Thailand Gluten Free information blog
Thailand Gluten Free
Gluten-free: Better in Thailand? Not really

“Oh but it’s easier to eat gluten free in Thailand than in Europe” Perhaps you’ve heard someone say this before, I sure have, by many people including doctors. Let me first state that what they are saying is absolutely NOT TRUE!

It used to be easier perhaps in the past, but times have changed. Gluten free is big business now in Europe, while Thai cuisine has adjusted to a more international style. Over the past few years the Western world has opened its arms to the gluten-free community and it has kinda become a mainstream thing. Here in Thailand however, well I think that most people in Thailand will not know what I’m talking about when I mention gluten. That makes ordering food from a restaurant problematic, even if you speak Thai.

Just try to find some gluten free restaurants here in Thailand. In all my time traveling around Thailand I may have found maybe 6 or 7 restaurants that partially specialize in gluten free. A quick google search for gluten free restaurants in Italy or The Netherlands on the other hand show dozens of gluten-free-specialized restaurants.

Buying stuff from a supermarket in Thailand is far from optimal because of the terrible ingredient labels. Thai food-labeling laws really need to step up their game. It’s not uncommon for Thai labels to miss some ingredients if you compare it with the English-text label. You might think to just read the English-text label then, which would be okay if they didn’t place the Thai label sticker directly on top of the original label. Products made in Thailand sometimes don’t even have an ingredient label at all. Compare it with the excellent food-labeling laws from Germany or the Netherlands and you will know the difference. If you buy a product from a German Supermarket, you will know exactly what you’ll be eating.

“But Thailand does not use wheat”. Yes that is true in some sense, but that does not exclude gluten from their meals. The soy sauce brand “Maggi” (I declare war on you) has conquered the Thai cuisine, and can be found everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE. From the big fancy restaurants to the local street vendor, just look at what they are using. A bottle of Maggi stands proudly in range of almost any chef. If it’s not Maggi, than it’s some other soy sauce brand. I don’t know the percentage of soy sauce used in Thai cuisine, but I bet it’s sky high. It might not be used as an ingredient in every meal, but for sure almost everything is contaminated with it.

If you can find a restaurant that understands the situation, has the clean material, and is willing to provide some extra effort, then it's possible to get a gluten-free meal. But even then there is always a risk, unless you dine in one of those luxury 5 star hotel restaurants where they are used to dealing with special requests. But dining there will completely drain your wallet.

So no, it’s NOT easier to travel gluten-free in Thailand than in Europe, it really depends on how you prepare your own food, or how you convince others to cook it for you.

Thailand Gluten Free