What Vietnamese food has gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eating gluten can cause serious health issues. When dining out or eating traditional Vietnamese food, it’s important to know which dishes contain gluten and common substitutions.

Gluten in Traditional Vietnamese Cuisine

Many staple ingredients in Vietnamese cooking are naturally gluten-free, like rice, herbs, vegetables, meat, and fish. However, some traditional ingredients do contain gluten:

  • Wheat noodles – Bún, phở, and mì noodles are typically made from wheat flour which contains gluten. Rice noodles (bún gạo, bánh phở gạo) are a gluten-free substitution.
  • Soy sauce – Regular soy sauce is brewed from wheat. Tamari and coconut aminos are gluten-free alternatives.
  • Breaded/battered items – Bánh xèo (Vietnamese crepes), cá kho tộ (caramel fish), and other fried dishes may be battered with wheat flour. Cornstarch and rice flour work for gluten-free breading.
  • Wheat flour – Bánh mì sandwich bread, bánh bao dumplings, and some desserts are made with wheat flour.
  • Beer – Most Vietnamese beer brands contain gluten from barley or other glutenous grains. Look for gluten-removed or gluten-free beer.
  • Wheat noodles in soup – Some beef noodle (bún bò) and chicken noodle (bún gà) soups contain wheat noodles. Opt for rice noodles instead.

Beyond these obvious sources, even dishes made without wheat can get cross-contaminated during processing or cooking. Wheat flour is very common in Vietnamese cooking, so shared prep areas are a concern.

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Dishes

Many delicious Vietnamese dishes are naturally gluten-free. Here are some of the most popular gluten-free Vietnamese food options:


Pho is the national dish – a comforting rice noodle soup typically made with beef or chicken broth. Standard pho is gluten-free, but watch for added wheat noodles or soy sauce containing wheat.

Bun Bo Hue

Spicy beef noodle soup originated from the Hue region. It’s similar to pho but with rice vermicelli noodles and a hearty lemongrass-infused broth.

Goi Cuon (Fresh Spring Rolls)

Goi cuon are wrapped in rice paper and filled with veggies, herbs, and vermicelli noodles. The traditional protein is shrimp, but rolls made with tofu or pork are common too.

Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crepes)

A beloved street food, banh xeo are savory crepes made of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric. They’re filled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and herbs. Ask for a version made without wheat flour.

Bun Cha

This northern Vietnamese dish includes charcoal grilled pork with a fish sauce-based dipping sauce, and fresh herbs served over rice vermicelli noodles.

Canh Chua (Sour Soup)

A tart, tamarind-flavored soup containing fish, pineapple, tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables like okra and beans. It’s naturally gluten-free.

Com Tam (Broken Rice)

Com tam is a meal centered around broken rice shards. The rice is partnered with grilled pork chops, pork skin, fried eggs, veggies, fish sauce, and pickled vegetables.

Goi Ga (Chicken Salad)

Cool, refreshing chicken salad combines poached chicken, cabbage, herbs, toasted peanuts, and a chili-lime dressing. Substitute tamari for the regular soy sauce.

Hidden Gluten in Vietnamese Food

While many Vietnamese dishes are naturally gluten-free, here are some hidden sources of gluten to watch out for:

  • Soy Sauce – Regular soy sauce contains wheat. Always ask for gluten-free tamari instead.
  • Flour Dusting – Dumplings, fried items, and snacks may be dusted with wheat flour to prevent sticking.
  • Fish Sauce – Some brands add wheat flour to their fish sauce. Check labels carefully.
  • Stocks/Broths – Beef and chicken stocks can contain gluten as a thickening agent. Opt for plain, fresh broths.
  • Cooking Oil – Shared fryer oil may pick up traces of gluten from fried foods.
  • Cross-Contamination – Shared prep areas and cooking utensils may introduce gluten, even in naturally gluten-free dishes.

Tips for Ordering Gluten-Free Vietnamese Food

With some adjustments, you can enjoy delicious Vietnamese cuisine that is safe for your gluten-free diet. Here are some helpful tips for ordering:

  • Ask for dishes to be made with tamari instead of soy sauce.
  • Request rice noodles or mung bean noodles instead of wheat noodles.
  • Verify broths and stocks are made fresh without wheat-based thickeners.
  • Avoid wheat flour wrappers for summer rolls, opting for rice paper instead.
  • Substitute rice flour or cornstarch instead of wheat flour for battered/breaded items.
  • Ask if fried dishes use dedicated gluten-free fryer oil.
  • Request meat, fish, and veggies that are grilled, steamed, or stir-fried instead of battered.
  • Ask about ingredients in dipping sauces and dressings.

