Are sushi rolls gluten-free?

Quick Answer

Most sushi rolls are gluten-free, but some varieties may contain gluten. Plain sushi rolls made with fish, vegetables, and rice are gluten-free. Rolls with added sauces, fried elements, or imitation crab may contain gluten. Always check with the restaurant about ingredients if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For most people, gluten poses no health concerns. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine.

People Who Need to Avoid Gluten

About 1% of the population has celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disorder. Consuming gluten causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, fatigue, and anemia. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity affects about 6% of people. They experience gastrointestinal and extraintestinal symptoms when eating gluten but do not have the intestinal damage seen in celiac disease. Avoiding gluten improves their symptoms.

People with wheat allergies must also avoid gluten. Since a wheat allergy differs from celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, some people can tolerate barley and rye.

Gluten-Free Sushi Ingredients

Sushi is often naturally gluten-free. Traditional sushi rolls contain:

  • Raw fish like tuna, salmon, yellowtail, eel, snapper, or octopus
  • Rice
  • Seaweed wraps like nori
  • Vegetables such as cucumber, avocado, carrot, and scallion
  • Pickled ginger
  • Wasabi
  • Soy sauce

None of these core sushi ingredients contains gluten. Here’s an overview of the common gluten-free sushi components:


All raw fish and shellfish used in sushi are naturally gluten-free. There is no wheat, barley, or rye in fresh cuts of fish. Watch out for imitation crab meat, which may contain gluten.


Rice is a gluten-free grain, so sushi rice made of just rice, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt is gluten-free. Some restaurants may add barley to their rice for a different texture and flavor. Be sure to ask about barley if you need to avoid gluten.


Nori seaweed sheets used to wrap sushi are simply dried seaweed and do not contain any gluten.


All fresh vegetables lack gluten. Common gluten-free sushi vegetables include cucumber, avocado, carrot, sprouts, scallion, mushrooms, radish, and asparagus.

Ginger and Wasabi

The pickled ginger served alongside sushi contains ginger pickled in vinegar, salt, and sugar. Fresh wasabi root grated into a paste is gluten-free.

Soy Sauce

Traditional soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and wheat. However, gluten-free tamari is a popular substitute. It’s made from soybeans only with little or no wheat. Always verify your restaurant uses gluten-free tamari or soy sauce.

Potential Sources of Gluten in Sushi

While gluten-free sushi ingredients are commonplace, certain additions and preparations introduce gluten. Watch out for:


Sushi dipping sauces and drizzles often contain wheat. These include:

  • Eel sauce
  • Spicy mayo
  • Aiolis
  • Ponzu sauce

Verify thesesauces are gluten-free by asking about ingredients.


Tempura batter used to fry sushi ingredients typically contains wheat flour. Sushi rolls with fried shrimp, vegetables, or other components are not gluten-free.

Breads and Grains

Some sushi rolls incorporate breadcrumbs or glutenous grains:

  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Rice flour
  • Couscous
  • Crab sticks made with wheat

Avoid sushi rolls containing these ingredients if you need to eat gluten-free.

Thickening Agents

Many sushi restaurants use cornstarch to thicken sauces. Verify no wheat flour is used to prevent exposure to gluten.


Even gluten-free ingredients can pick up traces of gluten during preparation and serving. Cross-contamination is a concern, especially at sushi buffets with shared serving utensils.

Gluten-Free Sushi Options

You have plenty of gluten-free choices when ordering sushi. Select rolls featuring:

  • Raw fish
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Rice
  • Nori
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Carrot
  • Gluten-free sauces

Avoid tempura battering and rolls with croutons, couscous, noodles, or imitation crab. Here are some tasty gluten-free sushi roll ideas:

Tekka Maki

This simple sushi roll contains fresh tuna and rice wrapped in nori. The raw tuna and rice are naturally gluten-free.

Kappa Maki

Cucumber maki rolls feature cucumber and rice wrapped in seaweed. It’s a light and refreshing gluten-free choice.

Salmon Avocado Roll

Fresh salmon and avocado paired with rice and nori make a creamy, gluten-free roll.

Shiitake Maki

For a vegetarian option, try sushi rolls filled with shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, and scallions.

Spicy Tuna Roll

This popular roll combines raw tuna, cucumber, and rice with spicy sauce or masago. Verify the sauce is gluten-free.

