Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Tempura Batter Recipe

Vegetable tempura in deep fryer
Vegetable tempura in deep fryer. Getty Images/Peter Williams/Photolibrary
  • Prep Time
    10 min
  • Cook Time
    10 min
  • Total Time
    20 min
  • Yield
    Batter for 2 pounds of food

This Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Tempura Batter is made from rice flour, in the traditional way. (These days, it's usually made from wheat flour.) This batter makes a versatile coating that's good for frying seafood, small pieces of chicken, and many kinds of vegetables.

I've specified rice flour for this, but any low-protein, neutral-tasting wheat-free flour will work. I've made this with millet flour, corn flour, and wild rice flour.

See the section on Cooking Tempura Vegetables, below, after the recipe directions.

Note: This recipe makes sufficient batter to cook about 2 pounds of fish filets or chicken tenderloins, or 1 1/2 pounds of tofu, scallops, calamari, or vegetables in smaller pieces.


  • 2 large room-temperature egg whites
  • Approximately 2 cups rice flour, divided, plus additional for dredging
  • Approximately 1 cup cold seltzer water
  • Salt and pepper


  1. In a bowl, mix together 2 large room-temperature egg whites and 1 cup of rice or other non-wheat flour. Slowly add flour until the egg is entirely absorbed. The mixture should be lumpy at this point.
  2. Very slowly, stir in approximately 1 cup seltzer water until batter is smooth and easy to stir, but still thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when you lift it up. The texture should be slightly runnier than pancake batter. Season batter very generously with salt and pepper.
  1. To fry, dredge meat, seafood, drained and cubed tofu, or vegetables in a small amount of the same flour you used for the batter. Shake off excess flour and dip in tempura batter. Shake off excess batter and fry in a neutral-tasting high-heat frying oil, such as canola, corn, safflower, peanut, or sunflower, until batter is golden-brown on all sides.
  2. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels before serving hot.

What Is Tempura?

Tempura is a Japanese specialty of batter-dipped and deep-fried pieces of fish, vegetables, meat or poultry. Tempura can be served as an appetizer, hors d'oeuvres or main course.

When Making the Tempura Batter

Setsuko Yoshizuka, About.com's Japanese Food Expert, says, "It's good to use cold/ice water [or other liquid] for the [tempura] batter. This is important to prevent the batter from absorbing too much oil."

She also advises making the batter right before frying tempura.

Making it ahead of time is not recommended. 

Cooking Tempura Vegetables

Vegetables with long cooking times, like sweet potatoes and large pieces of broccoli, benefit from parboiling before frying because the frying time may not be long enough to cook them to tenderness.

To parboil vegetables, cook them briefly in boiling water until their color is very bright.

(For most vegetables, this takes only a few minutes.) Remove immediately and submerge in ice water. Pat dry with paper towels before proceeding with recipe.

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