Pesach (Passover) Cooking Tips
Focus on things you can eat, instead of what you can't
Know how to identify products that are kosher for Passover
Many people are frustrated at how difficult it is to come up with meals for
Pesach and how bland and tasteless Pesach meals can be. Actually, it's not that
difficult if you reorient your thinking. It's human nature to focus on the
things you can't have, so many people make the mistake of trying to figure out
how to make breakfast cereal, waffles, macaroni and cheese and pizza for
Passover and wind up with very poor substitutes. Instead of focusing on the
things you can't have, you should focus on the things you can have.
So let's focus on some foods you might want to eat for breakfast, lunch or
dinner and some fruits and vegetables that are permitted. I will also provide a
few substitution suggestions and a few recipes. But before we get started, a
few words about finding Passover food in your local grocery store.
Pesach foods generally require special Kosher-for-Passover certification.
Regular kashrut certification is not sufficient
for Pesach, and many foods that are perfectly kosher year-round are not kosher
for Pesach. Look for a "P" (not the word "pareve"!) to the right of the
hekhsher, like the one at top right, or the letters KFP (Kosher for Passover)
or KP, or the words Kosher for Passover in English or Hebrew, seen at bottom right.
In areas with a significant Jewish population, grocery stores often gather
Passover items together in a single aisle. Be aware that some supermarkets are
very sloppy about what they shelve in their Passover aisles. The Acme
supermarket near me routinely mixes the Kosher-for-Passover sardines (packed in
olive oil) with the year-round sardines (packed in corn oil) on their Passover
shelves, routinely restocks the Kosher-For-Passover soda pop display with
regular soda pop and so forth. One year, they put some corn-syrup Purim
lollipops in the Passover aisle. But then, what do you expect from a chain that
once advertised a sale on "Challah: A Passover
Tradition"? (the only Passover tradition related to challah is not eating
Suggested Meals and Foods
To help you reorient your thinking, here is a list of things that you CAN eat
during Pesach with minimal substitutions:
- Good old-fashioned steak and potatoes
- Beef stew (without beans or barley if you normally use those; use potato
starch for thickening)
- Pot roast (use potato starch for thickening)
- Meatballs or meatloaf (use matzah meal instead of rice or bread crumbs)
- Stuffed peppers (use matzah meal instead of rice or bread crumbs)
- Beef brisket (recipe below)
- Holishkes (stuffed cabbage) (recipe on the
- Roasted chicken or turkey (gravy can be thickened with potato starch)
- Chicken with lemon wine sauce (use matzah meal for breading if desired)
- Matzah lasagna (OK, so this involves major substitutions, so sue me. I like
it. Recipe below.)
- Eggs (fried, scrambled, poached, whatever)
- Hash brown potatoes
- Matzah brie (recipe below)
- Leftovers from the previous night's dinner
- Tuna salad or egg salad on a tomato
- Cold cuts on matzah or Atkins-style
- Salad (homemade vinaigrette dressing is best: mix olive oil with cider
vinegar and spices)
Most people will eat any fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables from the grocery
store, as long as the vegetable itself is kosher for
- Artichoke (but watch out for marinated ones! the marinade may not be KFP!)
- Brussels sprouts
- Peppers (e.g., bell peppers, chili peppers)
- Potatoes (regular and sweet)
- Squash (eggplant, zucchini, spaghetti squash, etc.)
- Sweet potatoes
- ... and many more too numerous to list!
* Some especially strict people will
not eat fresh or frozen vegetables, because the vegetables may have been cut
using non-Passover knives, or may have been exposed to chametz in transit.
People who observe this level of strictness eat only canned or pre-packaged
fruits and vegetables with KFP certification. These are often available in the
Passover aisle of the grocery store. On the other hand, some especially strict
people will not eat the canned fruits and vegetables, even with KFP
certification, because they don't trust the certification! These people will
eat only fruits and vegetables with removable skins, such as potatoes, carrots,
apples and bananas, and will eat them only after removing the skins.
- All fruits are Kosher for Passover!
Pesach Options for Vegetarians and Vegans
All fruits and most vegetables are kosher for Passover, but they aren't a very
good source of protein. Many popular vegetarian sources of protein are not
kosher for Passover: beans, grains, pasta, soy products (tofu, tempeh, etc.)
and many seeds, among other things, are all forbidden. What is a good
vegetarian to do?
Vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy products are in luck: eggs and milk are
kosher for Passover and do not require special certification if they are
purchased before the holiday begins. Cottage cheese, yogurt, cream cheese and
sour cream require certification, but several leading national brands routinely
carry such certification. Hard cheeses (cheddar, mozzerella, etc.) are more
difficult to find, but only because kosher hard cheese itself is difficult to
find -- rennet that is used to harden cheese is a complicated kashrut issue.
Kosher brands of cheese, such as Miller's, are commonly kosher for Passover.
For vegans, who refrain from eggs and dairy, there are still a few options.
Most nuts are kosher for Passover, though you must make sure they are kosher
certified: processed nuts are made with preservatives BHA and BHT, which is
suspended in corn oil, not kosher for Passover. You can find a nice selection
of kosher for Passover nuts at
Nuts. Important Note: Peanuts are not nuts, they're legumes, and they are
not kosher for Passover.