Shrimp Tempura Roll

Skipping the fried tempura batter, shrimp tempura rolls with avocado, cucumber, and rice can be modified to be gluten-free.

Is Sushi Safe for People with Celiac Disease?

People with celiac disease must avoid any exposure to gluten. While sushi made from gluten-free ingredients is safe, cross-contamination poses a high risk. Traces of gluten can transfer from cutting boards, utensils, and hands to sushi.

According to a study in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 16% of restaurant soy sauces sampled contained gluten even when labeled gluten-free. Over 20% of gluten-free labeled restaurant foods contained some gluten.

So while the ingredients may be gluten-free, the preparation methods in restaurants may introduce gluten. People with celiac disease are best avoiding sushi from restaurants unless they are certified gluten-free or have dedicated prep areas.

Making gluten-free sushi at home is the safest option for people with celiac disease. That way, you can control all the ingredients and prevent cross-contamination.

Finding Gluten-Free Sushi

Here are some tips for finding safe gluten-free sushi:

  • Check restaurant menus online for gluten-free options and sushi ingredients.
  • Stick to sashimi (plain sliced raw fish) if highly sensitive to gluten.
  • Choose vegan sushi rolls with veggies and rice only.
  • Look for restaurants with gluten-free soy sauce and gluten-free certification.
  • Tell servers you have celiac disease and ask about prep methods.
  • Avoid sushi buffets where cross-contamination is common.

Higher end sushi restaurants tend to offer more gluten-free dishes and be better trained on food allergies. Getting to know the chef and manager helps ensure they take precautions for gluten-free meals.

Many grocery stores sell packaged sushi rolls, sashimi, and sushi plates. Read ingredient labels closely and look for brands marked gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Sushi Recipes

For people with celiac disease, making sushi at home is the surest way to avoid gluten. Here are some delicious gluten-free sushi recipes to try:

Cucumber Avocado Sushi Rolls

Combine fresh cucumber, avocado, carrots, scallions, and rice. Wrap in nori sheets with pickled ginger and tamari for dipping.

Garlicky Shrimp Sushi Rolls

Marinate cooked shrimp in garlic, lime juice, sesame oil, chili flakes, and tamari. Fill nori rolls with shrimp, cucumber, avocado, and rice.

Spicy Tuna Sushi Bowls

Top rice bowls with raw tuna, cucumber, avocado, and Sriracha. Drizzle with gluten-free eel sauce.

Baked Salmon Sushi Bake

Layer rice, salmon, avocado, and nori in a baking dish. Bake until warmed through for a sushi bake entree.

Shiitake Mushroom Sushi

Saute shiitake mushrooms in sesame oil and tamari. Fill nori rolls with mushroom mix, cucumbers, scallions, and rice.

Tempura Vegetable Sushi

Lightly fry vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and asparagus in cornstarch and rice flour. Add veggies to rolls for crunch.

Storing and Serving Gluten-Free Sushi

Follow these tips for storing and serving gluten-free sushi:

  • Keep raw fish extremely cold at under 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Seal sushi rolls tightly in plastic wrap.
  • Store sushi for no more than 2 days in the refrigerator.
  • When serving, provide tamari instead of regular soy sauce.
  • Offer pickled ginger, wasabi, and gluten-free dipping sauces.
  • Clean prep areas, plates, and utensils to prevent cross-contamination.

Properly storing sushi helps maintain quality and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use separate platters, utensils, and sauces to serve gluten-free sushi.

The Bottom Line

Most sushi rolls are naturally gluten-free, containing fish, rice, vegetables, and nori seaweed. But specialty rolls with sauces, fried elements, and batter may contain gluten. Check ingredients, consider cross-contamination, and verify gluten-free status when dining out.

Making sushi at home lets you control all the ingredients. With some care, people with celiac disease and gluten intolerances can enjoy delicious gluten-free sushi.

Gluten-Free Sushi Rolls Potentially Unsafe Sushi Rolls
Tekka maki (tuna) Tempura rolls
Kappa maki (cucumber) Panko breaded rolls
Avocado rolls Rolls with croutons
Salmon rolls Rolls with spicy mayo
Shiitake veggie rolls Rolls with eel sauce
Asparagus rolls Imitation crab rolls
Tamago (egg) rolls Crispy shrimp rolls

Leave a Comment