Is Tofu Gluten Free?
Tofu is a healthy source of plant protein and plays an important role in vegan, vegetarian, and other diets. Most of us know it is non-dairy, but does tofu have gluten? The answer is somewhat tricky and nuanced. It also makes all the difference for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Traditional or plain tofu is generally gluten free. It is made of only 3 ingredients: soybeans, water, and coagulant. The latter is an acidic substance that acts as a curdling agent. In other words, it's what holds the tofu together. As no wheat, rye, oats, or barley are involved in tofu making, plain tofu is free of gluten, and safe for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
However, be careful if you are allergic - some varieties do contain gluten. Unless you’ve been on a gluten-free diet for a long time and have thorough knowledge of what ingredients to avoid, spotting gluten in something as seemingly innocent as tofu can be challenging.
The nuances emerge when it comes to readily flavoured tofu. This can be a convenient choice if you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time or the right tofu press to drain and marinate the tofu yourself. However, it is the flavourings or, more specifically, the marinades and sauces, that often contain hidden gluten. For example, one of the most popular tofu flavourings - soy sauce. Did you know soy actually contains wheat? Look for the gluten free alternative called tamari, and you will be safe. Other popular condiments to avoid are brewer’s yeast, malt vinegar, and wheat flour. Also, be aware of potential cross-contamination during processing or preparation.
Luckily, most tofu brands label their products as "gluten free". To be on the safe side, simply opt for these labels. Manufacturers use them when the gluten content in a product does not exceed 20 ppm (parts per million). Such small traces are usually safe even for people with high gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Remember to ask for gluten free options in restaurants, and only look up gluten free tofu recipes online. Know your ingredients and enjoy your favourite tofu recipes safely.
There are plenty of alternatives for the ingredients you have to avoid. Make your own marinades using ginger, garlic, lemon and lime juice, white vinegar, and the many other gluten free ingredients out there.
Life is always better with tofu!