Is Sushi Gluten Free?
Yes, almost all traditional sushi and sushi rolls are gluten free. There are some exceptions of certain ingredients used in the sushi rolls as not being gluten free, but all sushi and sushi rolls made with raw ingredients whether fish, vegetable or fruit are gluten free.
Let’s first discuss the basics of sushi, first let’s establish if we are discussing sushi pieces or sushi rolls. Since Sushi as a whole is a cuisine not a particular dish it is important to know the different types of sushi, which you can read about more here. Since sushi pieces and sushi rolls share the same ingredients it will be easy for us to discuss both at the same time. To read more about what is sushi check out our page here.
There are 3 main ingredients of all sushi, which is the rice, nori and the main ingredient whether fish, vegetable or fruit.
The most important part of sushi is the rice, there are 2 types of rice used in all sushi, the most used is white sushi rice, what makes it sushi rice is that white short grain rice is mixed with sushi vinegar after it is cooked. The second is brown rice, brown rice is never mixed with sushi vinegar after it is cooked. Brown rice is always used bare when making sushi, which makes brown rice gluten free since rice is naturally gluten free.
All sushi rice (white rice mixed with rice vinegar) is gluten free.
No self-respecting sushi restaurant will ever use any other vinegar but rice vinegar to mix into their white rice, whether the rice vinegar is made in Japan or made in the USA all rice vinegar is gluten free. There are knockoff restaurants that use imitation ingredients and cheap substitutes in their cooking who may use regular white vinegar or some other concoction which will not be gluten free. If you have to think twice about what type of vinegar they use, you should be more concerned about what ingredients they use for their fish and not get your sushi there.
Nori sheets are gluten free since nori is seaweed or algae chopped, pressed into thin rectangular sheets and roasted.
First the easy part all unprocessed and uncooked fruits and vegetables are all gluten free. As far as the other ingredients go which are mainly fish and seafood, any real fish (white tuna is not a fish, it is a processed, pressed and bleached product) whether salmon, tuna, fluke, striped bass or any other fish is gluten free. Shrimp, real crab (kani crab is not fully crab), clams, oysters, scallops and mussels are also gluten free.
What Sushi is not gluten free?
Anything cooked, processed or tempura is not gluten free.
Unagi or Eel
Although the eel itself is gluten free, but the bbq sauce that is added to the eel for the flavor is not gluten free.
Anything “Tempura” is not gluten free. Tempura is Japanese flour, so anything tempuraed is floured, battered and deep fried. Since flour is not gluten free anything you ordered that is tempuraed is not gluten free.
Kani or imitation crab
All imitation crab has crab, fish, soy, wheat and other ingredients, since soy and wheat is not gluten free all imitation crab or kani crab is not gluten free (sorry California Roll lovers, they are not gluten free).
The Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is not gluten free since it is a naturally fermented sauce made from soy and wheat. There is a gluten free alternative to soy sauce which is Tamari. Tamari is a fermented sauce made with soy and without any wheat.
Since most sauces are made from various ingredients and that the sauces are most likely a restaurant secret it would be wise to stay away from them since most of them will have an ingredient in it that is not gluten free.
The Spicy Rolls
Spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy crab and the likes are a bit tricky, since most spicy rolls have crunch mixed into them (tempura flakes) they are not gluten free, but the other ingredients are since they are just the main ingredient and spicy mayo. Although depending on the preparation of the spicy mayo, Japanese mayo on its own is gluten free, but some of the spices added might not be. If you have a severe reactions to gluten you should stay away, but most people can ask for the rolls to be made without crunch and they should be ok.