of the top brand name Gluten Free products from USA. We can ship directly to you. We also sell home gluten test kits, you can use these to test for gluten in food products upto 5ppm. Please visit http://www.USAhealthFoods.in

  20. 20
    bharat says:

    Your introductory note itself is very encouraging.i was diagnosed celiac last year and finding it very very difficult to have purely gluten free food in restaurants in delhi.but your comments about delhi and india tell that there is more to explore.

  21. 21
    Jade D'Cunha says:

    Achtung! – Wheat is called GGehoong in Hindi. Atta is any Flour. So you ask if the food contains Gehoonh in ANY form and avoid Gehoonh Atta, Maida (white flour), Soodji (Semolina) and Sewainh(Vermicelli), gehoonh roti/chapati/phulka/poori, naan etc.

    South Indian food is generally the best bet for an entirely gluten free meal without worry, except for the Soodji/Sheera based Rawa Dosa.

    Even Tandoori chicken can be contaminated if they use the same oven(tandoor) for making roti and naan. So it’s best to check.

    Best to check regarding the oil used for any fried stuff (including peanuts and Paapads!), esp if pooris (fried rotis) or samosas are being served.

    Asafoetida (Heeng) is best avoided because Maida (white flour) is now commonly being used as a binder, because it is cheaper than Besan (gram powder) which was traditionally used.

    Be very careful with the Sweets. Especially dangerous is Dhonda Barfi popular in northern India – it is made from Gluten! Gulab Jamun, Rasgollas and DJalebis are made with Maida. Check regarding any Halwa being served or sold. Sometimes the serving staff give wrong information out of ignorance. So you can’t be too careful.

  22. 22
    Lata says:

    Hi, I am Lata from India…I am sure I am allergic to gluten since the past year and I have stopped taking gluten products all together…But in India, I feel there is an increase in gluten in all powdered spices and other condiments…I ve completely stopped having outside food..though indian food is less processed the north indian people tend to be careless with the use of wheat. Until i was in southern india i had no problems but once i moved to the west i started to get these symptoms while i ate out…especially in the indian-chinese restaurants..So people travelling to India..be careful while you venture out…Even the other flours made of jowar or maize is contaminated with wheat as they use the same equipment to grind..Of late i am afraid my son has gluten allergy because he is starting to stutter a lot…can somebody tell me what are symptoms in children who have gluten allergy?

  23. 23
    Timo says:

    Thanks, this is great advice!

  24. 24
    Jag says:

    Hi Friend,

    Just wanted to clarify that the word “atta” in Hindi, Punjabi, and also several other languages spoken throughout India, Pakistan, and Arabic nations merely refers to “flour” and not wheat.

    Granted wheat is dominantly seminal to flour production in these regions; “atta” does not distinguish between gluten and gluten-free sources.

    Very informative read! Having just become aware of one’s own gluten intolerance, this was strangely comforting–one frequently visits family in India, all of which exhibit no gluten-related problems.

    Am surprised that there is no mention of water in the article; did you only drink bottled water throughout the trip?

    Thank you for writing.

  25. 25
    Richa says:

    Dear all
    Health Basket- A health Store in Gurgaon brings you the most exclusive range of Gluten-free foods under one roof.

    Health Basket Brings you Gluten free Breads, Jalebis, kachoris, cup cakes, chocolate cakes ,cake mixes, flours, noodles, biscuits ,Snacks, Pickles, rusks, chocolates, masalas, etc.
    Name it and it has it.
    To order/check availabality Call: 9810512385 Health Basket

  26. 26
    Jeanne says:

    Our oldest was recently diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity. As she is leaving this week for a month in India, I googled, “How to eat gluten free in India,” and found your blog. Thank you for posting this. It is very helpful!

  27. 27
    helper says:

    hi great blog. just a general correction wheat flour is called gehu ka atta in india. the word atta is a broad term just meaning flour.

  28. 28
    Mrinal Singh says:

    Are packaged masalas like Badshah, Everest, MDH etc. Gluten free?

  29. 29
    Chris says:

    If anyone want to travel to india and want gluten free travel check this site –

    Found this one very helpful.

  30. 30
    Alia Khan says:

    I love this recipe till my childhood it’s so simple to make. Every time i was looking for new recipes and Dubai Foods Courts Restaurant. Thanks for the post…

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Kelly Courson


Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.

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