Gluten-Free Dining in Sushi Restaurants

girl with sushi


Sushi restaurants have an abundance of items on the menu that is naturally gluten-free: predominantly composing of seafood and fish, rice and vegetables.

With that said, there are also many items on the menu that can be a source of cross-contamination during the preparation of these naturally gluten-free items – things like flour and panko used for breading of pork and chicken cutlets, and soysauce, among other things.

And so to make sure your sushi dining experience remain unspoiled by gluten, here are some tips you may want to follow:

  1. Avoid fake crab meat. Surimi or fake crab meat are made by grinding white fish and binding it with starch that are usually made of wheat. This can be found in abundance in different sushi rolls, salads and other menu items, as flavoring.
  2. Ask for Tamari  instead of the regular soy sauce. Soy sauce brands unless labeled gluten-free are risky for those avoiding gluten since the soy that is used in these has a high chance of being also processed in a facility that also process wheat, barley or rye, or it may have wheat in its primary ingredients. Thankfully there is a type of soy sauce traditionally made without wheat called Tamari. To help with communicating, you can inform the chef that you are extremely allergic to soy sauce so that it will be easier for them to take away an item that is common knowledge, rather than launching into explaining in detail what gluten is.
  3. Avoid tempura, breaded meat cuts, and other menu items that have breading. The batter used in making tempura will almost always  be made of wheat flour, except for gluten-free restaurants that guarantee using gluten-free breading. Thankfully these items are easily recognizable on the menu, being coated and fried .
  4. Avoid sushi ingredients that have been treated with marinades. Almost for certain, these items will have used either wheat, soy sauce , teriyaki sauce or other wheat containing sauces as flavoring.
  5. Bring your own wasabi. Most restaurants do not use real wasabi, but instead use a mixture of mustard, horseradish,  green coloring and other flavorings that may contain gluten. To be safe from contaminants, it is best to bring your own.
  6. If you have the option, spring for a restaurant where the sushi chef makes the meal right in front of you. You may speak to the chef or call in advance to make sure the utensils that will be used for your meal are fresh and have not touched other items that contain gluten.
  7. Japanese restaurants like other restaurants can be busy, to be on the safe side, you may also call the restaurant in advance to make sure that the restaurant will be fully staffed, and can take time to accommodate special food requests.

Let us know how your next sushi dining turns out! If you have more tips to share with our community, feel free to leave some in the comments. Happy gluten-free dining!