FINLAND: Land Of Gluten-Free Paradise!

17 Comments 04 May 2004

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Finland? Wha? Yes, Finland. Known to outsiders mostly for vodka, Sibelius and reindeer … Finland needs to be outed as the land of gluten-free goodies. How did I know this? Well, somehow years ago I made friends with a Finn. Then I dated a Finn. (That’s another story but I’ll spare you.) In true Finnish witty style he told me that celiac disease was ironically pronounced in Finnish “ Kelly- ah-kee-ah”. So my Finnish peeps were well aware of celiac disease and told me how common it was in Finland, and how GF foods were readily available everywhere. Even McDonald’s gives the option of a GF bun! So, as you can imagine, I had been dying to go and experience all of the bakeries and see menus with actual GF coding!
Examples of GF menu coding!

My dream recently came true. I went to Finland, Estonia and Russia in December for two weeks and I’m excited to share my discoveries with you along with a few fun touristy tidbits. You may ask, "How does this benefit me?" Well, I figure it should give you hope that in the near future the States will be as educated, understanding and accomodating in regards to celiac disease. In addition, it should help fellow celiacs no longer feel like they are from another planet and that it is common and dealt with appropriately in other places. I’ve broken it up into little segments so as not to overwhelm you and cause your keyboard to short out from drool. Over the next few days I’ll expose you a little more to the GF paradise in a land far, far away.

Helsinki is a cute little city. Don’t expect Alvar Aalto buildings everywhere… but there are some really nice examples of classic Scandinavian architecture. I was fortunate that it had snowed and the whole city was beautifully blanketed in white.

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Snowy Helsinki street scene

My friend Kirsi greeted me with a bag of traditional finnish pastries called Carelian pies. I felt so loved that she had special ordered them gluten-, corn- and dairy-free. Immediately I fell in love with them … so sad I can’t eat them right now! Traditionally they are made with rye and filled with rice porridge.

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Clockwise top to bottom: GF rolls, breadsticks and Carelian pie

I had printed out a list from the Finnish Coeliac Society of GF establishments in Helsinki. First, we found Cafe Smorrebrod and I had the giant shrimp salad with a buried piece of GF bread underneath served with some great euro mayo. This shrimp salad item seemed to be a common lunch item everywhere we went. Very tasty.

Below is a photo of the crepe we found at Cafe Fontana …. filled with ham bits, veggies and yummy euro mayonnaise.
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Marketplace w/ gf bakery inside

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Keliapuoti gluten-free bakery! Notice the "No wheat/gluten" symbol on the glass display. Most things had some dairy and corn starch in them so it narrowed down my choices. However, the few things I had were excellent.

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Scrumptious treats: little spice cake, a chocolate ball filled with fudgey dough (so rich I couldn’t even eat the whole thing), and an amazing little cake made with many thin layers of potato starch cake and a buttery frosting with almonds … this was my favorite … very light. I had to cheat a little on the dairy issue! After all, I was on vacation! (*never cheat, however, with gluten! )

Sooo … stay tuned for more gluten-free gluttony in Chapter TWO!

*FYI: Most airlines will now let you request a GF meal at the time of your purchasing a ticket. The meals aren’t that great, but at least it’s progress. For those of you who are dairy and corn intolerant, you should know that I am usually disappointed that the GF meals are typically dairy and corn based, so I end up carrying my own snacks.

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Your Comments

17 Comments so far

  1. 1
    Diane Camp says:

    Dear Kelly and Kim,
    Although I do not have a problem with wheat in my diet, I am dairy intolerant. I enjoy your website from the view that it is helping me to recognizing the need for more creative recipes for healthy eating.

    I am a retired caterer who still has a passion for food and all the intresting and fun things that can be done.

    I am looking forword to experimenting with some of my favorite mexican recipes and make them “Kim and Kelly friendly”.

    I will keep you posted and share them with you. See you soon,

  2. 2
    Jacqueline says:

    Kelly and Kim

    I just found your site and I have to say that you guys rock. I am a finnish-celiac and I cannot believe how aware they are of celiac. I need to save money for a trip to Finland. Thanks for making my day..


