Does Mongolian BBQ have gluten free?

Mongolian barbecue, sometimes known as Mongolian grill, is a style of stir fry where diners select ingredients and sauces that are then prepared on a large circular grill. The concept originated in Taiwan in the 1970s and eventually spread around the world. For those with dietary restrictions like gluten intolerance, Mongolian BBQ can be a great option since you can customize your bowl. But navigating the ingredients and preparation methods requires awareness.

What is Mongolian BBQ?

Mongolian barbecue consists of diners filling bowls with ingredients like thinly sliced meat, vegetables, noodles and sauces at a buffet-style station. The filled bowls are then given to grill chefs who cook the customized meals on a large round grill.

The grill is typically made of cast iron and looks like an upside-down wok. It has a dome shape to allow even heating. The grill chefs use long wooden sticks to stir fry and combine all the ingredients together while preventing them from falling through the grill’s grooves. The end result is a tasty customized stir-fry dish.

Is Mongolian BBQ naturally gluten free?

Many of the base ingredients offered at Mongolian barbecue restaurants are naturally gluten-free, including:

– Meats like beef, chicken, pork and seafood
– Vegetables like onions, broccoli, carrots and bell peppers
– Rice

However, Mongolian BBQ is not automatically or entirely gluten-free. Some locations use pre-marinated meats, sauces and noodles that contain gluten or soy sauce made from wheat. Cross-contamination is also a risk in the common buffet-style environment.

So while Mongolian BBQ can be gluten-free, diners need to carefully choose ingredients and request special preparation to ensure no contamination occurs.

Tips for ordering gluten-free at Mongolian BBQ

Here are some tips for ordering gluten-free at a Mongolian barbecue restaurant:

– Review the ingredient list ahead of time and ask about pre-marinated items. Many restaurants post lists online or you can ask at the counter.

– Choose plain, unmarinated proteins like raw meat, poultry and fish. Request these to be cooked separately from marinated items if possible.

– Double check which sauces are GF. Many have soy sauce, but some may offer substitutes like tamari.

– Avoid wheat noodles and opt for rice noodles or no noodles.

– Request no soy sauce when giving your bowl to the chef. Verify if they have a dedicated GF wok or cleaning process.

– Ask about ingredients like sesame oil, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce which may contain gluten.

– Look for gluten-free callouts on menu items or labels noting “GF” by certain entrees.

– Notify the staff about your gluten allergy each time to minimize cross-contamination.

Gluten-free Mongolian BBQ bowl building

Focus your gluten-free Mongolian BBQ bowl around these tasty core ingredients:


– Beef – Flank steak, sirloin or filet mignon
– Chicken – Boneless skinless breasts or thighs
– Pork – Boneless ribs, loin or shoulder
– Shrimp
– Scallops
– Firm fish like salmon or tuna


– Broccoli
– Carrots
– Bell peppers
– Snap peas
– Water chestnuts
– Bean sprouts
– Cabbage
– Spinach
– Mushrooms


– Tamari or coconut aminos
– Sesame oil
– Rice vinegar
– Chili paste or chili oil
– Hot mustard
– Ginger sauce
– Garlic sauce


– Scallions
– Toasted sesame seeds
– Crushed red pepper flakes
– Fresh lime juice
– Fresh cilantro


– Brown rice
– Rice noodles
– Bean thread noodles
– Zucchini noodles

Follow basic stir-fry techniques for quick cooking over high heat. The grated grooves on the grill allow excess moisture to drain away, keeping ingredients from getting soggy.

Aim for lots of contrasting flavors, textures and colors in your bowl for maximum enjoyment. And don’t be shy about sending it back for a fresh batch if contamination occurs.

Gluten-free sauces to look for

Many Mongolian BBQ restaurants now offer gluten-free soy sauce alternatives to accommodate diners. Some good options include:

– Tamari – This traditional Japanese sauce is made with little or no wheat. Double check as some tamari contains a small amount of barley for color.

– Coconut aminos – Derived from coconut tree sap, this sauce mimics the flavor of soy sauce without any gluten.

– Fish sauce – Made from fermented anchovies, this Thai condiment packs an umami punch.

– Chili oil – Infused with dried chilies, this oil can provide heat without gluten.

– Sesame oil – With its rich, nutty aroma this oil makes a tasty gluten-free addition.

