Passover is an important Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. During Passover, Jews avoid eating leavened bread and grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt. These grains are considered chametz, which is forbidden during the Passover holiday. However, there are some grains that are considered kosher for Passover and can be enjoyed during the holiday. Keep reading to learn more about Passover rules and the grains that are permitted during this important observance.
What is Passover?
Passover celebrates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, which is described in the Torah. According to the Torah, God inflicted 10 plagues upon the Egyptians until the Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave slavery. Before the last plague, the killing of every firstborn son, the Israelites were instructed to mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood so God would “pass over” their homes and spare their firstborns. After Pharaoh finally agreed to free the Israelites, it’s said they left Egypt so quickly that the bread they were baking didn’t even have time to rise. This is why Jews eat unleavened bread, known as matzo, during Passover.
The first Passover seder is believed to have been celebrated as the Israelites were preparing to leave Egypt. Today, Passover is celebrated for seven or eight days (depending on location and observance) and includes special rituals, foods, and customs. The Passover seder is a long meal full of symbolic foods and rituals retelling the Israelites’ liberation story. Avoiding chametz, or leavened foods, is one of the most important rules observed during this holiday.
What is chametz?
According to Jewish law, Jews are forbidden from eating, owning, or benefiting from chametz during Passover. Chametz refers to anything made from the five major grains that has been combined with water and allowed to rise. The five prohibited grains are:
Any foods containing those grains, or derivatives of those grains, are considered chametz and are prohibited on Passover. This includes things like bread, pasta, cereal, cake, cookies, beer, whiskey, and more. There is also a rule prohibiting mixtures of usable Passover ingredients that makes certain foods chametz. The exact specifications can be complex.
To properly observe Passover, Jews must rid their homes and possessions of all chametz. They may sell or destroy forbidden foods, though many choose to symbolically “sell” their chametz to non-Jews. Jews may not eat, own, or benefit from any chametz during Passover. Thankfully, grains like quinoa, rice, corn, and legumes are acceptable for Passover and provide ample options for those observing.
Permitted grains and foods
While the forbidden grains must be avoided, there are plenty of Passover-friendly options to enjoy instead:
Quinoa is not technically a grain, but rather a seed from the goosefoot plant family. Even though quinoa grows in a grain-like way, it is perfectly acceptable for Passover. Be sure to check packaging, as some quinoa is processed near chametz grains. Look for boxes labeled “Kosher for Passover.”
All types of rice, including white, brown, jasmine, and basmati, are kosher for Passover. Rice flour and products made with rice flour are also fine.
Regular and steel-cut oats are off-limits for Passover since they are one of the forbidden grains. However, some Kosher for Passover oats made from hummus beans are now available. Be sure to look for the Kosher for Passover label.
Corn in all forms (kernels, flour, etc.) is acceptable for the Passover diet. Things like corn tortillas, cornmeal, popcorn, and corn syrup may be eaten.
This ancient seed grain has become popular again as a Passover grain. It can be used as a substitute for couscous or rice.
Beans, peas, and lentils are permitted on Passover. This includes foods like kidney beans, chickpeas, green peas, peanuts, and soybeans. However, Jews of Ashkenazi descent avoid legumes on Passover.
Nuts and seeds
All nuts and seeds are allowed, including almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and more. Nut flours are also acceptable.
Potatoes and potato flour products are kosher for Passover and make good substitutes for bread and pasta.
Matzo is the traditional unleavened bread eaten during Passover. It is made solely of flour and water and cooked very quickly so it does not rise. Matzo meal and cake meal substitute for bread crumbs and flour.
Fruit and vegetables
All fresh, frozen, and dried fruits and vegetables are permitted on Passover. Canned vegetables with kosher labels may also be used.
Eggs and foods made with eggs are allowed, including baked goods made with matzo meal. Things like quiches and frittatas can substitute for bread.
Meat, fish, poultry
All meats, fish, and poultry without breading or chametz ingredients are allowed. Fresh, not cured or processed, items are preferred.
All cooking oils like olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, etc. are permitted.
Dairy items including milk, cheeses, yogurt, butter, and non-grain based creams are allowed on Passover.
Wine and grape juice
Kosher wines, grape juice, and grapeseed oil are permitted.
Foods to Avoid
In addition to the forbidden grains, here are some other foods not kosher for Passover:
- Leavened bread, cakes, cookies
- Pasta, pizza, tortillas
- Muffins, pancakes, waffles
- Crackers, pretzels, cereal
- Ale, lager, pilsner beers
- Rye and grain whiskeys
- Oatmeal, granola
- Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce
- Breaded foods
- Processed meat and cold cuts
- Canned beans and vegetables containing citric acid or ascorbic acid
- Foods containing maltodextrin or malt vinegar
Essentially, rule of thumb is avoiding leavened breads, flours, alcohols, and processed foods containing potential chametz ingredients.
Tips for keeping a Kosher Passover
Here are some tips to help you eliminate chametz and stick to Passover rules:
- Thoroughly clean the kitchen and dining areas to remove chametz crumbs and residue.
- Swap out cookware, dishes, and utensils that have touched chametz for Passover-designated items.
