A few weeks ago I went to Porto, Portugal with some friends and had an absolutely amazing time. If you’ve never heard of it, I’ve included a stunning photo below to make you jealous and immediately grab a pen and scribble it down on your bucket list. In the north of Portugal and situated on the Douro River, Porto (or Oporto if we’re using the correct Portuguese word) is a gorgeous, walkable city full of friendly people and close to some amazing hiking. Also home to the best Port wines in the world – which are totally gluten free.
As far as eating gluten free in Portugal goes though, I struggled a bit. For breakfast most mornings we ventured to local Cafe Java for omelettes “sense gluten” for me. Otherwise the damn thing would show up on a baguette – rendering it inedible for us poor Celiacs. Eggs are a great start to the day when you’re walking as much as we did though so this little place did perfectly for us.
Lunch I honestly don’t remember. I know I gorged on snacks and desserts one day and had a salad the next because a nice sit down, breadless, affordable lunch was difficult for me to find. There’s always the sandwiches and fried foods and french fries (boy do Europeans love their fries!) to make your mouth water but otherwise…. you might have a hard time. If you’re not as addicted to sugar as I am though and want real food cooked potatoes and grilled or baked fish shouldn’t be too hard to find. The Portuguese (like the rest of the world, really) love their gluten so while it will be tricky, just be smart.
If it is sweets you’re after however they make a Molotov Flan that is essentially a soft, caramelized meringue that loses its form as soon as it is cooked. These aren’t hard to find in bakeries – and when your friends are swallowing croissants whole you will need something to make you feel better – but one slice is full of enough sugar to keep you wide eyed all weekend.
Another thing I found in Portugal that I loved is this weird dessert that I can’t for the life of me figure out on the internet. Sold with macaroons it’s basically a little flavored sticky ball of heaven. I got maracuja (passion fruit) and a port wine flavored macaroon, pictured below. Let’s just say this might have been my breakfast one morning and it might have been the best breakfast ever.
When I was in Porto I stayed in an airbnb rental with some really nice Portuguese guys and one of my friends. One of my favorite parts about using airbnb is that staying with locals means you get the best recommendations on where to go, what to eat and drink, and the best day trips. Our hosts did not fail to deliver and pointed us in the direction of some amazing and unique finds – including my favorite restaurant A Sandeira. This tiny restaurant is owned and run by the most incredibly sweet lady ever who helped my friend (who had a nasty cold) learn how to ask for medicine in Portuguese. Aside from that the ingredients are so ridiculously fresh that they run out and go buy more depending on what you order.
Needless to say, my friends and I were obsessed. Starters for just 2,5 euro and salads and sandwiches (NOT gluten free) for 5,00 euro. I ordered the salad with jamon, the freshest mozzarella I’ve ever had and tomato. I couldn’t have the house dressing so I asked for it with oil and vinegar. I don’t know how but this simple salad is the one of the best things I’ve ever had and weeks later I’m still craving it. Throw in some 6,00 euro wine, mango mousse for dessert and great friends and you have got yourself the best meal in Porto for less than 15,00 euro. On top of that, my gluten eating friends absolutely loved their sandwiches and everything else A Sandeira had to offer. The quality of this photo may be bad, but the food and people were the best.