Is Soy Sauce Gluten Free? Everything You Need to Know

Pouring Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a popular condiment used in various cuisines around the world. However, if you follow a gluten-free diet or have gluten intolerance, you may wonder if soy sauce is safe to consume. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of soy sauce and explore its connection to gluten. We’ll also provide tips on choosing gluten-free soy sauce and offer alternative options to suit your dietary needs.

What is Gluten and Why Does it Matter?

Gluten has become a major point of discussion and concern for many people in recent years. But what exactly is it, and why does it matter? Gluten is a type of protein found in certain cereal grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with gluten sensitivities, adhering to a strict gluten-free diet is the only way to manage symptoms and prevent further complications. That’s why it’s important to understand what gluten is and where it may be lurking.

What Does “Gluten” Mean?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It helps foods maintain their shape and texture, but it can cause serious health issues for some. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, eating gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. Even small amounts of gluten in foods can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue.

Around 1 in 100 people worldwide have celiac disease, and 6-10% are estimated to have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This means reading ingredient labels carefully and knowing exactly what’s in your food is crucial. Which leads us to the question – is soy sauce gluten free?

Where Gluten Hides in Foods and Sauces?

Many people think gluten is only found in breads, pastas and baked goods. But it can actually be lurking in all kinds of foods, even ones that you wouldn’t expect. Soy sauce is a prime example. Although soybeans themselves are naturally gluten-free, soy sauce often contains wheat. Gluten can also be found in salad dressings, soups, broths, sauces, seasonings, beers, vitamins and lip balms. It’s important for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to closely inspect ingredient labels, as gluten can pop up in the most unlikely of places.

Signs You May Be Sensitive to Gluten

If you experience abdominal discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or other digestive issues after eating foods with gluten, it may be a sign you have an allergy. Headaches, fatigue, joint pain, tingling in hands and feet, brain fog and skin rashes after consuming gluten could also indicate a problem. If you think you may be gluten intolerant, it’s important to get tested by a doctor, as continued exposure to gluten can cause long-term damage to your small intestine. They can run blood tests and do a biopsy of your intestine to confirm a root cause.

Why Regular Soy Sauce Often Contains Gluten?

The reason most soy sauce varieties are not gluten free is because they’re made with wheat (wheat-based soy sauce). To get the rich, savory flavor of soy sauce, wheat is fermented alongside soy. In this process, the soy protein and amino acid allow for ideal texture and taste. Tamari soy sauce is traditionally made without wheat, through longer fermentation of soy beans only. However, not all tamari sauces are certified gluten free, so checking labels is still important if avoiding gluten.

soybeans and wheat

Gluten-Free Soy Sauces in the Making: Traditional Techniques for Modern Diets

With the rising demand for gluten-free options, traditional soy sauce producers have developed methods to eliminate wheat from their products and cater to various dietary requirements.

Natural Fermentation: The Key to Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

Traditionally, the Japanese tamari type of soy sauce is made with little or no addition of wheat in the fermentation process. This results in a soy sauce that is naturally gluten-free while still maintaining the rich umami flavor typical of soy sauce. Tamari sauce also undergoes longer fermentation periods, resulting in its distinct thick, dark appearance and uniquely smooth flavor profile. Gluten-free tamari soy sauce is primarily made from soybeans, water, salt, and alcohol, which is used to preserve freshness and prevent the growth of undesired bacteria.

In the case of Chinese soy sauce, gluten-free variants replace wheat with rice or other gluten-free grains in the fermentation process to produce a gluten-free product with a unique flavor profile.

Modern Adaptations: Adjusting Recipes for Gluten-Free Needs

Manufacturers have adjusted traditional fermentation techniques to cater to more people in need of gluten-free alternatives. By replacing wheat with gluten-free grains like rice or millet and tweaking fermentation processes, soy sauce producers can recreate the rich flavorings of soy sauce without gluten content. For example, some soy sauce manufacturers ferment their products for a longer time to break down any residual gluten proteins that may be present in the moromi, resulting in a gluten-free or low-gluten product.

Check for third-party gluten-free certifications like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), NSF International, or the Crossed Grain Symbol to reassure that the soy sauce you are choosing is truly gluten-free and complies with strict gluten-free standards.

Demystifying Myths About Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

When it comes to gluten-free soy sauce and its alternatives, there are often common misconceptions that may cause confusion for those seeking the best options. Let’s clarify some of these myths and misconceptions.

Myth 1: All Tamari is Gluten-Free

Though tamari soy sauce is typically made with minimal or no wheat content, it’s important not to assume that all tamari is gluten-free. Some recipes may contain wheat or barley in smaller proportions, which would make them unsuitable for those with gluten sensitivities. Always check the label and look for a certified gluten-free logo to ensure your tamari is indeed gluten-free.

Myth 2: Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Tastes Inferior to Regular Soy Sauce

While some taste differences may arise due to the use of alternative grains in the production of gluten-free soy sauce, these variations do not compromise the overall quality of the product. Gluten-free soy sauces and alternatives can deliver rich, savory flavors comparable to traditional soy sauce. Experiment with different brands and varieties to find the ones that best suit your taste preferences.

