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Is There Gluten in Teriyaki?

By Andrea Cespedes ; Updated August 14, 2017

Teriyaki refers to both a sauce and a cooking style that hails from Japan. The sauce traditionally contains soy sauce, sake, sugar, ginger and seasonings. Foods cooked “teriyaki” style are coated with this sauce. You can make chicken, tofu, beef or seafood teriyaki -- but all contain gluten from the wheat in the soy sauce.

Significance

If you have the autoimmune condition celiac disease, consuming even trace amounts of wheat, barley or rye can trigger your body to attack the villi in your small intestine. The results are symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, gas, skin rashes, tingling and weakness. Over time, celiac disease can lead to malnutrition and possibly cancer, osteoporosis and other autoimmune conditions. Some people not diagnosed with celiac disease still experience digestive distress after consuming gluten. This condition, known as gluten intolerance, may not cause permanent damage to the intestine but can still be very uncomfortable. The only way to deal with either condition is to completely avoid any food containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

Teriyaki and Gluten

Teriyaki contains soy sauce, which is traditionally made from fermented soybeans and wheat. Any food containing trace amounts of wheat also contains gluten. Soy sauce may also be made from a derivative of barley, which also contains gluten, or rice, which is gluten-free. Unless a soy sauce specifies that it is certified gluten-free, you must assume that it contains gluten, to be safe.

Alternatives

You can make teriyaki sauce with tamari, which is similar to soy sauce but often contains no wheat. If you purchase tamari, make sure it is labeled “gluten-free” as some brands may contain small amounts of wheat. Because tamari contains a higher concentration of soybeans, its flavor is more intense.

Gluten-Free Recipe

For gluten-free teriyaki, combine gluten-free tamari with water, brown sugar, chopped garlic cloves and a pinch of dry ginger. Marinade meat, vegetables or firm tofu in the sauce and then sauté, grill or pan-fry. Serve teriyaki with steamed rice to soak up the flavor of the sauce.

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