What food from the Chinese is gluten-free?

Quick Answers

Many traditional Chinese dishes are naturally gluten-free or can be made gluten-free with simple substitutions. Here are some quick answers about gluten-free Chinese food options:

  • Rice, rice noodles, and rice paper wraps are gluten-free Chinese staples.
  • Steamed, grilled, or fried meats like chicken, beef, pork, duck, and seafood are usually gluten-free.
  • Stir-fries, chow meins, and veggie dishes can be made gluten-free by using tamari instead of soy sauce and gluten-free oyster sauce.
  • Avoid wheat flour wrappers like wontons, dumplings, and egg rolls. Opt for rice paper versions instead.
  • Ask for gluten-free soy sauce or bring your own to ensure safety when dining out.
  • Beware of thickened sauces and marinades that may contain wheat.
  • Choose naturally gluten-free broths like hot and sour soup or egg drop soup.

Gluten-Free Grains and Starches

Rice is by far the most common grain used in Chinese cooking. Below are some gluten-free grain and starch options:

  • Rice – Plain white rice, fried rice, rice porridge (congee), and rice noodles are gluten-free.
  • Rice paper – Used for spring rolls and wraps. Ensure no wheat flour is added.
  • Cornstarch – Used for thickening sauces and marinades.
  • Mung bean noodles – Also called bean thread noodles or cellophane noodles.
  • Tapioca starch – Used for thickening or coatings.
  • Buckwheat noodles – Despite the name, these are gluten-free.

Double check with the restaurant or manufacturer to confirm no wheat flour has been added to any of these gluten-free ingredients.

Gluten-Free Proteins

Chinese dishes often center around protein sources. Here are some gluten-free proteins commonly used:

  • Chicken – Chicken breast, thighs, wings, gizzards etc. Opt for plain preparations.
  • Beef – Sliced beef, beef balls, Mongolian beef etc. Watch out for thickened sauces.
  • Pork – Char siu pork, sweet and sour pork, mu shu pork. Avoid batter coatings which may have flour.
  • Seafood – Shrimp, squid, scallops, crab, lobster, fish etc. Ensure no flour coatings.
  • Tofu – Plain tofu, fried tofu, fermented tofu.
  • Eggs – Chicken, duck, quail and other eggs. Avoid egg foo young with gravy.

Stick to plain preparations of these proteins or inspect the ingredients carefully if sauces or batters are involved.

Gluten-Free Vegetable Dishes

Chinese cuisine includes a wonderful variety of fresh vegetables. Some naturally gluten-free veggie dishes include:

  • Stir-fried vegetables – Try combinations like bok choy, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, celery, bean sprouts, etc.
  • Sauteed string beans
  • Eggplant with garlic sauce
  • Sauteed snow peas
  • Steamed or fried tofu
  • Vegetable soups

Avoid fried veggie dishes with thick batter coatings which may contain flour. Ask for plain steamed or sautéed preparations.

Gluten-Free Sauces, Soups, and Condiments

Many traditional Chinese sauces, soups, and condiments are gluten-free. Some options include:

  • Soy sauce – Use gluten-free tamari instead of regular soy sauce which contains wheat.
  • Vinegar – Rice wine vinegar, white vinegar, black vinegar, and chinkiang vinegar are gluten-free.
  • Oyster sauce – Check labels for gluten-free oyster sauce or make your own.
  • Hoisin sauce – Look for gluten-free brands or make your own.
  • Fish sauce – This is naturally gluten-free.
  • Hot chili oil – Check for wheat-free.
  • Sesame oil – Plain sesame oil is gluten-free.
  • Soups – Opt for wonton-free broth soups like egg drop, hot and sour, or congee.

Avoid thickened sauces and gravies that may contain wheat flour. Check labels carefully.

