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Gluten Free Chinese Food Delight: A Must Read Guide To The Safest Choices When Ordering

If you’re at a Chinese restaurant and looking for gluten free Chinese food, please know that unfortunately most Chinese food is not gluten free. Chinese cooking uses a lot of soy sauce, batters, thickeners and marinades that all contain gluten. Thankfully, many Chinese dishes are served with rice. If you stick to rice based dishes without any added sauces or marinades, it should be safe. However, always be aware of cross contamination, especially in an environment where gluten would be used in the same pan. It is important to note up front that cross contamination is going to occur, unless they are very aware of allergies and utilise a separate pan and area in the kitchen.

Ordering Gluten Free Chinese Food

Chinese food incorporates a lot of fresh vegetables, meat and tofu. All of which are naturally gluten free. There can be ways around the sauces and marinades served at Chinese restaurants. Avoid any type of dark sauce, these are made with sauces such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, and hoisin are not gluten free. Please note – the following suggestions would not be Celiac safe or recommended for high gluten sensitivity due to a high risk of cross contamination. 

Which Gluten Free Chinese Food to Order?

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Fried Rice

Fried rice is a staple of the Chinese diet, and is a delicious dish when done well. Fried rice is often vegetables and eggs fried with rice, oil and soy sauce. You can also opt for ordering fried rice with meats such as pork or chicken, as long as they are not pre marinated. Another tasty addition is tofu which can be found in all Chinese restaurants. It is important to ask your server if they can provide gluten free soy sauce, and in many cases that they wouldn’t have that, then opt for no sauce. I have done this at a Chinese restaurant before and it still turned out delicious. 

Want to make the best fried rice? See this heavy duty wok perfect for Chinese cooking!

Side Vegetables Served with Rice

There are always steamed or fried vegetables on the menu, like Chinese broccoli or kai lan, that taste delicious over rice. Ensure to ask for no marinade or soy sauce to be added to the vegetables, and that the vegetables are just steamed or fried in some oil. 

Dishes Containing Rice Noodles

Rice noodles make an appearance in Chinese cooking and many dishes utilise rice noodles over wheat noodles. Mei fun is an example of that, which translates to thin rice noodles. Chinese stir fries such as the well known dish, Singapore noodles, contain aromatics such as garlic and shallots, vegetables such as carrot and cabbage, and most importantly dark soy sauce, which is not gluten free. Opt for this delicious stir fry with no soy sauce, and no added meat as the meat is usually pre marinated. Tofu can be added for extra protein and tastiness. 

Steamed Meats

Steamed or boiled chicken is a popular way to cook chicken in China and its surrounds. An example of this is Hainanese chicken which is boiled chicken with aromatics such as ginger and spring onion. The boiled chicken is served with rice which is gluten free, however, the dipping sauce it comes with is not gluten free. 

Chinese Foods to Avoid


Dumplings are not gluten free due to wheat flour in the dumpling wrappers. 

Egg Noodles or Wheat Containing Noodles

There are many stir fry dishes on Chinese menus that contain egg noodles which are not gluten free.

Anything Coated or Deep Fried

Some meat in stir fries is coated and deep fried to ensure crispiness. Avoid dishes such as honey chicken, orange chicken, and sweet and sour chicken, where the meat has been deep fried. In addition, egg rolls or spring rolls, or any other deep fried side dish are not gluten free and should be avoided.

Stir Fries and Fried Rice

Marinades or sauces such as soy, hoisin, and oyster sauce are used heavily which are not gluten free. You will notice that many stir fried dishes contain a dark sauce, this is due to sauces such as dark soy and oyster sauce being added to many Chinese dishes. 

Chinese Soups

Unfortunately, many soups such as egg drop soup or chicken and corn contain added soy sauce which means they are not gluten free. 

Conclusion: Is Chinese Food Gluten Free?

It is worth remembering that most dishes at a Chinese restaurant contain gluten due to the marinades, thickeners or batters used. If you are visiting a Chinese restaurant, make sure to make the server aware that you are gluten free and that you cannot have any type of sauce or marinade that contains gluten (unfortunately most of them do!). Just remember all hope is not lost though, as you can ask for plain fried rice, or plain rice and vegetables. More often than not they might have steamed chicken on the menu, which would be a great accompaniment. If you are particularly sensitive, opt to cook a gluten free Chinese feast at home and swap your favourite Chinese ingredients for gluten free alternatives.

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