Can you eat dairy on Passover?

Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays, commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt over 3,000 years ago. A key part of observing Passover is avoiding chametz, which are foods made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that have been allowed to leaven or ferment. This includes things like bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, beer and whiskey.

Many people wonder if dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt and butter are allowed on Passover. The rules around eating dairy on Passover can be confusing, so here is a quick rundown:

Quick Answer:
Yes, dairy products made without grains or leavening agents can be eaten on Passover. This includes things like plain milk, butter, cream cheese, hard cheeses and plain yogurt. However, dairy products containing wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt cannot be eaten on Passover.

Why avoid chametz on Passover?

The Torah prohibits Jews from owning or eating chametz during Passover. Chametz refers to foods that contain grains that have been allowed to ferment or rise. This commemorates the fact that when the Israelites fled Egypt, they did not have time to let their bread rise before baking.

Here are some key reasons why leavened grains are avoided on Passover:

Commemorates the Exodus: Eating only unleavened bread reminds Jews of the haste with which their ancestors left Egypt. Their bread did not have time to rise before baking.

Symbol of sin: In the Torah, leaven is sometimes associated with the “puffing up” of pride and sin. Avoiding chametz symbolizes removing sin and impurities from the home.

Spring cleaning: Getting rid of all chametz in the home is like a spring cleaning ritual before Passover starts. It represents removing impurities and starting fresh.

Strict adherence: Not eating chametz demonstrates discipline, self-restraint and strict adherence to God’s commandments.

Overall, avoiding leavened grains on Passover is done out of obedience to Jewish law, to commemorate the history of the Jewish people, and to symbolize purity, humility and renewal.

Are dairy products considered chametz?

Dairy products like milk, butter, yogurt and cheese are not intrinsically considered chametz. This is because they are not made from the forbidden grains – wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt.

However, many dairy products contain small amounts of grains or leavening agents. For example:

– Yogurt often contains wheat- or starch-based thickeners.

– Powdered milk can contain malt from barley.

– Cheese spreads and processed cheeses may contain leavening agents.

– Some butter brands contain small amounts of lecithin, a potential leavening agent.

So in their pure, unadulterated forms without any additives, dairy products are not chametz and can be eaten on Passover. But it is important to read ingredients carefully to watch out for prohibited grains or leavening agents.

Here is a quick summary:

Dairy products that are typically NOT chametz:
– Plain milk
– Butter
– Salted/unsalted butter
– Cream cheese
– Cottage cheese
– Hard cheeses (cheddar, swiss, parmesan, etc)

Dairy products that MAY be chametz:
– Yogurt
– Sour cream
– Cheese spreads
– Soft, fresh cheeses
– Processed cheeses
– Powdered milk products
– Liquid non-dairy coffee creamers
– Butter substitutes like margarine

Gebrochts and dairy on Passover

There is one more consideration around dairy and Passover – something called gebrochts.

Gebrochts refers to mixing matzah – the unleavened Passover bread – with water or other liquids. Some Jewish groups avoid gebrochts on Passover. This follows the tradition of keeping matzah unfermented and untouched by moisture, as a remembrance of the dry matzah the Israelites took with them when fleeing Egypt.

So if you avoid gebrochts on Passover, you would not eat matzah with any kind of liquid like milk, soup, juice, etc. You would eat the matzah dry.

However, this practice of avoiding gebrochts is a custom and not universally followed by all Jewish groups. Many Jews do eat matzah with dairy products like cheese, milk, yogurt, etc. on Passover with no issue.

Here is a summary of gebrochts and dairy on Passover:

If you avoid gebrochts:
– Do not eat matzah soaked in liquid, including milk. Keep matzah dry.
– But you may consume other dairy products like cheese normally.

If you do not avoid gebrochts:
– You can eat matzah with milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
– Dairy can be consumed freely, together with matzah or on its own.

So gebrochts only affects whether you can eat matzah soaked in dairy products. It does not mean you need to avoid dairy altogether on Passover.

