Does teriyaki chicken have gluten?

Quick Answer

Teriyaki chicken can contain gluten depending on the ingredients used to make the teriyaki sauce. Many commercial teriyaki sauces contain soy sauce, which is typically made with wheat. However, there are gluten-free teriyaki sauce options made without soy sauce. As long as 100% gluten-free ingredients are used, teriyaki chicken can be prepared gluten-free.

What is Teriyaki Chicken?

Teriyaki chicken is a dish originating from Japan that consists of chicken thighs or breast meat that are marinated in a sweet and savory teriyaki sauce. The chicken is then grilled, broiled, or pan-fried to create a caramelized and lightly charred exterior while keeping the interior juicy and tender.

The teriyaki sauce used to marinate and glaze the chicken is the defining characteristic of the dish. It provides a balance of sweet and umami flavors from its core ingredients – soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and ginger. Additional ingredients like sesame oil, garlic, or chili peppers may also be used.

Teriyaki chicken is a popular appetizer or main dish in many Japanese restaurants around the world. It’s also a quick and easy meal to prepare at home. The saucy chicken pairs well with steamed rice and vegetables.

Gluten in Teriyaki Sauce

The potential source of gluten in teriyaki chicken is the teriyaki sauce. Many commercial varieties of bottled teriyaki sauce contain soy sauce as a primary ingredient. Soy sauce has been traditionally made by fermenting soybeans and wheat. Since wheat contains gluten, most soy sauce contains gluten as well.

Below are some of the most common ingredients found in teriyaki sauce that may contain gluten:

Soy Sauce

As mentioned, soy sauce has typically been produced using wheat along with soybeans. Unless the label indicates the soy sauce is gluten-free, regular soy sauce likely contains gluten.

Starch Thickeners

Cornstarch is commonly used to thicken teriyaki sauce to the desired consistency. However, some recipes may use regular wheat flour or other gluten-containing starches as thickeners.


Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine used to provide flavor and sweetness to teriyaki sauce. Some mirin contains gluten from barley or other grains used to make it. Check that the mirin is labeled gluten-free if following a gluten-free diet.


Teriyaki sauce may also be flavored with additional seasonings containing gluten like malt vinegar or certain broth powders. Carefully checking ingredient lists is necessary when purchasing pre-made teriyaki sauce.

Gluten-Free Teriyaki Sauce

While traditional teriyaki sauce recipes do contain gluten, there are several ways to make gluten-free teriyaki sauce at home:

Use Tamari Instead of Soy Sauce

Tamari is a type of soy sauce made without wheat. Be sure to use genuine tamari and not just gluten-free soy sauce, as some gluten-free soy sauces still contain wheat but with the gluten removed. Tamari will provide the closest flavor to soy sauce.

Substitute Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos have a soy sauce-like flavor. They are made by fermenting the sap from coconut trees. Be aware that the flavor is somewhat different from soy sauce.

Use Gluten-Free Thickeners

Replace regular starch thickeners like flour with cornstarch or arrowroot starch to maintain the right thickness of the sauce. Tapioca starch is another alternative.

Verify Other Ingredients

Check that the mirin, broth powders, vinegar, and other ingredients going into homemade teriyaki sauce are all certified gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Pre-Made Teriyaki Sauces

There are also many pre-made brands of teriyaki sauce that are labeled gluten-free, making it easier to find a gluten-free option. Here are some gluten-free teriyaki sauce brands to look for:

Brand Details
Kikkoman Makes a gluten-free Tamari Soy Sauce that can sub for regular soy sauce in teriyaki
San-J Organic Tamari is wheat-free and certified gluten-free
La Choy Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce is labeled gluten-free
Vermont Village Organic Teriyaki Sauce with apple cider vinegar and ginger
Coconut Secret Teriyaki Sauce made with coconut aminos
Yamasa Gluten Free Soy Sauce is wheat-free
Aloha Shoyu Organic Wheat Free Soy Sauce
Tamari Everyday Gluten-free tamari sauce
Panda Express Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce sold in grocery stores

When buying pre-made teriyaki sauce, always check the ingredients list and look for a gluten-free certification label to confirm the product is gluten-free. Many brands that offer gluten-free soy sauce may also sell gluten-free teriyaki sauce.

Making Gluten-Free Teriyaki Chicken at Home

It’s easy to prepare gluten-free teriyaki chicken at home. Follow this simple recipe:

Gluten-Free Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce

  • 1⁄2 cup gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons honey or brown rice syrup
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

Whisk together all ingredients except cornstarch and water in a small bowl. In separate small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Pour into sauce mixture and whisk to combine.

