Eating gluten free in Cuba

Eating gluten free in Cuba

Eating abroad is always a bit of a minefield when you have can’t eat gluten. I find the language barriers so hard – I remember going to Paris once and trying to explain in broken french that I had coeliac disease, only to be asked if I needed a doctor! Steve and I love going to all inclusive hotels, and I find these can often be either a delight or a nightmare!

Luckily for me, my recent holiday to Cuba turned out pretty well! The evening buffet at our hotel, Playa Pesquero (AMAZING, by the way!) was huge and offered so much choice – though I don’t think I would recommend Cuba for vegetarians – you’d be stuck on a diet of soggy sauteed vegetables and rice, as everything had meat in it (heaven for Steve and I).

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My first ever lobster experience.

I’m not sure it’s the wisest move, but I tend to just ‘wing it’ on holiday when it comes to all inclusive buffets. I tend to avoid anything that remotely looks like it has gluten in – anything in a sauce, or being cooked near things with bread crumbs or batter. Luckily for me, a lot of the food was fresh meat and fish, cooked on a griddle pan with nothing else, with oil, salt, pepper and garlic. In fact, every single night I had either freshly caught tilapia, red snapper, octopus (my absolute fave!), calamari or giant prawns. It was so simply but so delicious – amazing!

Another big thing in CUba is pork. Everyone loves pork there (a trend I noticed in Uganda too) and the slow roasted pork or giant smoked ham legs were absolutely delicious at our hotel. The only thing I noticed in the buffet was a lack of vegetables, but I ate a lot of roasted pumpkin and plantain, which was really nice! There was also the Caribbean classic, rice and peas, which was a welcome edition to my plate every day!

The freshly grown treats laid out for us by a farmer we visited.

The freshly grown treats laid out for us by a farmer we visited.

At lunch, again it was a buffet and we had freshly cooked steak or pork with garlic, cooked on a barbecue. There was also delicious fresh sardines and the best tuna I have ever tasted – and plenty of olives, my favourite, so I was very happy!

Breakfast is normally the hardest meal when it comes to places like this, but again the choice was pretty much unlimited. The only problem I had was I did start having fried eggs – but some mornings they were cooked on the same griddle as eggy bread so I had to abandon them at risk of contamination. But there was also freshly cooked steaks, bacon, scrambled eggs, omelette, and loads of fresh fruit – guava, bananas, grapefruit, pineapple and more. The great thing about Cuba is virtually everything is grown there and nothing is imported, so it was all fresh and tasted of pure sunshine. My absolutely favourite was the freshly made guava juice every morning- it was delicious.

I was pleased to find lattes pretty much on tap in the lobby!

I was pleased to find lattes pretty much on tap in the lobby!

In terms of drinks, rum is the ultimate favourite. In fact, I’m pretty sure I drank my body weight in rum while we were there! From pina coladas to mojitos – they do the most amazing strawberry mojito there – I spent my whole holiday in a very merry mood. The Cubans also love their coffee which they drink in small cups, extremely strong with a lot of sugar. Delicious!

When we were out and about, food often featured high in the itinerary! We visited a farmer’s house where we were given fresh avocado, guava, coffee, cheese and guava jelly which was all made on the farm and was so tasty. Steve got to try sugar cane for the first time too which I have had before in Uganda – there’s nothing quite like sucking out the sugary juices, but it does hurt your teeth after a while! I also had my first taste of lobster with garlic butter when we visited a dolphinarium, which was delicious. I had no idea how to eat it but I enjoyed it nonetheless and now I’m hankering for more!

Overall, the simplicity of Cuba’s food is what made it so easy for me to eat there. Of course, I also had my gluten free in-flight meal which helped – anyone who knows me knows that I’m not good without food! I’d definitely recommend Cuba, but like I said, I think vegetarians will struggle as it is a big meat eating country. I didn’t have any issues at Playa Pesquero and wasn’t ill once – I just wish I was back there now!

I will apologies for the lack of photos – we became so engrossed with the food, to the point of obsession, we completely forgot to take any snaps of the buffet! So I’ll leave you with this photo of the amazing beach….. Cuba, I’ll be back one day!!

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10 Comments

  1. October 21, 2013 / 18:41

    Wow I would have never thought how brilliant and simple it is to eat out there, being a celiac. Fantastic blog by the way, loved every bit of it and it showed enough pictures to keep me engrossed throughout. Loved it, specially the lobster, I wouldn’t know where to start with that thing. Nice though that they cleared all the yucky parts out. What a beautiful place it was, where you went.

  2. January 19, 2015 / 06:13

    So glad I found your blog.I am hoping to travel to Cuba this year and was worried about food options as this would be my the first time traveling outside of the country since learning I was gluten-intolerant.

  3. Happy Tummy!
    February 23, 2015 / 18:57

    I just came back from Cuba and don’t tolerate gluten very well. But I tried my luck, thinking wheat would be different there because they don’t import from the US. I ate a croissant the first morning and had not issues at all. I continued to eat bread and rolls on the resort as well as pizza off the resort without the same issues I would have had in Canada. I’d love to hear from others who’ve tried the same and who may have a rationale. I’d also love to get my hands on their wheat!!

    • December 3, 2015 / 03:44

      Interesting you said that. For me it was the same experience. In Canada I have big issues with gluten, but throughout the whole 3 weeks of being in Cuba- travelling around eating everywhere, I never had any problems.
      Now back in Canada it’s the same old: bloating, puffy face, headaches, joint pain and the list goes on.
      Cuba has higher quality and less processed wheat in my opinion.

  4. March 21, 2015 / 20:50

    Cuba has a diverse and rich meal tradition, one of the best in whole Latin America. I spent my last year holiday in Havana, it was spectacular, I ate everything and tasted everything and here I am, not a single problem!

    I loved Cuba, my travel for vacations was the best time ever.

    Greetings,

    Keaton.

  5. Sol
    June 19, 2015 / 10:46

    Thank you for your awesome article. I have just been diagnosed with celiac and am really stressed cod I love to travel. Your blog post really inspired me. I will not let celiac limit me in doing what I am passionate about 🙂

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