Gluten-free Sushi

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.

P.s. Don’t forget to sign up for my FREE Gluten-Free Restaurant Cheat Sheets for the USA! In these free restaurant cheat sheets I cover what’s gluten-free at different USA restaurant chains and cuisines in the USA PLUS I give you scripts to help build up comfort with ordering. Grab your copy of these FREE cheat sheets here!

Table of Contents

Gluten-free Sush: How to order gluten-free sushi - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

What is Gluten?

When talking about gluten-free Sushi, it’s important we know what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, contaminated oats, and wheat. It may be helpful to remember the acronym “BROW” when trying to remember what foods have gluten.

In baked goods, gluten holds things together working as a binding agent. It gives texture and chew to foods.

Most people can safely eat gluten. However, some people have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease which means they need to avoid gluten. It can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and nausea as well as nonintestinal symptoms such as rashes, headaches, or joint pain.

What is Sushi

Additionally, when talking about gluten-free Sushi, it’s important we know what it is. 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 Sushi Gluten-free?

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.

Is There Gluten in Sushi Rice?

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.

Is Wasabi Safe to Order With Gluten-Free Sushi

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.

Is Nigiri Gluten-free?

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.

Is Maki Gluten-free?

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.

Is Temaki Gluten-free?

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.

Gluten-free Sush: How to order gluten-free sushi - What sushi ingredients to enjoy and avoid - What's not gluten-free about sushi? Does sushi contain gluten? - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

How to Make Gluten-free Sushi

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.

How to Order Gluten-free Sushi From a Restaurant

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:

  • Is there soy sauce in this dish? Is your soy sauce gluten-free? Do you have gluten-free soy sauce?
  • Do you use gluten-free fish sauce?
  • Do you use gluten-free oyster sauce?
  • Do you use gluten-free rice vinegar?
    • If not, can you make my sushi with plain rice?
  • Are the gluten-free fried foods fried in a separate fryer?
  • Is there imitation crab (AKA surimi) in this? Can I substitute it for real crab?
  • Do you use 100% wasabi? Is your wasabi gluten-free?
  • Can you make my sushi with plain seaweed? (unseasoned seaweed)
  • Are any of your sauces gluten-free?
  • Can you change your gloves, and use freshly cleaned knives, cutting boards, and sushi mat to make my sushi?

Some generally celiac-safe sushi orders you might make at a sushi restaurant include:

  • Sashimi (just double check on the rice and make sure they change their gloves and clean their station)
  • Simple sushi rolls (with plain rice, choice vegetables and/or fish/shellfish, just be sure to have them change their gloves, wash their knives, cutting boards, and sushi mat before preparing your roll)
  • Rainbow roll (with plain rice, real crab, made by a sushi chef who’s changed their gloves, washed their knives, cutting boards, and sushi mat)
  • California roll (with plain rice, real crab, made by a sushi chef who’s changed their gloves, washed their knives, cutting boards, and sushi mat)
And if you’re in Columbus, Ohio, FUSIAN is a local custom Sushi restaurant where the only gluten in the restaurant is in the dumplings that are kept away from the sushi line and the Shrimp Tempura which is fried in the same fryer. Definitely check it out!

Where to Get Gluten-Free Sushi

Want to know where you can order gluten-free sushi? While there are likely many places across the USA and even the globe, a popular gluten-free place you can go to is Wegmans.

According to the Wegmans website, their sushi is free from artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and gluten. They even use gluten-free soy sauce.

There are 109 Wegmans locations in the USA. These stores are found in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Washington D.C., and Delaware state.

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.

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