Gluten Free Rice Drinks and Ferments

Gluten Free Rice Drinks and Ferments

Rice is a common base for drinks and ferments in many different countries. It’s cheap, semi-nutritious, sweet, and tasty. It’s also gluten free, so celiacs have some great options.

If you’re looking for rice flour information or recipes, we have an article for that too!

The types of rice drinks are divided into the following sections for easy searching: no alcohol, low alcohol, moderate alcohol, and high alcohol content. Keep in mind that distilled beverages are gluten free, even if made with some gluten-containing ingredients. Each item will include a brief description of the drink, plus some recipe links.

Newly diagnosed celiacs might be sad about not being able to drink most beers, but there are so many incredible and interesting rice-based options to have instead. Hopefully this list inspires you to try something new.

Table of Contents

No Alcohol

Rice Milk


Rice milk from Healthline

Uncooked rice is soaked and blended to make a creamy beverage. Rice milk isn’t the most popular non-dairy milk alternative, but it’s cheap and easy to make at home.



Genmaicha from Sencha Tea Bar

A type of green tea that includes toasted puffed rice for a roasted, nutty flavor. The puffed rice was originally used as a cheap way to make tea stretch further.

Horchata de Arroz


Horchata from Downshiftology

Horchata can refer to a bunch of different plant-based drinks, but horchata de arroz specifically refers to the sweetened rice-based drink from Mexico and Guatemala. Traditional recipes typically have some dairy and are served chilled, but it’s easy to make dairy free.

Low Alcohol



Amazake from Matcha and Tofu

Amazake is a traditional low-alcohol fermented beverage made from rice inoculated with koji. The flavor is sweet and is considered highly nutritious. It’s a common hangover cure in Japan. Amazake can also be made from other grains, including millet.



Jiu Niang Yuan Zi from Qiu Qiu Food

Tapai is an umbrella term that can refer to a pretty wide variety of fermented starch foods. It’s traditionally made from sticky rice, but can also be made from cassava or potatoes. Khao mak, galapong, cơm rượu, and jiu niang are all considered types of tapai.

Jiu Niang (酒酿)

Jiu Niang is collected from the first stage of the fermentation process when making sweet Chinese rice wine. Glutinous rice is inoculated with a starter containing Rhizopus oryzae or Aspergillus oryzae cultures. These break down the rice into a kind of pudding that is mildy alcoholic. If this is left to ferment at warm temperatures, it will continue the journey towards becoming sweet rice wine.

Khao Mak

To make khao mak, a started called lookpang is added to cooked sweet rice. This starter includes cultures of Aspergillus, Rhizopus, and Mucor species, plus Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida yeasts. Herbs like pepper, garlic and galangal are included as antibacterials. This results in a Thai sweet that is mildly alcoholic. It’s usually served in a banana leaf.


Galapong is the foundation of Filipino kakanin. Sweet rice flour is mixed with blended steamed rice and allowed to ferment naturally over 3-4 days.

Cơm Rượu

Glutinous rice is cooked, mixed with yeast and rolled into balls to make com ruou. These are then served in a milky rice wine that’s been seasoned with sugar and salt.

Tangalanna / Pazhayadu / Yennai Chadam

Tangalanna (also known as pazhayadu or yennai chadam) is a traditional fermented rice breakfast eaten across different parts of India. Rice is placed in an earthenware pot and covered with fresh water overnight. In the morning, it’s eaten cold with savory toppings and spices.


Yennai chadam from Mad Tea Party

Moderate Alcohol

Makgeolli / Takju (막걸리)


Makgeolli from Eater

A Korean beer that’s sweet, milky, slightly sparkling, and mildly tangy. Makgeolli is the oldest alcoholic beverage in Korea. It’s brewed with rice and nuruk, a type of yeast cake. Nuruk is most often made with wheat, but can also be made with rice, so you’ll need to be careful when sourcing this ingredient. Nuruk is essentially a dehydrated sourdough starter. Some makgeolli sold in the US is labeled GF, while other varieties are not.

Cheongju / Yakju (청주; 淸酒)


Yangchon Chungju from Seven Fifty Daily

Cheongju is a clear rice wine from Korea. Nuruk, the same starter as makgeolli, is used to begin the brewing process. Cheongju’s fermentation is done slowly in the winter and has an additional filtration step that results in a clear liquid, rather than cloudy. Varieties flavored with pine bud, chrysanthemum, lotus, and ginseng are also popular.


An Indian rice beer that’s made with an herbal starter culture called bakhar or ranu that contains 20-25 different herbs. Fermentation lasts about a week and the drink has a relatively low alcohol content.

Apo / Apong


Apong from Liamtra

A tribal drink from Northeast India. Apo isn’t sold in shops and is really only brewed within households. Roasted rice is cooked then inoculated with a starter called apop pitha or ranu, which is made from rice and medicinal plants. The full brewing process can take up to 3 months, with the resulting alcohol at 18-25% by volume. It’s considered a medicinal beverage and is an important cultural aspect of the Mising people.


Chhaang is a type of rice beer that’s brewed in Tibet and Nepal. It can be brewed from barley or millet, but there’s also a version made with only rice. It’s a popular drink during Losar, Tibetan New Year.



