Happy Finndependence day! Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää! Today marks Finland’s 100th birthday, and as I promised here are some of my Gluten Free experiences from my travels in Finland. I’ve done quite a few stand alone posts with some of my favourite things that I have found…
Dining out as a Coeliac in Finland
Every time I’ve eaten in a restaurant in Finland I’ve had excellent help from the serving staff, and have been made to feel really welcome, as opposed to a burden on them and their chefs! Lappi restaurant in Helsinki took great care of me and were happy to adjust dishes to make them safe for me to eat… They serve delicious traditional Lapland dishes and have a heavenly dry cider – check my full review on the link below!
Many restaurants will have their menu clearly marked with gluten free (gluteeniton) options, and most restaurant staff speak excellent English so don’t be afraid to discuss your needs with them, even if you aren’t very confident at speaking Finnish! I have been trying to learn on and off for 5 years and I’m only just getting to conversation level! Many places also have pretty decent gluten free bread available so you get your own private bread basket,l and don’t feel left out, this one is from Trattoria Sogno in Töölö, when the Pet Finn’s mum took us there for lunch I noticed 2 other gluten free diners while I was there.
There are also quite a few exclusively gluten free restaurants, one on my list to try next time is NoneShop in Helsinki, I’ve been checking them out on Instagram and their food looks amazing, I had hoped to pop in last time I was over but we got a bit too busy and ran out of time!
We normally stay with friends and family in Finland, so my experience of hotel breakfasts is somewhat limited but it was, as with in restaurants excellent! When the Pet Finn and his band were playing at Tavastia in the city centre, the promoter put us up in Hotel Albert. I realised when I staggered down for breakfast the next morning, that I had forgotten to warn them about my requirements but they were great! They brought me a gluten free roll, a selection of toppings straight from the kitchen to avoid contamination, and a tasty biscuit bar that went in my handbag for later! They even brought me a box to take away the rest of my breakfast I couldn’t eat!!
Helsinki Airport is one of my favourite airports, and you can follow this link to read more about eating this delicious salmon salad at their Nordic Kitchen restaurant.
We usually fly Norwegian because they have really nice planes for a budget carrier, with what feels like a bit more legroom compared with what feels like serious cattle class in some other cheap airlines! They also have inflight WiFi! They don’t have a huge selection of GF goodies so it is advisable to grab some snacks in the airport but they do have a GF chocolate brownie… it’s ok… nothing to write home about, and maybe a little dry but it does the trick for soaking up my beloved Lonkero!
Lonkero aka Gin Longdrink
Speaking of which…
I could write a very long love letter to Gin Longdrink! While Finland has a great selection of ciders it is nice to be able to get a different drink on tap in a bar! I usually start with these as soon as I get on the plane… this is the original Gin in a tin! They are traditionally a mixed Gin and grapefruit drink, of varying levels of alcohol content, although other flavours like cranberry are available too. The stronger varieties need to be bought from an Alko, the Finnish government controlled alcohol concessions where you can also purchase wines and spirits, but lower alcohol versions are available from a regular supermarket or kiosk. They are also my sauna “hydration” of choice!
Finnish fruit and veg
While it seems an obvious inclusion in a list of Gluten Free things, it is worth a mention because of the selection on offer and quality of seasonal, home grown fruit and vegetables I’ve eaten in Finland. My last visit in early to mid august was timed perfectly for both chanterelles and wild blueberries.
Growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere oooop North I am pretty used to going and grabbing dinner ingredients from nature, or foraging as it is fashionably coined, but getting both of these from the wild, and then Lappi restaurant really spoiling us with the mountain of chanterelles was just too good!
During summertime the home-grown ingredients have the advantage of super long daylight hours boosting the growing time and making for extra flavoursome fruit and veg. You can see home grown and produced items easily as they are branded with a swan bearing a Finnish flag. I have had some fantastic Lapland potatoes, and if you have a chance to try some, then I fully recommend them. The Finns seem to have the same excitement about them that used to be reserved for the first Jersey Royals of the year, back before supermarkets stocked them all the time.
I got to try both home grown (in our friend’s garden) and supermarket bought produce and the quality was fantastic. There was also far less awful plastic wrap in supermarkets, the finns being somewhat recycling obsessed, you tend to buy by weight for what you actually need wth many things, and herbs often came with their root clumps attached so they can be kept watered and fresh for longer.
