Sushi is a delicious Japanese dish that is offered with a wide variety of ingredients.
But is Sushi gluten free?
Some sushi is gluten free. It depends entirely on the ingredients the sushi is made with. Many ingredients that sushi is commonly made with are not gluten free, so it is critical that you choose your sushi very carefully.
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about which ingredients are safe, and which ingredients to avoid – like Roe, Soy Sauce and Imitation Crab – when eating gluten free sushi.
Keep reading to answer all your questions about sushi and gluten, or use the Table of Contents below to jump to the section of your choice.
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Is Sushi Gluten-Free?
Whether or not sushi is gluten free is determined completely by which ingredients are used. Many of the common sushi ingredients are not gluten free.
Let’s talk for a minute about the basics of sushi.
Typically sushi is made up of fish, rice and seaweed. In their natural form (made with no added ingredients) these ingredients are gluten free.
However, there are many places that gluten can hide in sushi. So it is very important to be diligent about recognizing which ingredients are being used to prepare the sushi you are planning to eat.
Ingredients like soy sauce, roe, imitation crab, marinades, tempura, and sometimes even vinegar and wasabi CAN contain gluten.
The biggest reason sushi is not gluten free is because the ingredients commonly used in the United States are not in pure form.
Traditional Soy Sauce, for example, is a gluten containing ingredient often found in sushi. Soy Sauce is usually made of wheat and wheat is the most commonly found source of gluten.
Other sauces like teriyaki or ponzu can contain soy sauce, making marinades unsafe to consume.
Ingredients like wasabi and mirin are gluten free in their pure form, but unfortunately that is not typically what we get when we buy sushi.
The good news is that there are many gluten free alternatives to traditional sushi ingredients, and we’ll go through them below. And as long as you’re careful, you can still enjoy a wide array of sushi.
What types of sushi are gluten-free?
The type of sushi is less important than what ingredients it is made with in determining whether or not it is gluten free.
Most types of sushi can be made gluten free if it is made with gluten free ingredients in a safe kitchen. For example, this avocado roll recipe is made with gluten-free ingredients. Just be sure any dips and toppings are gluten free!
When it comes to finding sushi that is gluten free, it’s important to consider each ingredient independently to ensure it is safe for you to eat.
Does sushi rice contain gluten?
Rice in its pure or natural form is gluten free. White, brown and wild rice are all naturally gluten free.
Sushi rice, however, can be tricky. Sushi rice is usually made with sugar, salt and rice vinegar, and the vinegar is where things get tricky.
Occasionally sushi rice can be made with malt vinegar or non-distilled white vinegar instead of rice vinegar.
Malt vinegar is made with barley and barley contains gluten. Some non-distilled white vinegar is made with wheat.
It is important to read the ingredients list to ensure no gluten containing ingredients have been added to your rice. You can also look for a gluten free or certified gluten free label on the package.
If you’re planning to eat sushi at a sushi restaurant, be sure to call ahead and ask them how they prepare their rice.
Common gluten containing ingredients in sushi
Does sushi roe contain gluten?
Sushi roe, or fish eggs, are commonly used to garnish sushi. While you might think fish eggs would be safe to eat, they are not usually served in their natural form.
The bright color of sushi roe actually comes from a dye. Roe is often also cured in soy sauce, which contains gluten, making it unsafe to consume on a celiac diet.
To be safe, ask the restaurant to leave the roe off of your sushi roll when it is being prepared.
Does sushi vinegar have gluten?
Sushi vinegar is commonly made with rice wine vinegar, which is gluten free.
However, some stores and sushi restaurants make their sushi rice with malt vinegar, non-distilled white vinegar or mirin, which may not be safe for a gluten free diet.
Malt vinegar contains barley, which is a gluten containing ingredient, so it is not safe to eat.
Mirin in its traditional form is gluten free, but there are some less expensive mirin seasonings that are made with traditional soy sauce. Avoiding mirin, or confirming with the restaurant that it is pure is the safest choice. You can buy your own gluten free mirin for home here.
Non-distilled white vinegar can be made from corn or wheat. According to FDA labeling rules, if it is made from wheat, this will be disclosed on the label. If it is a variety made with wheat, then it will not be gluten free.
Is soy sauce gluten free?
Wheat, the most commonly found source of gluten, is a primary ingredient in soy sauce. Because of this, it is not safe to eat traditional soy sauce on a gluten free diet.
Switching to a gluten free soy sauce like this Kikkoman Gluten Free Soy Sauce will help keep your sushi roll gluten free.
If you want to learn more about soy sauce, gluten, and safe alternatives, check out this post.
Is imitation crab gluten free?
Imitation crab is not pure crab, which means it is made with other ingredients. Usually, you’ll find that these ‘other ingredients’ contain gluten, which unfortunately means imitation crab is not safe for gluten free consumption.
If the California roll is your favorite, don’t despair! Use real crab or purchase a gluten free imitation crab like this one from Walmart and you can still enjoy sushi with gluten free imitation crab.
Is tempura batter gluten free?
Tempura batter is almost always made with wheat flour. As a general rule, avoid anything that looks fried.
In order to have gluten free tempura, you need to ensure that not only is the batter gluten free, but it must also be made in a dedicated gluten free deep fryer.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a separate fryer. Studies show that around a quarter of gluten free foods cooked in a shared fryer with gluten will be well over the acceptable limit for the presence of gluten in gluten free foods.
If you want to make your own tempura at home, try this gluten free tempura batter.
Is wasabi gluten-free?
If you’re wondering “Does wasabi have gluten?” then you’re in luck–pure real wasabi is gluten free. Unfortunately wasabi is rarely served in its pure form. Like many sushi roll ingredients, it usually contains other ingredients which can contain gluten.
Read the label carefully or call the restaurant ahead of time to find out what ingredients they use in their wasabi preparation.
Is ponzu gluten-free?
Ponzu is a tangy, citrus dipping sauce. It is often made with soy sauce, so like most ingredients, you’ll need to find a gluten free ponzu option.
This delicious Ponzu Sauce from Amazon is certified gluten free, so you can feel confident using it as an alternative.
Is nigiri gluten-free?
Nigiri is simply raw fish served over rice and can be gluten free. As long as the vinegar used to make the sushi rice is gluten free, and the fish has not been marinated, then nigiri is safe to eat on a gluten free diet.
Is sashimi gluten free?
Sashimi is raw fish, and fresh fish is naturally gluten free. However, it is worth inquiring about any marinades or seasonings to ensure they don’t contain one of the tricky ingredients already listed.
Gluten Free Sushi Ingredients and Toppings
With all the controversial ingredients in mind, here are some sushi ingredients that tend to be gluten free:
- fresh fish, shellfish, and meats
- sesame seeds
- cream cheese
Just remember to still ask questions even if it appears all the ingredients in the sushi roll are safe. And be sure to ask for some gluten free soy sauce and gluten free wasabi to go with it!
How can I find gluten free sushi near me?
To find gluten free sushi, try out the Find Me Gluten Free App.
You can also ask for recommendations in your local metropolitan area gluten-free Facebook group.
While these are a great start to finding gluten free foods, never rely solely on recommendations from others.
Once you have a recommendation, always call the restaurant and ask questions about preparation practices, ingredients, and more.
You need to be sure they take caution in the kitchen to not just prepare your food with gluten-free ingredients, but to avoid cross contact or cross contamination between gluten ingredients and your gluten free dish.
Then, when you arrive at the restaurant, confirm they can meet your dietary needs.
To learn more about eating out gluten free at restaurants, check out this post.
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