What Catholics Cannot eat on Good Friday?

On Good Friday, Catholics around the world observe the most solemn day in the liturgical calendar by commemorating the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. This is a day of fasting and abstinence, meaning no meat is to be eaten. But what exactly are the dietary restrictions for Catholics on Good Friday?

Why Do Catholics Fast on Good Friday?

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday, marking the day Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross. This event is at the very heart of Christian theology, as Jesus’ death represents a sacrifice to atone for the sins of humanity. His resurrection on Easter Sunday then represents the triumph over sin and death.

For this reason, Good Friday is a crucial day for Christians to solemnly recognize these events through prayer, repentance, and self-sacrifice. Fasting is a form of penance and self-sacrifice. By abstaining from meat and eating simpler, smaller meals, Catholics identify with Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. It also represents disciplining the body’s desires and turning towards spiritual nourishment instead.

What Are the Official Rules for Fasting and Abstinence?

Here are the official rules for fasting and abstinence on Good Friday, as dictated by Catholic church law:

  • Only one full meal is permitted
  • Two smaller meals can be eaten, but they should not equal a full meal
  • No snacking between meals
  • The consumption of solid foods between meals is not permitted
  • No meat, poultry or fish is allowed. Dairy, eggs and produce are permitted.

These fasting requirements apply to all Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59. Exceptions are made for health reasons, so those who are sick, pregnant, etc. are not obligated to fast. Technically the church only makes the full ban on meat mandatory, but most observe the full fasting requirements.

What Foods Are Banned on Good Friday?

As stated above, the major dietary restriction is the abstention from meat on Good Friday. This includes not only flesh meat but also poultry and seafood. So what exactly does “meat” entail?

Here are some common animal products that are forbidden:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Goose
  • Lamb
  • Mutton
  • Veal
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Any dishes containing these items, like stews, sandwiches, casseroles etc. are also banned. Some other specific foods prohibited on Good Friday include:

  • Bacon
  • Deli meats
  • Sausages
  • Ham
  • Hot dogs
  • Anchovies
  • Caviar
  • Meat gravies and sauces
  • Chicken, fish or beef broths and stocks

What Foods are Permitted?

While meat is completely off the table, Catholics have several good protein options to choose from on Good Friday:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Legumes and bean dishes
  • Tofu
  • Nut and seed butters

Beyond that, options include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Seaweed
  • Condiments
  • Desserts
  • Beverages

So there are still plenty of possibilities for delicious and satisfying meatless meals on Good Friday! Get creative with preparations like vegetarian lasagnas, black bean burgers, pasta primavera, vegetable curries, eggplant parmesan, PB&J, salads galore…the options are endless.

Sample Good Friday Meal Plans

Here are some sample meal plans that adhere to the Catholic Good Friday fasting requirements:

Meal Menu Options
  • Oatmeal with berries and milk
  • Egg sandwich with cheese
  • Avocado toast
  • Fruit smoothie with yogurt
  • Vegetable soup
  • Salad with chickpeas
  • Grilled cheese sandwich
  • Veggie & cheese pizza
  • Pasta with marinara sauce
  • Vegetable stir fry with tofu
  • Black bean tacos
  • Cheese ravioli with alfredo sauce

As you can see, abstaining from meat still allows for nutritious and tasty Catholic-approved Good Friday meals!

Loopholes and Exceptions

As with any religious tradition, there are bound to be questions and ambiguities when it comes to exact definitions and allowances. Here are some of the common loopholes and exceptions that come up regarding meat prohibitions on Good Friday:

  • Broths/Stocks: While meat-based broths and stocks are technically prohibited, some Catholics may still consume them on Good Friday since only trace amounts of meat remain.
  • Gelatin: There is debate over whether gelatin is permitted, since it is derived from animal collagen. Some avoid it, while others see it as sufficiently far removed from meat.
  • Lard/Animal Fat: The use of lard or animal fat for cooking may be permitted, since there is no flesh meat present.
  • Meat Flavorings: Ingredients like bacon flavoring or chicken flavoring may be consumed, since there is no actual meat.
  • Vegetable-Meat Blends: In cases where both meat and vegetables are present in something like a veggie burger, some Catholics may still consume it in small amounts.

However, many Catholics avoid these gray areas altogether on Good Friday to be on the safe side. When in doubt, it is ideal to adhere to the intent behind the law of abstaining from land and aquatic animal products as a whole.

What About Vegan or Plant-Based Diets?

Catholics who already follow vegan or strict plant-based diets with no animal products whatsoever are still required to practice fasting and abstinence on Good Friday, even though they already abstain from meat:

  • They must still limit themselves to one full meal and two smaller meals.
  • Snacking should still be avoided.
  • Intentional fasting from permitted items like eggs and dairy would also fall within the spirit of the day.

So those who are already vegan or plant-based would need to pay special attention to reducing overall intake and regulating meal times in observance of Good Friday fasting requirements.

What About Desserts and Sweets?

Desserts, sweets, and candy without meat products are generally acceptable for consumption on Good Friday. However, some Catholics choose to abstain from these treats as well to embrace the true spirit of fasting and sacrifice. Here are some guidelines regarding desserts:

  • Desserts made without meat, dairy or eggs are always permitted, like fruit crisps or sorbets.
  • Dairy-containing desserts are acceptable, like ice cream or cheesecake.
  • Rich, indulgent sweets may be seen as self-indulgent and avoided.
  • Nuts, coconut, dried fruits, etc. can make good simple desserts.
  • Dark chocolate in moderation may be consumed for the potential health benefits.

So the verdict on desserts seems to be – permissible in moderation, but focusing on plainer treats aligns most closely with a Good Friday fast.

Regional and Cultural Variations

Catholic food traditions around Good Friday may vary slightly based on regional and cultural influences. Here are some examples of how meatless meals may differ:

  • Italy: Seafood is avoided, with more emphasis on vegetable dishes. Eggplant and spinach feature prominently in Italian Good Friday meals.
  • Mexico: Fish and shrimp are avoided, but dishes may contain seafood flavors. Alternatives like potato tacos and mushroom ceviche are common.
  • Philippines: Tinapayan bread and binignit banana porridge are traditional Good Friday breakfasts. Salads and spring rolls are also customary.
  • Germany and Poland: Many prepare oyster stew and herring salad, as seafood is permitted. Eggs, dumplings, vegetables and uunkenpfannkuchen fritters are also typical.

So Catholics around the world put their distinctive spin on meatless Good Friday meals while still adhering to church teaching.

Key Takeaways

Here are some key takeaways to remember about the Catholic diet restrictions on Good Friday:

  • No meat of any kind – beef, poultry, pork or fish.
  • Dairy, eggs, vegetables, grains, etc. are permitted.
  • Only one full meal recommended, with two smaller meals.
  • No snacking between meals.
  • Avoid fatty, indulgent foods.
  • Cultural traditions shape regional meatless menus.
  • Focus should be on fasting, sacrifice and spiritual preparation.

By understanding the do’s and don’ts, Catholics can observe this most solemn occasion accordingly while feeding body and soul.


Good Friday is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, commemorating Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and atonement for sin. Fasting and abstaining from meat is a way for Catholics to identify with Christ’s suffering and prepare spiritually for Easter Sunday. While the dietary restrictions may seem intense, they only last for one day and provide an opportunity to reflect and focus on faith. A little hunger and self-discipline can reap great spiritual rewards. With proper planning, Catholics can celebrate Good Friday meaningfully through a day of simple, meatless meals.

Leave a Comment