Does stir-fry sauce contain gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, headaches, depression, and anemia. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet, which means avoiding foods and products containing gluten.

Stir-fry sauces typically contain soy sauce, which is commonly made from wheat. However, there are gluten-free stir-fry sauces available made without soy sauce or wheat. It’s important for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to read labels carefully to ensure the stir-fry sauce they are using does not contain gluten.

Common Sources of Gluten in Stir-Fry Sauce

The most common sources of gluten in stir-fry sauces are:

– Soy sauce – Most soy sauce contains wheat. Tamari is a gluten-free alternative made from soybeans and water without wheat.

– Oyster sauce – Oyster sauce is commonly thickened with wheat flour.

– Teriyaki sauce – Teriyaki sauce often contains soy sauce, mirin (Cooking wine) and sugars. These are sometimes thickened with wheat-based ingredients.

– Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) – HVP enhances flavor in sauces but can be derived from wheat or soy.

– Maltodextrin – This is an additive derived from corn, wheat or potato starch. The wheat source contains gluten.

– Flavorings – Added flavorings like caramel color or natural flavors may use gluten-based ingredients.

– Thickeners – Cornstarch or arrowroot are gluten-free thickeners. Flour, wheat starch or msg contain gluten.

Reading Labels

When selecting a stir-fry sauce, it’s essential to read the label carefully to look for any of these gluten sources. Key things to look for:

– Check if soy sauce is used, and that it specifies gluten-free tamari soy sauce.

– Review the ingredients for wheat, barley, rye, oats or malt – these indicate gluten.

– Look for thickeners like wheat starch, wheat flour or msg which contain gluten.

– Ensure there are no flavorings or additives listing wheat, barley or rye.

– Check for certification labels like “gluten-free” or symbols showing the product is tested to below 20ppm of gluten. This indicates a very low level of gluten.

– Call the manufacturer if you have any concerns about ingredients containing hidden sources of gluten like flavorings.

Gluten-Free Brands of Stir-Fry Sauce

There are many brands of stir-fry sauce that are labeled gluten-free:

Brand Sauce Types
La Choy Gluten-Free Stir Fry Sauce, Sweet & Sour Sauce
Annie Chun’s Gluten-Free Sauce Packets for Rice & Noodle Bowls
Dragonfly Foods Gluten-Free Stir Fry Sauce
Lee Kum Kee Gluten-Free Soy Sauce, Oyster Flavored Sauce
San-J Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce
Kikkoman Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
Chung Jung One Sweet Chili Sauce, Hot Pepper Paste

Be sure to double check the label each time you purchase, as recipes can change. Asian grocery stores also stock many imported naturally gluten-free stir-fry sauces and pastes.

Making Your Own Gluten-Free Stir-Fry Sauce

For full control over ingredients, you can make your own gluten-free stir-fry sauce at home. Here are some basic recipes to get you started:

Basic Gluten-Free Stir-Fry Sauce

– 1⁄4 cup gluten-free tamari soy sauce
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1⁄2 teaspoon sesame oil
– 1 teaspoon cornstarch + 2 tablespoons cold water (Mix together into slurry)

1. In small bowl, combine soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger and sesame oil.
2. In pan, add slurry and sauce ingredients. Whisk together over medium heat until thickened.
3. Use sauce to toss with stir-fry meat and veggies.

Orange Gluten-Free Stir-Fry Sauce

– Zest and juice from 1 orange
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
– 1 teaspoon sesame oil
– 1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– 1 teaspoon cornstarch + 2 tablespoons cold water (Mix together into slurry)

1. In small bowl, combine orange zest and juice, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and red pepper flakes.
2. In pan, add slurry and sauce ingredients. Whisk together over medium heat until thickened.
3. Use sauce to toss with stir-fry meat and veggies.

Tips for Cooking Gluten-Free Stir-Fry

Follow these tips for preparing gluten-free stir-fry meals:

– Choose naturally gluten-free whole foods like lean meat, fish, veggies, rice noodles or quinoa instead of wheat noodles.

– Check that condiments like chili garlic sauce are gluten-free.

– Use oils like sesame, peanut or avocado oil instead of soybean oil (which can be cross-contaminated).

– Cook in a skillet or wok thoroughly cleaned from wheat-based dishes. Better yet – use pans dedicated just to gluten-free cooking.

– Prevent cross-contact by preparing gluten-free ingredients first before wheat ones.

– Use fresh produce and naturally gluten-free whole foods whenever possible.

With the right gluten-free stir-fry sauce and ingredients, you can enjoy fresh, flavorful stir-fry meals. Carefully choosing sauces, reading labels and preparing your own sauce allows you to control what goes into your food. This ensures the final dish will be safe for a gluten-free diet.


Many pre-made stir-fry sauces contain soy sauce, often made with wheat. This makes most stir-fry sauces unsafe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. However, there are gluten-free labeled brands available which substitute tamari soy sauce. With careful label reading and using dedicated gluten-free pans, stir-fries can be prepared safely. For full control, make your own simple sauce using gluten-free ingredients. This allows you to customize flavors while avoiding hidden sources of gluten. With the right precautions and sauce recipes, you can enjoy delicious gluten-free stir-fry meals.

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