Tamari – Gluten Free Enough?

I adore tamari as a flavouring in soups, Thai, Chinese and rice dishes, but I have discovered you do need to be careful which brand you are using as some, even though they state ‘gluten free’, actually use barley in the manufacture!

Tamari, if you are not familiar with it, is the wheat-free version of soy sauce, although note that it does contain rice so beware if you are off all grains. It is an easy way to add a salty, strong flavour to all manner of things.

I have always used the same brand and, thinking of pennies, I recently swapped to Clearspring because they did a 1 litre bottle.

It tasted different, but more importantly, I didn’t feel right on it. I thought I had developed a sudden reaction to prawns because I tend to use tamari to make a kind of Chinese egg fried rice dish with king prawns and I didn’t feel well each time I had it. I was not chuffed.

This is what I read on the Clearspring site about the way their tamari is produced:

“This is a rare treat – a double strength, wheat and gluten free soya sauce produced by a natural fermentation in the cedarwood kegs over two summers. Enjoy its classic sauce that has been made to a 500 years old recipe. Its flavour is more concentrated than standard soya sauce, yet never over powering.

Our Organic Tamari Soya Sauce has been included in the Coeliac Society Directory.

A tiny portion of roasted barley flour is used in the process of making Clearspring Organic Tamari Soya Sauce. Yet, in the light of gluten testing carried out, we are able to confirm that the long fermentation and ageing processes that our Organic Tamari Soya Sauce undergoes, eliminates the gluten proteins present in the barley. Following theses result, the Coeliac Society has decided to include Clearspring Organic Tamari Soya Sauce in their gluten free directory.”

Hmm. What that really means is that the tamari has been tested to have less than the allowable amount of barley gluten PROTEIN left in it to satisfy current coeliac guidelines. It does NOT mean it is gluten free enough for trulyglutenfree sufferers.

Currently, we do not know what the exact process of gluten damage in the body is. We don’t know what it is precisely we are reacting to – is it the protein, the starch, the energy of the food? Who knows. What I do know, though, is that even the tiny amount of protein gluten allowable for coeliacs is not low enough for most TGFs. There is research to show that food starch can cause damage, but the starches are not tested as far as I know in foods aiming to match coeliac gluten free guidelines.

So, panicked, I looked at my previous brand: Sanchi. I asked them to confirm how theirs was processed and here is their reply:

“There is no barley or other grains present in our normal Tamari. However, our Low Salt Tamari sauce is processed with roasted barley flour as a processing aid, as a result there’s none present in the finished product.”

Note the old ‘none left in the finished product’ chestnut. But, the good news is that this product is fine, although the low salt version is clearly not so watch what you are buying:

Sanchi Organic Tamari Soy Sauce  150ml

Phew. Below is the product info from Sanchi. You can click on the product to go straight to a good stockist, or you can find it in most stores.

“Tamari is one of the oldest Japanese seasonings; the word “Tamari” literally means ‘to accumulate, referring to the liquid collected from fully aged soya bean miso. Sanchi Tamari is still crafted in the traditional manner.


As a savoury seasoning instead of salt, ideally added one minute before the end of cooking. Excellent for seasoning soups, stocks, broths, marinades, salad dressings, sauces, pickles, stir-fries, any kind of vegetable, vegetarian or fish dish. Also ideal as a condiment to add to meals.

The most important difference is that Tamari is a GLUTEN-FREE soy sauce. This means that it is suitable for coeliacs and those with a wheat intolerance. It has a slightly richer taste than the Shoyu Soy Sauce


  • Authentically made in the centuries-old manner
  • Full bodied with plenty of taste and character
  • Draws out flavours rather than overpowers them
  • An essential item in the kitchen of every discerning cook
  • Gluten Free


Water, Soya Beans, Sea Salt, Koji (aspergillus oryzae).

Nutrition Information (per 100g)
Energy 372kJ/89kcal
Protein 11.1g
Carbohydrate 10.8g
Fat 0.1g”



2 thoughts on “Tamari – Gluten Free Enough?

  1. Hi Micki, I’m going to phone you one day this week. However, for now, do you have any info on BRAGG? Supposed to be complete liquid amino acids, which I used to use in same way you do Tamari. Thanks for fab site. Maria – Homeopath

    • Thanks for your kind comments about the site, maria. I know we have spoken on the phone since you posted this and you were going to see what you could find out about Braggs and post back. Thanks for that and good luck.

      From the bit I know, it is made from soya beans broken down into its constituent amino acids by hydrochloric acid. In effect, a pre-digested processed soya product. Doesn’t sound particularly appetizing (or natural) to me but I do know some patients love it and, if you are Ok with soya – and the salt content – it may be a good flavour product.

      Do let us know how you get on!

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