Is all Kikkoman soy sauce gluten-free?

Quick Answer

Most Kikkoman soy sauce products are gluten-free, but some do contain wheat and are therefore not suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Kikkoman clearly labels their gluten-free and gluten-containing soy sauces to make it easy for consumers to choose the right product for their dietary needs.

In-depth Answer

Kikkoman is one of the largest and most popular soy sauce brands worldwide. With such a wide range of soy sauce products, many people wonder if all Kikkoman soy sauces are gluten-free or not.

The answer is that some Kikkoman soy sauces are gluten-free, while others contain wheat and are not suitable for a gluten-free diet.

Here is a breakdown of the gluten status of Kikkoman’s main soy sauce varieties:

Kikkoman Soy Sauce Gluten-Free?
Kikkoman Soy Sauce Yes
Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce Yes
Kikkoman Tamari Soy Sauce Yes
Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce No – contains wheat
Kikkoman Stir-Fry Sauce No – contains wheat

As you can see, Kikkoman’s regular soy sauce and reduced sodium soy sauce are naturally brewed and do not contain any wheat. They are safe for people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

Kikkoman Tamari is also gluten-free. Tamari is a type of soy sauce made without wheat.

However, some Kikkoman sauces and marinades, like the teriyaki and stir-fry varieties, do contain wheat. They are not gluten-free.

Why check if soy sauce contains gluten?

For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. This can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue and more.

The only treatment for celiac disease is strictly adhering to a 100% gluten-free diet. Even tiny amounts of gluten can cause issues.

For this reason, it’s extremely important for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance to double check the gluten-free status of all ingredients, including soy sauce.

Soy sauce has a reputation for being a gluten-free condiment, but that’s not always the case. Traditional soy sauce is brewed from soybeans and wheat. The wheat provides the amino acids necessary for fermentation.

Many brands like La Choy, Ve Wong and San-J contain wheat and are not gluten-free. But wheat-free tamari styles made from just soy and salt do exist.

With sensitive gluten intolerance, the difference between a gluten-free soy sauce and one containing wheat can be massive in terms of reaction and health consequences.

Why do some Kikkoman products contain wheat while others don’t?

Kikkoman uses different brewing methods and ingredients for its various soy sauce products, leading to differences in gluten content:

– Kikkoman Original Soy Sauce is made using traditional Japanese Honjozo brewing methods. It contains just four ingredients – soybeans, wheat, salt and water. The wheat is essential for the fermentation process.

– Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce undergoes the same Honjozo brewing process as the original. The only difference is that some of the salt is removed after brewing to reduce the sodium level.

– Kikkoman Tamari is made using a completely wheat-free brewing process. It contains just five ingredients: soybeans, salt, alcohol, vinegar and water. The fermentation relies on koji rice rather than wheat.

– Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce is a pre-mixed product designed for convenience. It has over 10 ingredients including wheat, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and more.

– Kikkoman Stir-Fry Sauce is also a pre-mixed product with wheat and soy sauce as the primary ingredients.

So in summary, Kikkoman uses wheat-free brewing methods for its gluten-free tamari and wheat-containing methods for its original/less sodium soy sauces. The teriyaki and stir-fry sauces contain wheat as a major ingredient to create the desired flavor profile.

Should you consume Kikkoman soy sauces containing wheat if you have celiac disease?

No, people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should avoid all Kikkoman products that contain wheat as an ingredient. These products are not gluten-free and are unsafe for anyone following a gluten-free diet for medical reasons.

Even tiny amounts of gluten from cross-contamination can trigger health issues in gluten-intolerant individuals.

The presence of wheat on the ingredients list means the product definitely contains gluten. Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should only consume Kikkoman’s labeled gluten-free soy sauces like the original, less sodium and tamari varieties.

Could Kikkoman’s wheat-containing soy sauces be safe in moderation?

It’s best practice for those with celiac disease or NCGS to strictly avoid all intentional gluten consumption, even in moderation. This is because:

– There is no universally “safe” threshold of gluten intake. People’s sensitivity levels vary widely. Even tiny gluten exposures can cause damage.

– Allowing small amounts of gluten can increase risk of symptoms and intestinal damage. Strict adherence is critical for controlling celiac disease.

– Trace amounts of gluten from cross-contamination are often unavoidable. Adding intentional gluten on top of this is risky.

– Cheating by consuming small occasional amounts of gluten can lead to increasingly lax adherence over time. This causes harm.

– Healing of existing intestinal damage requires full gluten exclusion for extended periods. Small gluten exposures will prolong healing.

Unless a person’s doctor explicitly advises otherwise, it’s generally ill-advised for gluten-intolerant individuals to intentionally consume products containing wheat, even in small quantities.

The risks tend to outweigh any perceived benefits. Kikkoman soy sauces with wheat should be considered unsafe for those requiring a gluten-free diet.

What about consuming wheat-containing Kikkoman products rarely?

Consuming gluten-containing items rarely or only on special occasions is also an inadvisable practice for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Here’s why:

– There is no way to predict someone’s reaction to gluten after a period of exclusion. It may be severe.

– Any gluten that enters the system can trigger antibody reactions that last for weeks. It causes sustained damage.

– Intentionally consuming a problem food item can trigger strong cravings and feelings of deprivation. This leads to overindulgence.

– Special occasion cheating can become a slippery slope over time rather than an isolated incident.

– The damage from a single gluten exposure can remain for months after discontinuing consumption.

– Children with celiac disease in particular should maintain strict adherence to allow proper growth and development.

While the desire to indulge occasionally is understandable, intentional gluten consumption is playing with fire for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Potential short-term satisfaction comes with serious health risks.

Is it okay to use wheat-containing Kikkoman soy sauce in cooking and avoid ingesting it?

No, it’s best to avoid using Kikkoman soy sauce varieties with wheat for cooking purposes too if you need to be gluten-free. Here are some reasons why:

– Soy sauce is often not fully cooked off and some remains in the food where it can be ingested.

– Using shared utensils to handle gluten-containing soy sauce risks cross-contamination.

– Soy sauce vapor released during heating contains gluten and can contaminate your kitchen tools and surfaces.

– Having gluten-containing items around increases the odds of accidental exposure and ingestion.

– It’s difficult to reliably separate “gluten-free” and “not gluten-free” foods in a shared kitchen. Safer to only buy gluten-free.

– You may end up taste-testing the dish before it’s fully cooked.

Unless you have an entirely separate gluten-free kitchen, it’s advisable to only purchase soy sauce varieties that are labeled gluten-free for safety. Sharing space with gluten-containing products makes contamination likely.


Kikkoman makes some soy sauce products that are gluten-free and some that contain wheat and are not suitable for celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Their original, less sodium, and tamari soy sauces are brewed wheat-free.

However, Kikkoman’s teriyaki and stir-fry sauces do contain wheat. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should avoid consuming any Kikkoman products listing wheat in the ingredients.

Kikkoman clearly labels their soy sauces to indicate gluten-free status. But anyone with celiac or gluten intolerance should always double-check labels when purchasing and consuming soy sauce and other condiments. Assumptions about safety should not be made.

When in doubt, choose another brand with gluten-free labeling to be 100% safe. For those who must eliminate gluten entirely, Kikkoman’s wheat-free tamari is the best option. Taking risks with occasional gluten exposure is ill-advised due to potentially severe consequences.

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