Is Dim Sum Gluten-Free? ( + Gluten-Free Recipe)

Dim sum is a traditional, delicious dish originating from China. It’s also one that many people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease are forced to give up. But have you ever wondered whether Dim Sum can be gluten-free?

And if so… how?

This article will explore the history of Dim Sum and its origins in Cantonese cuisine. We’ll also examine how it’s prepared and the ingredients used in traditional Dim Sum dishes. Finally, we’ll answer that all-important question: Is Dim Sum Gluten-Free?

Are Dim Sims gluten-free? Is dim sum made of flour?

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Traditionally, Dim Sims are made with gluten-based ingredients such as wheat flour and wheat starch. This means dim sums aren’t gluten-free, making them unsuitable for individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. However, some variations of Dim Sum are made with gluten-free ingredients such as rice flour, corn starch, or tapioca flour. These gluten-free Dim Sums are safe for individuals with gluten intolerance to consume.

It’s important to note that cross-contamination can happen if gluten-free dim sums are cooked or prepared in the same equipment or environment as gluten-containing dim sums.

A Brief History of Dim Sum

Dim sum originated in Guangdong in southern China before finding its way to Hong Kong. As the Cantonese tearoom culture started in the late 19th century, travelers and traders on the Silk Road would pause in tea houses for a hearty dim sum dinner. The custom spread throughout the region as they traveled and eventually became popular worldwide. 

Best Ways to Eat Dim Sum 

Literally, dim sum means “heart’s delight.” If you’ve ever indulged in this traditional Chinese food, you know it’s so much more than a meal–it’s an experience.

You’re not just ordering food when you go out for dim sum. You’re entering a culture and experience far beyond the food itself. You can taste the difference between different types of dumplings and dumpling wrappers, learn which dishes are spicy or sweet, and perhaps most importantly, bond with friends and family over shared experiences.

If you want to enjoy dim sum with your Celiac friends or family members, there are a few things you should know about how gluten-free Chinese cuisine is eaten:

Dim sum is traditionally eaten in the morning or early afternoon.

Dim sum is traditionally eaten in the morning or early afternoon, but there are plenty of places that serve it all day and night. Many dim sum menus include dishes that can be prepared with gluten-free ingredients, such as rice noodles and wheat-free soy sauce. If you’ve had dim sum before, you know how delicious it is—and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

Dim sum is traditionally eaten with family and friends, but you can go alone.

One thing that sets dim sum apart from other types of Chinese food is that it’s traditionally eaten with family and friends. However, if you’re feeling like you want to go out for some dim sum alone, it’s totally possible—in fact, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider doing so:

You can try new things. When eating at home with a group, there’s often pressure on each person (especially the host!) to order what they know everyone else will like. This can make it harder to branch out and experiment with new dishes or flavors. When eating solo at a restaurant, you won’t be making anyone else uncomfortable by ordering something they don’t want.”

The best places are often crowded.

If a restaurant is packed with customers, it’s likely because they have something special going on. A great dim sum restaurant will attract hungry patrons throughout the day, so if you visit one that’s not crowded, you may not be getting your money’s worth.

Crowded restaurants can also be more fun—they’re bustling with activity, and the servers are usually quick to seat you. There are generally no reservations at these places, meaning that people love their food if there is any kind of line or wait time during prime lunch hour on a weekday afternoon.

Cheapness aside, authenticity is another reason why crowds tend towards popularity: authentic Chinese cuisine comes from its home country; therefore, authentic Chinese restaurants are often very crowded. And if someone wants their first taste of dim sum in America to come from somewhere other than Chinatown? Well then, why not?

The servers come at you FAST.

If you’re new to dim sum, or even if you’re not, this can be a little overwhelming. You might not have time to read all the options before they arrive, and it becomes clear that one dish is better than another. It’s okay! You don’t have to make every decision perfectly—just try going for what looks good.

You may also want to consider asking for help if your server doesn’t seem like they’re going to give it freely. Most people are happy to share their thoughts on what they think might be delicious. 

Be sure to grab the carts with tea first.

I know what you’re thinking: Why is she talking about tea? My first priority is always the main course in a Chinese restaurant. But at dim sum, your best bet for avoiding gluten contamination is to start with tea. Not only does it give you something to do while waiting for your food, but it also helps keep the food safe from cross-contamination. It’s served in small cups instead of large soup bowls or plates used throughout the meal and comes with a spoon and sugar cubes (which can be vinegar soaked by default). Your server will give you hot water and a pitcher of cold water so that you may dilute your tea or make ice cubes if desired.

They make a lot more than Dim Sum.

Dim sum is a great way to eat, but it’s not just the dumplings you can enjoy. In fact, many of the dishes are prepared ahead of time and kept warm in steamers. If your favorite dish isn’t available at first glance, it doesn’t hurt to ask the servers if they can make it for you. Asking is always the best way to get what you want from dim sum—and sometimes, what you want is more than just a few little bites.

The chefs will use different wrappers for dim sum, like rice paper and wonton wrappers. But beware – wheat-based dim sum wrappers are off-limits for people with celiac disease.

