As my gluten free friends well know, restaurants are hard. Not being able to eat what you want, especially when everything looks so tempting, is really frustrating sometimes! But it helps when you go in with a game plan. So in this article, let’s talk about gluten free Chinese food, specifically what to order and what to avoid.
From ordering ideas to popular restaurants with gluten free options, you’ll find everything you need to know to safely indulge your Chinese food craving below. Use the table of contents to find what you’re looking for fast!
Is Chinese Food Gluten Free?
Many traditional Chinese dishes are made with soy sauce, which contains gluten, and wheat flour is often used in the preparation of various items. this can make it really tricky to find entrees without gluten.
Hope is not lost however!
There are still plenty of delicious gluten free options available at most Chinese restaurants. One of the safest bets is to stick to rice-based dishes. Fried rice, plain white rice, and even lo mein can usually be made gluten free upon request, and most Chinese restaurants will have gluten free soy sauce available. If they don’t, you can bring your own and add it to your dish after it is served or ask the chef to use it when preparing your food.
As always, when eating out it’s important to be aware of cross contamination. If you’re particularly sensitive to gluten, it’s best to avoid Chinese buffets, as gluten containing items may come into contact with gluten free ones.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? I totally understand. Here are some popular entrees that are generally safe for a gluten free diet. Always be sure to ask your server, however, since every restaurant is different.
What to Order?
If you’re looking for gluten free Chinese food dishes to order, there are plenty of options to choose from. Many classic Chinese dishes are naturally gluten free, such as steamed vegetables, rice, and tofu. If you’re craving something a little heartier, stir fried chicken or beef with vegetables is a great choice. And of course, no meal is complete without soup – try hot and sour soup or egg drop soup for a delicious option.
With these simple suggestions, you’ll be sure to find the perfect dish to satisfy your hunger.
- Plain rice
- Rice noodles – specifically chow fun (wide rice noodles) or mei fun (thin rice noodles)
Steamed chicken or shrimp
Vegetables are fine just be mindful of the sauce they come in, and avoid any dark colored sauces as they are often made with soy sauce.
A gluten free noodle?! Is seems too good to be true! Mei fun are thin noodles from Taiwan that are used often in Chinese food. They are made of rice, making them gluten free.
Egg Drop Soup
A staple of any Chinese restaurant, this soup is usually fine but ask what type of thickener is used. Corn starch or potato starch are okay!
What to Avoid?
Just like any restaurant, there are some Chinese dishes you should avoid when following a gluten free diet. For example, many Chinese restaurants use soy sauce in many things and wheat flour is also prevalent in sauces. Dishes like General Tso’s chicken and sweet and sour pork are, unfortunately, off-limits.
Other menu items to steer clear of include egg rolls (which are usually made with wheat wrapper), dumplings (which are typically made with wheat flour dough), and wheat soup noodles.
Soy sauce and other dark sauces
Like I mentioned above, soy sauce is extremely common in Chinese dishes and does contain gluten. Make sure to call ahead and see if the restaurant has a gluten free option available.
Anything breaded or deep fried
Look out for these words in the entree descriptions plus common adjectives like crispy or crunchy.
If you have been following a gluten free diet for some time, avoiding noodles seems pretty obvious. However, there are several types of rice-based noodles available in Chinese dishes. Just make sure to stay away from lo mein or chow mein because they are made with wheat.
Stir fried rice
Stir fried rice is prepared with soy sauce, so if a gluten free option is not available, it’s best to avoid.
Again the problem with teriyaki is the soy sauce, and this is a little harder for the chef to swap out since the sauce is made in advance. Best to avoid teriyaki altogether.
Sweet and sour soup
This soup is generally not gluten free because of, you guessed it, soy sauce. It is quite possible to make it gluten free, though, with a simple swap of ingredients.
Mongolian beef sauce is usually made with some combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, Asian sweet chili sauce, rice wine, hoisin, pepper, sriracha and cornstarch. Because of the soy sauce, it’s best to avoid it as well.
Kung Pao chicken
Soy sauce strikes yet again! Kung Pao chicken is made with a blend of spices, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Sadly, it is not gluten free.
Gluten Free Chinese Restaurant Options
Now that I have bummed you out with all the things you can’t eat, let me share some good news! Many national Chinese restaurant chains now have gluten free options! Just last week, I was looking at the Pei Wei menu and noticed they have a whole gluten free menu. There’s a gluten free option for basically all of their most popular dishes! Rejoice!
Pei Wei Gluten Free Menu
Here are some of the items on the new GF menu. Note – these dishes are specially prepared and are not the same recipes featured on their regular menu.
- Asian Chopped Salad
- Beef and Broccoli
- Chicken and Broccoli
- Chicken Fried Rice
- Kung Pao Shrimp
- Kung Pao Chicken
- Mongolian Steak
- Mongolian Chicken
- Pei Wei Original Shrimp
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
I ended up ordering the GF sweet and sour chicken, and it was delicious! Plus no upset tummy afterward, so that’s always a good sign 🙂
P.F. Chang’s Gluten Free Menu
P.F. Chang’s also has a nice list of dishes on their GF menu. There’s even dessert!
- Egg Drop Soup
- Mongolian Beef
- Chang’s Spicy Chicken
- Beef with Broccoli
- Chicken Pad Thai
- Singapore Street Noodles
- Fried Rice
- Chocolate Souffle
Chinese Food at Home
If you’d rather skip the restaurant all together, try making one of these yummy gluten free Chinese dishes at home!
Well, there you have it! I hope this article helps you enjoy Chinese food the gluten free way! With a little bit of knowledge and planning, you can enjoy a delicious gluten free meal at your favorite Chinese restaurant.
Need More Restaurant Help?
Eating out is one of the hardest and most frustrating parts of living with Celiac disease or following a gluten free diet. To make things a little easier, I have put together several different restaurant guides. Check them out below.