How to eat gluten free in Thailand

How to eat gluten free in Thailand

If you’re like me, maybe you thought that eating gluten free in Thailand was going to be easy. Unfortunately, it’s much more complicated than I thought. Despite being a very rice-based culture, and having lots of gluten free options (yay!), there are sources of hidden gluten in so many things. In this article, we’ll outline which Thai foods are gluten free, and which to avoid. Thai food is delicious and you definitely don’t need to miss out on all of it. Read on to learn how you can safely eat gluten free in Thailand!

Table of Contents

Naturally Gluten Free Thai Foods

To start us off on a positive note, let’s look into which options are most often naturally gluten free. The foods listed below are gluten free in their authentic Thai form, but the savory options may contain oyster sauce or soy sauce if they’ve been made in a more Western style. If you’re ever in doubt, ask about the ingredients!


Mango sticky rice vendor from Maksym Pozniak-Haraburda via Unsplash

GF Thai Sweets

  • Fresh fruits - Thai pineapple is especially delicious

  • Mango sticky rice

  • Durian sticky rice

  • Yang yuan - rice dumplings in ginger broth

  • Gluay buad chee - bananas in coconut milk

  • Khanom tom - coconut balls

  • Khanom buang - crispy meringue-filled crepes

  • Khanom mo kaeng - coconut mung bean flan (dairy free too, usually!)

  • Bua loy - rice balls in coconut milk

  • Coconut rice pudding with longans

  • Tub tim grob - water chestnut tapioca balls in coconut milk

  • Kanom tuay - rice and coconut milk custard

  • Khanom krok - rice and coconut custard pancakes

  • Cha yen - Thai iced tea

  • Itim gati (coconut ice cream) - just make sure you get it in a cup

  • Kanom ping - tiny coconut tapioca flour cookies


Yellow curry at the famed Jek Pui Curry Rice in Bangkok's Chinatown from Streets of Food via Unsplash

Savory GF Thai Foods

  • Steamed rice - even glutinous rice is gluten free!

  • Curries - red, yellow, green, jungle, massaman, and panang are often safe bets, but NOT khao soi

  • Som tam - papaya salad

  • Yam mamuang - green mango salad

  • Larb (laab) - stir-fried meat salad with herbs and bright dressing

  • Tom yum - sour soup

  • Tom kha - sour soup with coconut milk

  • Prik nam pla - chili sauce and all-around flavor enhancer

  • Nam jim jeaw - a go-to meat sauce

  • Kai jeow (Thai omelette) - might sometimes contain soy, but it’s usually just seasoned with fish sauce

  • Sai ua - northern Thai sausage

  • Naem moo - Thai fermented sausage

  • Yum woon sen - glass noodle salad

  • Fresh spring rolls - just make sure the dipping sauce is gf!

  • Chor muang - royal Thai flower dumplings with savory sweet pork and peanut filling

  • Yum kai dao - crispy fried egg salad (just check if they’re deep fried in a shared fryer)

  • Thai turmeric chicken soup

  • Kua gling - southern Thai meat stir-fry with curry paste

Thai Foods That Contain Gluten

This isn’t an all-inclusive list of gluten-containing ingredients or Thai dishes, but it should cover the major types you’ll encounter. Please make sure to read labels or ask your chef or server before consuming any foods. We left off some of the obvious foods like wheat flour, and we assume you already know to avoid flaky pastries, buns, dumplings, and other breaded foods.

Cross-contamination issues are also worth highlighting here. Anything deep fried or any smoothies made in a shared blender with gluten-containing foods, like malt powder & cookies, have a high cross-contamination risk. Either find a place that only fries or blends gluten free items, or skip them altogether.


Fermented soybean paste (tao jiew) from Pandan Market

Thai Ingredients With Gluten

  • Soy sauce - sweet, dark, light, etc all contain wheat

  • Knorr soup cubes

  • Oyster sauce

  • Certain types of fish sauce

  • Tao jiew (fermented soybean paste, Healthy Boy and Pantai are common brands) - contains wheat flour

  • Maggi

  • Golden Mountain seasoning sauce - contains soy sauce

  • Egg noodles


Decidedly NOT gf khao soi from 8-Low Ural via Unsplash

Thai Dishes With Gluten

  • Khao soi - Northern style curry contains egg noodles

  • Pad thai - sometimes made with soy or oyster sauce

  • Pad see ew - usually includes soy or oyster sauce

  • Pad kee mao (drunken noodles) - usually includes soy or oyster sauce

  • Chicken or beef satay with peanut sauce - marinade and dipping sauce may include soy or oyster sauce

  • Khao man gai - the sauce contains tao jiew and soy, but perhaps safe without sauce

  • Khao pad (Thai fried rice) - usually contains light soy sauce

  • Guay tiew reua (Thai boat noodles) - contains soy sauce and tao jiew

  • Poh pia tod (fried springrolls) - wheat wrapper and shared fryer

  • Thai roti (banana pancake) - wheat flour wrap

  • Pad kra pow (Thai basil stir-fry) - includes soy and oyster sauce

  • Pad woon sen (stir-fried glass noodles) - contains oyster and soy sauce

  • Khanom khai nok kratha (fried potato balls) - often contains flour and shares a fryer with other gluten items

  • Moo Krob (crispy pork belly) - usually contains soy and oyster sauce, occasionally deep fried in light breading

  • Jok (rice congee) - contains a small amount of soy sauce

Thailand with Celiac Disease

In Thailand (and in many restaurants everywhere), there’s a high risk of cross-contamination due to shared woks and blenders that are not always thoroughly cleaned between orders. There also tends to be less food allergy awareness in many parts of Asia, so the practice of avoiding cross-contamination isn’t quite as common.


Boat tour from Marek Okon via Unsplash
  • Buy an allergy card that outlines what you can’t eat in Thai, unless you’re fluent yourself. This makes such a huge difference!

  • If possible, book a place with a kitchen so you can prepare some of your own meals. You can also find gluten free hotels and resorts if you don’t want to cook!

  • Stay somewhere close to a grocery store, so you can purchase packaged gluten free snacks and foods for cooking yourself.

  • Larger cities are more likely to have gluten free options, whereas smaller towns may not. Come prepared with lots of snacks.

  • Take a Thai cooking class. This will help you better understand which dishes are likely to contain gluten. Bring your own gf soy and oyster sauce to the class and communicate your food intolerance in advance!

  • Research areas for gluten free options before you go so you’ll have some safe options.

  • Pack a good amount of your favorite proteins bars and instant noodles, just in case you have trouble finding good options one night. I never regret taking at least a few of these.


Som tum papaya salad at Som Tam Jay So in Bangkok from Streets of Food via Unsplash

* Title image courtesy of Evan Krause via Unsplash.

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