Gluten-free sushi would seem easy to come by because sushi can be naturally gluten-free. However, some of the ingredients used to make sushi can contain gluten. Not to mention if you’re ordering sushi in a restaurant, it can come into cross-contact with gluten.
So let’s talk about sushi: when it’s gluten-free, why it’s not always gluten-free, and how to order gluten-free sushi.
Wikipedia defines sushi as a traditional Japanese dish made with vinegared rice, sugar, salt, and other ingredients. As a person who loves vinegar, I clearly see why sushi rice always wins my heart.
There are 3 different types of sushi: nigiri, maki, and temaki sushi. Nigiri doesn’t typically involve nori (seaweed) as maki and temaki do.
Is there gluten in sushi? The short answer: sometimes. Long answer: it depends on what is used to make the sushi.
Gluten-free sushi ingredients include cream cheese, fresh raw vegetables, 100% seaweed, rice, plain masago (fish eggs – sometimes they can add soy sauce to this so specify plain), and plain fish/shellfish.
Sushi ingredients that may have gluten include imitation crab, rice vinegar, fish sauce, oyster sauce wasabi, and sauces. Make sure if these ingredients are included in the sushi you are ordering that they are gluten-free. Or if you don’t feel like asking questions, you can ask for sushi without these things.
Sushi ingredients that definitely have gluten include soy sauce (ask for gluten-free soy sauce, tamari, or bring your own gluten-free soy sauce packets). Additionally, anything fried or breaded in sushi definitely has gluten too unless otherwise specified (think shrimp tempura).
So in summary: avoid anything tempura, anything fried, and soy sauce (unless it’s a verified gluten-free alternative). Double-check on the gluten-free status of imitation crab (or ask for real crab), rice vinegar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, wasabi, and other sauces.
Always enjoy plain nori (seaweed), cream cheese, fish eggs, plain rice, plain fish/shellfish, and fresh vegetables.
Gluten-free sushi must have gluten-free sushi rice. Sushi rice typically is made with short-grain sushi rice, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and water. Sushi rice can be gluten-free if the rice vinegar used is gluten-free. Most of the time it is, but in some cases it isn’t so it is important to double-check.
Additionally, sushi rice can easily come into cross-contact with gluten when making sushi in restaurants. This is why it’s important to make sure when someone is preparing gluten-free sushi for you, that they are using clean gloved, clean rolling mat, a clean knife, and a clean workspace.
Wasabi isn’t always gluten-free and in the USA, a lot of Wasabi can have gluten. If ordering sushi, it’s important you’re asking about the Wasabi used by the restaurant. Be sure it’s gluten-free wasabi or 100% real wasabi. If you’re like me and don’t want to ask 1000 questions in the restaurant, this could be something you call and ask about, or something you just avoid altogether.
Nigiri sushi is typically sushi that is topped with raw fish. As long as the rice underneath the raw fish is plain or is made with gluten-free rice vinegar, then Nigiri sushi is gluten-free. It’s also a safer option as it also doesn’t require a rolling mat, thus reducing cross-contact with gluten.
Maki sushi is usually the type of sushi that first comes to mind. It involves sushi rice and fillings being rolled into seaweed and then cut into bite-sized pieces.
Maki sushi is not always gluten-free as the filling can contain gluten. California rolls are a good example of this as the imitation crab inside can contain gluten. However Maki, can be gluten-free as long as the filling is gluten-free and the restaurant uses a freshly cleaned knife and rolling mat when making it.
Temaki sushi is a cone-shaped sushi roll. It also can be gluten-free if the filling is gluten-free and the rolling mat is cleaned before use to prevent cross-contact.
Want to make gluten-free sushi? It’s not as hard as you might think and it allows you to be in full control of the recipe; making sure all the ingredients are gluten-free and avoiding cross-contact that may occur in a restaurant.
To make sushi, check out this rainbow sushi roll recipe.
Want to order gluten-free sushi from a restaurant? First, be sure to call ahead and talk to the restaurant about their gluten-free options and cross-contact protocols.
Some questions you might ask when calling a restaurant:
Some generally celiac-safe sushi orders you might make at a sushi restaurant include:
Found this helpful? Imagine how helpful my Gluten-Free Dining Course is. It’s a self-paced course where I teach you how to stay celiac-safe at restaurants in just 4-stimple steps.