How to Get A Gluten-Free Dim Sum Experience 

If you’re looking for a gluten-free dim sum experience, here are some things to keep in mind:

To have a gluten-free dim sum experience, you can either look for a restaurant that offers gluten-free options or make your own at home using gluten-free ingredients. Some gluten-free options for dim sum include steamed dumplings made with rice flour or tapioca flour instead of wheat flour and steamed buns made with coconut flour or almond flour. You can also look for gluten-free soy sauce as a dipping sauce. It’s always best to check with the restaurant or recipe to ensure it is indeed gluten-free.

Dim sum is usually steamed or fried. If you’re craving dumplings, look instead for steamed or pan-fried vegetarian options like har gow (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings).

In China, it’s common to find large spreads of different dishes arranged on a table so everyone can serve themselves. In the US, receiving orders from a server who pushes around a cart covered with small plates is more common. Either way is fine—just make sure they aren’t adding any sauces or garnishes that contain gluten! If you’re ordering from the buffet-style spread at your local Chinese restaurant, just ask if any dishes contain wheat starch so you know which ones not to touch with your chopsticks.

Dim sum isn’t expensive

—you can get dinner for two at most places for less than $30 USD! The best part about dim sum is sampling different dishes without committing yourself until later when you’ve decided what actually sounds good to eat after seeing everything available firsthand (and maybe even talking about what type of food). This makes eating out cheaper too since we tend not to order things like appetizers before dinner because we don’t want leftover food sitting around our house later on.”

Steamed rolls are a good bet if you want to avoid gluten and have celiac disease because they’re made from rice paper or rice flour wrappers (just avoid the duck sauce).

You must be careful about what you order if you have celiac disease. While steamed rolls and dumplings are usually safe bets, avoid anything fried or made with soy sauce. Also, be sure that any rice dishes are made with gluten-free rice flour (and not regular flour).

As for the rest of us: if your diet is free of gluten but not of grains in general, many dim sum options can still be enjoyed guilt-free! Just make sure to avoid dumplings, buns (often filled with pork), and fried rice and noodles.

Homemade Gluten-Free Dim Sum Recipe

Here is a gluten-free recipe for dim sum that you can make at home:


2 cups glutinous rice flour (can be replaced with gluten-free rice flour)

1/2 cup tapioca starch

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water

Filling of your choice (ground meat, vegetables, shrimp, etc.)


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour, tapioca starch, corn starch, and salt. Mix well.
  2. Slowly add the hot water to the dry ingredients, stirring to form a dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
  3. Set the dough aside to rest for about 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling of your choice. You can use ground meat, vegetables, shrimp, or any other filling you prefer.
  5. Once the dough has rested, take a small amount and roll it into a ball. Then, flatten it with your hands to form a small disc.
  6. Place a small amount of filling in the center of the disc and carefully fold the edges to seal the filling inside.
  7. Repeat the process until you have used all the dough and filling.
  8. Steam the dim sum for 10-15 minutes or until they are cooked.
  9. Serve the gluten-free dim sum hot with gluten-free soy sauce or dipping sauce of your choice.

Note: If you are using gluten-free rice flour, it’s important to use glutinous rice flour as it gives the dim sum its characteristic texture.

It’s important to note that cross-contamination can happen if the gluten-free dim sum is cooked or prepared in the same equipment or environment as the gluten-containing dim sum.

This is a basic recipe for gluten-free dim sum; feel free to adjust the ingredients and fillings to your preference.

What Chinese Dishes are Gluten-Free?

Many traditional Chinese dishes are not gluten-free as they often contain wheat-based ingredients such as oyster sauce, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce, as well as wheat flour in doughs and dumplings. However, several Chinese dishes can be made gluten-free or can be modified to be gluten-free. Here are a few examples:

Steamed or stir-fried vegetables: Many Chinese vegetable dishes, such as stir-fries or steamed vegetables, are naturally gluten-free.

Rice dishes: Rice is a staple in Chinese cuisine, and dishes such as steamed white rice or fried rice made with gluten-free soy sauce are gluten-free options.

Meat and seafood dishes: Many meat and seafood dishes are gluten-free, such as kung pao chicken, moo shu pork, and steamed fish.

Hot and sour soup: This soup is made with gluten-free ingredients such as tofu, mushrooms, and rice vinegar.

Ma Po Tofu: This dish is made with tofu, ground meat, and a spicy sauce. It can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free soy sauce or by making your own sauce.

Mapo Tofu: This dish is made with tofu and ground meat and is often served with steamed rice. It can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free soy sauce or by making your own sauce.

Szechuan dishes: Szechuan cuisine is known for its spicy and flavorful dishes, such as Szechuan chicken, fish-fragrant eggplant, and green beans. These dishes are typically made with gluten-free ingredients such as Szechuan peppercorns, chili paste, and fermented black beans.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it: dim sum isn’t gluten free, but you can still eat it if you want to. Just ask the chefs to prepare a special dish for you using rice flour and other gluten-free ingredients—they’ll be happy to help!

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