Gluten-Free Dining in Sushi Restaurants

girl with sushi

Sushi restaurants have an abundance of naturally gluten-free items on the menu: predominantly composed 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 – things like flour and panko used for breading pork and chicken cutlets, and soy sauce, among other things.

And so here are some useful tips to make sure your sushi dining experience remains unspoiled by gluten:

  1. Avoid fake crab meat. Surimi or fake crab meat is made by grinding white fish and binding it with starch that is usually made of wheat. This can be found abundant in different sushi rolls, salads, and other menu items.
  2. Ask for Tamari instead of the regular soy sauce. Soy sauce brands unless labeled gluten-free are risky to those avoiding gluten. Soy could be manufactured in facilities that also process gluten-containing wheat, barley, and rye. Thankfully there is a type of soy sauce called Tamari, traditionally made without wheat.
  3. Avoid tempura, breaded meat cuts, and other breaded items. 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, as they would be coated and fried.
  4. Avoid sushi ingredients that have been marinated. Almost for certain, these items will have used either wheat, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or other wheat-containing sauces as a flavoring.
  5. Bring your own wasabi. Most restaurants do not use real wasabi, but instead use a mixture of mustard, horseradish, green coloring, and 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 chef makes the meal right in front of you. You may also want to 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.
    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. Enjoy your next gluten-free dining!


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