Moilas Gluten Free Dark Bread
This is one of my favourite ryebread replacements, it has a good flavour, if perhaps a little sweet, but once toasted and ready to go, it is perfect for the breakfast table, to load up with meats, salmon, cheeses, eggs and the other toppings that make the Finnish open-faced breakfast sandwich. This bread comes sliced, from the Free From freezer.
MyllyKivi Free From Gluten Gluteeniton Tumma Vuokaleipä
Another frozen gluten free dark bread, and another very good substitute for ryebread and once again you just toast it and top it!. This is a little less dark and dense comparing with the Moilas bread and a bit less sweet tasting too. Both of these breads are great, because I really miss ryebread and often find gluten free breads in the UK can be a bit fluffy, like eating toasted cotton wool, and although there are a few decent breads out there, there isn’t a good dark bread that I have managed to find!
Provena Gluteeniton Kaura-Porkkansämpylä
Oat and carrot bread rolls?? I know it might sound a little crazy but it works!! These rolls had a great texture and tasted really good! The grated carrot is fairly unobtrusive but I think helps hold the roll together and stops it becoming the crumbly mess that is the sad fate of so many GF rolls.
Provena gluten free oats
Finland has a rep as a nation of porridge lovers, it was always the start to the day when we stayed at the Pet Finn’s mum’s summer house, so I picked up a pack of Provena Gluten Free oats to see how they match up to the offerings back home. On sight, they looked good quality with nice big flakes. As it was pretty warm during our stay I didn’t fancy any hot porridge so I made some overnight oats with the familiar almond flavour Alpro yoghurt and a splash of water. After a couple of hours in the fridge the oats had achieved a nice creamy texture and so I topped with a little mustikkakeitto (literally blueberry soup), a drink that sits somewhere on the borderline of juice and smoothie, and definitely worth trying, and that I am sure might have some interesting uses in cocktails!
Crusti Croc Free From Gluten Cracker
These are moreish little cheese crackers that are perfect to have with a glass of wine, while enjoying the scenery, and would make a great handbag snack if you are going sight-seeing or want to have a bit of a picnic.
Taffel Kartanon Peruna-Lastuja – Tilli & Kermavilli
If you follow my Insta then you might notice that I am a big fan of all things dill based, so it won’t come as a shock that I love these Dill flavoured crisps! I always grab a couple of bags of these when I am in Finland. Also you remember me singing the praises of the wonderful Finnish potatoes – they make great crisps too, thick, crunchy, with the skins on, and packed with dill and cream cheese flavour!
Grillimaisteri Mancheri Grillimakkara
I’m not the biggest meat eater on the planet but it was refreshing to see these sausages labelled as gluten free. I would normally have assumed that I wouldn’t be able to try them, as I always approach processed meat with caution. though I only had a couple of slices they were probably the best I’ve had, with creamy manchego chunks and spicy sriracha mixed through the meat. If you’re looking for a gf answer to the post sauna ritual of replacing your salt levels with smoky barbecued sausage and rehydrating(?!?) with lonkero, cider or gf beer then these are your sausages of choice!
Snellman Herkkusieni Leikkelemakkara
This sliced mushroom sausage is great to put on some of the toasted dark bread. As with the Grillimakkarat, it is not something I would normally pick up, I found this in the Pet Finn’s mum’s fridge when I was putting a snack together, and it was actually pretty tasty. It is really helpful to see that things like this are clearly labelled gluten free on the front of the packet, without having to scan through a long list of ingredients in an unfamiliar language, and that regular products like this are so clearly labelled!
The Finns are big coffee drinkers, in fact per capita, the world’s most prolific! With this in mind it should come as no surprise that there are lots of independent coffee shops and roasteries and I’ve yet to have a bad coffee here!
Finding lactose free versions of most things is incredibly easy, just look for laktoositon on the label! Everything tends to be very clearly marked and the range of products is impressive, from GF Karjalanpiirakat to Lapland delicacy “bread cheese” which is a little like halloumi (it squeaks!) but a bit more sweet and slightly quichey in texture, and often served with cloudberry jam. The cheese in the picture was actually just the regular cheese that the Pet Finn’s mum had in her fridge, many products seem to be made lactose free as a matter of course, and unlike the U.K. aren’t twice the price of the normal version!!
There are so many other things I could have added to this list but I hope this serves as a good introduction to being gluten free in Finland! Also please accept my apologies if the formatting is horrible on this post! My WiFi is down at the moment so have had to put this together on my iPhone! I would love to hear other people’s experience of travelling or living gluten free in Finland, as well as any recommendations that you have for my next visit!