Following a gluten-free diet can make eating out in Chinese restaurants a bit tricky. If you’re craving Chinese takeout, you’re probably wondering what Chinese food is gluten-free.
The most popular gluten-free Chinese foods are plain rice and rice noodles. Steamed vegetables like mushrooms, bamboo, corn, pea pods, and water chestnuts are also gluten-free. Simply prepared or steamed chicken or shrimp are naturally gluten-free. Avoid ordering Chinese food prepared with soy sauce.
In this article, we’ll talk about gluten-free Chinese food, specifically what Chinese food to order and what to avoid.
Is there any Gluten-Free Chinese Food?
Many traditional Chinese dishes aren’t gluten-free. Most of these dishes are made using soy sauce, which contains gluten, and wheat flour is often used to prepare Chinese food recipes.
Soy sauce and wheat flour aren’t the only gluten-containing ingredients in Chinese cuisine. Other places where gluten can appear in Chinese food recipes include breading on meats, eggrolls, dumplings, and all dark-colored sauces like oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, teriyaki sauce, and duck sauce.
Although it may not seem like it, many delicious, gluten-free dishes are available at most Chinese food restaurants.
People who have celiac disease or gluten-related disorders should stick to rice-based dishes. All rice is naturally gluten-free, and fried rice, plain white rice, rice noodles, and even lo mein can be made gluten-free.
Regular soy sauce isn’t gluten-free, but many Chinese restaurants have gluten-free soy sauce available and will use it as a substitute upon request. If the restaurant doesn’t have a gluten-free soy sauce, you can bring your own and add it to the dish after it’s served or ask the chef to use it while cooking your food.
When eating out in a Chinese restaurant, don’t forget about cross-contamination. If you have severe gluten sensitivity, it’s best to avoid buffets or to share dishes at the table because gluten containing-items can come in contact with your gluten-free food.
This is a lot to think about, but don’t worry! Here are some popular gluten-free Chinese takeout recipes you can eat at home.
4 Gluten-Free Chinese Food Options
If you’re looking for gluten-free Chinese food to order, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Traditional Chinese dishes, like steamed vegetables, rice, and tofu, are naturally gluten-free. Beef with vegetables and stir-fried chicken without soy sauce is also gluten-free and a great choice.
But, if you’re unsure about ordering Chinese takeout, here are the best gluten-free Chinese food recipes you can make at home.
1. Gluten-Free Sweet and Sour Chicken
This gluten-free sweet and sour chicken recipe is like the Cantonese-style dish from your local Chinese takeaway minus the gluten. For this recipe, you’ll need the following:
- 2 chopped chicken breasts
- 1 liter of vegetable oil
For the Batter
- 60 g gluten-free self-rising flour
- 30 g corn flour
- ½ tbs baking powder
- ¼ tbs salt
- 150 ml water
For the Sauce
- 150 ml ketchup
- 70 ml white rice vinegar
- 2 tinned pineapple rings chopped into small pieces
- 125 ml pineapple juice
- 3 tbsp sugar
- ½ green pepper chopped into cubes
- ½ red pepper chopped into cubes
- ½ tbsp corn flour blended with 2 tbsp of water
To make a gluten-free batter, mix all the dry ingredients into a bowl and slowly add water until you achieve the consistency of single cream. Add the chopped chicken breasts into the batter and mix them until well-coated.
Lower each chicken chunk into preheated oil and fry for 5 minutes until they become light golden in color.
To make the sweet and sour sauce, fry red and green peppers until slightly browned in a wok using 1 tbsp of oil. Mix ketchup, white rice vinegar, sugar, and pineapple juice in a separate bowl. Add this mixture to the wok with the peppers and bring it to a boil over high heat.
Next, stir in the corn flour mixture and add the pineapple chunks. When the ingredients boil again, add the battered chicken and serve.
2. Gluten-Free Chicken Chow Mein
This gluten-free chow mein recipe is easy to make, using only five ingredients. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- 230 g noodles gluten-free
- 3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 150 g finely chopped carrot
- 2 big handfuls of beansprouts
- 40 ml gluten-free soy sauce
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, and add and cook the chicken thighs for 8-10 minutes. Once the chicken thighs are cooked, remove them from the water and allow them to cool. When cool enough to handle, chop the thighs into bite-size strips.
