Eating Gluten Free in Bali – our 5 Top Tips

Our biggest concern for travelling in gluten free in Bali was being able to cater to both our 7-year-old daughter Phoebe who is Celiac and also myself as I have a gluten allergy – while not busting the budget every mealtime. We’re doing a 1 year around the world trip and budget is pretty important!

There are plenty of options if you have unlimited budget – there’s a whole host of western style restaurants who understand what it means to be gluten free dotted across Bali, but that really limits your choices and hits you in the wallet – and you also miss the experience of Indonesian food. We’ve managed to navigate it pretty well, with a few hits and misses along the way.

Gluten free Smoothies in Bali

Celiac symptoms in kids

First a little bit about Phoebe and how she came to be Celiac as it took us a long time to cotton on and this might be helpful for other parents. Phoebe has always been a pretty average sleeper – waking often with complaints of sore legs. We were up to her sometimes 2-3 times a night, sleep was scarce for the first 6 years of her life and the paracetamol / ibuprofen flowed a little too regularly (this was especially tricky with 3 other kids!). The doctors in New Zealand put it down to growing pains and we thought nothing of it. The other issue was behavioral – frequent tantrums – was she just a kid, always tired, or something else?

It was Anne who mentioned it to the doctors after reading about it – and it turns out, following a few simple blood tests, her celiac markers were off the charts! Normally a doctor would need to do an endoscopy to know for sure, but here levels were already so high we got a diagnosis without the procedure. The impacts of going gluten free were immediate and so was the return to normal sleep – what a revelation! We are now learning what she can tolerate and its only occasionally she has sore legs – and she can let us know now we understand what is going on. Absolutely life changing.

My Gluten Issues – non traditional?

As for me – a diet of heavy gluten means too many trips to the bathroom, very low energy and severe heartburn. I was using Metamucil to block things up – prescribed by the doctor… again, they didn’t connect the dots on what was really going on. After an endoscopy, the diagnosis was crystal clear – I have Esophagitis (both eosinophilic and reflux) and the gluten free diet for me has also been revolutionary for my personal health. I also happen to be diary free for health reasons – this makes things really tricky when ordering from a menu!

Gluten Free in Bali Travel

A big concern was the soy sauce – it’s often used and also often contains gluten. Also, with New Zealand food – anything deep fried is generally a no go due to cross contamination, and the same applies here also. It’s a real balancing act between what will Phoebe actually like vs. what can she eat! This makes eating gluten free in Bali quite tricky.

Here’s our top 5 tips for how to travel gluten free in Bali.

  1. Plan ahead when eating out – it can take time to find the right restaurant to eat at and looking around with a ‘hangry’ child when it’s getting late, we found pretty painful.
  2. Pack snacks – the local Circle K has plenty of great gluten free snacks available at good prices to help bridge the gaps between meals.
  3. Know your own tolerance levels – if a little cross contamination is fine then just roll with it or else every mealtime will become a headache. We started out asking for no Soy Sauce on our Nasi goreng (fried rice – a common dish, even for breakfast) however I quickly tired of that conversation and found that I was fine with eating it as it came. We’re a little more careful with Phoebe but there’s always a couple of dishes that are clearly Gluten Free on most menus.
  4. Learn the translation for gluten free. Some restaurants understand it depending on how touristy the place is. For those more out of the way places, we used an information card and simply showed it to them so they could read it. This worked well! “Wheat” in Indonesian is “gandum” & “saya allergie kecap” means you are allergic to soy.
  5. Know what types of places will work for your family. Mexican food is a hit for us. Mexican restaurants are dotted around the place and even on many western style menus. Many Indonesian dishes are naturally gluten free.

Our top 10 dishes for travelling Gluten Free in Bali:

  1. Gado Gado – Indonesian salad
  2. Chicken Satay (Satay, request with no soy) – Phoebes fav!
  3. Nasi goreng (request with no soy sauce depending on your tolerance levels)
  4. Pepes Ikan – Fish in banana leaf served with rice and veges
  5. Bubur Sumsum – Delicious black rice pudding
  6. Cap Cay – Indonesian stir fry (request no soy sauce)
  7. Iga Babi (Ribs & veges request with no soy and triple check there is no flour as recipes vary)
  8. Smoothie bowls, there are loads of types but make sure if granola is added that is GF
  9. Our fav – Seasonal fruit platters, available at every restaurant and often include – watermelon, mango, papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, banana, snake fruit.
  10. Poke bowl – which come in any combination you can think of and are often customizable. Also, a great option when ordering on Gojek – The vegan version we had were exceptional!


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A Gluten Free go to dinner
Chicken Satay
Gluten Free Dessert which is also Dairy Free
Black Rice Pudding
Awesome Gluten Free options
Poke Bowl

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