Gluten-free baked goods? You've probably heard them described as dry, sandy, and tasteless. And in the past, those descriptions were not far off. But as awareness has increased about the gluten-free diet and more and more people make that choice, new companies and talented bakers have flooded the market with alternatives we actually really, really can sink our teeth into. In a surprise to no one, Portland is awash with incredible chefs and bakers turning their talents to gluten-free goods, and the city has become something of an oasis for those who choose to—and often have to—live gluten-free lives.
When I was 14 and was diagnosed with celiac disease, I quickly learned that some of my favorite foods were permanently stricken from the list—I used to get maple bar donuts with my mom twice a week and had bagels nearly every day, so this, believe me, was painful. It made my early gluten-free years extremely difficult and I would often rebel and eat gluten knowing the physical consequences because the alternatives were so unappealing. The good news is, I can now enjoy maple bars and donuts again without any of the painful consequences and zero compromise on taste and texture, thanks to Portland's stellar gluten-free baking community.
Read on for four dedicated gluten-free bakeries right here in town that could change your life too—and the best things to buy from them.
140 NE Broadway
Top recommendation: Cinnamon Rolls
Gluten Free Gem started when owner Anne Miller’s daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. Miller began baking gluten free in 2006 at Corbett Coffee Plant but by 2011, they had outgrown their space and needed a new name to fit their growing brand. Miller named the bakery after her two daughters, Greta and Emma, from which came “Gluten Free Gem.”
GFG is located in the Lloyd District on NE Broadway Street and is currently offering carryout only at their retail space. They stock an array of sweet and savory goods, including New York cheesecake, cinnamon cream cheese coffee cake, giant fluffy pretzels, parmesan herb spinwheels, a mouth-watering broccoli cheddar quiche, and five different kinds of donuts (cinnamon sugar is my favorite).
What takes the cake at GFG, however, is their incredible cinnamon roll. Whether you buy a single one at their shop or bring home their take and bake option, you will be equally catapulted to sugary paradise. The center is always perfectly gooey, the cream cheese frosting rich and creamy, and the balance of cinnamon and dough hits perfection.
610 SW 12th Ave
Top Recommendation: Bumble Berry Peach Pie
Petunia’s started in 2010 as a booth at a farmer’s market, where owner and baker Lisa Clark would sell her completely gluten-free and vegan pastries. She began her business in part because of her passion for baking and her need to eat gluten and dairy free due to severe intolerances to both. The city's taste buds were tickled, and Petunia's quickly grew leading to an expansion into Portland’s wholesale market. In 2014 she opened up shop with her husband, Jacob—who she met when he became her first wholesale customer. (How sweet is that?!) Now at home on SW 12th Ave in downtown Portland, Petunia’s is an essential stop for pies and weekend donuts so good that a line forms down the block at opening time.
When I visited on Halloween weekend, I was able to secure both a pumpkin and a cinnamon sugar donut—fluffy and sweet with a crispy outer layer that melted in my mouth— and a coconut caramel baby cake (cupcake) with a perfect balance of caramel, coconut, and salt that proved so good I was back later in the week to grab a slice of their bumble berry peach pie. (Reader, even though I claim not to care for pie, I finished that slice in under a minute. The filling was a tart mix of marionberries, raspberries, and blueberries, balanced with sweet, juicy chunks of peach nestled under a coconut hazelnut streusel.)
Top Recommendation: Maple Bar Donut
2502 SE Division St
Like many gluten-free folks out there, Chris Gumke was unsatisfied with the options available to him, which is why he and his wife, Teresa Atkins, started their own bakery in 2007. Like Petunia’s, they began at farmer’s markets but demands for them to expand quickly grew, so they set up shop in the Clinton neighborhood in 2008 and have been a gluten-free staple in Portland since.
New Cascadia truly is something special. Everything they make is so close to its gluten-filled counterpart as to be near-identical, with perfectly baked chewy bagels and donuts fried just how the gods intended. They also offer a truly massive selection of gluten-free bread, including sandwich loaves, baguettes, challah, and hoagie rolls.
The first thing I bought from here over a year ago was their maple bar, the food stricken from my diet I'd been missing for so many years. The inside was fluffy, the frosting sweet, and the combination so good I thought I'd accidentally stumbled into the wrong bakery. Next, I tried their bagels and sighed with delight at the chewy denseness, at its refusal to fall apart and flake as I covered it in cream cheese, unlike other bagel options on the market (I’m talking to you, Udi’s). I could go on too about the glory of their cinnamon roll, or their game-changing pizza, but you get the picture.
599 A Ave, Lake Oswego
Top Recommendation: Birthday Cake Cupcake
Take a little drive outside of Portland to Lake Oswego for another destination gluten-free bakery, Kyra’s Bakeshop. The shop is named after founder and owner, Kyra Bussanich, who is a four-time winner and two-time runner up in the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, all while baking gluten-free.
Bussanich switched to gluten-free foods after suffering for years from an autoimmune disease that caused her immense stomach pain, and the diet quickly alleviated her symptoms. After a stint at Le Cordon Bleu’s patisserie program, she went on to slay the competition on Cupcake Wars, where she quickly earned a name for herself for her experimental flavors—raspberry-mango-habanero cupcake, anyone?
Standouts here were the soft and gooey cinnamon roll, and the birthday cake cupcake: moist, fluffy, and flavorful, with a light, cloud-like frosting.