Add 2 tbsp of oil to a wok and put it to medium-high heat. Throw in the carrots and fry them until slightly softened.
Add the chopped chicken thighs and gluten-free noodles to the wok, giving them 20 seconds to loosen up before prying them apart. When the noodles come apart, add beansprouts, ¼ tsp of salt, and gluten-free soy sauce and stir everything for another minute.
3. Gluten-Free Chinese Chicken Curry
If you’re a fan of Chinese chicken curry, you’ll be happy to know that you can now recreate one of your favorite Chinese dishes at home and make it gluten-free. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- 3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- Spring onion greens chopped
For the Sauce
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 grated carrots
- A dash of gluten-free soy sauce
- 400 ml gluten-free chicken stock
For the Spice Mix
- 2 tbsp gluten-free plain flour
- 2 heaped tsp of mild curry powder
- ½ tsp chili flakes
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- Pinch of ground cumin
Add skinless, boneless chicken thighs to a pan of boiling water and cook them for 8-10 minutes. Set the cooked chicken thighs aside to cool and cut them into bite-sized strips.
Prepare the carrots for the sauce. Grated or spiralized carrots work best. Chopped carrots work too, but they just take longer to cook.
Heat the coconut oil in the wok, add the carrots and fry them until slightly softened. Add flour, curry powder, chili flakes, cumin, and ginger to the wok and coat the carrot. Pour the chicken stock over everything and add a dash of gluten-free soy sauce.
Allow all ingredients to simmer for 10 minutes, and then add the cooked and chopped chicken thighs. Serve the gluten-free chicken curry on top of rice and sprinkle some spring onion greens on top.
4. Gluten-Free Singapore Noodles
This gluten-free Singapore noodles recipe tastes exactly like the dish you used to order in local Chinese restaurants. Here’s how to make it at home:
- 600 g vermicelli rice noodles
- 150 g cooked prawns
- 6 slices gluten-free Char Siu pork (optional)
- 1 green pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1 chicken breast
- 3 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
- Handful of beansprouts
- A handful of spring onion greens
For the Seasoning
- 2 tsp gluten-free soy sauce
- 2 tsp mild curry powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp minced ginger paste
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
Cut the chicken breast as thinly as possible and chop the green pepper into thin strips to help it cook faster. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Measure and place all the seasoning on a plate for later use.
Add 2 tbsp of garlic-infused oil to a wok and start to stir-fry the green pepper when the oil is hot. Throw in the cut chicken breast and fry until sealed.
When the chicken looks cooked, add the beaten eggs to the wok and keep mixing to get nice chunks of cooked eggs. Next, add the cooked prawns and the gluten-free Char Siu pork to the wok, and continue mixing.
Add in the rice noodles and sprinkle a little bit of garlic-infused oil over them before mixing all ingredients for 2 minutes. Throw in a big handful of beansprouts.
Lastly, pour all the seasoning and keep mixing until everything is consistent. Top with chopped fresh spring onion greens and serve immediately.
How To Make Sure Your Chinese Food Is Gluten-Free?
Most Chinese restaurants aren’t gluten-friendly, but there are things you can do to ensure a pleasant eating experience. Here’s how to make sure your Chinese food is gluten-free:
Bring Your Own Soy Sauce
Most Chinese restaurants use the classic soy sauce that’s made with wheat. To avoid gluten exposure, bring along a bottle of gluten-free soy sauce or gluten-free tamari sauce to add to your food.
Don’t Share Dishes at the Table
If you’re the only one at the table following a gluten-free diet, be mindful of other dishes at the table. It’s common to share words and dishes around the table when eating Chinese food, but be sure to use separate spoons for each bowl if you want others to share.
This will prevent gluten from transferring from other dishes to your gluten-free dish, lowering the chance of cross-contamination.
Being a fan of Chinese cuisine is one of the hardest things when living with celiac disease or other gluten-related disorders. Chinese food is extremely popular, but most Chinese dishes are made with soy sauce, which contains wheat.
While most Chinese recipes contain gluten, there are plenty of tasty gluten-free options you can choose from. And when you aren’t in the mood for takeout, you can always prepare gluten-friendly Chinese recipes at home.