Why is corn syrup not allowed in Passover?

Corn syrup is not allowed during Passover because it goes against the dietary restrictions put in place for the holiday. Passover commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as described in the Book of Exodus in the Torah. As part of the observance, Jewish people avoid eating leavened bread and foods containing leavened grains during Passover. This commemorates the fact that the Israelites left Egypt in haste and did not have time to let their bread rise before baking it. Corn syrup is considered off limits during Passover because it may contain trace amounts of leavening agents or potential leavening agents.

What is Passover?

Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It is an 8-day festival commemorating the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. According to the Torah, God helped them escape from slavery through a series of ten plagues that befell the Egyptians. The tenth and worst of the plagues was the slaying of the Egyptian first-born sons. To protect themselves, the Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the English name of the holiday. On the first two nights of Passover, observant Jewish people have a special ritual meal called a Seder where the story of the exodus from Egypt is retold. The Seder includes special foods, songs, prayers, and customs meant to symbolize the slavery and freedom of the Israelites.

What are the dietary restrictions during Passover?

There are several dietary restrictions and customs associated with Passover meals:

  • No leavened bread or grains: Jewish people cannot eat anything made with wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt unless it has been specially prepared to be unleavened. This commemorates the fact that the Israelites fleeing Egypt did not have time to let their bread rise.
  • No corn, rice, beans or lentils: Known as “kitniyot,” these foods are banned by some groups of Jews out of concerns they may have come into contact with grains or been confused with grains.
  • Eating matzah: Matzah is unleavened bread that resembles a cracker. It is made simply from flour and water and then rapidly baked before any leavening can occur. Observant Jews eat matzah during Passover instead of leavened bread.
  • Eating symbolic foods at the Seder: Foods like bitter herbs, charoset, a fruit paste, and salt water are eaten during the Seder to symbolize different parts of the Passover story.
  • Being careful about processed foods: Any processed food product containing wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or, for some, corn and rice products are avoided unless certified as kosher for Passover.

What is corn syrup and how is it made?

Corn syrup is a food syrup made from the starch of corn. It consists mainly of glucose, along with maltose and higher oligosaccharides. Corn syrup is made by breaking down cornstarch via enzymes into glucose. The glucose molecules are shorter and less complex than sucrose molecules, which makes corn syrup sweeter than sugar. There are different varieties of corn syrup:

  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS): HFCS is made by converting some of the glucose in corn syrup into fructose. This creates a product that is very sweet.
  • Light or dark corn syrup: Dark corn syrup is made with refiners’ syrup, which makes it darker in color and more robust in flavor. Light corn syrup has had the refiners’ syrup filtered out.
  • Glucose/dextrose syrup: This is 100% glucose corn syrup with no fructose.

The process for making corn syrup involves:

  1. Milling corn to extract corn starch
  2. Making a slurry from the starch and water
  3. Adding enzymes like glucoamylase to break down the starch into glucose
  4. Refinement through things like filtration, ion exchange, and evaporation
  5. Blending in fructose to make HFCS varieties

So in summary, corn syrup is made by processing and breaking down cornstarch from corn and turning the starch into simple sugars.

Why is corn syrup banned on Passover?

Corn syrup is not considered kosher for Passover because of the possibility that the corn starch used to produce it became contaminated with leavening agents:

  • Trace amounts of grain alcohols used in processing: Grain alcohols derived from wheat, barley, rye or oats may be employed during the production of corn syrup, introducing traces of leavening agents. Even in tiny amounts, these are not considered kosher for Passover.
  • Filtration concerns: The filtration process for refining corn syrup may be prone to contamination from grains if improper cleansing occurs between filter batches. Cross-contamination could potentially introduce prohibited leavening agents.
  • Equipment concerns: Some rabbis prohibit corn syrup over concerns that the equipment used to make corn syrup may not have been properly cleaned of chametz or potential leavening agents.

Additionally, some varieties of corn syrup use barley enzymes as part of the breakdown process for cornstarch. Barley is prohibited during Passover, so any corn syrup containing barley-derived enzymes would be forbidden.

Due to all these potential issues, Orthodox rabbis ban corn syrup for Passover unless it has explicit rabbinic certification that it is kosher for Passover. This certification indicates that the syrup was made with appropriate Passover standards under rabbinic supervision.

What do labels indicating “Kosher for Passover” mean?

