If you’ve given up gluten, one of the first things you probably mourned (with intense weeping and gnashing of teeth) are fresh-out-of-the-oven baked goods. Cookies and scones and donuts, oh my! How is one to survive without these occasional indulgences? Well, you don’t have to. And you also don’t have to settle for the subpar, dense imitations you may be expecting. A solid crop of Los Angeles-area bakers are stepping up their game and finding ways to make gluten free baked goods that even wheat lovers will gobble up.
Buttercelli Bakery (Sherman Oaks) and Breakaway Bakery (mid city) have snagged our top spots not only because their gluten free treats are lip-smacking good, as are the others on this list, but they offer such a wide selection of options–both sweet and savory–that it's highly, highly likely you'll find something you like. Not only that, but they’re both Clean Plates approved.
Many of these bakeries also cater special events and create lovely and delicious cakes for birthdays and special occasions. While not all are 100% gluten free (there may be a chance of cross contamination at some), there are options for nearly everyone.
So, why are you still sitting there? Go get yourself some sugar, Sugar.
What happens when a gluten-intolerant donut lover and her pastry chef pal start brainstorming? Fonuts happens. A riff on "faux-nuts" given that they're baked and not fried, this mid-city shop bakes more flavors on any given day than most traditional donut shops, from chocolate hazelnut to coconut passion fruit to pumpkin. Don't worry, there's also a more traditional gluten free chocolate donut with sprinkles. There's an equal number of traditional wheat-based "fonuts" for your gluten-loving friends and family. My favorite fonut? The gluten free vanilla latte. It's like having my coffee and donut in one bite. Now that's multi tasking. (323/592-3075)
Rising Hearts Bakery
Known for its bread products, Rising Hearts Bakery (formerly known as The Sensitive Baker) has a retail shop in Culver City--just around the corner from Sony Studios--and a growing wholesale business providing pizza crusts and bread products to local restaurants like Mendocino Farms. Toasted and slightly warm, their rosemary garlic breadsticks are like crack to a carb lover like me. They also sell sweets, including cupcakes, blondies and the popular gigantic whoopee pies. Or opt for the gluten free brioche, a perfect ingredient for whipping up a decadent weekend French Toast. All of their products are kosher and they'll soon be entirely vegan as well (likely by Spring 2015). (310/815-1800)
Sprinkles is more proof that gluten free requests are not falling on deaf ears. After years of success with their iconic cupcakes, owner and founder Candace Nelson heeded customer requests and hit the kitchen to experiment with gluten free baking. The result: A red velvet cupcake that rivals its gluten counterpart, right down to the cream cheese frosting and signature design (topped with a sugar G for gluten free). Rumor has it that more gluten free flavors and maybe a cookie or two are on the way. If you like that idea, speak up! It worked the first time. (Locations around L.A. include Beverly Hills, Americana at The Brand and The Grove.) (310/274-8765)
Cafe Gratitude Venice
If you're not grateful to be gluten free, one visit to Café Gratitude and you'll have an unexpected attitude adjustment. This vegan restaurant, with locations in Venice and on Larchmont (and one soon to open downtown), bakes a massive amount of goodies fresh daily, all gluten free and all vegan. And amazingly delicious. But this café and bakery is not just about filling up your belly. They see food as nourishment for the soul, reinforcing the importance of compassion and how food contributes to the greater good. The must-haves: Banana bread, maple bacon donuts and cinnamon rolls. And they also sell pie, muffins, and raw sweets, as well. (424/231-8000)
Erin McKenna's Bakery
One of the first gluten free bakeries to enter the L.A. scene, all of their products are vegan and kosher and free of refined sugar and GMOs. They recently announced a name change (from BabycakesNYC to Erin McKenna's Bakery) to reflect the addition of breads and savory items, including their flavor-packed everything bagel. Be still my heart. Don't leave without a few baked donuts (or a few dozen), and make sure the coffee crunch donut is among them. This donut had me racing to my car so as not to shove a pile of them in my "donut hole" at once. One taste and Ba-bam!... Gluten free for the win! (855/462-2292)
