Most traditional soy sauces are made from soy and wheat or barley and are therefore not gluten-free.
However, because soy sauce is hydrolyzed, gluten proteins may be broken down enough to prevent adverse responses in people who are sensitive to gluten. Research is currently being conducted to establish how hydrolyzed gluten affects the health of celiac patients.
In the meantime, there are soy sauces on the market that are made from tamari or rice, which are gluten-free.
How harmful is soy sauce on a gluten-free diet?
Most soy sauce that is not labeled gluten-free contains wheat. According to FDA regulations, products with gluten-free labels must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm).
Gluten levels in common soy sauces have been tested, and most of the results reveal very low detectable gluten levels. However, this may be due to challenges with testing hydrolyzed solutions using the testing equipment that is currently available.
There is no defined method to detect gluten levels in hydrolyzed goods, making testing in fermented foods challenging. It is still undecided how much protein must be hydrolyzed to avoid unfavorable responses in patients with celiac disease. Gluten peptides may still trigger autoimmune reactions.
If you are sensitive to gluten or have celiac, you may experience effects when consuming soy sauce even in small amounts. Therefore, it is best to opt for certified gluten-free alternatives.
6 gluten-free soy sauce alternatives
- Tamari sauce: Tamari sauce is low in sodium and made up entirely of brewed soybeans with no wheat. You can use it in the same proportions as regular soy sauce.
- Coconut aminos: Coconut aminos have the same umami flavor as soy sauce, except it is made entirely of fermented coconut sap. It has a sweeter flavor and is sodium-free.
- Liquid aminos: Liquid aminos are made from soybean liquid concentrate rather than fermented by-products. It is sweeter and milder than soy sauce but has the same saltiness.
- Worcestershire sauce: Worcestershire sauce is gluten-free because it is made from distilled vinegar, anchovies, spices, salt, tamarind extract, and molasses. It is less salty than soy sauce.
- Miso paste: Made from fermented soybeans, salt, and koji, miso paste is typically used in soups. When diluted with water, it can impart a similar flavor to soy sauce.
- Fish sauce: Made from fermented seafood, mostly krill, fish sauce is saltier than soy sauce and has a stronger odor, so use it sparingly.
How to choose a gluten-free soy sauce
When shopping for gluten-free soy sauce, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The gluten level in naturally fermented soy sauce is 5 parts per million. Chemically processed soy sauce contains more than this, so search for gluten-free certification on the label.
Even if you have been using the same brand for a long time, double-check the ingredient list for wheat, barley, rye, or other ingredients made from these gluten-containing grains.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Make no mistake about it: Wheat-based soy sauce is NOT allowed in foods labeled gluten-free. https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/make-no-mistake-about-it-wheat-based-soy-sauce-is-not-allowed-in-foods-labeled-gluten-free/
Is Soy Gluten-Free? https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/is-it-gluten-free/soy/
Are soy products ok? https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-questions/are-soy-products-ok-to-eat-when-you-have-celiac-disease/
Chemical and Sensory Characteristics of Soy Sauce: A Review. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jafc.0c04274
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