Is Yakitori Gluten-Free? Not all, watch out for the sauces!

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  September 2, 2020
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These days it seems as if many people have dietary restrictions. Some are vegan, some are vegetarian, some are keto, some are lactose intolerant and some are gluten-free.

Those that are gluten-free follow a wheat-free diet. They usually do this to avoid health issues caused by eating wheat.

To answer the question if Yakitori is gluten-free, you first have to know what type of yakitori you are eating so the answer isn’t that straight forward, but the thing you need to know is:

There are two types of yakitori and the first, salty yakitori contains skewered and grilled chicken and therefore is gluten-free. The second type is salty-sweet by adding tare sauce, which is not gluten-free.

Yakitori is gluten-free but not with tare sauce

When you are traveling, it can be difficult to stick to a gluten-free diet.

You will come into contact with many foreign foods and you might not even know what they are much less whether or not they contain gluten.

Well, while we might not be able to run down every foreign dish to let you know whether or not it’s gluten-free, we can talk about the Japanese dish yakitori.

Read on to find out if it is safe for gluten-free people to eat.

What is Yakitori?

Yakitori is a type of skewered chicken. The meat is skewered on a stick that is usually made of bamboo or steel.

It is then seasoned with tare sauce or salt depending on your personal taste.

When tare sauce is used, it produces a taste that can be described as salty-sweet.

Tare is made of mirin, soy sauce, sake, and sugar so you can see why it would produce this salty-sweet taste.

When only salt is used, the yakitori is considered to be salty rather than salty-sweet.

What does it mean to be gluten-Free?

The gluten-free diet was originally created to help people manage Celiac Disease.

This is an auto-immune disorder that is caused by gluten triggering the immune system and damaging the lining of the small intestine.

People may also follow a gluten-free diet if they have gluten sensitivity, wheat allergies, or gluten ataxia which is an autoimmune condition that affects the nerve tissues and muscle movement.

Some people choose to eat gluten-free because they claim it helps them lose weight, increases their energy, and boosts their health overall.

Foods that contain wheat, barley, rye, or triticale will contain gluten so those following a gluten-free diet will want to make sure they are not buying foods that have these ingredients in them.

Fortunately, most gluten-free foods are labeled as such and this makes it much easier for gluten-free people to stick to their diet.

Is Yakitori Gluten-Free?

Now, for the moment we’ve been waiting for…. In this section, we will answer the question of whether or not yakitori is gluten-free.

However, there is no straightforward answer to that question.

Here’s the thing…

Yakitori that is prepared as salty-sweet is not gluten-free. This is because it uses tare that has soy sauce in it and soy sauce contains wheat.

If you make yakitori without tare, and you don’t use any sauces and seasonings that contain wheat, it will be gluten-free.

Salty yakitori, for example, is gluten-free. There are also gluten-free soy sauces available in the market.

If you make your own tare and use gluten-free soy sauce and season your yakitori with your homemade recipe, that is another way to enjoy the snack without worrying about gluten-related side effects.

So, if you are going to Japan of a Japanese restaurant and are on a gluten-free diet, make sure you order the salty yakitori.

That way you know you will be safe when eating this skewered meat. It also might not be a bad idea to learn how to say gluten-free in Japanese!

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.