Why is there no corn syrup for Passover?

Corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn starch. It is used as an ingredient in many processed foods and soft drinks. However, corn syrup is not suitable for consumption during Passover because it may contain traces of chametz – leavened foods that are forbidden during the Jewish holiday.

What is Passover?

Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as told in the Book of Exodus in the Torah. Passover lasts for 8 days (7 days outside of Israel), usually in April. The main feature of Passover is the avoidance of chametz.

What is chametz?

Chametz refers to leavened foods – any food or drink made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt that has been allowed to ferment or rise. This includes things like bread, cereal, pasta, beer, and whiskey. According to Jewish law, chametz is forbidden during Passover.

Why is chametz avoided during Passover?

Avoiding chametz during Passover commemorates the fact that the Israelites left Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise. It also symbolizes removing puffiness and arrogance from one’s heart and life. Additionally, abstaining from chametz is a way to reconnect with history and remember the hardships of slavery.

Is corn one of the forbidden grains during Passover?

No, corn is not considered chametz and is not one of the five grains that are forbidden during Passover. The 5 grains that can become chametz are wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt. Corn does not fall into this category.

However, Ashkenazi Jews have a custom to avoid kitniyot during Passover. Kitniyot refers to legumes and grains that are not true chametz but may have come into contact with the forbidden grains, including corn, rice, beans and lentils. But corn is allowed for Sephardic Jews.

Why is corn syrup not kosher for Passover?

Even though corn itself is allowed on Passover for some groups, corn syrup runs a high risk of containing trace amounts of chametz. This makes it not recommended for Passover use, even though the main ingredient (corn) is technically permitted.

Here are some reasons why corn syrup may contain chametz:

  • Cross-contamination: The equipment used to make corn syrup may be used to make products with wheat and barley, causing cross-contamination.
  • Starch sources: Some corn syrups actually contain a blend of corn starch and wheat/barley starches.
  • Fermentation aids: Enzymes derived from chametz grains may be used to help break down the corn starch into glucose.
  • Storage: Corn syrup may be transported and stored in facilities that also handle chametz products.

For these reasons, certified Kosher for Passover corn syrup is very difficult to obtain. Most mainstream brands do not guarantee their syrups to be chametz-free, so they are avoided on Passover.

What do Passover corn syrup substitutes contain?

There are some specialty brands that produce kosher for Passover corn syrup substitutes that aim to replicate the function of corn syrup without the risk of chametz:

Invert syrup

Invert syrup is made by splitting sucrose (sugar) from sugar beets or sugar cane into glucose and fructose. It has similar properties to corn syrup.

Potato starch syrup

This is made using potato starch as the raw ingredient. Potato is kosher for Passover.

Tapioca syrup

Tapioca syrup is derived from the starchy root of the cassava plant. Tapioca does not present a risk of containing chametz.

Substitute Raw Ingredient
Invert syrup Sugar beets or sugar cane
Potato starch syrup Potatoes
Tapioca syrup Cassava root

How do Passover corn syrup substitutes compare to regular corn syrup?

Passover corn syrup substitutes aim to mimic the properties of regular corn syrup as closely as possible. Here is how they generally compare:

  • Sweetness – Most substitutes are slightly less sweet than regular corn syrup.
  • Texture – Substitutes can reproduce the viscous, glossy texture of corn syrup.
  • Moisture retention – Substitutes help baked goods retain moisture well, like corn syrup.
  • Prevention of crystallization – Substitutes prevent sugar crystallization in candies and frostings.
  • Flavor – Substitutes tend to have more neutral flavors than distinct corn syrup flavor.

The substitutes may not behave exactly the same in recipes, but they can mimic the most important functions of corn syrup fairly well. Proper adjustments to the amount or ingredients may be needed.

What are some recipe adjustments when substituting for corn syrup?

Here are some tips for adjusting recipes when using Passover corn syrup substitutes:

Adjust sweetness

Since most substitutes are slightly less sweet than corn syrup, you may need to increase the amount to achieve the desired sweetness. Add gradually and taste as you go.

Compensate for moisture

Substitutes help retain moisture, but you may need to slightly increase liquids in the recipe. Add a tablespoon at a time until the right consistency is reached.

Prevent crystallization

Boil candies and frostings to higher temperatures and cool rapidly to prevent crystallization without corn syrup.

Enhance flavor

The neutral flavor of substitutes can be enhanced with extracts, herbs, spices, or oils to better match the intended taste.

Let baked goods sit

Allow cakes and cookies to sit for 12-24 hours after baking to improve moisture retention without corn syrup.

What are some Passover dessert recipes using corn syrup substitutes?

Here are some popular Passover dessert recipes that use kosher corn syrup substitutes:

Coconut Macaroons

This chewy coconut cookie is made using potato starch syrup in place of corn syrup to bind the ingredients together.

Passover Honey Cake

A rich, moist honey-flavored sheet cake made with tapioca syrup instead of corn syrup.

Chocolate Covered Matzo

Crisp matzo crackers enrobed in chocolate fudge made with invert syrup for a candy-like treat.

Caramel Matzo Brittle

Matzo crackers baked with caramel made from invert syrup and spices for a sweet-salty crunch.

Apricot Passover Kugel

A traditional Jewish casserole made with potato starch syrup added for moisture and sweetness.


Corn syrup is avoided on Passover because of the risk of trace amounts of fermented grains, or chametz. Specialty kosher brands produce substitutes made from starch sources like potatoes and tapioca that replicate the properties of corn syrup. With proper recipe adjustments to account for moisture, sweetness, and flavor, delicious Passover desserts can be made using kosher corn syrup alternatives.

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