Reading dairy product labels for Passover

To choose dairy products that are kosher for Passover, you need to carefully read the ingredients labels. Watch out for:

Grains: Wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt. Also look for general terms like “starch”, “fillers” or “thickeners” that could indicate a prohibited grain.

Leavening agents: Baking soda, baking powder. Also be alert for vague ingredients like “natural flavors” that could potentially contain leavening.

Malt: Typically made from barley.

Dextrose: Can come from wheat or corn. Corn dextrose is acceptable on Passover.

Lecithin: May be derived from grains like wheat or soybeans. Soy lecithin is acceptable.

Good dairy symbols: Dairy products marked “pareve” or “Kosher for Passover” are good options.

Here are some examples decoding dairy product labels for Passover:

Product Ingredients Passover Status
Yoplait Vanilla Yogurt Milk, sugar, whey protein concentrate, corn starch, kosher gelatin, natural flavor, potassium sorbate added to maintain freshness. Not kosher – contains corn starch
Breakstone’s Salted Butter Cream, salt Kosher
Kraft American Cheese Slices Milk, whey, milk protein concentrate, milkfat, whey protein concentrate, salt, calcium phosphate, cheese culture, enzymes, annatto (vegetable color) Kosher
Land O Lakes Margarine Liquid soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, water, salt, vegetable mono & diglycerides, soy lecithin, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavor, beta carotene (color), vitamin A palmitate. Not kosher – contains hydrogenated oil & lecithin

As you can see, it takes some careful label reading to identify dairy products that are compliant for Passover. When in doubt, look for a kosher symbol indicating it’s kosher for Passover or ask your rabbi.

What about cheese on Passover?

Many people wonder if cheese is allowed on Passover, since it is a fermented dairy product.

Hard cheeses like cheddar, colby, swiss, parmesan and romano are permitted on Passover. This is because the cheese cultures used to make hard cheese are not considered chametz. Hard cheeses also have very low moisture content, which prevents leavening.

On the other hand, soft fresh cheeses like cottage cheese, ricotta, and mozzarella may be forbidden on Passover because they either contain grains or use cultures that could promote leavening.

Here are some guidelines for cheese on Passover:

Typically permitted cheeses:

– Aged hard cheeses like cheddar, swiss, parmesan
– Any cheese marked kosher for Passover
– Cheese with a kosher symbol and no added questionable ingredients

Questionable cheeses:

– Soft unaged cheeses like cottage, ricotta, mozzarella, goat cheese
– Sliced, shredded or crumbled cheese mixtures
– Cheese spreads
– Cheese powder
– Cheese sauces and dips
– Pasteurized processed cheeses

If in doubt, look for a hechsher kosher label indicating the cheese is kosher for Passover or contact your rabbi. Some Jews are stricter and avoid all cheeses on Passover unless they have a trusted kosher certification.

Kosherizing dairy for Passover

For dairy items you already own that may be questionable for Passover, there is a process called “kosherizing” that can be done to make them suitable for Passover. This involves thoroughly cleaning the item and letting it sit unused for a period of time.

Here are the kosherizing guidelines:

For hard cheeses:

– Clean any surfaces the cheese contacted.
– Do not use the cheese for 24 hours before Passover.
– Preferably get a new block of cheese for Passover.

For other firm, hard dairy items like butter or margarine:

– Clean any utensils, dishes and surfaces contacted by the dairy.
– Don’t use the product for 24 hours before Passover.
– If possible, get new or kosher for Passover versions for the holiday.

For softer dairy products like cottage cheese or yogurt:

– Assume these are chametz and dispose of them before Passover.
– Replace with certified kosher for Passover versions.

The kosherization process may differ among various Jewish communities and traditions. Always check with your rabbi about kosherizing guidelines.

Non-dairy substitutes on Passover

For those who want to avoid dairy altogether on Passover, there are many non-dairy substitutes to consider:

Plant-based milks: Soy, almond, oat, coconut, rice and cashew milks marked kosher for Passover.

