Passover food traditions are a little more complicated than on other Jewish holidays due to the food restrictions. Prepare for a fun and potentially complicated challenge as many people choose to avoid the five grains that make foods rise: wheat, rye, barley, spelt and oats. The exception is, of course, matzah. And to make your own matzah, you must carefully bake your flour and water mixture as soon as it’s mixed, so that it cannot rise.
For families newer to celebrating Passover, please know a wide range exists for what Passover observance can look like. Choose what works for you. Some people clean everything in their homes, rid their houses of all leavened products and use separate dishes that are stored all year and only used for this one week. Other people celebrate Passover by avoiding leavened products at the seder but not changing anything else about their eating habits.
Traditional rules around keeping kosher for Passover are filled with dozens of details, and the specifics vary between families. If you’re seeking recipes that are kosher for Passover, we have you covered.
What are some traditional Ashkenazi Passover dishes?
Many Ashkenazi Jews avoid an additional category of foods on Passover known as kitniyot, which mostly consists of legumes. The historical reasons for this tradition are complicated, which more and more Jews outside of the Orthodox community are deciding to stop following.
The main ingredients to know? Traditional Ashkenazi Passover dishes rely heavily on matzah, meat, potatoes, eggs and vegetables.
Sephardi Jews may trace their ancestry through Spain, Morocco or the Middle East.
What’s important to know about Sephardi Passover cooking?
The Passover section of grocery stores can be a very confusing place. Passover pasta, cake mix, and… cereal? What do those things mean when Passover foods aren’t supposed to include grains?
Well, for starters, they’re usually made of a combination of matzah meal (ground matzah) and potato starch. And honestly, they’re often not very tasty. Passover versions of almost every common food item exists. And they’re only useful for those who are meticulously observing dietary restrictions.
One standout, though, is candy: Pesadic (another way of saying kosher for Passover) treats are plentiful and, for many people who grew up celebrating Passover, very nostalgic.
For most of the foods you’ll want to eat during the holiday, homemade versions are likely tastier. Or, see if you can just last the week without them! Though it’s easy to be intrigued by the variety of prepackaged options, you may enjoy your meals more if you get a Passover cookbook or look up recipes online (try these), or just arrange your meals for a week to focus mostly on proteins and veggies.
One recommendation is to cook your own matzah pizza! A little tomato sauce, cheese, and matzah can go a long way.
Return to the Guide to Passover for Interfaith Families