Sushi is a Japanese restaurant staple. It is a complete meal as it is basically rolled rice with vegetable, fresh seafood, and vegetables dipped in that flavorful soy sauce based sauce. It is an easy favorite food but is sushi gluten free? Well, for those of you on a strict diet, the answer is yes, sushi is naturally gluten free, but the soy sauce dipping may not be and other sushi ingredients may be glutenous like tempura or fake crab meat.
If you want to know more about how sushi is gluten free as well as ways to make your favorite food gluten free, this post is for you.
What is sushi?
There was a time when sushi was considered rare and exotic but now, you would practically find it in every Japanese restaurant both artisan or local. It can be traced back to as early as the 4th century in China. In the historical archives, sushi equates to pickled fish, salt, and rice. It was then fermented with vinegar.
Now, sushi is made of small cuts of fish and vegetables, rolled in Japanese rice and nori or could be just fish and rice. The fish and other seafood used in sushi are specially selected as they should meet the right color, taste, and even fat content. Soy sauce, vinegar and wasabi are used for flavor for the sushi.
What are the different types of sushi?
If you are a sushi lover, you would know that there is more to sushi than just California rolls. But did you know that there are only two types of sushi? There is only the maki and the nigiri. So how do you tell which is which?
Nigiri would be oval shaped sushi mostly with fresh tuna, salmon, sometimes eel or shrimp on top. The rice is molded by hand, hence the name nigiri which translates to hand grip. And then there is the maki, which is the more iconic fish, vegetable, rice, and seaweed combo. Types of maki would be the famous California rolls/maki, uramaki and temaki. There is also the thin-rolled maki called hoso-maki and the thicker rolled ones called futo-maki.
What is sushi made from?
Sushi is made of four main ingredients: fish cuts, vegetables (or even fruits as in the case of California rolls), nori, and rice. The seasonings used in making sushi would be rice vinegar and salt. It is then dashed with sesame seeds if you want to and dipped in a mixture of vinegar, wasabi, and soy sauce.
What foods are served alongside sushi?
If you are thinking of going all out with some Japanese food, here are the best sides to sushi that you should consider:
- Miso soup
- Teriyaki eggplant
- Kani salad
- Green tea
- Macha ice cream
Why does sushi rice have gluten?
In most cases, sushi rice is glutenous because the rice vinegar used in it might be non-distilled white vinegar. This type of vinegar is derived from wheat which is glutenous. Most of the time, it is also boiled in chicken broth, which is also glutenous, instead of just water. If you have allergic reactions to gluten, better ask ahead if the restaurant uses non-distilled white vinegar.
What sushi ingredients are glutenous?
As a rice-based food, sushi can contain other glutenous ingredients either to work as binding ingredients so that the rice does not fall off or just naturally glutenous. As such, here are some glutenous sushi ingredients that you must look out for:
- Breaded ingredients (such as tempura batter)
- Fake crab meat
- Soy, eel, BBQ, ponzu and teriyaki sauce
- Tamagoyaki (egg omelet with soy sauce)
Is seaweed gluten free?
Naturally, yes. Seaweed or nori is popular on Japanese cuisine. They are used not only in sushi but also for soup-based dishes such as miso and ramen. Nori is paper thin and it is made from dried and pressed seaweed. You are sure that the seaweed is gluten free if it is labeled silver or gold, usually with a dark green, almost black color.
Seaweed that are blue, lighter, or pale green colors are considered medium grade and might have been processed with glutenous ingredients.
Does wasabi have gluten?
Most of the time. Authentic wasabi is eaten with raw fish to make it safe from microorganism contamination. Unfortunately, 95% of wasabi in the market are not authentic and are said to contain glutenous ingredients like starch, mustard, food coloring, artificial flavors, and horseradish, among others. So, you should be wary of this the next time you dip your sushi in wasabi.
Does Eel sauce have gluten?
Yes. Eel sauce is made of mirin, sugar, sake, and soy sauce, making it glutenous. The whole set of sushi sauces can be glutenous too as they all have soy sauce content in them. This includes BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, ponzu sauce, and other spicy sauces used for sushi.
Is crab meat in sushi gluten-free?
All seafoods are not glutenous so if you are sure that your sushi contains authentic crab meat, then yes, it is gluten free. However, fake crab meats proliferate in sushi bars, and it is very glutenous. You will know more about this in the next sections.
Is nori gluten free?
Yes. As long as it is plain, unseasoned nori, it is gluten free. Nonetheless, you still have to check for the best nori brands approved by celiac organizations or those who give gluten free certifications. The reason for this is that some nori sheets can get contaminated with glutenous ingredients in shared pressing facilities.
Is imitation crab gluten free?
No. As you would see in the succeeding sections, imitation crab meat is not gluten free because it has starch in it as binding agent. Imitation crab meat are usually the ones you see in supermarkets. They are way cheaper than real crab meat so that is one indicator that you are using imitation crab meat.
Do California rolls have gluten?