Zutho from Packaging of the World

A fermented drink from Nagaland in India, zutho is about 5% alcohol by volume. Sticky rice is inoculated with a starter called piazu made from malted rice or millet. After about a week of fermentation, it’s ready to drink. The flavor is sweet and slightly sour, with a fruity smell.


A fermented food from Indonesia, brem can be served in either cake or beverage form. To make either, cooked black or white glutinous rice is inoculated with the same culture used in tapai. After a few days the cake version is ready, but the beverage must continue fermenting with additional yeast added for the second part of the brewing process. It takes about 2 weeks to brew.



Tapuy with biko cake from Shubert Ciencia

A clear Filipino rice wine that’s sweet with a strong alcohol taste. It has about 14% alcohol by volume. Rice is steamed and a starter culture called bubod is added. Once brewing is complete, tapuy is pasteurized, aged, filtered, and bottled.

Mijiu (米酒)


Mijiu from 300 Shots at Greatness

Chinese rice wine is a clear drink that has between 15-20% alcohol content. It’s similar to cheongju and sake, but mijiu likely came first and inspired people in Korea and Japan to make their own versions. It’s an ancient drink made from glutinous rice, yeast, and water. Most often served slightly warm or room temp. It’s often used in Chinese cooking.

Shaoxing Rice Wine (绍兴酒)

Shaoxing rice wine is a type of mijiu that’s frequently used in Chinese cooking recipes and varies from regular Chinese rice wine in a couple of key ways. Shaoxing wine is amber in color, with more richness and depth. It includes wheat and is not gluten free in most cases.

Sato (สาโท)


Sato from Happy Hour City

Sato is Northern Thai rice wine, but it’s really more like a strong herbacious beer. Alcohol content is usually less than 15% by volume. Sticky rice is steamed and a specific yeast strain called lukpaeng is added. Many people have difficulties finding lukpaeng outside of Northern Thailand, so they sub the yeast that’s used to brew khao mak instead. Khao mak yeast will result in a slightly different taste with more burn. Brewing is done in the winter for a slower fermentation, which results in more complex flavor.

Lao Hai

Lao hai is a type of sato brewed in an earthenware jug. This version has added sugar and a lower alcohol content.



Tuak from Thirst Mag

A Malaysian sweet rice wine native to the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. It’s served at the Gawai Dayak harvest festival. The yeast used to produce Tuak is sold in balls made of various rice flours, ginger, and cinnamon. Ginger tends to halt fermentation, so tuak has a lower alcohol content than most rice wines.



Lihing from Sabah Eats

A Malaysian sweet rice wine native to the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. It tastes a bit like sherry and is served during the Kaamatan festival.



Sake from Jakarta Post

Sake is a Japanese rice wine that’s brewed more like a beer, although it has an alcohol content of 15–22%, so it’s usually grouped with wines. The rice used for brewing sake is called sakamai and there are around 80 varieties considered suitable for brewing into sake. The rice is polished then steamed. When it’s still warm and moist from being steamed, kōji-kin spores are scattered over the rice. Sake brewing is a complex process and a very labor-intensive job.

High Alcohol



Soju time! from Graham Hills

Soju is probably the most famous Korean alcohol. It’s a clear distilled beverage with 16.8–53% alcohol by volume. Soju was only made with rice until 1965, when the Japanese government banned the use of rice in alcohol production due to rice shortages. Since then, most soju has been made with other foods, like sweet potatoes or tapioca.



Shochu guide from The Back Label

Shochu is a Japanese distilled beverage that can be made from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, or even sugar. It’s about 25–35% alcohol by volume. Rice shochu is known for it’s somewhat thick taste. Rice is soaked and steamed, then koji is added to start the fermentation process. Two fermentation cycles are completed, then the beverage is distilled.


Raksi is a traditional distilled beverage from Nepal and Tibet. It can be made with either rice or millet and is served in ceremonies. It can essentially be considered moonshine, because it’s only really made at home, so consume with caution.

Lao khao


A distilled drink from Thailand that isn’t aged. Most modern lao khao is made from molasses, but it was traditionally made from sticky rice. It’s not considered the most sophisticated drink, but it’s strong, cheap, and available everywhere in Thailand.



Awamori island sake from Savvy Tokyo

A Japanese beverage distilled from imported Thai long grain rice. It originates from the Thai drink lao khao. Alcohol volume can vary between 25-60%. Known as a Japanese island wine, there are many regional varieties. Awamori uses a single fermentation process rather than Shochu’s double fermentation.

Rice Baijiu (米白酒)


Why baijiu belongs on the backbar from Seven Fifty Daily

A traditional type of distilled beverage, baijiu is considered the backbone of Chinese fermented products. Rice baijiu is distilled from fermented rice, but most baijiu is made from sorghum and other grains. There are many different types of baijiu, and some are definitely an acquired taste for a westerner’s palate. It’s served in shot-sized glasses and is seen as a way to build relationships. As a rule, it is not sipped.



Lao Lao from Rove

A clear rice whiskey from Laos. Lao-Lao is known as one of the cheapest distilled drinks in the world. It contains around 40-45% alcohol.

* Title image courtesy of Kathmandu Post.

- Further Reading -