Dining Out Gluten-Free at Chinese Restaurants

Dining out at Chinese restaurants when you’re gluten-free requires some extra care. Here are some tips:

  • Verify that soy sauce is gluten-free. Bring your own or request gluten-free soy sauce.
  • Avoid fried items with batter coatings and thickened sauces which likely contain flour.
  • Check that rice noodles and wraps are 100% rice-based with no wheat flour added.
  • Ask if soup bases and marinades are thickened with corn or wheat starch.
  • Inspect ingredient lists of sauces and gravies for wheat sources.
  • Stick to naturally gluten-free menu items like steamed or grilled proteins, stir-fries, and rice.
  • Clarify preparation methods for fried rice. Some restaurants add soy sauce containing wheat.
  • Ask about hidden gluten ingredients like MSG, malt vinegar, and hydrolyzed proteins.

With some adjustments, you can enjoy the wonderful flavors of Chinese cuisine gluten-free. Careful questions and ingredient vetting are key.

Gluten-Free Substitutions for Common Chinese Ingredients

Many traditional Chinese ingredients are gluten-free, but some common ones like soy sauce, hoisin, and wonton wrappers will need to be swapped out. Here are some substitutions:

Non-Gluten-Free Ingredient Gluten-Free Substitution
Soy sauce Gluten-free tamari
Oyster sauce Gluten-free oyster sauce or homemade version
Hoisin sauce Gluten-free hoisin or homemade version
Wheat flour wrappers Rice paper
Wontons Fillings without wrapper, wrapped in rice paper or lettuce
Egg roll wrappers Rice paper
Dumpling wrappers Rice paper
Soybean paste Chickpea miso
Teriyaki Sauce Gluten-free tamari + pineapple juice + honey

With a few simple swaps, you can enjoy gluten-free versions of popular Chinese dishes. Homemade sauces and fillings wrapped in rice paper make good substitutions.

Gluten-Free Chinese Recipes

Here are some delicious recipes for gluten-free Chinese food you can make at home:

Gluten-Free Wontons

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • Rice paper wrappers

Mix pork, cabbage, oil, soy sauce, and ginger. Place 1 tbsp filling in center of rice paper. Wet edges with water and fold into wonton shape. Steam or boil until cooked through.

Gluten-Free Vegetable Fried Rice

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 cup mixed diced veggies
  • 2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Scramble eggs, remove from pan. Stir-fry veggies. Add rice and eggs back to pan. Toss in soy sauce, vinegar, and oil. Serve hot.

Gluten-Free Cashew Chicken

  • 1 lb chicken, diced
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 3 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

Toss chicken with corn starch. Fry until golden brown. Add remaining ingredients and stir-fry for 5 mins. Serve over rice.

Gluten-Free Chinese Sauces and Condiments

Whip up these gluten-free Chinese staples to have on hand:

Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

  • 1 cup gluten-free tamari
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp grated ginger

Whisk all ingredients together. Store refrigerated.

Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp gluten-free tamari
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Blend ingredients until smooth.

Gluten-Free Oyster Sauce

  • 1/2 cup gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp oyster extract

Whisk water and cornstarch. Heat mixture while stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Cool before using.

Having these gluten-free sauces on hand makes whipping up Chinese dishes easy!

Gluten-Free Chinese Desserts

While traditional Chinese desserts often contain gluten, there are some tasty gluten-free options:

  • Mochi – Make sure rice flour is used instead of wheat flour.
  • Fortune cookies – Swap wheat flour for glutinous rice flour.
  • Coconut milk pudding – Naturally gluten-free.
  • Mango pudding – Use cornstarch instead of wheat starch.
  • Fried bananas – Roll in rice flour instead of wheat flour before frying.
  • Sweet rice balls – Made from sticky rice flour.
  • Fruit-filled cakes – Fill with fresh fruit and top with whipped cream.

With some creative substitutions, you can indulge your sweet tooth after a gluten-free Chinese meal.


Chinese food has many naturally gluten-free dishes to offer. With some simple ingredient swaps and awareness when dining out, you can enjoy the delicious flavors of Chinese cuisine while maintaining a gluten-free diet. Focus on rice, vegetables, lean proteins, and gluten-free sauces for a tasty and healthy meal.

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