If you (or your stomach) hate gluten, you will LOVE Ubud.
Ubud is a town in the centre of Bali, famous for yoga, it's monkey forest and delicious raw, vegan food. For me, yoga was the draw-card, and on Day 1 of my 2014 trip, I set out to find Yoga Barn, a studio which I had heard of through friends. It was an absolute mission to locate this little place (two gluten free muesli bar’s from my suitcase long, in fact), but when I found it – it was definitely worth my while.
Not only was it an incredible oasis of calm and positive energy, inspiring yoga teachers and yogis alike, there was a raw food café – with GLUTEN FREE options marked on the menu. The only thing to top it off – that little GF was next to almost every item.
I asked a waitress about gluten free and she was so switched on, my confidence was boosted dramatically.
Second time around, I was well aware of the foodie heaven that is Ubud.
Better yet, in the four years since my last visit, the number of places touting gluten free or even coeliac friendly (!!!) has skyrocketed.
As always, whenever travelling anywhere, I find a translated card in the native tongue – in this case, Bahasa – to bring along. You can find the card I used here.
Regardless of what a menu says, I always use the cards to start a conversation with waitresses/waitors/chefs to confirm that the items are coeliac friendly. In nearly all cases, I was met with a big nod (usually after a little explaining and charades demonstrating possible cross contamination).
Here’s my round-up of the top gluten free places I tried, in no particular order! (This list is by no means finite but I'm only promoting the places I've been myself to protect against false hope 😉)
1. Ubud Gluten Free Kitchen, Jl. Sri Wedari No.2, Ubud
If this name isn't promising I don’t know what is! Everything on the menu is (obviously) gluten free which is such a relief when travelling overseas. I tried the schnitzel, apparently a house special, and it was pretty damn tasty! They also sell loaves of bread and plenty of sweet treats so bring a bag and stock up!
Away from the main Ubud drag, you’d think this place would be an untouched gem – quite the opposite. The expat community that fill Penestanan L-O-V-E Alchemy – and for good reason. Think salads, wraps, cakes – all raw and vegan, (nearly) all gluten free and DELISH. I mean just look at this wrap made from dehydrated papaya!!
Image via Instagram (@alchemybali)
3. Zest Ubud, Jl Raya Penestanan Kelod no.8 (1.24 km) 80571, Ubud, http://www.zestubud.com/
A new entrant to the Ubud foodie scene, Zest is the sort of place you’ll eat breakfast at, then stay all day. Comfy couches, indoor plants, ambient music and of course AMAZING food. The whole menu is gluten free and I had to order two meals in one sitting after just a bite of my heavenly chocolate and caramelised banana toastie. Pure bliss that’s well worth the walk up the hill – trust me on this one; I’ve been dreaming about the food ever since.
Tapioca toastie stuffed with homemade chocolate sauce and caramelised banana aka HEAVEN
4. Taksu Galleria, Jl. Hanoman No.33, Ubud
When I saw the sign “Coeliac safe, gluten free café”(yep spelled like that) I literally froze in my tracks on Jalan Hanoman (Hanoman St). Once I recovered from the overwhelming shock/amazement and regained movement in my body, I quickly entered what looks very much like a giftshop. Scale one flight of stairs, however, and you’re transported in a deli café. I was the only diner at the time (it looked very new, clean and sparkly) and enjoyed FANTASTIC customer service from a Balinese waitress with perfect English. I explained that I had coeliac disease and she said it was no worries whatsoever they were very aware of avoiding cross contamination. I enjoyed a toasted sandwich (one of the few non-Balinese meals I ate). Happy mouth, happy belly!
5. Café Wayan, Monkey Forest Road, Ubud
On my last trip to Bali I dined at Café Wayan a couple of times and had a fantastic experience, including a cooking class! Here’s what I wrote at the time about the experience …“At Café Wayan local chefs have been cooking up traditional Indonesian and Balinese for more than 28 years, along with Western style dishes if you hate culture! The food is delicious, the wait-staff and chefs have a good understanding of coeliac disease, and they hold traditional cooking courses WHICH I COULD NOT RECOMMEND MORE! The cooking classes are held at their alternate restaurant, Alam Indah just further along Monkey Forest road – at the back of an oasis of tranquil gardens where most of the restaurants food is grown. I expressed I was a coeliac and the chef immediately looked like he was thinking hard and walked away without a word… I was concerned, however, what he returned with quickly quashed any worry. It was GLUTEN FREE soy sauce. Every other ingredient used was fresh from the garden, apart from an oyster mushroom sauce in one dish that I just went without. This meant I could cook, taste and try all our creations – which now thanks to some wonderful schooling, I often re-create at home. Chef Wayan is truly talented at cooking, teaching and leaving you stuffed to the brim with food. Just look at what we made (and were left to eat and the conclusion of the lesson!)” Second time around, I knew I had to return and enjoyed a delicious veggie stir-fry, steak dish and a pineapple stuffed to the brim with delicious fried rice – of course, all gluten free.
I was desperate for a drink to quench my thirst after a few hours of aimless wandering around Ubud windy streets in the heat. Kafe popped into my line of vision and that is honestly the only reason I took a seat there – and I thank my lucky stars I did! One look at the tables around me and I saw green smoothies, delicious looking raw treats and some awesome salads. My priority was a drink so I loaded up on a smoothie and two waters and then I saw the specials board – GLUTEN FREE PANCAKES. Despite having just eaten breakfast a few hours earlier - I ordered the pancakes – when in Bali, right?
7. Kokolato, Jalan Goutama Selatan No. 22, Padangtegal, Ubud https://www.kokolato.com/
Gluten, soy and nut-free icecream (that’s also vegan) served in gluten free waffle cones. There is nothing else to say but GO!