- Discard or seal up pantry items with chametz.
- Shop for Passover foods at Kosher markets or the Kosher sections of grocery stores.
- Cook with Passover-friendly ingredients like potatoes, matzo, eggs, meat, rice, vegetables, fruit, nuts, oil, wine, etc.
- Use Kosher for Passover condiments like mustard,mayo, salad dressings, jams, pickles, chocolate spreads, etc.
- Enjoy dining out at Kosher restaurants that observe Passover dietary rules.
With planning and commitment, keeping Kosher for Passover is very manageable. The forbidden grains may take some getting used to omitting, but the abundance of permitted foods means you can still enjoy delicious and satisfying Passover meals.
Here are some tasty recipe ideas for your Passover celebrations:
Matzo brei – Passover pancakes
Matzo brei is a Passover-friendly pancake made by soaking matzo in egg and frying it like French toast. Customize it by adding cinnamon, fruit, nuts, or other mix-ins. Top it with maple syrup or fruit compote.
Charoset – Fruit and nut paste
Charoset is a traditional seder dish that represents the mortar used by Jewish slaves. The chunky fruit and nut paste combines apples, walnuts, wine, cinnamon, and sometimes dates or prunes. Enjoy it spread on matzo.
Matzo ball soup
This classic Jewish comfort food gets a Passover makeover by using matzo meal instead of breadcrumbs to make the hearty matzo balls. The dumplings simmer in a rich chicken broth with carrots, onions, and dill.
Sweet potato kugel
Kugel is a baked Jewish casserole, often made with egg noodles or potato. This Passover version uses sweet potato and matzo meal for a dessert-like take.
These easy salmon patties are made with canned salmon, matzo meal, eggs, and spices. Served with homemade tzatziki sauce.
Chewy, coconut macaroons are a perfect Passover dessert. Since they are made without flour, just coconut, egg whites, and sugar, they are suitable for the holiday.
Matzo crack brittle
Buttery toffee coats crispy matzo squares in this addictive candy. It’s the Passover alternative to saltine crack candy!
Passover meal plan
Planning out meals and snacks helps simplify preparing for Passover. Here is a sample menu for the 8-day holiday:
|Day 1||Matzo ball soup, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, macaroons|
|Day 2||Lox and eggs, potato latkes, salad, brownies|
|Day 3||Lamb shanks, quinoa pilaf, grilled asparagus, almond cake|
|Day 4||Gefilte fish, carrot tzimmes, chopped liver, fruit compote|
|Day 5||Brisket, roasted potatoes and carrots, kugel, hamantaschen|
|Day 6||Salmon cakes, risotto, green beans, macaroons|
|Day 7||Matzo brei, egg salad, matzo ball soup, fruit salad|
|Day 8||Pot roast, sweet potato kugel, roasted Brussels sprouts, honey cake|
For snacks, enjoy fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, roasted chickpeas, popcorn, matzo with toppings, boiled eggs, dairy, charoset, and nut butter matzo sandwiches. With some creativity, it’s easy to find diverse and delicious Passover-friendly options.
Where to buy Passover groceries
You can find suitable products for Passover at most well-stocked grocery stores, kosher markets, and online. Here are some good places to shop for Passover foods:
- Kosher sections of major supermarkets – Many stores will dedicate special Kosher for Passover displays.
- Trader Joe’s – Great for nuts, produce, kosher wines, and some Passover baked goods.
- Costco – Sells Kosher for Passover items like matzo, cakes, macaroons, and candies.
- Amazon – Offers online ordering of Passover foods that can be delivered to your home.
- Kedem – Kosher food distributer that offers Passover delivery.
- Kosher markets – Specialty grocery stores with all Kosher and Passover products.
- Manischewitz – Top provider of kosher foods with a wide array of Passover products.
Many regular pantry items are also Passover-friendly, just be diligent about reading labels. With preparation, you can easily source all the grains, ingredients, and products you need to observe the Passover diet.
Why can’t you eat bread on Passover?
Bread and other leavened foods are restricted on Passover because when the Israelites fled Egypt, they left in such haste that their bread did not have time to rise. Eating unleavened bread is symbolic of that journey from slavery to freedom.
Is corn kosher for Passover?
Yes, corn products including cornmeal, popcorn, and more are permissible for Passover.
Can you eat rice on Passover?
Rice is kosher for Passover and provides a good grain substitute when grains like wheat, rye, and oats are off limits.
What can you use instead of regular flour?
During Passover, flour substitutions include matzo meal, potato starch, and nut flours.
What can I serve if I’m inviting non-Jewish guests?
Focus onPassover-friendly foods without the forbidden grains. Meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, salad, fruit, matzo, potatoes, rice, quinoa and corn-based dishes are all good options to serve guests.
Observing Passover dietary rules requires eliminating chametz, or leavened foods containing wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt. Thankfully, there are plenty of tasty substitutes to enjoy, including matzo, potatoes, nuts, seeds, legumes, quinoa, corn, meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and more. With proper preparation and commitment to keeping kosher for Passover, the holiday can still be full of delicious foods and meaningful traditions.