Myth 3: Gluten-Free Soy Sauce is Only for People with Gluten Sensitivities

Gluten-free soy sauce and its alternatives cater primarily to those with gluten sensitivities; however, they can also be suitable options for others who wish to avoid gluten in their diets for personal reasons. Some people find that reducing gluten in their diet can contribute to improved digestion, reduced inflammation, or simply provide more diverse options for a healthier lifestyle.

Soy Sauce on the Shelf
Soy Sauce on the Shelf

How to Choose a Gluten-Free Soy Sauce?

Selecting a truly gluten-free soy sauce requires close inspection of labeling and manufacturing processes. While an ingredient list may not show obvious sources of gluten like wheat, barley, or rye, cross-contamination risks still exist. Soy sauce labeled “gluten-free” can still contain traces of gluten from shared equipment and facilities.

For those with celiac disease, the highest level of certainty comes from choosing soy sauces certified gluten-free by reputable third party organizations like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), NSF Gluten-Free, or Crossed Grain Symbol. These logos mean the soy sauce was produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility and contains less than 10ppm of gluten.

When checking soy sauce labels, look for phrases like “certified gluten-free” or “made in a gluten-free facility”. Contact the manufacturer if the packaging lacks a certification logo or clear language about being gluten-free. Ask detailed questions about their production and testing processes. A company serious about gluten-free standards will be transparent and ready to supply testing documentation.

Types of Soy Sauce to Avoid with Gluten Issues

For those avoiding gluten, it’s important to know which types of soy sauce typically contain wheat, barley or rye. This allows you to make informed choices when cooking Asian dishes, dipping dumplings, or adding flavor to stir-fries.

Chinese Soy Sauce

Nearly all Chinese soy sauces contain wheat and are not gluten free. They’re made by fermenting soybeans and wheat together, which gives Chinese soy sauce its distinctive rich, umami taste and caramel color. The wheat content makes them unsuitable for gluten free diets.

Japanese Soy Sauce

Called shoyu in Japanese, most regular soy sauces made in the Japanese style also contain wheat and barley. This means they’re off limits when avoiding gluten. Japanese tamari soy sauce offers a gluten free alternative.


Although gluten free tamari exists, not all tamari is wheat and gluten free. Some brands add barley or wheat to tamari recipe. Check the label for a certified gluten free seal, or contact the manufacturer if unsure.

Checking Labels for Gluten-Free Certification

Verifying a soy sauce is gluten free involves more than scanning the ingredients list. Soy sauce labeled “gluten free” may still contain traces of gluten due to shared production equipment and facilities. For celiac disease, the highest level of certainty comes from choosing certified gluten free products that are produced in dedicated gluten free facilities. These products will have a certification logo from organizations like GFCO, NSF and Crossed Grain.

More Gluten-Free Substitutes for Soy Sauce

If you need to avoid even traces of gluten, going with a substitute made without soy, wheat or barley may be the best approach. Here are a few options:

More Gluten-Free Substitutes for Soy Sauce If you’re looking for additional gluten-free options beyond soy sauce, there are several great substitutes available. Consider these alternatives:

Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos is a popular gluten-free and soy-free alternative to soy sauce. It is made from fermented coconut sap and offers a subtly sweet and savory flavor.

Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos are derived from soybeans and are often used as a gluten-free replacement for soy sauce. However, it is important to note that some liquid aminos on the market may still contain traces of gluten, so always check the label.

Worcestershire Sauce

While traditional Worcestershire sauce contains gluten, some brands offer gluten-free versions. These alternatives can provide a similar flavor to soy sauce and can be used in various recipes.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce, derived from fermented fish, is another option for adding savory flavor to your dishes. It is naturally gluten-free and can be used as a substitute for soy sauce in certain recipes.

Gluten-Free Soy Sauce From Pearl River Bridge

One recommended brand for gluten and wheat-free soy sauce is Pearl River Bridge. They offer regular and low-sodium gluten-free soy sauces made without wheat, using a double fermentation process of soybeans and water only. Their products are certified gluten free to give celiacs and anyone sensitive confidence in using them.

gluten free soy sauce 8L

When shopping for a gluten-free soy sauce in a grocery store, diligent label reading, contacting manufacturers, and choosing certified products can help identify the best options. For those avoiding gluten, the right soy sauce or tamari makes Asian cooking and other cuisines flavorful and delicious without risking adverse reactions.


When it comes to soy sauce and gluten, it’s crucial to read labels carefully and choose options that are explicitly labeled gluten-free. Regular soy sauce often contains gluten due to the inclusion of wheat in its production process. However, there are several gluten-free soy sauce alternatives available, including tamari and certified gluten-free products. Additionally, coconut aminos, liquid aminos, Worcestershire sauce, and fish sauce can be used as substitutes. Remember to consider cross-contamination risks and adjust your recipes to suit the taste and texture of gluten-free soy sauce. With these tips and alternatives, you can confidently enjoy the flavors of soy sauce while adhering to a gluten-free diet.

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