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Gluten Free and Organic Eating without MSG in Costa Rica

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Gluten Free and Organic Eating without MSG in Costa Rica

Just came back from Costa Rica where we had and amazing food adventure, however, eating Organic (Organico) or Gluten Free (sins arina) is very tough to do.

One of our party is ciliac and needs to eat gluten free. And we all don't tolerate MSG which can be a big part of your meal if you are not careful. Most soups will use consomme' which has MSG and gluten in it and consomme is used sometimes in other parts of the cooking including cooking the vegetables. Some spice such as Bomba have MSG and gluten in them as well.

I found a gluten free section in Auto Mercado in Playas del Coco and we bought some cookies and while they had some pastas, you were really limited in buying things to cook at your hotel or condo. And organic products were severely limited so your best bet is to just eat fish out. It is amazing and if you grill the fish and are careful on what sauce is put on it, you will be in heaven!!

Gluten free eating out became easier as the fresh fish option and steamed vegetables and rice were usually a safe option. The chips and salsa generally were no problem for her as well just make sure the chips are maize (corn) and not flour (arina)

The key is to ask the waiter to make your meals without gluten or MSG and to season with only salt and pepper and butter. Most waiters will understand English although the concept of Gluten Free eating is not something they are familiar with.

Below is my bad attempt at Spanish to try and get your point across if there is a problem with communication.

sins gluten, arina, MSG, consomme = without gluten, wheat , MSG

and consomme'

sal y pimiento solamente = salt and pepper only

mantaquilla = butter

comida = food

hacer = to make

puede = can you

con = with

Puede hacer comida con sal y pimiento y mantaquilla sins gluten, arina, MSG and consomme'? Can you make food with salt, pepper and butter only and without gluten, wheat, MSG and consomme'?

They will look at your quizzically but will get the idea...and then you have to trust that they will make it accordingly. My friend did not have a problem once we specified her specific food prep requirements.

And also remember that most "foo foo drinks" that use vodka will use a gluten based vodka, not a potato vodka, so make sure you know what alcohol is going into your specialty drink.

Hope that helps!!

Pura Vida

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Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Central America
Costa Rica
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1. Re: Gluten Free and Organic Eating without MSG in Costa Rica

Great information about special diets. Thanks.

It is not easy to find gluten-free products in Costa Rica -- but there are more and more showing up in supermarkets. I have found a small section of gluten-free products in the Super Compro supermarket in Canas, for instance, which is not a wealthy or tourist area.

As for MSG: Many things are made with powdered consomme containing MSG, including gallo pinto. It may be difficult to order gallo pinto without consomme because it is made ahead of time and then served as needed. (Kind of like spaghetti sauce.) Also, other things that are cooked ahead such as fried chicken or "pollo en salsa" (chicken in sauce) or basically anything that is prepared ahead of time.

I would not be 100% sure that even if you ask for something "gluten free" that you will get it due to the lack of knowledge about what exactly is "gluten free."

Of course, fish, fruits and vegetables as well as corn tortillas or tamales are a good alternative - but - be sure that they are not seasoned with consomme, which is common.

Your Spanish list is good - with a few exceptions: flour is "harina" and not "arina." And to be sure -- it's "harina de trigo" (wheat flour) because there is also "masa harina" which is corn flour or corn meal - the thing that corn tortillas are made of.

Butter is "mantequilla" - and is not used that often. More frequently used is margarine (containing who knows what) or soy oil which is widely used.

Saying "sal y pimiento solamente" is a good idea.

In most tourist restaurants, you will find wait staff that speak some English. So if you order "grilled fish seasoned only with salt and pepper" that should work. "Pescado a la plancha solo con sal y pimiento y no consomme." You can also explain that someone in your party has an allergy to the MSG in consomme - Costa Ricans are very familiar with allergies. "ah-LER-heeya"

Anyone with food restrictions may find eating out somewhat difficult - no matter where you go. If someone in your family has these kind of restrictions, maybe best to rent a condo or cottage and do some food prep there.

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Costa Rica
Costa Rica
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Province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Cahuita, Costa Rica
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2. Re: Gluten Free and Organic Eating without MSG in Costa Rica

There are a number of stores springing up in the Escazu/Santa Ana area in the Central Valley where you can buy gluten free food products and Buena Tierra is a restaurant that serves organic food and is used to customers with special food needs.

3. Re: Gluten Free and Organic Eating without MSG in Costa Rica

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