Top 7 Tips For Gluten Free Dining at a Sushi Restaurant

If you love sushi as much as my family does, you are going to want to dine out at a sushi restaurant sometime. Some sushi restaurants are better than others at serving gluten free guests safely. Just knowing what to look for and how to tell them to prevent cross contamination can help immensely.

Top 6 Tips for Safe Gluten Free Dining at a Sushi Restaurant. #glutenfree

Photo Credit: Funkyah

Do you love sushi? Our family can’t get enough of it. We are fortunate enough to have a Japanese grocery store, Mitsuwa, a few minutes away so we can make our own sushi at home.

But what do you do if you are gluten free and want to dine out for sushi? Sushi restaurants can be a mixed bag and often there is a language barrier when you try to explain the precautions you need to the sushi chef. Good sushi restaurants are usually busy, making it hard for them to take the necessary precautions to prevent cross contamination.

If the sushi restaurant you want to go to can’t follow the below precautions to keep you safe, you are taking a risk of being “glutened.” I like to call the sushi restaurant ahead of time to ask if they can take the precautions I need before I arrive. This way if they are unable to take these steps, I know not to waste my time driving there.

Here are my Top 7 Tips to help you navigate your way to a safe sushi dining experience.

  1. I am going to start with the easiest tip first 🙂 . Make sure the restaurant has Tamari, a gluten free soy sauce. If the restaurant doesn’t have any, you can order these cute little packets by Little Soya that you can take with you discreetly so you can enjoy your sushi. I keep a couple in my purse for those just in case moments. Our family uses this brand because the little plastic packets are strong, so there is no tamari explosion in your purse!
  2. DO NOT EAT IMITATION CRAB!! Imitation crab contains wheat, and it is not safe to eat if you are gluten free. Many sushi restaurants have real crab and it is definitely worth getting this as a substitute. (It tastes a lot better as well!) If the restaurant doesn’t have real crab, stick to tuna and other real fish.
  3. Ask the waitperson or sushi chef directly to use a fresh, clean sushi mat. This is critical. Sushi chefs roll a lot of sushi with fried items, such as soft shell crab and tempura, in the roll. You don’t want any particles of the fried gluten getting into your sushi roll.
  4. Ask the sushi chef to change his gloves.
  5. Make sure the sushi chef uses a clean cutting board and knife to cut your sushi. Again, the sushi chef cuts a lot of different sushi rolls and the risk of cross contamination is high.
  6. Do not include any sauces on top of, or in, your sushi rolls unless your waitperson checks the ingredients. Many of the sauces like ponzu and nikiri contain soy sauce, which means gluten exposure. When in doubt, just skip the sauces. This includes making sure there is no malt in the Rice Vinegar!!
  7. Order your sushi so it is made to order for you. If you go to a Sushi Boat style sushi restaurant, plates of sushi float around on those little boats and is mass produced. The sushi chefs do not take any precautions when making this sushi. You also have no control if a customer grabs a plate of sushi, decides that is not what they wanted, and put it back on the floating boats.

I hope this article helps. If you have some more tips for dining at a sushi restaurant, please share them with us so we can all stay safe 🙂 .

Here are a couple of my favorite sushi restaurants in the San Jose Bay Area:

Sushi Confidential in Campbell, CA

Mizu in San Jose, CA

While you are here, check out some of my most popular gluten free recipes

(*Please note there is an affiliate link in this article. Ordering this will not affect the price you pay. The only difference is a tiny portion of the sale will go to Fearless Dining to help with site costs. I appreciate your support.)




  1. What is it that we hear all the time about Gluten ? I bet some people don’t even know what it really means but will just freak out if their food is not ‘gluten free’. Just cut out the junk food, french fries, sugar, salty foodsonce in a while, eat some fruit and veggies and you’ll just be ok. And also drink a lot of green tea. No need to freak over your sushi plate 🙂 Just enjoy the food

    • Rachel, I appreciate your comment but unless you have a food allergy, you wouldn’t understand the pain someone can feel if they ingest even the tiniest bit of gluten. Sushi can be loaded with gluten. Malt in rice vinegar, soy sauce, a dirty knife or mat may have panko crumbs. These may not seem like much to you, but for me, one tiny panko crumb can cause horrific abdominal pain and a migraine for over two days.

      I also understand the frustration many restaurants have when they see someone who orders a gluten free dish cheat and take a bite of bread. This is why it is so important to ask the customer if they are gluten free for an allergy. That is very different from just jumping on the gluten free fad.

  2. I didn’t know that sushi had gluten in it! That’s really good to know for my mother. I’ll have to tell her these tips for when we go out for sushi!

    • Hi Tara, sushi can have gluten via the imitation crab, or even from cross contamination (ie: cutting a roll after cutting tempura sushi, etc.) It is always good to know potential dangers in order to prevent getting sick.


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