Another exciting Passover protein option for vegetarians and vegans is quinoa,
the new world grain-that's-not-a-grain. Quinoa is one of the best, most
complete vegetarian sources of protein available. Some rabbis have held that
quinoa is kitniyot and is forbidden, but many widely-respected kosher
certification organizations have held that quinoa is kosher for Passover. See
one time, the CRC organization held that
Ancient Harvest brand whole grain quinoa (not flour or flakes) was kosher for
Passover without special certification, though at this time (4 Mar 2010) they
have not yet made that determination for 2010. Several have said that whole
grain quinoa can be used but must be sifted carefully to make sure no forbidden
grains have slipped in. See for example
Two of the recipes on this page are vegetarian (though not vegan):
matzah brie and matzah lasagna. I
have posted a number of vegetarian and vegan Passover recipes on my
As I said above, you should generally avoid substitutions and focus on foods
that are naturally kosher for Pesach. That being said, there are a few simple
substitutions that can give you more options for your Pesach cooking without
- Potato Starch
- Potato starch can be used instead of corn starch or flour to thicken
sauces, stews or gravies.
- Matzah Meal
- Matzah meal is ground up matzah in pieces about the size of bread crumbs.
It is an effective substitute for bread crumbs to make breading for things like
fried chicken or eggplant parmesan. In fact, I use it that way year round. It
is also an effective substitute for bread crumbs or rice in recipes where they
are used to hold ground beef together, such as stuffed peppers, meatloaf or
- Matzah Farfel
- Matzah farfel is chunks of matzah about the size of a dime. It is a useful
substitute for noodles, rice or pasta as a side dish. Serve your main course
over matzah farfel and it will soak up the sauces nicely. It can also be used
much like croutons on a salad, or can be used as the basis for a
The ingredients specified for these recipes are all available with
Kosher-for-Passover certification in the supermarkets near me; your mileage may
vary. Make sure the ingredients you use are certified, as many of these things
contain grain products when they are not KFP-certified.
Matzah Brie (Fried Matzah)
There are many different ways to make matzah brie (usually rhymes with "rye,"
although some pronounce it like the cheese), and I will undoubtedly be branded
a heretic for my particular technique, but this is the way I learned to make it
and this is the way I like it. This recipe is really just French toast with
matzah instead of bread!
Prepare the same kind of soaking batter you would make for French toast: beat a
couple of eggs with some milk or water and some cinnamon. Break up some matzah
into pieces about the size of your palm (precision is not required) and soak
them in the batter until they are a little soggy but not falling apart. Fry
them in butter in a frying pan until they are crispy. If you need to use up the
last of the egg mixture, you can pour that into the pan with the last of the matzah.
Serve with honey (because it's hard to find syrup that is kosher for Passover
-- most syrup these days is corn syrup). It's good hot or cold, so you can put
your leftovers in the refrigerator and have them for lunch!
Once again, I will probably be branded a heretic for this simplistic brisket
recipe, but it works well for me. I'm not sure of the quantities, because I
don't make this very often and I go by feel:
- London broil beef (yeah, I know, it's supposed to be brisket beef, but I
prefer the taste and the leanness of London broil)
- A bottle of ketchup (make sure it's Kosher for Passover! Most ketchup uses
- A packet of powdered onion soup mix (Goodmans makes a nice one that is
Kosher for Passover)
- Some water
Mix the ketchup and soup mix with enough water to get a smooth consistency (not
a soupy one; about the consistency the ketchup originally was). Pour it over
the London broil in a roasting pan. Cook at 325 degrees until it's done
(depends on the size and shape of the meat). For more tender brisket, you may
want to marinate it for a while before cooking.
This is the ultimate expression of a substitution mentality, which is exactly
what I tell you to avoid throughout this page... and yet, I really like the way
it tastes. It is my Pesach guilty pleasure. Basically, this is a typical
lasagna with matzah substituted for the noodles and cottage cheese for the
ricotta (because ricotta cheese is usually made with grain vinegar, though it's
not called that on the ingredients list -- it's called catalyzer or something
goofy like that).
- 2 pieces of matzah
- Tomato or spaghetti sauce (make sure it's kosher for Passover!)
- Cottage cheese
- 1 egg
- Parmesan cheese
- Optional: chopped vegetables, such as chopped broccoli or zucchini
- Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Beat the egg. Mix it with about 8 oz. cottage cheese and the parmesan cheese.
If using vegetables, mix those in as well. In an 8x8 inch cake pan
(conveniently the same size as a piece of matzah), put down a thin layer of
tomato sauce. Put a piece of matzah on top of that. Put a thin layer of tomato
sauce on top of the matzah. Spread the cottage cheese mix over the matzah. Put
a thin layer of sauce over the cottage cheese mix. Cover with the second piece
of matzah. Cover with sauce and shredded mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees until
the mozzarella turns dark brown.
Links to Other Recipes
Elsewhere in this site, I have provided recipes for the following dishes which
are (or can be made) Kosher for Passover:
- Latkes, potato pancakes traditionally
served during Chanukkah. Makes a nice Sunday breakfast.
- Matzah Ball Soup, traditionally served at
- Holishkes: sweet and sour stuffed cabbage.
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