  3. 3
    emma says:

    thank goodness for your web site.
    i am going on my first os trip since being diagnosed with coeliac, so am a little worried about eating out and stocking up on gluten free food. i feel reasured about finland now where we will be travelling with our 2cv car club!
    thanks for the tip..
    emma 😀

  4. 4
    Meghan says:

    Hi Ladies! What a fun article with lots of great info! Just a note that the Finnish Coeliac society link is since the link didn’t work for me when i clicked on it from the blog.

    Hope you enjoy the rest of the trip!!

  5. 5
    nasrin says:

    im so happy to see your website.
    i newly diagnose with ciliac about 1 mount ago.its good for me to know about person who has worries like you know i live in iran
    thank u

      kelly says:

      Hi Nasrin!!! Wow! So cool to meet a reader from Iran! You are SO very welcome and I’m so glad you enjoy the site!
      What is it like eating gluten-free there? Would you ever want to be a guest blogger?
      The first year is a big learning curve, after that it becomes second nature.
      Kelly : )

  6. 6
    Lindsey Hue says:

    I just found a very useful site called Gluten Free Hotels Guide which lists hotels all over the world that serve gluten free food. Apparently they also list many hotels in Helsinki –

  7. 7
    Cris says:

    I’m from Romania. I was in Turku, Finland for six months and it is indeed a paradise for a person with celiac desease. But I have many gluten free recepies on my own because I live with this desease already for 25 ears. So if some one want some new recepies I could write here some of those.

  8. 8
    Claudia says:

    Amazing! Can’t believe all this! I was diagnosed with celiac a few weeks ago and feel so alienlike… and in 4 weeks I have to go to Helsinki on business. I was really scared- until I read this! Thank you so much! Now I can try to look forward to this trip… so reliefed!
    Here in Germany you get some of the gluten-free stuff but haven’t found a bakery with gluten-free stuff. Can’t believe that people in Finland know what celiacs are talking about… Yippie!;-)
    Thank U!

  9. 9
    Elina says:

    Hi Kelly!

    I’m 16 year old girl from Finland and I googled some gluten free stuff and found your website. I’m in gluten and lactosefree diet. It’s so amazing that you enjoyed Finnish culture And found something to eat here. I have been so many times in USA and noticed that it’s hard to find something to eat on restaurant. When I say that can i have something without gluten and dairy, they look at me like i’m some kind of freek or something. I usually get misunderstood. Only place where I can find something is Whole Food’s. At the first time in Whole Food’s i was so amazed by all the gluten free cookies, baking mix, breads etc. Gluten free section is so much bigger there than here in Finland. But I can say that celiac disease is normal disease in Finland and usually understundable where ever you go. Helsinki is full of gluten free bakery’s And restaurants, I can get some frehsly baked bread and cookies at local supermarket 5 days a week. And even i’m at high school (which is free) i’ll get healthy lunch whitout gluten And lactose. I’d liike to be a confectioner And make whole world happy with my Pasties. I’m not sure will I establish my own coffee shop in Finland or in USA.
    Thank you for your amazing website, I will follow you And recommend this website to my friends :))

    Have a nice and relaxable summer!

  10. 10
    Isabella says:

    Hey! Love this post! I am currently in finland, and was just wondering what the marketplace with the gluten free bakery is called? Can’t find a name anywhere here. Keep up the good work!

  11. 11
    Anna says:

    The marketplace – or really a market hall (as we Finns would call it)- is called Hakaniemen halli and it is situated on the corner of Hämeentie and Siltasaarenkatu.

    The bakery /shop is on the Hämeentie side of the hall. If you enter from door that side of hall, you should turn right inside. It is on the first floor. (only in Finnish).

    Also I’ve been told that there is a cafe selling only gluten-free stuff in Hakasalmen huvila, Mannerheimintie 13 b. It’s called Huvilan kahvila.

  12. 12
    Helga says:

    I am being tested for coeliac and while waiting for the results I found this page. It fascinates me that they understand coeliac so thoroughly in Finland as my father was from Latvia and I know there are some relations between the two cultures. It’s got me wondering whether this is my missing link. Great post!

  13. 13
    Caroline says:

    Thanks, Kelly! Just about to head to Finland (from Australia) so great to know I’ll be eating well.

  14. 14
    Nora says:

    So happy to find you. I am headed to Russia and Finland in May. I was just recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease. This makes me feel far more confinant that I will find things I can eat.


  15. 15
    iwona says:

    it’s a wonderful idea 🙂

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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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