Despite what you may have heard, the cupcake craze is not over and I'm OK with that as long as I can get them from Whisk. This bakery was started by two sisters--one gluten free and the other vegan--who have children with egg, nut and dairy allergies. Necessity being the mother of invention, they set out to create cupcakes that would not only be safe for those with food restrictions but would make even gluten eaters swoon. Although they don't have a brick and mortar store, Whisk bakes their products fresh daily in a 100% gluten free facility in Pasadena and orders are delivered throughout the Los Angeles area. (626/791-1945)
Sinners & Saints
If you feel saintly for having shunned gluten, you'll feel justified at this little Venice shop where every item is flagged for the "sinner" (gluten-containing treats) or the "saint" (gluten-free treats). According to Owner Elisa Testone, approximately 70% of their customers requests gluten-free goods that range from tres leches cake and mini fruit tarts to scones and sliced bread. They also offer a small selection of vegan, paleo and dairy-free sweets. Testone will even make a special bouche de noel for your holiday parties come Christmastime and lovely specialized cakes (think carrot cake!) for birthdays and weddings. In early 2015 they also started offering light lunch fare. (310/970-2332)
The Good Cookies
Like many other bakeries on this list, The Good Cookies was born out of a venture at a local farmers' market where one of the co-owners set out to sell her gluten free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. The brick and mortar store they eventually moved into on busy Torrance Blvd. is the only place in the south bay where you'll find such a wide selection of safe options. They offer more than cookies though, with both sweet and savory baked goods including dairy (and casein) free, soy free, egg free, paleo and vegan items. You can also stop by for a little gluten free lunch of lasagna or quiche. Don't miss the donut holes and the pumpkin cheesecake brownies! (310/320-7900)
The Girl Scouts are now offering gluten free cookies but I doubt they're going to measure up to Breakaway Bakery's Lil Mint Scoutie, a gluten free thin mint-like disc of deliciousness. And that's not the only yummy treat at this tiny little bakery on Pico Boulevard. You'll find cupcakes, bread, a variety of cookies and muffins and Jewish specialties like rugalach, babka and mandel bread. Some vegan, some not. They also sell frozen batters and dough for bake-at-home muffins, cookies, pancakes and brownies. Owner Janice Lavine was recently featured on oprah.com sharing some of her recipes and is working on developing products that she hopes will be available at grocery stores in the future. Everything made here is kosher and free of gluten, dairy, casein, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, gums, preservatives, trans fats and GMOs and is certified organic! (310/968-9380)
This Sherman Oaks bakery (soon relocating to Studio City) is the only in the valley offering fresh baked goods for everyone on your guest list. Gluten free? Obviously. Vegan? Yep. Paleo? Check. Sugar Free? You bet. Oh, and their products are also organic and non-GMO. Although the bakery itself is not entirely gluten free, selling many traditional (wheat-based) items, they are committed to offering a gluten free version of nearly everything on their menu. Not only that, but you'll find things here you won't likely find elsewhere: salted caramel brownie bars (O.M.G!), lemon bars, and blondies, to name a few. While they do bake with tree nuts, no peanut products are brought onto the premises. (818/387-8538)
About Wendy O'Dea
Born and raised in western New York, Wendy O’Dea moved to Los Angeles to attend the USC School of Journalism and stayed for the innovative and creative lifestyle the city offers. Other than traffic and the drought, there’s not much about California she doesn’t love.
A foodie with wanderlust, Wendy didn’t let her daughter’s diagnosis of Celiac Disease clip her wings but set out to become an expert on gluten free dining and travel. She passed the travel bug on to her daughter who, at age seven, was incensed that she hadn’t yet been to Europe. They live in Santa Monica.
Read more about Wendy O'Dea here.
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