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Where to Eat Gluten-Free in San Diego: Celiac Safe Restaurants

Updated: Jan 14

For most travelers, a trip to San Diego, California begins with a search of things to do in San Diego.

Picture underneath a long pier with the ocean waves in the background the wet sand in the foreground.  The pillars of the pier stretch down to a light rectangle at the end like a light at the end of the tunnel
Scripps Pier La Jolla Near La Jolla Shores and the Tidepools

For people with Celiac Disease, a search will often begin with gluten-free restaurants or Celiac safe restaurants. The good news is that San Diego is a great destination for wonderful activities for families and individuals. In between your adventures to the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Legoland, Coronado Island or La Jolla Cove, you can find delicious, gluten free food to take on your adventures.

Each of these restaurants and bakeries is a dedicated gluten-free restaurant, and they have all been approved and checked by my gluten detection service dog, Suki. You may even see us at some of these locations. Many have gluten free or vegan options and most will make substitutions for other food allergies.

A view of downtown San Diego from the bay.  The USS Midway, Seaport Village and the Embarcadero are in the center of the photo, and a sailboat are in the foreground.  The Convention Center is at the far right.  The sky is blue with thin bands of clouds.  The water is rippled.
Downtown San Diego from San Diego Bay

Closest to the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, Downtown or Convention Center

Unfortunately, there aren't any dedicated gluten-free restaurants in the Gaslamp District or downtown, but Starrylane Bakery is only 3.5 miles away. This dedicated gluten-free bakery has the cakes, cookies and pies you would never know were gluten-free. They are also top 10 allergen-free. A pro-tip for making sure they don't run out the treats you want is to place an online order in advance. My favorite are the pretzel rolls. They are so close to the gluten originals you will not miss the gluten. They have the perfect texture and the right amount of salt. It brings me right back to Germany. You must not miss this stop. The parking in this area can be challenging, so a quick Uber ride from downtown may be the easiest option. They are closed on Monday and Tuesday.

After you stop at Starrylane Bakery, you can head to El Tianguis for a quick lunch. Their specialty is taquitos or rolled tacos. They have the right amount of crunch to complement the savory fillings, creamy guacamole, and sour cream.

A takeout container with rolled tacos topped with guacamole and lettuce.  Cheese and sour cream are on the side.  Also on the side are refried pinto beans and rice
Taquito Plate from El Tianguis

I love the chicken and shredded beef taquitos with a side of rice and beans. The toppings of sour cream, cheese lettuce and guacamole are all optional as is the salsa. The guacamole comes plain or with Pico de Gallo. They also have vegan and vegetarian options for fillings, and some new bowls which I must try on my next visit. If you want some for later, you can order them in a large to go pack that will feed a crowd. They also have tacos, nachos, and bowls.

Closest to Sea World, Mission Bay, Point Loma, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach

Peace Pies is a raw, vegan restaurant that is 100% gluten-free and soy-free.

Refrigerated case with beautiful cakes and small cookies displayed.  All are gluten free, vegan and raw.
Gluten-Free, Raw, Vegan Treats at Peace Pies

This is a unique culinary experience of fresh ingredients from local farms. Although completely uncooked, the dishes have complex and interesting flavors. My favorite dish is the mango curry wrap with the kale chips. You will not even think about the fact that it is raw.

They also have raw desserts like cheesecake, pie and truffles. I like to eat on their outdoor patio or take my food and head to the beach. They also have juices and other snacks packed to go.

Closest to La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores, Birdrock, Del Mar and Torrey Pines

Plate of pancakes drizzled with almond butter and berry sauce with coconut yogurt, strawberries and blueberries on the side.
Trilogy Gluten-Free Pancakes with strawberries, blueberries, almond butter and coconut yogurt.