Tucked in a little road out of the town centre behind the Monkey Forest – the food Swasti served up every day was TOP notch – especially if you’re a healthy foodie. I actually stayed here at Swasti (and couldn’t recommend it more) so was fortunate to enjoy a buffet breakfast every morning. Yes, I know the word buffet is typically a coeliac nightmare but here, no problem! On all but two mornings, the buffet was 100% gluten free – but everything was separated well to avoid CC. And as we all know, it’s often other diners that ruin things by double dipping or using the wrong spoons so ensure that wasn’t an issue I simply was first to breakfast every day (which was no issue given how delicious the food was!). Here’s a sample of a few plates I indulged in post-sunrise …. Come dinner time, the menu held similar delicious treats. Across my two visits (2014 and 2018) I managed to squeeze in their homemade dip selection, sweet potato ravioli and nasi campur, along with an amazing mangolisa cheesecake. YUM!
My selections from Swasti's gluten free breakfast buffet enjoyed in the gorgeous outdoor dining area
9. Atman Kafe, Jalan Hanoman No.38, Ubud
It was the treat cabinet that caught my eye whilst wandering along Hanoman St (yes, I’m Queen sweet tooth). But the delicious organic meals I saw being carried out of the kitchen led to me taking a seat. Their international menu sees dishes such as Eggs Benedict served up alongside Balinese classics like Gado Gado – I chose the latter. Lots of GF options available, just chat with the staff – I found my card very helpful here.
If you happen to be staying in a self-catered apartment or just love to cook and create your own meals – Down to Earth should be on your to-do list. Not only a raw café, but also an enormous health food store with almost every product under the sun (or so it appeared!) Just off the hippy Hanoman Street this café is in the hotspot of all raw food hang-outs and has a reputation as one of the best for a good reason. I tried out a raw food porridge which tasted awesome but admittedly wasn’t so picturesque. Some of the desserts, salads and other dishes around were so insta-worthy I had food envy!
I LOVE yoga so it’s little surprise I spent most of my time in Ubud hanging out at the Yoga Barn – a magical hideaway off the back of one of Ubud’s main streets. As well as killer yoga classes, the compound plays host to an awesome café or ‘kafe’ as the Balinese say. The best thing about the Garden Kafe is 90% of its patrons are health-obsessed yogis who are mostly anti-gluten, so the kitchen staff are well-versed in catering for fussy tummies (or orderers!). I tried loads of delicious items here: smoothies, rice paper rolls, a tempeh curry and mega salad bowl. Some menus are marked with GF items, some not (weird) but most of the stuff is naturally GF and as I said, the wait staff are very knowledgeable and helpful.
Images via Instagram (@functional_foodies, @earth_peace, @namas_k)
I could spend all day every day at Sage. This ties for first place along with Garden Kafe & Zest for me – delicious food, a beautiful atmosphere (look at the gorgeous window below) and amazing staff. This place is definitely more on the classy/fancy side compared to the others on this list – perfect for a romantic dinner. Dinner takes on a Mexican sort of vibe, while breakfast and lunch are rather international. 100% vegan, mostly GF – but the staff are fabulous about managing it. As usual, just talk to them about your needs! Oh and don't forget to try their AMAZING gluten free carrot cake.
Seeing gluten free on menus and signs is a great starting point. And when it’s followed up with conversations with staff that actually make you confident they “get” gluten free – even better! Tucked into a generous plate of GF nasi goreng – yum! A display fridge full of drool-inducing treats was also on offer (seems standard in Ubud – no complaints here!).
14. Fussy Bird, Jalan Tirta Tawar No.32, Ubud fussybirdbali.weebly.com/
Sister restaurants to Dayu’s, Fussy bird offers the same delicious food that’s ALL gluten free, in a more relaxed environment. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner – and no matter the time of your visit – some delectable GF cake to finish.
15. Sari Organik, Jl. Subak Sok Wayah, Tjampuhan, Ubud
Hidden in the rice paddies just north of the main town, Sari Organik is like something out of a painting. A beautiful Balinese hut right in the middle of the green fields, which are also where all the organic produce used in the restaurant is grown. So cool! Plenty of gluten free options available. The food … 6.5/10. The view? 10000/10.
Nasi campur with a view - yes please!
16. Seeds of Life, 2, Jl. Gootama, Ubud, theseedsoflifecafe.com/
The vibe in the place was the epitome of relaxation. Bean bags lined the floor of the outdoor balcony, board games were available on request, and it appears comfy hippy pants were almost a dictated dress code – just my kind of establishment! I tried out the raw lasagne and carrot cake – and both were so wholesome and delicious – you couldn’t miss the meat even if you tried. The beautiful owner Sayuri was so kind as to share her recipe for the carrot cake with me after my praise – and then directed to me to a book she had written on raw sweets – needless to say I didn’t take much convincing and her book has formed the basis of my raw dessert creations! Their menu is 100% raw but don’t let that turn you off. It features fresh organic juices, superfood smoothies, delicious raw & vegan deserts, sprouted buckwheat waffles with butterscotch ice-cream & caramel sauce, chai chia porridge, banana pancakes, raw warmed pizzas, lasagnes, Japanese nigiri, and even burgers.
Now I’ve already spoken about the buffet anxiety that many coeliac’s experience. At Sawobali, forget it! It’s ALLLLL gluten free (woop woop). Every day there’s new foods on offer – local and international alike, with lovely service to boot. Win!
I hope this gives you a little more courage when travelling to Bali, and is a good starting point for those headed to Ubud. As always, speak with staff at any restaurant, even the ones listed and discuss your dietary needs to ensure you have the best time on holiday, just as you deserve!