This will make about 3⁄4 cup teriyaki marinade and sauce.

Gluten-Free Teriyaki Chicken

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 1⁄4 cup teriyaki marinade & sauce (reserve remaining for later)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  • green onions, chopped (optional garnish)

1. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and place in a bowl or ziploc bag. Pour in 1⁄4 cup teriyaki sauce and marinate 30 minutes up to overnight in the fridge.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Drain chicken from marinade anddiscard excess marinade.
3. Add olive oil to hot pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pan in single layer and cook about 5 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through.
4. Pour remaining teriyaki sauce over chicken and toss to coat. Cook 1-2 minutes until sauce thickens and sticks to chicken.
5. Serve over rice garnished with sesame seeds and green onions if desired. Enjoy!

Making teriyaki chicken at home allows you to control all the ingredients. Be sure to read labels and use a gluten-free tamari or soy sauce, mirin, and cornstarch for a homemade gluten-free teriyaki sauce.

Eating Out with Teriyaki Chicken

If you want to enjoy teriyaki chicken from a restaurant, be very careful in checking that all the ingredients are gluten-free. Here are some tips for ordering teriyaki chicken when dining out:

  • Ask if the restaurant has a gluten-free menu or protocol for gluten-free orders
  • Specify that you need your meal prepared without soy sauce or wheat-containing ingredients
  • Request to see ingredient lists for teriyaki marinades and sauces
  • Avoid teriyaki chicken in buffets, salad bars, or shared serving stations due to cross-contamination risks
  • Stick to grilled, broiled, or baked teriyaki chicken rather than deep fried (which may be dusted in wheat flour)
  • Make sure utensils and cooking surfaces are thoroughly cleaned before cooking
  • Ask for a fresh plate and new gloves to be used by staff handling your food

With the right precautions, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can still enjoy teriyaki chicken cooked at restaurants that offer gluten-free menu options. Calling ahead helps the kitchen prepare for the allergy-friendly order.

Gluten-Free Teriyaki Chicken Recipes

Here are some delicious recipe ideas for gluten-free teriyaki chicken meals:

Baked Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs baked in teriyaki sauce make for tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken. Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes.

Teriyaki Chicken & Veggie Skewers

Alternate cubes of chicken, pineapple, bell pepper, and red onion on skewers. Grill until charred and cooked through, basting with teriyaki glaze.

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken

Combine chicken, teriyaki sauce, garlic, and ginger in a slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours for shredded chicken.

Teriyaki Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Top large bibb or butter lettuce leaves with cooked teriyaki chicken, carrots, avocado, and cilantro. Fold and enjoy.

Teriyaki Chicken Fried Rice

Stir fry cooked rice with teriyaki chicken, peas, carrots, eggs, and green onions for a fast gluten-free meal.

The flavor of teriyaki chicken also works well in stir fries, sandwiches, flatbreads, and over salad greens for tasty gluten-free options.

Is Teriyaki Chicken Healthy?

Teriyaki chicken can be a relatively healthy option depending on preparation method and portion size. Chicken is an excellent source of lean protein, vitamins, and minerals.

When making homemade teriyaki chicken, the sugar and sodium levels can be controlled by reducing or substituting the higher-sodium soy sauce and high-sugar ingredients.

Opt for thigh meat or leave the skin on for added juiciness and flavor since teriyaki chicken is typically cooked over high heat. This helps prevent the chicken from drying out.

Enjoy teriyaki chicken alongside plenty of vegetables and brown rice or quinoa. Portion the protein appropriately and avoid overconsuming the teriyaki sauce, which is high in sodium and added sugars. In moderation, teriyaki chicken can be part of a balanced, gluten-free diet.


Teriyaki chicken is a flavorful dish that can be prepared gluten-free by using a soy sauce substitute like tamari and verifying other sauce ingredients. Pre-made gluten-free teriyaki sauces are also widely available from brands like Kikkoman, San-J, and La Choy. With the right homemade recipe or pre-made sauce, those avoiding gluten can still enjoy the sweet and salty taste of teriyaki chicken. Stick to grilled, baked, or broiled versions of the dish and thoroughly check ingredients when dining out to stay gluten-free. Made with lean chicken and vegetables, teriyaki chicken provides protein and nutrients as part of an overall healthy meal plan.

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