Gluten-Free South American Cuisine

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People around the world eat gluten-free. In many different countries and regions, there are naturally gluten-free dishes that can add delicious variety to your gluten-free menu choices, wherever you live. This month, we’re taking a closer look at South American dishes.

South America includes 12 countries, and each one has diverse cultures and food. Let’s explore Colombian, Venezuelan and Peruvian dishes and determine which ones are gluten-free.



Venezuela and Colombia have a shared border, and each has a Caribbean coastline. Culinary influences in both countries include European, Indigenous, Caribbean, and African. Here are some popular dishes from these two neighboring countries that will fit right in with your gluten-free lifestyle.

ArepasA traditional and very popular food, much like a sandwich is in the U.S. or a taco is in Mexico. Arepas are simply made and can be varied with different fillings such as cheese, meats, egg, or avocado, among others. Popular in both Venezuela and Colombia. Traditionally, Venezuelan arepas tend to have more variety of fillings than do Colombian arepas, which focus on cheese and egg or are also eaten plain.

Arepas are made from a dough with the basic ingredients of corn flour, water, and salt making them naturally gluten-free. They can be baked, fried, or pan-fried, and are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. There are specific types of corn flour used to make arepas where the corn is pre-cooked, but you can make arepas using easy-to-find masa harina, too, sometimes with a gluten-free flour added in.

Pabellon Criollo. Considered Venezuela’s national dish. The main ingredients are black beans, rice, and shredded beef seasoned with onion, garlic, cumin, and tomato. Often served with fried plantain.

Tostones, also called Patacones. Twice-fried plantains are popular in both Colombia and Venezuela. Used as a side dish, appetizer, or snack.

They’re even substituted for bread to make a delicious sandwich that happens to be gluten-free. 

Rice with Coconut and Lentils. Colombia. Coconut milk, lentils, rice, and various spices all combine for a unique flavor. It makes a great vegetarian main dish or can be used as a side.

Bollos Pelones. Venezuela. Balls of arepa dough stuffed with a meat mixture and served with a zesty tomato sauce. Like a meatball or a stuffed dumpling but with a different texture and taste. When you have some time to prep, try this recipe for a fun and delicious cooking project.

Sancocho. Colombia. A traditional one-dish meal. A stew made with either chicken, fish, or red meat or a mix, along with plantains, potatoes, and pieces of corn on the cob.

Cocadas. Colombia. A simple and tasty coconut dessert or sweet treat between meals.

Tizana.  Venezuela. Tizana falls into the beverage category, but it’s a fruit salad, too. A colorful and festive drink with ingredients that vary by season, geography, and availability, making it easily adaptable.


Peru shares a border with Colombia and the Pacific Ocean.  Culinary influences include Indigenous and European—like in Colombia and Venezuela—but there is also an Asian influence originating from Chinese and Japanese immigrants who first came to Peru in the mid-1800s. The long Pacific coastline means a focus on fish in their meals.

Ceviche. Marinated raw fish or seafood, made with citrus juice, onion, and typically cilantro or coriander. Often served with sides of corn, plantain, or sweet potato.  

Tacu Tacu. A sort of “pancake” made of rice, beans, and various seasonings. Many South American countries, as well as Central America and the Caribbean, have their own versions of a rice and bean dish. The name for this Peruvian version comes from a Quechua word meaning “mixed.” The Quechua are indigenous people of Peru and other nearby countries. This dish is a great way to use leftover rice and beans to make a nutritionally balanced dish. Any recipe for Tacu Tacu can substitute with cannellini, pinto, or other beans.

Chifa. Traditional dishes that blend Chinese and Peruvian seasonings and flavors are common to many Peruvian dishes. Arroz Chaufa, or Peruvian fried rice, is a popular example. In addition to the Asian ingredients that you expect to find in fried rice, like soy sauce, it includes ingredients like bell pepper and cumin that contribute to its unique character. If it contains soy sauce, always confirm the gluten-free status. 

Peruvian Scalloped Potatoes. The potato was first cultivated in the Andes of Peru, thousands of years ago, and there are thought to be about 4,000 varieties available there. Start your Peruvian potato exploration with a new take on this classic side dish.

A spicy, creamy chicken stew. Uses bread as a thickener; just substitute gluten-free bread. The traditional add-ons of hard-boiled eggs, olives, and nuts are all naturally gluten-free.

Did you know several South American countries also celebrate their Independence days in the month of July including Venezuela on July 5th, Colombia on July 20th, and Peru on July 28th? It’s true!


Looking to explore other international cuisines? Check out the following articles:

Venturing into Indian Cuisine

Exploring Thai Cuisine on a Gluten-Free Diet

The Wonders of Gluten-Free Mexican Meals

Embark on an Exploration of Ethiopian Food

Japanese Cuisine When You’re Eating Gluten-Free

Exploring Gluten-Free Dishes in Middle Eastern Cuisine

Exploring Gluten-Free Foods of West Africa

Gluten-Free Korean Cuisine

Gluten-Free Irish Cuisine

Enjoying Gluten-Free Turkish Cuisine

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.

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