Tofu-based yogurts and cheeses: Look for brands that carry a Passover certification.

Margarine: Many pareve margarine brands without milk/whey ingredients are labeled kosher for Passover.

Nondairy creamers: Coffeemate Original in the USA is pareve and acceptable for Passover.

Nut butters: Peanut butter and other spreads like almond or sunflower butters make good sandwich substitutes.

Again, it is very important to thoroughly inspect labels of any Passover substitute dairy products and look for a marker that they are kosher for Pesach.

Cooking considerations for dairy on Passover

Here are some tips for handling dairy in your Passover kitchen:

– Have separate dishes, cookware and utensils that are used only for Passover. Do not mix with your regular dairy dishes.

– Use new sponges, towels, oven mitts and other items to avoid cross-contamination.

– Wash hands and preparation surfaces extremely well when switching between meat and dairy.

– If eating both meat and dairy meals on Passover, allow several hours between them and use separate dishes.

– Look for kosher for Passover pareve desserts that can be eaten after both meat and dairy meals.

– For those who wait 6 hours between meat and dairy, you may need to adjust your meal plans accordingly on Passover.

Being extra careful about separating meat and dairy on Passover is wise to avoid inadvertently mixing chametz or non-Passover dairy into your Passover kitchen.

Common questions about dairy on Passover

Are eggs considered dairy on Passover?

No, eggs are pareve (neither meat nor dairy). They can be consumed on Passover.

Is butter chametz?

Butter meeting Passover requirements is fine. It should not contain questionable leavening agents, non-kosher animal products or be mixed with chametz grains/flour.

Can you use milk for cooking for Passover?

Yes, plain milk with no additives can be used as an ingredient in cooking for Passover.

Isn’t yeast chametz? Why is yeast sometimes in cheese kosher for Passover?

Certain yeasts are permitted on Passover. Ingredients must specify “kosher for Passover” yeast, not just “yeast.”

Do Ashkenazi Jews avoid gebrochts and kitniyot?

Yes, Ashkenazi Jews traditionally avoid gebrochts and kitniyot (rice, corn, peas, lentils) on Passover. Sephardic Jews do not have these extra restrictions.

Dairy-free Passover meal ideas

Here are some ideas for dairy-free or non-dairy meals to enjoy on Passover:


– Matzah brei (like French toast) made with egg and chicken schmaltz instead of butter
– Frittata with vegetables and parve margarine
– Egg salad made with avocado instead of mayo
– Smoked salmon and slices of tomato


– Grilled chicken over salad with oil & vinegar dressing
– Egg salad sandwiches on matzah with avocado
– Matzah pizza with tomato sauce, vegetables and parve cheese


– Gefilte fish with horseradish
– Roast chicken with roasted vegetables
– Matzah ball soup
– Brisket with onion and mushroom gravy
– Tofu veggie stir fry over quinoa


– Macaroons
– Flourless chocolate cake
– Fresh fruit compote
– Frozen fruit sorbet

As you can see, it is completely possible to have tasty dairy-free Passover meals centered around poultry, fish, eggs, produce and other kosher ingredients. Get creative with recipe ideas!


Dairy products which are free of prohibited grains and leavening agents can be enjoyed on Passover. However, it’s important to carefully inspect labels for chametz ingredients. Plain milk, butter, many hard cheeses and unflavored yogurt are generally acceptable.

Those who avoid gebrochts will not eat matzah with any liquid including milk. Non-dairy substitutes like soy milk and pareve margarine can be used as well. Work closely with your rabbi to determine your specific tradition’s guidelines for dairy and Passover.

With careful label reading and creative kitchen substitutions, dairy-free delicious Passover meals are absolutely achievable. Focus on fresh whole foods, and look for kosher for Passover products to stay compliant with the holiday dietary rules. Have a meaningful, memorable and joyous Passover!

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