Dining at restaurants with good awareness of gluten-free diets will be your safest bet. Highlighting your dietary needs helps the kitchen handle your meal properly.

Gluten-Free Substitutions for Vietnamese Dishes

You can adapt traditional Vietnamese recipes to be gluten-free at home. Try these substitute ingredients:

Dish Gluten Ingredient Gluten-Free Substitution
Pho or bun Wheat noodles Rice noodles
Banh mi Wheat flour bread Gluten-free bread or wrapped in rice paper
Fish sauce Regular (contains wheat) Gluten-free fish sauce
Soy sauce Regular (contains wheat) Tamari or coconut aminos
Beer Barley beer Gluten-removed or gluten-free beer
Breading/batter Wheat flour Rice flour or cornstarch

With some simple swaps, you can enjoy the bright flavors of Vietnamese cuisine without the gluten.

Traditional Vietnamese Gluten-Free Desserts

If you have room for something sweet, try these naturally gluten-free Vietnamese desserts:

  • Chè – Sweet dessert soup made with fruits, beans, tapioca, or coconut milk.
  • Chuối chiên – Fried banana fritters.
  • Gỏi ngo sen – Lotus seed salad with fruits and coconut jelly.
  • Bánh flan – Crème caramel custard flan made with eggs, milk, and sugar.
  • Kem – Vietnamese ice cream made with fruits like durian or coconut.
  • Trái cây – Fresh tropical fruit cubes doused with condensed milk.

The fruits, beans, coconut milk, tapioca, and rice flour used in these desserts make them naturally free of gluten.

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Brands and Products

When buying Vietnamese ingredients to prepare at home, look for these gluten-free brands:

Rice Noodles and Wraps

  • Three Ladies Brand rice noodles
  • T&T rice vermicelli
  • Thai Kitchen rice noodles
  • Annie Chun’s rice noodle soup bowls
  • Viet Wah rice paper wrappers

Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

  • Kikkoman gluten-free soy sauce
  • San-J Tamari
  • La Choy soy sauce
  • Coconut Secret coconut aminos

Broths and Condiments

  • Red Boat Fish Sauce
  • Tiparos Fish Sauce
  • Viet Huong fish sauce
  • Pacific Foods vegetable and chicken broth
  • Imagine No Moo gluten-free beef broth

Carefully inspecting labels of pre-made products allows you to enjoy Vietnamese flavors at home without medical consequences of gluten.

Dining Out Gluten-Free at Vietnamese Restaurants

Many Vietnamese restaurants offer gluten-free menu options. Some restaurants to look for nationwide include:

  • Phở Nha Trang – marked gluten-free pho options
  • Hu Tieu My Tho – pho and bun with rice noodles
  • Nha Hang Vietnam – broad gluten-free menu
  • Lac Viet – gluten-free pho and bun
  • Phở Cyclo – pho and vermicelli bowls prepared gluten-free

Larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Houston also have dedicated gluten-free Vietnamese restaurants to accommodate dietary needs.

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Recipes to Make at Home

Cooking traditional Vietnamese dishes at home enables you to control how much gluten goes into each meal. Here are some gluten-free recipes worth trying:

Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)

This classic noodle soup comes together with chicken, rice noodles, onion, cilantro, and spices in a savory broth. Adaptations like using gluten-free soy sauce or tamari make it gluten-free.

Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Crepes)

Crispy turmeric crepes can be filled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and herbs. Swap the wheat flour for rice flour and cook in dedicated gluten-free oil.

Gỏi Đu Đủ (Green Papaya Salad)

Shredded green papaya and carrots tossed in a tangy sauce with peanuts and shrimp. Use gluten-free fish sauce and lime juice for the dressing.

Bún Chả (Grilled Pork with Rice Noodles)

This Hanoi street food features charcoal grilled pork with a vinegar dipping sauce. It’s naturally gluten-free served over rice vermicelli.


Vietnamese cuisine offers bright, fresh flavors for gluten-free eaters. Hidden sources like wheat noodles, soy sauce, fish sauce, and cooking oils can contain gluten. But dishes centered around rice, herbs, proteins, broths, and vegetables are naturally gluten-free. With some simple ingredient swaps and awareness when dining out, you can safely enjoy wonderful Vietnamese food.

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