Results are in for least and most paleo-friendly ethnic cuisines.  Lots of votes — thank you.

No surprise for the clear winner of least paleo: Italian.  With all that pasta, bread, bread sticks, pizza, and breaded meats, it's hard to avoid grain, gluten, and a big insulin spike.  Maybe I shouldn't have chosen Olive Garden for our next paleo meetup.  Chinese and Mexican aren't far behind.  Favorite write-in: Tasmanian.  

There are really two winners for most paleo ethnic cuisine: Barbeque and Brazilian.  More proof that the ideal paleo meal is meat on a stick.  Greek and Japanese are runners up.  Have a look at the results, and then I'll give you my observations below.  

  • Observe that Italian and Greek are heavily divergent on the rankings, which is odd considering they are two nearby Mediterranean countries who share so much classical culture.  Italian food is very grain heavy, Greek not so much.  I'll speculate that part of it is because Greece is more mountainous, so it's much harder to grow grain there than in Italy.  Grain-products can't be a staple of your cuisine if it's hard to get hold of.  This allows us to make some hypotheses: ethnic cuisines that are paleo-friendly will be found in countries where it is harder to grow grain relative to other sources of food — mountainous locations or regions near the sea.  Flat, land-locked regions and countries will have developed the least paleo-friendly cuisine.
  • Clearly, as commenter Alicia points out, there is a difference between Americanized ethnic food, the type of ethnic food available in NYC/LA or anywhere with sizable immigrant populations, and traditional/indigenous ethnic cuisine as it is made in the home country.  For example, Italian gets slammed, but real southern Italian food has lots of seafood and is less grain-heavy than northern Italian, as you can see from Richard Nikoley's recent trip.  
  • Barbeque got the most votes for most paleo, but I don't think it merits the highest honor.  First, while the grilled meat is very paleo (and the act of grilling it), most of the typical sides are not: tons of sweet barbeque sauce, ketchup, macaroni and cheese, corn bread, and baked beans.  But the act of barbequing is about as paleo as it gets.
  • Brazilian is a great choice if you've ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse (churrascaria).  However, the standard Brazilian diet is very heavy in rice and beans — so when we say Brazilian, it's actually the churrascaria format that is most paleo.  That said, having been to Rio de Janeiro in the last couple years, standard lunch places have awesome paleo choices (minus the rice and beans).
  • Korean is more paleo than it gets credit for in this tally.  I've been to Korean BBQs that didn't even serve rice…the only breaded item were a few dumplings. 
  • One commenter pointed out Filipino food as particularly friendly to paleo.  Forget the rice.  There's Sisig (spicy pork cheeks and brain), Dinuguan (innards and blood stew), Kinilaw (like ceviche), and Inasal baboy or lechon (whole pig roast).  Lots of coconut milk, and no vegetarian dishes.  What's not to like?  A true blue Filipina is taking me to a Filipino restaurant this week, so I'll report back.

Keep your eyes posted for future posts where I'll give tips and tricks for how to eat paleo at Italian/Mexican/Chinese/Indian/ethnic restaurants.

9 Responses to “Poll results: Most and least friendly ethnic cuisines”

  1. Jim Arkus says:

    Yes!  Can’t wait for how to eat paleo at a Mexican restaurant.  I used to LOVE a couple Mexican restaurants in this area, but you get sick of a taco salad pretty quickly once you go paleo!

    • David Csonka says:

      Italy is quite mountainous, though maybe not as much as Greece. During the Roman Empire, they imported grain all the way from Egypt by boat, rather than grow it locally.

    •  It’s usually pretty easy for me to eat at Mexican restaurants, if I tell them I’m not interested in ordering any particular item off the menu. Instead, I ask for servings of two or three types of meat, lettuce, guacamole, and cheese (although you may vary on this last item), rung up a la carte and served together on a plate. At least so far, Mexican restaurants have been very accommodating of this kind of request.

  2. Mike says:

    "most of the typical sides are not: tons of sweet barbeque sauce, ketchup, macaroni and cheese, corn bread, and baked beans."

    I agree, but also I think this is the case with SO many cuisines. You can probably find a great paleo entree in almost any ethicities food, but sides is where almost all styles struggle. I have a few local places that I love to go get real omelettes from but they always wanna hook me up with hashbrowns and toast/pancakes on the side! how bout you guys hang on to the grains and throw an extra egg in that omelet??

  3. Andreas says:

    Wow. This post would be perfect on

  4. fjones says:



    barbeque isn’t a cuisine. it’s a method.

  5. Nick says:

    One Italian staple that rarely gets mentioned is ‘porchetta’ (Roast Pork).  While you will probably find it served on a panino at a local market, at parties people cut it right on the spit and you can skip the bread.


    The best is at the end of the night when those who have hung around (and had plenty to drink) start picking at the face!  I’m honoured to have partaken a few times when visiting my parent’s home town!

  6. Ray Dixon says:

    John, as paleo/primal fanatic I admire your New York ability to get onto various news/media outlets….you truly do something not many Southerners can do.  You do however, mistake yourself on a few points barbecue (lower capitalization referencing the method).  There is no ketchup in barbecue.  There is no cornbread in barbecue. There is no macaroni and cheese in barbecue.  Of the three, only cornbread is truly southern and it goes with greens and ham…not barbecue.  The folks that include lots of sugary sauce also don’t know how to barbecue as they are trying to cover their barbecue in false flavors meant to disguise the meat not enhance the meat.  I’m in South Georgia…come on down and we will have real barbecue…paleo friendly and home harvested.


  7.  It is easy to eat Paleo in Italy. All you have to do is to skip the bread and the pasta plate. I ate for 2 weeks in Northern Italy when I was lecturing at the University of Trento and could not imagine eating better food. I found Elk just up into the mountains, the Dolomite Alps, in an old castle (I think it had a moat, but it was a bit dark to tell for sure). The wines of Trentino are fabulous; I learned to love Pinot Grigio there.

    Milan has wonderful shopping and great food.  It is all in the ordering. This is true of any ethnic food. Mexican, always order ala carte. German, don’t eat there. England, the prime rib or London Broil.

    You don’t have to eat everything on your plate (even though your mother told you to).

    Breakfast in Europe is atrocious. Don’t eat it. It is not true that breakfast is your most important meal.

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