Gluten Free in Sri Lanka

by Kelly

Travelling gluten free is hard at times, there’s a lot of research to be done before you go and even then you’re rarely confident in that it will work when you are there. Whether you are a coeliac or need to follow a gluten free diet here is all the information you’ll need to be able to travel gluten free in Sri Lanka.

Enjoying a delicious curry!

Gluten free Sri Lanka Curries

Most curries are safe, my favourites are: potato Curry, dhal, eggplant curry (really spicy!), chicken curry (spicy), jack fruit curry (spicy). We ate curries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is worth noting that if you are in Anurhadapura please go to Mango Mango and get a potato curry. It was the best one we had the whole trip!

Masala Dosa at Mango Mango

Masala dosa

One of my absolute favourite meals! A huge crispy pancake served with at least 3 different curries. The one I ordered at Mango Mango in Anurhadpura was incredible.

Pittu – rice flour and coconut dish, eaten with warmed coconut milk and spicy curry.

Kokis – a deep-fried, crispy food made from rice flour and coconut milk.

Deep fried banana bread from Hela Bojun Hala. I have no idea of the name but I absolutely loved it. Using my translation the ladies were able to tell me it was safe but I couldn’t understand the name. It is so great to support these ladies. They are learning about food safety and how to look after a business.  The food is really good and cheap. They are able to tell you if the food is safe to eat and are so helpful.

Aluwa – Sri Lankan sweet. It is made from rice flour or potatoes with treacle, cashew nuts and cardamom and is made in a flat cookie like shape.


Hoppers... with a warning! Hoppers and string hoppers are everywhere and they are really good, but you really really need to check with the person making them or serving you to make sure they are not made with wheat flour. If you get the green light then give them a go, I loved an egg hopper for breakfast or a curry hopper. String hoppers are a nice change from regular rice as well. You will see red or white string hoppers, both should be made from rice!

Imbul kiri bath

Sweet coconut rice filled with coconut and sugar. These sweet rice and coconut balls were delicious! I was so lucky that a lovely homestay made me these for breakfast instead of the toast Mike was given. They are usually only made on special occasions, I felt very honoured.

Translations that will help when ordering gluten free Sri Lanka:

I always have the app ‘Google Translate’ on my phone and download the language for whatever country I am in. Unfortunately the app wont download the main language of Sri Lanka, Sinhalese. I could use it in wifi areas but as I didn’t have any data it made it hard when I was out and about. My solution was to screen shot the translation and save it to my notes. Then all I had to do was show the staff member the page and they could read it for themselves in our out of a data area.

The phrases I found worked best were:

‘wheat flour is poisonous for me’ – it might sound extreme but it really worked the best. 10/10 times I used this it resulted in them being very careful to check ingredients with me. I even asked about something and didn’t purchase it but later had 2 men who were helping explain the ingredients track me down to let me know that they had made a mistake and it did have wheat flour in it. It was a samosa and boy did I want to eat it but had chosen another option. They had thought it was corn flour but asked the cook after I left and realised it was wrong. I saw 2 frantic Sri Lankan men racing toward me to let me know in case I came back and ordered without checking again. Honestly the Sri Lankan people are so lovely and will really try to take care of you.

‘I can not eat wheat, wheat flour or soy sauce’ – this worked but I found that by listing 3 items it became more confusing. I would use this if ordering a curry to double check there was no flour used to thicken it or soy sauce for flavour. I actually never saw soy sauce anywhere and never had any problems with any of the curries I ate listed above.

‘I can not eat roti, bread or crackers’ – I would use this as the Sri Lankan people are amongst the kindest and most generous I have ever met. If you stop or sit with them they will immediately try to offer you some food and it is commonly crackers which are all wheat based. After the first 2 times of not telling the host and Mike having to eat a massive plate of crackers I had to let them know first. It also helped them understand why I wasn’t eating as I felt so rude. I would often be offered a banana and I will never say no to that!

‘For breakfast I can not eat roti, bread or crackers’ – An adaptation on the last one but it really helps when your breakfast is included in your room. It will be either western or Sri Lankan but both will contain wheat as it will be roti or western bread. I showed the host this when we checked in every single stay. As after our first night in Sri Lanka we woke up to half a loaf of bread and pancakes. We hadn’t expected breakfast and they so generously made us some. Poor Mike had to finish the lot and I only got to eat 2 bananas. I started showing the host this on check in and then they would discuss what they could serve. I started getting a beautiful potato curry or dahl with rice instead and Mike was still able to get the western breakfast. We were both much happier this way!

These were the only phrases I used. It is such an easy way to check your food is safe and to put your mind at ease! I really used the first about 99% of the time and didn’t get glutened once! Happy travels and enjoy those delicious (and at times mind blowingly hot and spicy!) curries.

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