A Samoa Guide for Gluten-Free Diets and Coeliac Disease
Here we go again; another trip another dietary minefield! Luckily, the capital Apia is not only prepared for more gluten-free diets, it’s actually a delight for those who are gluten intolerant! You’ll find that like in westernised countries, menus in Apia and some resorts around Upolu are labelled with gluten-free options, making it easy to avoid any nasty surprises. However, as you venture further and further away from the capital, the more you’ll have to rely on your own gluten Spidey-senses to suss out what you can and cannot eat. If you have a more serious intolerance to gluten, there are some extra precautions you’ll need to take, which we cover in this complete gluten-free guide to Samoa!
6 Tips for Gluten-Free Dining in Samoa
Before we get into the heavy stuff, here’s a summary of the guide in six quick tips:
- Cafes and restaurants have gluten-free options that are well labelled on menus only about half of the time, so it’s best to know yourself what you can and cannot eat
- Bring your own soy sauce or bread to give to restaurants
- There may be traces of gluten in food labelled “GF” in cafes and restaurants, as all of a restaurant’s food is typically prepared in the same kitchen
- Completely intolerant to gluten? Let your resort/accommodation know your dietary circumstances before booking to see how their restaurant can ensure there are options for you
- Self-catering is the safest option for those with coeliac disease, as gluten-free ingredients are readily available in supermarkets
- Note that many of the traditional foods of Samoa are free from gluten, such as oka, palusami and poke – so don’t be afraid to be adventurous and attend a “fiafia night” or two.
Visiting Samoa with Coeliac Disease
Of course, the most serious form of gluten intolerance is coeliac disease, which comes with the most challenges. While many restaurants in Apia and at resorts across Upolu and Savai’i will happily claim “gluten-free” on their menus, there’s no telling whether there could be cross-contamination with wheat products, so precautions need to be taken depending on how intolerant to gluten you are.
If staying at a resort, hotel or any accommodation with a restaurant, we recommend contacting the accommodation prior to booking. Some resorts can organise a meeting with the head chef on arrival to curate a menu for you taking your needs into account.
At Samoan beach fales, you are typically hosted by a local family who will also provide breakfast and dinner. Hosts are typically happy to cater to dietary requirements, as long as they are given advanced notice so they have time to prepare. Gluten-free diets are typically not too challenging as most beach fales aim to provide a more traditional Samoan food experience with breadfruit, taro, plantains and rice substituting glutenous products like bread. Take a look at the Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa to get an idea of what you may be served.
For eating out at Samoa’s cafes and restaurants, we highly recommend that you bring your own gluten-free bread and/or soy sauce depending on what sort of dishes you prefer to order. See the “10 Best Restaurants with Gluten-Free Food” section below for more tips.
Alternatively (or additionally), cooking your own meals is a safe way to make sure that your gluten-free needs are seen to. There are plenty of gluten-free ingredients in Samoa’s supermarkets. Find out more about self-catering in the “Gluten-Free Self-Catering in Samoa” below. Check out some of the best accommodations with cooking facilities in the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Samoa but note that there are very few self-catering options outside of Apia.
Gluten-Free Self-Catering in Samoa
The biggest hurdle for gluten-free self-catering in Samoa is finding self-catering accommodation. There’s an abundance of accommodations with kitchens within Apia, however, there are only a couple of resorts with self-catering villas around the rest of Upolu and the same goes for Savai’i. First, see if the type of self-catering accommodation available in Samoa works for you; as listed in the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Samoa.
If you’re used to cooking with naturally gluten-free foods, then that’s something you have in common with Samoans! Traditional Samoan staples include taro, breadfruit and plantains (bananas), which are starchy foods that are often used for carbohydrate intake. Rice is also very popular in Samoa and a staple of even small convenience stores.
When it comes to gluten-substitute food like gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free flour, etc., this can be trickier to find. As far as we have seen, only the Farmer Joe’s Supermarket chain on Upolu sells gluten-free bread, but this can sell out quickly so make sure you make your purchases as early in the morning as possible. If you rely heavily on gluten substitutes like the ones discussed, you may want to bring a few packets with you to Samoa – see Taking Food to Samoa: What You Need to Know to learn more.
Find out more about what food is available to purchase across Samoa in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Samoa.
10 Best Restaurants with Gluten-Free Food in Samoa
We’ve scouted out the best restaurants in Samoa with gluten-free options so you don’t have to! Note that these are restaurants with gluten-free options only – we can’t testify to any foods not coming in contact with gluten products.
- Nourish Cafe (Apia) – Most of the dishes at this health-focussed cafe are gluten-free, from the sushi to the coconut-battered chicken/fish and taro chips
- Paddles Restaurant (Apia) – This popular Italian/Samoan restaurant has GF diets covered between risotto, oka, pork belly, steak, fish and more.
- Giordano’s Pizzeria (Apia) – Should you crave pasta, this Italian restaurant can change any of its pasta dishes to gluten-free at a small additional cost
- RiVaiv Cafe (Apia) – A variety of dishes are available to suit a range of diets from vegan to gluten-free, such as poke bowls and sushi tacos where anything battered is usually in a gluten-free batter
- Ava I Toga Restaurant, Sinalei Reef Resort (Upolu) – Outside of the capital, this fine dining restaurant boasts the largest range of GF options, such as sashimi, risotto, curry, lamb shanks and more, all clearly labelled on the menu
- Harbourside Cafe & Pizza Bar (Savai’i) – The restaurant with the most choice on Savai’i; be sure to let them know you’re gluten-free and enjoy delights like sashimi, poke, chicken kebabs with rice, chicken curry, seafood platters and steak
- The Curry House (Apia) – Indian curry is always an easy go-to for gluten-free dining with this one even offering a gluten-free roti to go with their curry and rice dishes
- Bistro Tatau (Apia) – Apia’s fine dining establishment offers GF dishes such as sashimi, risotto, seafood chowder, lemon pepper fish, curry and much more. Be sure to inform them you’re gluten intolerant
- Krush Juice Lounge (Apia) – Specialising in vegan cuisine and smoothies, many of their dishes are naturally gluten-free
- Sails Restaurant (Apia) – Not a huge selection but they do have a dedicated GF fish dish cooked with no oil, flour or butter; just simple and healthy.
For more restaurants we love, take a look at The Food Guide to Samoa: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
More About Food in Samoa
That’s it for our complete gluten-free guide to Samoa. Now plan more foodie endeavours with these extra guides:
- Traditional Samoan Food: 20 Foods to Try in Samoa
- The Food Guide to Samoa: Places to Eat & Food Tours
- Samoa for Vegans & Vegetarians + 10 Best Restaurants
Finally, plan a trip around Samoa with food in mind using the following itineraries: Samoa Food Itinerary: 3 Days, Samoa Food Itinerary: 5 Days, Samoa Food Itinerary: 7 Days, Samoa Food Itinerary: 10 Days and Samoa Food Itinerary: 14 Days.