In the land of Apfelstrudel, Sachertorte, and Wienerschnitzel, it’s easy to think that eating here 100% gluten free would be a nightmare. However, over the past (almost) six weeks, I’ve been writing down and photographing everything that has gone into my mouth to create this comprehensive guide. I’ve managed to only eat something with gluten in it once (I should never shop hungry) and be cross-contaminated once or twice.
The reason I have to avoid many of the normal Viennese delicacies, as I mentioned in my “Packing” post, is that I have Celiac disease. Celiac is an autoimmune disorder that makes it so I can’t eat gluten and the only treatment is a very strict, completely gluten-free diet. I’m not going to go into the specifics, but if you want to learn more, you can find information here. Fun fact: in German, Celiac is called Zöliakie. I’m not going to lie, at times it has been very difficult. There have been days where I cried, got very frustrated and even. But those were rare. Everyone at IES Vienna and on my program were very supportive and interested in learning more about what having Celiac means. There are actually a lot of options in Vienna, but they’re spread all over the city. This just means that you do a bit more exploring, which is never a bad thing.
Grocery Shopping/Cooking for myself
Austria, unlike the USA, has a regulated gluten free symbol. Even products that say “glutenfrei” on them have to pass the same standards. This makes grocery shopping much, much easier. And just as with the US, there are many products that are gluten free but are unlabeled. On the flip side, companies are not required to disclose allergins in a separate list from the ingredients. Many do, and they label both wheat and gluten. But if it’s listed in the ingredients it won’t be listed again. This is how I “glutened” myself. The one time I accidentally ate wheat flour, it was because I only read the allergin listing because the unflavored version was safe. They also use a lot of spelt (Dinkel) here, which was not labeled on my gluten-free card as an ingredient to check for, so… don’t eat Dinkel. Things are a little more expensive here, that’s just the way it is, but breads and pastas aren’t cheap. Even rice isn’t as cheap as in the US. This is why, in Austria, if you have a Zöliakie diagnosis, then you get extra money back from taxes because you can’t help having a more expensive diet.
Brands that are well labeled:
- Bauckhof – corn flakes, Kuunsper Fruhstück, Reis Flakes, Cocoa Krispies
- Lima – tamari, rice cakes (chocolate covered too), soy milk, rice milk… pretty much everything that is gluten free will have the label
- Schär – 100% gluten free and there are so many more options from them here in Europe than back in the states
- Ja natürlich – corn flakes, rice cakes, anything gluten free will be labeled
- Basic (generic) brand – from the Basic biomarkt
- Zwergenwiese – they make mostly Ausstreich (spreads) and sauces. There’s some spice that I’m not totally in love with but it’s still a good way to spruce up a sandwich or pasta
There are many many more, but these are the ones I keep buying time and time again. Spar stores have their own brand but it’s not carried at the store by my house and I have enough near by that I haven’t gone and searched it out.
Speaking of stores, good ones to find gluten free products at are:
- Denn’s biomarkt – they have an amaranth bread that’s pretty good and a GF section, there are multiple locations in the city
- Basic biomarkt – the shelves are really well labeled and they have the biggest array of things that I’ve found, unfortunately there’s only one on Meidlinger Hauptstraße
- Staudingl Reformhaus – it’s really close to IES and they have a good selection of breads and breakfast foods, but it can get pricey
- Billa – I swear there is a Billa on every street here, but only some have GF foods. The one by my apartment does, but the large one in the first district doesn’t as far as I could find
- Spar – there are many types of Spars and the gluten free brands are carried at the larger normal Spars, Interspar, and Eurospar. A full list of their gluten free products is available on their website. They also have gluten-free Käsekrainers (a cheese filled sausage, a very common Viennese lunch).
- Dr. Falafel (in the Naschmarkt) – they have gluten-free hummuses, tzatziki, and guacamole. The woman who packed up my hummus was very knowledgable about what it meant to be gluten free, she asked me about my symptoms which was kinda weird.
Words to Watch For
It helps to know if something is gluten free if you know what contains gluten. Sometimes the ingredient lists are also printed in English but sometimes they’re in every language but. I already mentioned “Dinkel,” which is spelt, but your more common issues are going to be with “Weizen” – wheat, “Roggen” – rye (though I haven’t run into it much), “Gerste” – barley, and “Hafer” – oats. They also like things malted here, such as ketchup, which is “Malz” and the verb is “mälzen.” To ask about “traces” of any of these ingredients, the phrase to look for is “Kann Spuren von…” This is where any other allergins are listed as well.
If anything is going to list “glutenfrei” they also let you know about the lactose content, in case, like me, milk doesn’t go over so well either. I carried around a “Gluten Free Restaurant Card” (from Celiac Travel) with me, which helped when I was learning to read labels, but I only used it in restaurants when we would go out as a group with IES. Otherwise I did research on where I could eat, but that’s for another post.
Keep an eye out for “Vienna, Gluten Free: Part 2 (Restaurants)” soon!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Emily is a rising senior studying psychology with a focus in development at the University of Rochester. Her dream job is to be a family therapist somewhere sunny. When she's not studying psychology, she enjoys dancing with the Ballet Performance Group, swimming on the Master's team, running along the Genesee, and studying Russian. She is excited to learn about psychology in its birth place, brush up on her German and live in the beautiful city of Vienna.</span></p>