This year it may be more difficult than usual to find the traditional symbolic foods for the seder plate. Or maybe you have allergies, are vegetarian or vegan, or just want to mix things up and make it your own. Whatever the reason, here are some suggestions for seder plate substitutions:
Maror: a bitter herb which represents the bitterness of slavery. Horseradish may be the most traditional bitter herb but you could use any bitter green like romaine lettuce, arugula, kale, chicory or endive. If you can’t get fresh greens try some mustard, wasabi or ginger.
Chazeret: a bitter vegetable or green and another symbol of the bitterness of slavery. You can use any of the items you used for maror; feel free to repeat or try something different like a scallion.
Karpas: a vegetable or leafy green that represents the rebirth of spring. Very often, this is parsley but you can use any leafy green. If you can’t find fresh greens, try a boiled potato, radish, celery stalk or even an onion.
Bay-tzah: a roasted egg. This represents the rebirth of spring and the birth, or rebirth, of the Jewish people. It also represents the festival offerings brought to the Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times. You can substitute with another symbol of fertility and growth like seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.), an avocado or avocado pit, or even a flower.
Z’roah: a roasted shank bone of a lamb. Represents the Passover offering of a lamb made at the ancient Temple in Jerusalem in the early spring. Sometimes a chicken neck is substituted, and in vegetarian homes, a beet, a yam, or a carrot may be substituted.
Charoset: a sweet fruit and nut spread that symbolizes the mortar that Hebrew slaves used in their hard labors building cities and brick buildings for the Pharaohs. This can be made with any combination of fruit and nuts with a little bit of wine or grape juice and spices. The fruit can be fresh or dried and any type of nut or seed will do. If you are allergic to nuts just leave them out. Different Jewish cultures have different “traditional” recipes – they’re all delicious.
Other symbols on your seder plate: an opportunity to make it your own. Many people add newer symbolic foods to their seder plates; for instance, some families use olives or grapes to hearken back to the ancient custom of leaving the edges of fields for the poor to eat from and others use olives as a symbol of peace. If you want to have your seder plate uniquely represent your family, add an item particular to the culture(s) represented in your home or check out the ideas here for other modern symbols.
Also visit our Guide to Passover for Interfaith Families for more resources and helpful information.