Is Soy Sauce Gluten Free?

Eating gluten-free is a lifestyle choice for some people while for others it may be necessitated out of a medical condition. Individuals who do decide to eat gluten free need to be very careful when purchasing their groceries that there is absolutely no wheat content in the products. Our concern here today is to see if soy sauce is gluten free or not. But first a word about what gluten free is.

Gluten is a protein that is found in grains like wheat, barley and rye and has been observed to cause digestive discomfort in people with gluten intolerance. Additionally, gluten can severely aggravate symptoms for celiac disease sufferers, who have an autoimmune disorder in which hypersensitivity to gluten can cause damage to the absorptive surface of the small intestine. As a result, celiac patients are not able to absorb essential nutrients from food and need to keep their diet completely free of gluten based foods or any other byproducts. 

  • What does gluten-free mean?

While there are many foods that openly contain gluten, certain others are suspected of having gluten content in them. To see if soy sauce is gluten free here is a look at some of the facts.

  • Is soy sauce gluten free?

Soy sauce is one of the world’s oldest condiments and has been in use for many years. Traditionally it is prepared by fermenting a mixture of mashed soybeans, salt, wheat and water. The wheat is primarily used in soy sauce in equal parts with the soybeans and is pulverized to give it taste and consistency.

Despite its name, almost all varieties of soy sauce contain wheat. More often than not, it is listed as the very first ingredient on the bottle. This makes placing takeout orders a risk for individuals with gluten sensitivities.

Is Soy Sauce Gluten Free? A white plate full of gluten free soy sauce.

However, for individuals on a gluten-free diet, it is important to note that soy sauce that has not been labeled gluten free will likely contain wheat content. Others may contain barley which still has gluten in it. In many non-brewed varieties, the inclusion of wheat has now been removed. 

While traditionally brewed soy sauce may contain wheat content there are some well-known brands that certify their products as gluten free. Brand names like Kikkoman have a gluten free version of soy sauce that offers the same rich, savory taste as their regular soy sauce. It is brewed with four basic ingredients including soybeans, water, salt and rice and replaces wheat content by using rice instead.

Even with some of the traditionally brewed sauces, it appears that the gluten content seems to be no longer present in the final products, technically rendering it as a gluten free soy sauce. This is done by the process of fermentation that breaks down the complex proteins including gluten into smaller components. However, while these sauces may not bother individuals with gluten intolerances, celiac patients should only opt for certified gluten free soy sauces like Kikkoman.

  • Are there any substitutes to soy sauce?

One type of sauce that is closely related to soy sauce and can often be substituted for soy sauce in recipes is called tamari sauce. In fact, recipes that have been tailored for gluten free eating will often use tamari sauce in place of soy sauce and others that are regular recipes will call for tamari sauce as a substitute for soy sauce to make the recipe gluten free.

When looking at the similarities between the two sauces, it is true that both are by-products of fermented soy beans. However, the principle difference between the two is the presence (or absence) of wheat. Tamari sauce uses no or very little wheat making it an ideal substitute for soy sauce that is gluten free. 

Other differences between the two products come from their place of origin. For instance, soy sauce and its various types are found widely throughout Asia but tamari is uniquely Japanese in origin. In terms of flavor, tamari boasts a richer flavor and darker color than the more widely used Chinese soy sauce. Tamari sauce also offers a more balanced flavor and is significantly less salty.

  • Soy sauce brands that are also gluten free

  1. Along with its regular gluten free versions, Kikkoman also offers a naturally brewed tamari gluten free soy sauce.
  2. Another brand known as San-J offers a variety of gluten-free products. There is a regular as well as an organic tamari-style soy sauce available for people with gluten intolerances. In addition, you can also find reduced sodium soy sauces. No gluten based alcohols are used in these sauces.
  3. Eden Food offers two separate tamari-style soy sauces that are made from soybeans, water, grain alcohol, koji and sea salt. The grain alcohol in the products is sourced from rice and corn and not wheat.

 

  1. Kari-Out markets potable, carry out pouches of condiments that offer some gluten free options. Available as gluten free soy sauce packets, Kari-Out products can be purchased in bulk.
  2. Another brand that offers gluten free sauces is Little Soya. Their Little Soya Soy Sauce packets are packed as individual servings and available in gluten free options. The company itself is also non-GMO and in the process of getting its non-GMO certification.
  3. Another gluten free soy sauce is an option is offered by Wan Ja Shan, a company based in Taiwan. Their regular and low sodium versions of tamari sauce use soybean, water, salt and vinegar to prepare the sauce. However, products are advertised as wheat free and not necessarily gluten free, so there might be some possibility of cross contamination here. Products may be suitable for those with wheat intolerances but not for celiac patients.
  4. Another product often listed as gluten free is La Choy Soy Sauce. But there has been a bit of conflict regarding its authenticity as pure gluten free. Available as a soy sauce, the product appears gluten free based on its ingredient list, but multiple reports of people reacting to it have been recorded.

Soy sauce brands that are also gluten free, four spoons with soy sauce on a pink plate.

Image Credits

Images used on creative commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Image One By Matt MacGivvary – https://www.flickr.com/photos/qmnonic/3491983196/

Image Two by Jaysin Trevino – https://www.flickr.com/photos/orijinal/3540235514/

Image Three by Anders Sandberg – https://www.flickr.com/photos/arenamontanus/3212652305/

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