– Rice vinegar – Distilled from rice, this mild vinegar brightens dishes.

– Hoisin sauce – Some GF versions are made with tamari instead of wheat-based soy sauce.

Always confirm with the restaurant directly to see what sauces they have that are guaranteed gluten-free. They may also allow you to bring your own specialty sauce.

Cross-contamination risks

While Mongolian BBQ ingredients may be naturally gluten-free, cross-contamination is a big risk due to the interactive format. Here are some hazards to keep in mind:

– Shared utensils at buffet station – Tongs, ladles and spoons may pick up traces of gluten from other diners.

– Grill surface – If not properly cleaned, gluten residue can remain on the flat grill top.

– Reused marinades or sauces – Marinades with soy sauce that aren’t changed may contaminate subsequent dishes.

– Airborne particles – Flour-dusted proteins sizzling on the grill can release airborne gluten.

– Double dipping – Diners using the same serving spoon for multiple sauces.

– Shared woks or pans – Without diligent washing between uses, shared cookware can spread gluten.

– Uninformed staff – Servers and chefs need proper training on gluten-free prep and avoiding cross-contact.

Being vigilant about these risks and coordinating closely with staff is key for a safe Mongolian barbecue experience.

Common allergen warning signs

Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should watch for these warning signs during or after eating Mongolian barbecue:

– Tingling or numbness in the fingers, toes or lips
– Itchy skin, rash or hives
– Digestive problems like gas, cramping, diarrhea or constipation
– Headache, fatigue or “brain fog”
– Joint pain
– Nasal congestion and sneezing

Delayed reactions to gluten exposure may take a day or two to arise. Keeping a food journal is helpful to pinpoint problem ingredients.

If you experience any concerning symptoms, follow up with your doctor and dietitian to review what you ate. Allergic reactions can worsen with repeated exposure.

Helpful resources

These resources can help you navigate Mongolian barbecue and other dining choices while avoiding gluten:

– Find Me Gluten Free app – Crowdsourced listings of gluten-free restaurant menu items.

– Gluten Intolerance Group – Certification program for gluten-free restaurants. Search for accredited eateries.

– AllergyEats app – User reviews highlight allergy-friendly restaurants.

– Allergy Chefs Association – Nonprofit that trains and certifies food service workers on allergen safety.

– Triumph Dining – Offers gluten-free restaurant cards in 82 languages to aid communication.

– – Database of gluten-free foods, drug listings, articles and support services.

– – Advocacy group with educational resources on living gluten-free.

Talking to restaurant staff

Clear communication with restaurant managers and servers is vital for gluten-free diners. Here are some tips for getting your needs met:

– Call ahead to ask about their gluten-free menu, ingredients and prep process.

– Explain that you have celiac disease or a serious gluten allergy, not a preference.

– Ask specifically if they have designated gluten-free areas, equipment and procedures.

– Politely request any sauces, sides or garnishes be left off your dish if unsure.

– Thank managers and chefs for accommodating your needs. Feedback encourages better practices.

– Tip generously when staff pays close attention to avoiding cross-contact.

– Follow up if you have a reaction. They’ll want to know if protocols weren’t properly followed.

– Provide feedback on what they do well and any areas of possible improvement.

– Ask for a chef’s card to call ahead before returning to verify policies are still in place.

Travel considerations

Those adhering to a gluten-free diet need to take special care when traveling. Here are some tips for staying safe:

– Research restaurant options thoroughly and call ahead to verify gluten-free offerings.

– Download language translation cards or apps if visiting non English-speaking regions.

– Pack snacks, treats and a few basic gluten-free pantry items.

– Check with lodging on availability of gluten-free breakfast items and room service.

– Inquire about preparing any complimentary foods provided, like fruit plates.

– If renting an apartment or house, shop and cook your own meals as much as possible.

– Learn the food allergy terms in the native language.

– Carry a medical letter from your doctor explaining your condition and diet.

– Have emergency contact details on hand for local pharmacies or clinics, if needed.

– Alert servers as soon as you sit down to avoid mishaps – don’t wait until after ordering.

– Request allergy protocols and ingredient lists up front. Call the restaurant ahead of time if you have concerns.

Gluten-free comfort foods

Having to omit beloved comfort foods containing gluten can be a major adjustment when newly diagnosed with celiac disease or NCGS. Here are some satisfying gluten-free swaps:

– Mac and cheese – Made with GF pasta and thickened with rice flour or cornstarch.

