Leaving the house is hard—so, obviously, I have to reward myself with a sweet snack whenever I do it. But, recently, I ran into a problem: My stomach couldn’t handle gluten for a while, making it difficult to pick up a donut or cookie with my coffee while running errands. And, when the sugar craving hits, nothing’s worse than dietary restrictions holding you back.
Thankfully, I’m back to enjoying any and all treats, but I know some of my friends aren’t so lucky. So, with November being Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month, what better time to share the best gluten-free dessert spots in San Diego?
Here are six bakeries worth visiting if you want a mouthwatering gluten-free treat.
San Diego Bakeries with Gluten-Free Pastries
Gluten-Free Baking Co.
Truthfully, GF baked goods don’t have the best rep. They’re usually small and not as flavorful as their gluten-filled counterparts. So Gluten-Free Baking Co. owner Roana took things into her own hands, starting her sensitivity-friendly baking journey after her son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies.
I discovered Gluten-Free Baking Co.’s two locations (North Park and Clairemont) during the pandemic, and after a bite of their vegan chocolate chip cookie, I forgot the snack in my hand was even gluten-free. I have zero willpower when it comes to sweets, so after scarfing down the cookie, I dove into my assorted GF box, sampling donuts, cheesecake, and brioche bread. All delicious, whether you face allergies or not.
Locals with dietary restrictions love Encinitas’ Nectarine Grove for its 100-percent gluten-free and primarily organic offerings. While I could go on about my favorites on the breakfast menu, the real stars of the show here are the gluten-free baked goods. It’s nearly impossible for me to say no to Nectarine’s famous cinnamon rolls—the sweet icing and gooey center make for an unreal end cap to a savory brunch.
When the eatery opened a second location in Del Mar’s Flower Hill a few years ago, it introduced a close second on my favorite pastry list: the gluten-free croissant. Dare I say, they’re better than the ones in Europe.
Gluten Freedom Baking Company
Any eater with a gluten allergy knows what a joke gluten-free bread can be. Generally, you receive a cardboard-like square too small to be classified as a slice. Gluten Freedom Baking Company in Sorrento Valley fights the depressing stereotype with tasty sandwich breads and dinner rolls. Their loaves are two-pound behemoths (that freeze well, in case it’s just you chowing down on them). No more sad gluten-free avocado toast for breakfast.
Another crowd favorite is the phenomenal chocolate chunk cookie. Gluten Freedom sells dough balls so you can bake them at home—though, unfortunately, mine rarely reach the cookie stage after I accidentally polish off a dozen hunks of delicious dough.
Starry Lane Bakery
My constant craving for a treat is at constant war with my desire to save money on eating out, but Starry Lane Bakery in Hillcrest makes it possible for me to enjoy sweets without the crazy price tag (a wild concept for gluten-free products). You can buy a sugar cookie for only $1.25 at Starry Lane. In this economy, that feels free.
Aside from the incredible price, their holiday cookies taste as good, if not better, than the preservative- and gluten-filled cookies we grew up eating around the holidays. Starry Lane also sells baking mixes so you can re-create your own in the comfort of your kitchen.
If sugar cookies aren’t your vibe, don’t sleep on the pretzel roll. I’d make a trip to the bakery just to secure one of these flaky, salty buns.
Phatties Bake Shop
I’m an OG Krispy Kreme stan, so it’s not every day I find a gluten-free donut that can compete. Phatties Bake Shop in Point Loma serves up some of the best in the county.
These aren’t your average glazed flavor either—think s’mores, maple bacon, and cookie dough.
For more formal occasions, Phatties offers vegan and gluten-free cakes, which, to my surprise, don’t at all taste like they’re lacking standard ingredients like eggs and all-purpose flour. The shop won’t customize your cake, but the incredible flavors and adorable cake toppers make up for it.
I still find it shocking when something healthy tastes really, really good, but Paleo Treats makes it happen. Paleo Treats serves gluten- and dairy-free treats (plus vegan and keto options) out of a Normal Heights storefront. I’m a huge chocolate lover, so my go-tos are the brownie bomb and the Bandito, a keto version of a Reese’s peanut butter cup.
Even better: Paleo Treats delivers via Uber Eats, GrubHub, and DoorDash, so you don’t even have to step outside to satisfy that sugar craving.