Right in the heart of La Jolla is a rooftop cafe, Trilogy Sanctuary. This rooftop organic vegan café has a dedicated gluten free kitchen and some very delicious dishes. All food is dairy-free, soy-free and refined sugar-free. The pancakes were delicious and a very filling meal. They even have aerial yoga classes you can watch while you eat, or you can work up an appetite in a regular yoga class and enjoy a smoothie or Acai bowl afterward. Afterwards take some time to shop in La Jolla or go down to La Jolla Cove watch the seals. You may want to plan a kayaking tour or go boogie boarding at La Jolla Shores. If the wind is right, you can also drive to the gliderport to watch the hangliders fly off the cliffs.

A morning hike at Torrey Pines can be followed up with a lunch at Sweetfin. This is a fresh poke restaurant chain that has locations throughout Southern California. They have a location at University Town Center or One in Carmel Valley at One Paseo. Both are close to Torrey Pines. If you are craving poke, it is the perfect gluten-free stop. I build my own bowl with the fresh veggies and fish, but you can also choose a vegetable only bowl. They have a variety of special sauces and some unique sides like taro chips.

Black Service Dog sniffing an ice cream cone to check for gluten.  The cone is being held by a woman wearing a dress and gold sandals.
Suki checking a gluten free cone at Kula

The next stop is Kula Ice Cream, a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan ice cream shop. Although the ice creams are all dairy-free, they are so rich and creamy you will not miss the dairy. They are made from a variety of bases like coconut, cashew, and even sunflower seeds. They also have sorbets made from fresh fruit from the farmer’s market.

The flavors are unique, and they have all the extras I love in ice cream. My favorites are the Chocolate Chip Cookie dough and the Sunbutter Rum Raspberry, but I really have not had a flavor I did not enjoy. Every month they have a new flavor so you will not get tired of their selection. You can also get this ice cream at Farmer’s Markets throughout San Diego, including the famous Little Italy Mercato. I also highly recommend that as a great gluten-free food destination.

If you are headed to the Del Mar Horse Races at the Del Mar Race Track or Suki's favorite beach,

Plate with Fig and Prosciutto Sandwich on a croissant with a spring green salad and a half full iced coffee in the background
Nectarine Grove Fig and Prosciutto Sandwich on a croissant

the Del Mar Dog Beach, you definitely need to stop by Nectarine Grove Café and Bakehouse. This is the second location for my favorite restaurant in San Diego. The Del Mar location is a breakfast and lunch place. They focus on baked goods sandwiches and breakfast bowls.

My favorite sandwiches are the Prosciutto and Fig Croissant or the Turkey Avocado.

The baked goods are all decadent and some of the best gluten free pastries I have had. I highly recommend the chocolate or almond croissants for an out-of-the-world experience. The sourdough bread in Del Mar is like a European farmer’s loaf and it is definitely full-sized. The cinnamon rolls are large enough for 2 or more people. I always eat food there and take some extra baked goods to go.

Closest to Legoland, Encintas, Carlsbad and Oceanside

No matter your San Diego destination, I highly recommend the original Nectarine Grove in Leucadia, California. A little bit north of San Diego, but well worth the drive for this delicious restaurant and bakery. The quality of ingredients is top notch and they have many options for dietary needs.

Steak bowl with a variety of vegetables (zucchini, butternut squash noodles, onions, spinach) all topped with sliced steak and a spoonful of goat cheese. There is a chimichurri sauce in a small container on the side of the bowl.
Nectarine Grove Chimichurri Steak Bowl with Butternut Squash Noodles

The Leucadia location is just north of Encinitas, California and that has a full menu and extended hours. You can have everything from cinnamon rolls and croissants to Pizza or my favorite the Chimichurri Steak Bowl. They even have fried chicken and waffles. The have vegan and vegetarian options as well. Sit outside and enjoy a leisurely brunch, or take your food to go and eat it on the beach at Moonlight Beach.

Healthy Creations in Encinitas, California is an organic and gluten-free café with sandwiches, wraps and baked goods. You can leave feeling full after eating the fresh, local food. Choose a variety of breads and wraps for your sandwiches, and they even have paninis. My favorite is the twisted reuben panini. They have vegan and vegetarian options as well.

There is something for everyone in San Diego, perfect weather, fun activities, and most of all delicious gluten free food. Sign up below for a free google map of these restaurants to help you plan your culinary gluten-free adventure.

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