Is Kewpie mayo gluten free? An international investigation

Is Kewpie mayo gluten free? An international investigation

Kewpie mayonnaise is a rich, slightly sweet, and ultra creamy mayo from Japan. Kewpie made in the US and Europe is gluten free! However, the Kewpie made in Japan is not gluten free, which is a real bummer for celiacs, as many people think it’s the best one.

One of the key differences between Kewpie and regular mayo is the amount of egg yolk used in the recipe. Kewpie uses only egg yolks rather than whole eggs, which creates its custardy consistency and pale yellow color. Other ingredient differences: the use of apple cider or rice vinegar, rather than the distilled vinegar that’s often used in mayo, and a small but magical dash of MSG. Kewpie can also be identified by its unique bottle tip that allows thin lines of mayo to be layered onto foods like okonomiyaki, or their star shaped tip which can be used to create fancy dollops.


Okonomiyaki with Kewpie designs from Guillaume Coué via Unsplash

Kewpie Ingredients by Country

There are other Kewpie varieties made for different country’s markets, but only the US and EU varieties are clearly marked gluten free. Thai Kewpie may also be gluten free, but this hasn’t been directly confirmed by Kewpie. You’ll find the full ingredients list for each country’s version of Kewpie below.

But first some quick notes:

  • Countries have very different labeling and allergen requirements, so it’s worth noting that the ingredients lists for some countries are less precise than others.

  • While it doesn’t say it directly on the Thai Kewpie label, there is a Thailand-specific Kewpie press release stating: “The production line in the new building is designed to meet diverse customers needs such as gluten-free and plant-based products." This may indicate that the Thai Kewpie is gluten free, but because Thai labeling isn’t very clear, this is difficult to confirm for each product.

  • Per this Kewpie press release, Kewpie sold in the Philippines is made in either Japan, Vietnam, or Thailand as of this writing, so you’d need to refer to the package to see which country’s Kewpie you’ve purchased.

  • Singaporean Kewpie includes ‘barley malt’ as a source of the vinegar. If this is malt vinegar, the mayo is not gluten free, but if it’s distilled vinegar it’s safe. However, because Japan’s version does use malt vinegar I’d be on the safe side and skip this version as well.

  • According to this Kewpie press release, all Kewpie (legally) imported to Australia is sourced from Thailand. This is because the Australian government prohibits travelers bringing in Japanese mayonnaise due to the high ratio of eggs in the product. So if the previous Thai press release indicates that Thai Kewpie is gf, all Kewpie in Australia may be safe for celiacs. This law does not seem to apply to New Zealand, which imports Japanese Kewpie as far as I can tell.


Eggy toast with Kewpie from Lars Millberg via Unsplash

Japanese Kewpie:

Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Soybean Oil), Egg Yolk, Vinegar (Malt Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar), Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice, Natural Flavor.

US Kewpie:

Soybean Oil, Egg Yolks, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Sugar, Mustard Flour, Red Wine Vinegar, Rice Vinegar, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavors

European Kewpie:

Rapeseed Oil (71%), EGG Yolk (15%), Water, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Sugar, Apple Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, MUSTARD Powder, Flavourings (MUSTARD).

Chinese Kewpie:

Vegetable Oil, Egg Yolk, Water, Vinegar, Edible Salt, White Sugar, Food Additives (monodium glutamate, xanthan gum, disodium edetate), Spices

Thai Kewpie:

Soybean Oil, Egg Yolk (9.5%), Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Rice Vinegar, Water, Flavour Enhancer (Monosodium Glutamate), Spices (contain mustard), Antioxidant (385). - certified halal

Malaysian Kewpie:

Soybean Oil,Egg, Water, Vinegar, Salt, Sugar, Monosodium Glutamate (E621), Mustard Powder, Xanthan Gum (E415), Calcium Disodium EDTA (E385), Mustard Seed Extract. - certified halal

Indonesian Kewpie:

Soybean Oil (70%), Egg Yolk (9%), Vinegar, Water, Egg White, Sugar, Salt, Thickener (dextrin, xanthan gum), Flavor Enhancer (monosodium glutamate, disodium 5'-ribonucleotide), Mustard Powder, Sequestrant (calcium disodium EDTA), Mustard Essential Oil. - certified halal

Vietnamese Kewpie:

Soybean Oil, Egg Yolk, Water, Vinegar, Salt, Sugar, Flavor Enhancer (621), Mustard, Thickener (415), Preservative (385).

Singaporean Kewpie:

Vegetable Oil (Rapeseed Oil, Soybean Oil), Egg Yolk (Egg Yolk, Salt, Vegetable Oil), Vinegar (Alcohol, Apple Juice, Corn, Sugars (Glucose, Sugar), Barley Malt, Sake Lees), Water, Salt, Yellow Mustard, Seasoning (Amino Acid – Monosodium L-Glutamate), Spice Extract (Mustard)

So why isn’t the Japanese version of Kewpie considered gluten free?


US Kewpie is on the left, Japanese Kewpie on the right. via The Takeout

Japanese Kewpie contains malt vinegar, which is a source of gluten. Kewpie doesn’t list malt vinegar in the ingredients on the Japanese website, but the vinegar is more clearly specified when this version is labeled for other countries. This is how we confirmed which ingredient was the gluten offender. Kewpie’s Japanese production line may also be cross-contaminated, which is another reason to avoid this condiment.

For now, all celiacs should Japanese-produced Kewpie, as well as Kewpie from any of the countries that don’t clearly state their mayo is gluten free.

Buy Gluten Free Kewpie Mayo

Besides their traditional version, Kewpie also offer vegan and bulk varieties. The bulk variety is a different recipe than the smaller mayo bottles sold in the US, and includes MSG instead of yeast extract. MSG is gluten free!

* Title image courtesy of Grubstreet.

- Further Reading -