Is Soy Sauce Gluten Free?

Soy sauce is a condiment traditionally used in Asian cuisines to add a salty umami flavor to foods. It is commonly used in sauces, marinades, glazes, dressings, and more, so you might be wondering, is soy sauce gluten free?

Before answering this question, let’s do a quick review on gluten and why it is important to avoid it.  Gluten is often defined as a type of protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other grains. Common foods containing gluten include pasta, bread, baked goods, and beer. 

People with celiac disease and non celiac gluten sensitivity need to avoid gluten in order to prevent inflammatory damage to the intestines and other areas of the body.  What does this have to do with soy sauce?

Soy sauce is traditionally made with wheat, so it does contain gluten. However, some brands market gluten free soy sauces made from soy and rice.. But is any type of soy sauce safe for celiacs and those with non celiac gluten sensitivity? This article will take a closer look.

What is in soy sauce?

Soy sauce is typically produced by fermenting soybeans and wheat. Making soy sauce involves a two-stage fermentation process and requires added fermentation agents, typically Aspergillus Oryzae fungal spores in the first stage and lactic acid bacteria and yeast in the second stage. Soy sauce also contains quite a bit of salt, with about 280 mg of sodium per teaspoon (5 milliliters).

Gluten-free and low sodium varieties of soy sauce are available. The gluten free varieties typically use rice (which can be problematic)  or soy instead of wheat, and the low sodium varieties simply add less salt. The flavor of these options is slightly different from traditional soy sauce. 

Is soy sauce gluten free?

Traditional soy sauce is made with wheat, and is therefore not gluten free. However, many soy sauce manufacturers have recognized the demand for gluten free products and have started to market gluten free soy sauce alongside their traditional soy sauce made with wheat. For example, popular brands San-J and Kikkoman both make gluten free soy sauces. 

While it might seem that these gluten free soy sauces should be safe to eat, the truth is, they are still highly processed, have the potential to be cross contaminated, typically contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and may still cause a reaction and intestinal damage in those with gluten problems. Therefore, we recommend that those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity avoid “gluten free” soy sauces made with rice and soy. 

Gluten free soy sauce options/alternatives

So what can you use to substitute for soy sauce? We love coconut aminos. Similar to soy sauce, coconut aminos is a savory seasoning sauce with a rich flavor. It is made from the fermented sap of coconut palm and sea salt. To make coconut aminos, coconut sap is extracted and is then stored. During this time, it ages and ferments due to the natural sugars present within it. 

While coconut aminos is a similar color and consistency to soy sauce. However, it has a milder, less salty, and sweeter flavor. Even though coconut aminos is made from coconut sap, it does not taste like coconut. Some high quality sources of coconut aminos include:

Ready to give it a try? Here are a few delicious and healthy gluten free recipes using coconut aminos:

Skillet Egg Roll in a Bowl

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp with Sesame Slaw 

Tom Ka Gai- Thai Coconut Soup

Korean Inspired Burgers with Spicy Cucumbers

Steak Fajita Sheet Pan

Skirt Steak Fajita Bowls with Cauliflower Rice

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