Passover Food - What’s In, What’s Out?

Eating Passover MatzahWhen my mother reminisces about what she could eat for Passover, she remembers that hardly anything was considered kosher for Passover – especially in the little towns where she lived, in remote reaches of this country.

Today, what a different story! You can find almost anything approved for Pesach: cookies, cake mixes, even breakfast cereal. To confirm this, I toodled around Amazon, searching for “kosher for Passover food.” Twenty pages of products came up, including Zelda’s Passover Award-Winning Orange Chiffon Cake, Passover Cookie Platter. and Manischewitz Pancake Mix.

But regular cookies, bread crumbs, pasta, crackers are out, if you choose to observe this part of the holiday.

If you follow all the rules, most everything you eat during Passover must have a special marking indicating that it is kosher for Passover (or kasher l’Pesach) – even soda, coffee, and vinegar. (Here are 18 exceptions from

The five no-no grains

The prohibitions start with these five grains: wheat, spelt (also called farro), barley, oats, and rye.

All of these grains make up cha-METZ (accent on the second syllable in Hebrew) or CHAW-metz (accent on the first syllable in Yiddish).

It’s helpful to decide ahead of time what you will do in your home. When our girls were little, I sent them to school with matzah and cheese or matzah-p-b-j sandwiches, echoing how I had been raised.

But even if you don’t observe the no chametz tradition, it’s wonderful to make Passover memories by serving treats that you have once a year, like matzah brie (pronounced brye, not bree). So simple. So delicious.  Matzah + water + eggs + butter or oil + a little salt. We jazz ours up with onion, too. Or serve it with honey.

Another way to elevate matzah is to buy a tub of sweet butter once a year, on Passover. It’s amazing with plain matzah.

How about quinoa? Freekeh?

According to and other sources), yay! Quinoa is not one of the prohibited grains, so it’s not considered chametz.  And get this: their article says that “Botanically, it is a member of the goosefoot family, which includes beets and spinach.” Had never heard that before!

My new fave, way over quinoa though, is freekeh. While I haven’t found a printed source to confirm that it’s not kosher for Passover, since it’s young green wheat that has been toasted and cracked, I’m assuming that it’s not on the OK list.

What, no beer?

Because my family never drank liquor (except for sweet wine for kiddush), it never occurred to me that beer is off limits during Passover because it’s made from malted barley. Makes sense.

But if you would like a drink, something other than the classic sweet wine you serve at Seder and for Shabbat, you have lots of choices. Like plum brandy and even potato vodka. And there are now many kinds of kosher-for-Passover wine. (Oh, and not all families serve sweet wine for Seder. We have friends with roots in France who used to bring their own wine to our holiday celebrations - our Manischewitz Red Cream Concord was not their, um, cup of tea!)

What about kitniyot?

Kityinot (from the Hebrew word katan, meaning little) includes grains and legumes like rice, corn, soybeans, peas, dried beans, lentils, and even mustard, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds. If you’re from an Ashkenazi family, you probably don’t eat those things. That’s how I grew up, with the explanation that they swell.

Others say that they ferment and can, therefore, turn into hametz.

Families from Sephardi traditions don’t follow that tradition.

Learn more about kitniyot here.

More questions?

If you have other questions, please send them in and I’ll do my best to get them answered right away.

Next week on the blog: Still Time to Make Seder Fun 

Want more fun at your Seder? Check out our Passover Seder Steps Follow-Along.


Fun Seder

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