For a product to be certified as kosher for Passover, it must be free of any potential leavening agents or cross-contamination issues. Rabbis from kosher certification organizations inspect the production facilities and processes to ensure compliance with Passover standards. Only corn syrup made with Passover approval can be labeled as “Kosher for Passover.” Here is what some common labels mean:

  • Kosher for Passover: Indicates the product is acceptable during Passover according to Jewish law
  • KFP: Abbreviation for “Kosher for Passover”
  • P after a circle K: Symbol used by the Orthodox Union to denote Kosher for Passover status
  • P after a U in a circle: Symbol used by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations for Kosher for Passover

Look for these labels on corn syrup to ensure it meets the standards for Passover.

What do rabbis check for in certifying corn syrup for Passover?

In certifying corn syrup for Passover, rabbis inspect:

  • Ingredients: All ingredients must be free of leavening agents and approved for Passover.
  • Processing aids: Any grain alcohols, enzymes or other processing aids must also meet Passover standards.
  • Equipment: The equipment used to make the corn syrup must only be used for kosher for Passover production, not anything containing prohibited grains.
  • Filtration: Special Passover filters must be used rather than standard filters with potential for contamination.
  • Testing: Samples are tested at certified laboratories to verify no traces of prohibited grains or leavening agents.
  • Records: Detailed records must be kept on all ingredients, processing aids and equipment used in making the corn syrup.

Only after confirming compliance with these Passover requirements will the rabbis certify a corn syrup as acceptable for use on Passover.

What kind of corn syrups are not kosher for Passover?

Examples of corn syrups that do not meet the standards for Passover include:

  • Corn syrup not certified for Passover – May have issues like cross-contamination or use of grain alcohols.
  • High fructose corn syrup – Often uses enzymes derived from barley malt which is not allowed on Passover.
  • Name brand corn syrups – Most major US brands like Karo corn syrup are not certified for Passover.
  • Imported corn syrup – Corn syrup from countries like China is unlikely to be certified for Passover.
  • Corn syrup made with grain enzymes – Any corn syrup produced using enzymes derived from prohibited grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats cannot be used.

So without Passover certification, mainstream corn syrups should be assumed to be not Kosher for Passover.

What brands of corn syrup are Kosher for Passover?

Examples of corn syrup brands that are certified Kosher for Passover include:

  • Manischewitz – Makes a Passover version of corn syrup
  • Rokeach – Produces corn syrups approved for Passover
  • Gefen – Makes corn and maple flavored syrups for Passover
  • Lieber’s – Produces “Kosher for Passover” corn syrup
  • Shreiber – Makes Passover corn syrups
  • Savion – Produces corn and vanilla flavored syrups for Passover

Be sure to look for the Kosher for Passover symbol on any store-bought corn syrup. Many small Jewish food businesses also produce corn syrups specifically for Passover.

What substitutes can be used instead of corn syrup during Passover?

Some alternatives to corn syrup for Passover cooking and baking include:

  • Honey – Replace 1 cup corn syrup with 1 cup honey and reduce liquids by 1/4 cup.
  • Pure maple syrup – Use a one-to-one substitution for corn syrup.
  • Brown rice syrup – Replace 1 cup corn syrup with 1 cup brown rice syrup.
  • Fruit purees – Applesauce, pear butter, prune butter, date syrup and fig syrup can substitute for corn syrup in some recipes.
  • Potato starch syrup – Made from potato starch, this can mimic the properties of corn syrup.
  • Sweet potatoes – For a homemade option, boil and puree sweet potatoes, then reduce to make a thick syrup.

Be mindful that Passover recipes may need adjustments when swapping in a replacement since substitutions won’t behave exactly like corn syrup.

What other ingredients should be avoided during Passover?

Along with corn syrup and leavened grains, other ingredients to avoid or limit during Passover include:

  • Rice – Considered kitniyot which some Jews prohibit on Passover.
  • Beans and legumes – Also kitniyot which are controversial for Passover.
  • Malt – Could potentially be made from prohibited grains so malted products are avoided.
  • Ascorbic acid – May be derived from corn which some consider kitniyot.
  • Ethanol – Grain alcohol so only acceptable if made from Passover-approved ingredients.
  • Flavorings – May contain trace alcohol or prohibited grains.
  • Spices – Flow agents may introduce traces of leavening agents.

When in doubt, check labels for Kosher for Passover certification to ensure suitability. Items like quinoa, coconut, nuts, seeds, eggs, produce, kosher wines, olive oils, and unprocessed kosher fish and meats are generally acceptable.


Corn syrup is not allowed on Passover because rabbis prohibit anything derived from corn during the holiday over concerns that it could be contaminated with prohibited leavening agents. Only corn syrup made under special Kosher for Passover supervision can be considered acceptable for use. Holiday foods must be made according to exacting Passover standards, so always check for certification on any processed food items. With knowledge of Passover dietary laws and careful label reading, observing the restriction on corn syrup and other prohibited foods during this meaningful holiday can be manageable.

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