– Pizza – OPT for GF crust with allowed toppings. Or make pizza “crust” with potato slices.

– Burgers or sandwich bread – Substitute with lettuce wraps, GF buns or bread.

– Pancakes and waffles – Make from GF oat, rice or quinoa flour.

– Muffins and baked goods – Replace wheat flour with a combo of GF flours.

– Chicken fingers or nuggets – Use GF breadcrumbs or panko-style crumbs to coat.

– Pasta – Swap traditional noodles for bean, quinoa, rice or lentil pasta.

– Beer – Sorghum, rice or corn provide the base for many GF brews.

– Cookies, donuts, pie crusts – GF all-purpose flour makes these doable.

With some substitutions and creativity, you can still enjoy all your beloved comfort foods after going gluten-free. Supportive family and friends willing to accommodate your diet can also help the transition.

Kid-friendly gluten-free dining

Helping kids stick to a gluten-free diet requires some extra planning and diligence. Here are some tips for stress-free dining out:

– Let kids pick “treat” restaurants as incentive to follow the diet.

– Call ahead and explain it’s for a child with allergies – staff may take extra care.

– Explain menu choices in a positive way so kids don’t feel deprived.

– Order a meal for the gluten-free child first to minimize cross-contact.

– Request food be prepared in a clean area and cooked in fresh oil.

– For young kids, pack familiar GF snacks or a backup meal.

– Teach kids to politely ask servers questions themselves about ingredients.

– Have kids help research safe menu items in advance to get them involved.

– Encourage questions and let kids role play restaurant scenarios at home.

– Try to dine early or late to avoid frenzied meal rushes which can lead to mix-ups.

With patience and understanding, dining out can still be an enjoyable experience for gluten-free kids as well as parents. It may take some extra work, but fosters independence and advocacy skills.

Supporting partners or family with gluten intolerance

If your partner, child or family member follows a gluten-free diet, support them by:

– Going GF yourself in solidarity or at least having GF items on hand for their meals.

– Getting familiar with GF flours, cooking techniques and substitutions.

– Having your home kitchen designated as GF, including appliances, tools, dishes etc.

– Doing research on gluten-free restaurant options wherever you travel.

– Speaking up on their behalf if you spot an issue with meal orders.

– Calling ahead to holiday hosts or relatives to arrange for GF items.

– Pointing out “gluten-free” designations on packaging or menus.

– Avoiding bringing gluten-based goodies into the home out of respect.

– Suggesting group activities focused more on experiences than food.

– Being patient and flexible when spontaneous dining is trickier.

– Tuning into the emotional aspects – feeling left out can be tough.

Showing you care by accommodating the restrictions of those with gluten issues is key. With planning and teamwork, a gluten-free lifestyle is very manageable.

Increasing awareness and inclusivity

While gluten-free dining has made big strides, there’s still room for increased awareness and inclusivity. Having celiac disease or gluten intolerance shouldn’t mean feeling excluded. We can create change by:

– Advocating for clearer food labeling and allergen training in restaurants. Get involved with celiac foundations that lobby for these causes.

– Praising restaurants that promote gluten-free practices and inclusivity. Conversely, provide feedback to those falling short.

– Educating friends and family on the seriousness of gluten exposure for those affected, so they’ll understand what accommodations are truly needed.

– Getting involved with support groups to share experiences and feel less alone. Groups also have a stronger voice.

– Calling on school administrators to implement training on food allergies and safe protocols.

– Volunteering with organizations that provide gluten-free food to people in need.

– Supporting tax incentives for restaurants offering gluten-free menu items and training.

– Sharing positive stories of those living well gluten-free thanks to support from their community, schools, workplaces and healthcare providers. This motivates and educates others.

Progress takes time but the gluten-free community has an important voice that’s getting louder and clearer. By joining together, we can create a safer, more inclusive world.


Despite some inherent challenges, dining out gluten-free at Mongolian barbecue and other restaurants is very achievable. By arming yourself with knowledge of ingredients and risks, asking questions and communicating clearly with staff, you can enjoy safe, delicious meals.

Being informed on menu options, advocating respectfully for your needs and providing feedback can raise awareness. And supporting one another bolsters the entire gluten-free community. By joining together, we can make dining out an easier, more enjoyable experience for all.

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