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The Skinny On Sauces For Gluten Free + Vegan Diets: Soy, Worcestershire, Fish, Tamari

8:05 PM

Hey friends. We missed you last week—I had a nasty cold. Tis the season, right? After an incredible amount of sleep and some miraculous food, all is well. I don't know about you, but when I'm sick with a stuffed-up head, all I want is soup. Not the traditional chicken noodle, either; spicy lemongrass, or pho, or sweet and sour sound a lot more delicious. Nothing opens the nasal passages like sriracha, after all.

If you, like me, are allergic to gluten, it's likely hard to find Asian-inspired soups that you can eat. Or perhaps, also like me, you just aren't really sure. You probably know to avoid soy sauce, but what about the others? What about worcestershire, or fish sauce, or tamari? We're going to break them down to understand what's safe—and what isn't.

Soy Sauce: Contains Gluten (But Vegan!)
Ingredients: Boiled soybeans, roasted grain, brine and either Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae (both types of molds)
Ah, soy sauce. This tricky little ingredient can be the bane of your gluten-allergy existence. Yes, you likely know it contains gluten, but do your friends and waiters and every cook who makes you food? No, definitely not. Therefore, every marinaded piece of beef, every bowl of soup, every vinaigrette is a definite risk. To be honest, I'm afraid of soy sauce. I've tripped up before—and I'm pretty sure I'll trip up again. And it doesn't just have a little bit of soy, it's usually between 40% and 60% wheat. Yikes! Soy sauce can be hiding in: meatloaf, scrambled eggs, salad dressings, BBQ sauces (not usually the ones you can buy at the store, but almost always the ones you are served in restaurants!), dips, soups, burgers (yep...), dipping sauces, poultry, steak and more. But guess what? You can find it gluten free!
Product Love: Kikkoman Gluten Free Soy Sauce

Worcestershire Sauce: May Contain Gluten (Not Vegan)
Ingredients: Varies per brand, but basic recipe includes anchovies in brine, tamarinds in molasses, garlic in vinegar, chilies, cloves, shallots and sugar.
Contrary to popular belief, most US brands of worcestershire sauce are actually gluten free. After all, there isn't any overtly gluten ingredient listed. So where does the caution come in? Some brands, primarily those made outside of the US, use malt vinegar instead of distilled vinegar. Since this is made from malting barley, it does contain gluten. Your safest option, of course, is anything marked gluten free. As for the vegan bit, this is one of those things—like jello and marshmallows—that often gets overlooked since its ingredients are not often know. Yet your vegan friends will appreciate your thoughtfulness if you go out of your way to find vegan worcestershire (and yes, it exists).
Product Love: Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (Gluten Free), Annie's Naturals Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce

Fish Sauce: Gluten Free (Not Vegan)
Ingredients: Fermented fish and salt
Unless you have a seafood allergy, you're safe with fish sauce in terms of gluten risks. If you've never cooked with this stuff, be warned; it smells pretty strong and tastes pretty horrid by itself. But it adds an excellent complexity—a touch of saltiness and a depth of flavor—to dishes that is really incredible. We'll post a soup recipe that includes fish sauce tomorrow. It isn't vegan, obviously, so you'll need a substitute for any vegan recipes. 

Tamari: May Contain Gluten (But Vegan!)
Ingredients: Boiled soybeans, brine and either Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae (both types of molds), and possibly roasted grains
Soy sauce originated in China and spread throughout Asia, and tamari is the Japanese version. It has a distinct taste difference—it is thicker, richer and less salty than most soy sauces, and is great for dipping. The ingredients are similar to soy sauce but this version contains little or no wheat! There are plenty of wheat-free options available, but you will need to read the ingredients just to be sure.
Product Love: San-J Organic Tamari Gluten Free

Now you know!

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