Kikkoman has finally done it — they have created a gluten-free soy sauce. Traditional soy sauce is made with wheat, and is therefore not gluten-free. Wheat-free tamari has been available for years: San-J and Eden Foods are two well-known brands.
To clarify the difference between soy sauce and tamari:
Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and wheat. Tamari is made from fermented soybeans and little or no wheat. Tamari is considered richer than soy sauce because of the higher concentration of soybeans.
Some tamari is wheat-free, but many brands of tamari have wheat in them. For example, San-J makes soy sauce (contains 40-60% wheat), tamari (a small amount of wheat), and gluten-free tamari (no wheat). Kikkoman also makes a Tamari Soy Sauce that contains wheat, so one can’t assume that all tamari is wheat-free.
Kikkoman’s new gluten-free soy sauce is wheat-free, using rice instead of wheat. The ingredients are water, soybeans, rice and salt. What I find interesting is that for years, Kikkoman has claimed that their soy sauce made with wheat is gluten-free by Codex standards, yet they have now come out with a truly gluten-free soy sauce.
Before you get too excited about going out for Asian food again, realize that it’s going to take a while for restaurants to begin using this soy sauce because it needs to be available to them in a large size. Currently there is an almost 1/2 gallon size available for restaurants, but this is small compared to regular soy sauce that comes in 5 gallons! Not only will the available size determine whether or not a restaurant decides to use the gluten-free soy sauce, so will the general availability and the price. Restaurants buy through distributors. If the distributor doesn’t carry the gluten-free soy sauce, then it isn’t available to the restaurants. And the gluten-free soy sauce will probably be more expensive also, deterring restaurants from converting all their dishes to gluten-free.
I still have hope, though, and dream of one day having more choices at a sushi or Chinese restaurant!