Is Sushi Gluten Free? Sushi itself yes, but check on these things

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  December 23, 2020

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Today, there are many diners with dietary restrictions. Some have allergies, some are vegans, some eat organic only, and then there are those that are gluten-free.

No matter what type of restrictions you may have, it’s important to research foods to find out what is and what is not safe to eat.

Eating the right foods can be even more challenging if you are in a foreign country.

You might not even know what foods you are eating much less whether or not you are eating ingredients that should be avoided.

For instance, say you are in Japan and you are on a gluten-free diet. Would you know if sushi is gluten-free?

Sushi is gluten-free if you make it yourself as it is rice, seaweed, and fish, and safe for you to eat as long as you look out for some of the added ingredients like tempura batter and the biggest culprits of gluten in sushi at restaurants: soy sauce and sushi rice vinegar.

Well, if you are gluten-free and plan on eating sushi in Japan, read on to find out everything you need to know.

What Does it Mean to Be Gluten-Free?

What does it mean to be gluten free

Let’s start by taking a look at what it means to be gluten-free.

Gluten is a protein found in most grains. It is present in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. It is also found in products like corn, rice and quinoa.

However, the gluten in these foods isn’t as likely to trigger sensitivities.

Favorite Asian Recipes x
Favorite Asian Recipes

Many people are on a gluten-free diet due to dietary issues that are triggered when eating gluten. These include the following:

Additionally, some people avoid wheat because they claim that doing so makes them feel better.

Is Sushi Gluten-Free?

Is sushi gluten free

A simple answer to this question is, yes, sushi is gluten-free. Its basic ingredients are rice, fish, and vegetables.

These are all gluten-free ingredients so those with Celiac Disease should have the green light when eating this food. Right?

Well, not so fast.

Sushi is made using various ingredients and preparations and some of these are not gluten-free.

Soy sauce, for instance, is made using wheat. Therefore, if soy sauce is used as a dip or if it was used in the preparation of the sushi, the sushi would not be gluten-free.

There are gluten-free soy sauces that can be used for sushi, but if the ingredients include regular old soy sauce, the dish is not gluten-free.

Traditional Japanese restaurants will most certainly use Tamari sauce instead of Soy sauce, but it’s best to check.

Here are some other sushi ingredients and preparations you will want to look out for:

It’s also important to realize that when you eat sushi in a restaurant, they are probably using other products that contain gluten.

This is especially likely in a Japanese restaurant that uses lots of soy sauce.

Cross-contamination could occur and you can accidentally end up eating food products that spike health issues.

Sushi restaurants are usually pretty good about cross-contamination as many of them allow their patrons to see their food prepared right in front of them.

Therefore, you should be okay if you warn chefs that you are very allergic to soy sauce and other gluten products before they prepare your meal.

So, with all the gluten ingredients that could be in your sushi, where does that leave you? Here are the types of sushi that are generally gluten-free.

You can also ask your server about gluten-free options when you are eating out.

Read all about the different types of sushi in our post here

However, there is still a lot to be learned about the labeling of gluten-free products, so if your server seems unsure, it is best to steer clear.

Here is Good for you gluten free with a video on how to make gluten-free sushi on her channel:

Are Sushi Burritos Gluten-Free?

If you have never had the pleasure of eating a sushi burrito, you’re missing out.

These burritos contain raw fish, rice and veggies rolled into a burrito shape.

Their assembly is similar to that of a sushi roll which is to say, they have a protein in the middle which is then surrounded by a vegetable and a layer of rice.

They are held together by sheets of nori.

Based on what we know about a gluten-free diet, you can probably already tell that a sushi burrito will tick off all the boxes when it comes to safe eating.

However, once again, you must be careful that no sauces were added that put gluten in the mix and that no cross-contamination occurred.

Check out our post on sushi burritos here as well

Tips for Staying Gluten-Free When Eating Out

If you really have a hankering for sushi but are scared that you are going to get ‘glutened’ when eating at a sushi restaurant, here are some precautions you can take.

Make sure the restaurant has a gluten-free soy sauce called Tamari. Alternately, you can bring these to the restaurant yourself.

There is a company called Little Soya that makes small packets that are discreet and won’t open in your purse.

Ask for a clean sushi mat. This will help keep any gluten particles out of your food.

Make the server change their gloves. This is another way to prevent cross-contamination.

Make sure the server uses a clean cutting board and knife.

Do not use any sauces unless you have checked out the ingredients in advance.

Ask that your sushi be made to order for you. Avoid eating at any restaurants that serve mass-produced sushi as chefs in these restaurants typically do not take any precautions when preparing these foods.

Sushi in its basic form is technically gluten-free. However, there are several ingredients that can be added that make the dish unsafe for gluten-free diners.

Be sure you are aware of the ingredients before you order and take the necessary precautions to make sure your food is not cross-contaminated.

Read more: Japanese Yakitori and gluten, what you need to know

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.