It depends. When you are buying California rolls from the supermarket or from ‘unrated’ restaurants or local sushi shops, chances are, they are made with commercial or fake crab meat. These crab meats are made from ground fish, starch, and other ingredients so that it would resemble crab meat. So, if you want gluten free California rolls, only buy from artisan restaurants that make them in front of you or from reputable local Japanese restaurants that you trust.
Does tempura have gluten?
Generally, yes. Tempura is typically dipped in a batter composed of glutenous ingredients such as breadcrumbs, wheat flour or starch. Nonetheless, you can easily spot tempura dipped in non-glutinous batter because they are more likely to have a lighter fried appearance.
Is rice vinegar gluten-free?
Sushi is always seasoned with rice vinegar that is mostly derived from glutenous grains other than rice, especially if it was distilled in a common facility with probable glutenous ingredients. Given this, rice vinegar can be glutenous. To avoid this, you may order vinegar free sushi.
How to make sure your sushi is gluten-free?
When it comes to sushi, there really is no way to be sure if it is gluten free given the range of ingredients that it has. So, to make sure, ask the sushi restaurant right away that you prefer gluten free sushi. They have kept up with the different needs of their customers so they can make one for you.
If you are doing a homemade one, make the adjustments and opt for non-gluten ingredients. For instance, go for distilled white vinegar instead of the regular rice vinegar. As for the soy sauce, you can opt for tamari sauce (Kikkoman), coconut aminos or liquid aminos. Stay away from wasabi if you do not particularly like it and switch to almond flour or arrowroot if you want some tempura.
How to order gluten-free sushi
Sushi bars and restaurants usually roll up your order in front of you so you can easily say your diet restrictions and preference for a gluten free sushi right away. Most Japanese restaurants now have a stock of gluten free dips and seasonings, so you do not have to worry about this. Some would even have check tabs on their order sheet about diet restrictions and allergic reactions.
Gluten free sushi restaurants
With all the things that we have covered here, wanting to know which gluten free sushi restaurants is but valid. So, to help you narrow down your next sushi eating galore, here are some gluten free restaurants that you should try:
- RA Sushi Bar and Restaurant
- Sushi Enya
- Yuko Kitchen
- Sogo Roll Bar
- Sushi Roku
- Tokyo Town Sushi
- Ikeda Japanese Dining
- Hanami Sushi
- Sushi Nami
- Nami Nori
Honestly, the list is endless when it comes to sushi. This does not only show how well-loved sushi is but also the conscious effort of sushi restaurants to serve gluten free sushi.
Is sashimi better than sushi?
When it comes to simplicity and being gluten free, you can always opt for sashimi instead of sushi. Sashimi is a thinly sliced tuna which can be served with or without rice. The rice that can be used for sashimi may just be plain and not vinegared. As for the sauce, you can always opt for mirin and tamari sauce to make it gluten free.
Can sushi be eaten every day?
No. Sushi still contains rice and raw fish. Eating it everyday exposes you to a large amount of refined carbs which encourages you to eat more. Carb loading is not good because it makes you vulnerable to acquiring diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Plus the threat of microorganism related diseases such as salmonella is always around the corner.
- 1 cup sushi rice
- 1tbsp rice vinegar
- 1tbsp sugar
- 1 ½ cups water
- 4 nori sheets
- 1 large avocados (cut into small pieces)
- ½ large cucumber (cut into small strips)
- 6 sticks of crab meat
- Tamari sauce
- Garlic and chili sauce
- Start by cooking the rice. Make sure that it is washed at least five times and just put the right amount of water so it does not get soggy. When it is done cooking, let it cool before using or it will not hold shape.
- Get a mixing bowl and toss in sugar and rice vinegar. Stir well for the sugar to be totally diluted.
- Next, pour the vinegar and sugar mix in the rice and fold gently until it becomes well-incorporated.
- Now get the rolling mat and cover it with the plastic wrap to avoid sticking. Place sheets of nori on the mat and top it with just the right amount of sushi rice.
- On the bottom of the nori sheet (bottom 1/3 of the entire rolling mat), add cucumber strips, crab meat and avocado. Lay them in the sheet horizontally.
- Roll the mat gently but with enough pressure for the sushi to take shape.
- Open the sushi mat and cut the sushi roll into your desired thickness or number.
- For the sauce, just combine the garlic and chili sauce and the tamari sauce in a bowl.
- Serve the sushi with the dipping on the side.
- To make thinner sushi rolls, cut the avocado and cucumber in smaller, finer pieces.
- There is no limit to what you can add as sushi filling. Look for the various types of nigiri and maki to know what other ingredients you can fill it with.
- Imitation crab meat is glutenous. Make sure to check your crab meat’s label before buying one.
- Wasabi as part of the dipping is optional.
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Nutrition InformationServing Size 4
Amount Per ServingCalories 272Total Fat 8gCholesterol 1mgSodium 22mgCarbohydrates 47gFiber 5gSugar 4gProtein 5g