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Meat, Dairy and Pareve

Meat, Dairy and Pareve


Kosher foods are divided into three categories: meat, dairy and pareve. One of the basic principles of kashrut is the total separation of meat and dairy products. Meat and dairy may not be cooked or eaten together. To ensure this, the kosher kitchen contains separate sets of dishes, utensils, cookware, and separate preparation areas for meat and dairy. A third category, pareve, is comprised of foods which are neither meat nor dairy and may therefore be eaten with either.

Following is a detailed description of meat, dairy, and pareve foods, and practical guidelines for cooking and serving the foods within each category according to kashrut specifications.


The category of meat includes meat, fowl and their byproducts, such as bones, soup or gravy. Any food made with meat or fowl, or with meat or fowl products, is considered "meaty;" also called fleishig (Yiddish). Even a small amount of meat in a food can cause it to be fleishig. All meat, fowl and meat parts in any product, including items such as liver pills, must come from a kosher animal that was slaughtered, examined, and its blood drained off according to the dietary laws to be considered kosher.


All foods derived from or containing milk are considered dairy, or milchig (Yiddish). This includes milk, butter, yogurt and all cheese -- hard, soft and cream. Even a small amount of dairy in a food can cause the food to be considered dairy. All dairy products require kosher certification. They must meet the following criteria in order to be certified kosher:

  • They must come from a kosher animal.
  • All ingredients must be kosher and free of meat derivatives. Non-kosher dairy products are often made with ingredients of animal origin. For example, hard cheese is made with rennet, yogurt sometimes contains gelatin, and butter may contain non-kosher additives.
  • They must be processed on kosher equipment.

Many kinds of "non-dairy" creamers, candy, cereal and margarine do contain milk derivatives, as do some low-calorie sweeteners. Dairy ingredients whose names appear on many product labels include caseinate, lactose and whey.


Foods that are neither meat nor dairy are called pareve. This means that they contain no meat or dairy derivatives, and have not been cooked or mixed with any meat or dairy foods.

Eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, grains, and juices in their natural, unprocessed state are common pareve foods. Other pareve foods include pasta, soft drinks, coffee and tea, and many types of candy and snacks. Products that have been processed in any way should be bought only if they bear reliable kosher certification.

Although pareve foods present fewer kashrut complexities than either meat or dairy foods, certain points must be kept in mind:

  • Pareve foods may lose their pareve status if processed on dairy equipment or when additives are used. The label may give no indication of this processing. Chocolate, cookies and other snacks should not be used with meat or meaty foods unless they are certified pareve.
  • Certain fruits, vegetables and grains must be checked for the presence of small insects and larvae (See Vegetables and Kashrut
  • )
  • Eggs must be checked for the presence of blood spots (See Eggs)

For more information on the status of pareve foods, see Serving Pareve Foods

Separating Meat and Dairy

Meat and dairy foods may not be cooked together or eaten together. One may not even derive benefit from a combination of meat and dairy foods; for example, selling such a combined product or feeding it to a pet.

To ensure this total separation, the kosher kitchen requires the use of separate utensils, accessories and appliances for meat and dairy. It is useful to have some separate pareve utensils as well.

For a complete guide to setting up and maintaining the separation between meat and dairy see The Kosher Kitchen

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Discussion (13)
October 16, 2013
The Talmud writes that Fish and meat should not be cooked or eaten together. However, unlike milk and meat, fish and meat may be eaten at the same meal as separate courses. Silverware and plates which have been used for fish may only be used for meat after they have been washed.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
October 14, 2013
fish and meat
Are there kosher laws regarding eating fish with scales and meat together ?
New Jersey
September 12, 2013
To Anonymous
Yes, tea and milk is kosher. If you'd like to have tea and milk after a meat meal you'll have to wait until the appropriate time has elapsed. See above for more details. Staff
September 12, 2013
Tea with milk
Is black tea made with sugar and milk kosher?
December 9, 2012
If one is death and the other life why is cream cheese and lox kosher?
mascha hajny
February 12, 2012
To Shlomo
You raise a very interesting point. Why was it okay for Abraham to serve milk and meat to the angels (he did not serve it to G-d but to the angels)? You can see a number of answers in Did Abraham Serve his Guests Non-Kosher?
Rabbi Menachem Posner
February 8, 2012
Dairy and Meat
In Bereishit (Genesis) 18:8 I have read that our father Avraham prepared food for Hashem and two angels that were with Him, that food contained butter, milk and a calf, and it says that they ate. If our Hashem ate it why would he make it a sin for us. In Exodus and Deuteronomy where it talks about boiling a kid in its mother's milk it's in the context of bringing the first fruits of the land on Sukkot to the Temple, neighboring peoples had a witchcraft practice of boiling a baby goat in its mother's milk and then spreading it on their fields and orchards in order to have a better harvest next year, it sounds to me that it wasn't a dietary prohibition but more of a pagan ritual and practice prohibition. If i am mistaken I would like someone to better explain to me about this matter, shalom
elk, wa
December 26, 2011
Re: food
In response to: Please explain gen 9:3", This parsha is speaking to Noach, at this time the Jewish people did not exist and the Torah was still a long way away, therefore Noach was not obligated to keep Kosher, there were always clean and unclean animals in terms of what was acceptable in sacrificial terms but not in terms of what was permissible for consumption. Only Jews are obligated to keep the rules of Kashrut.
Huxley, Iowa
November 3, 2011
please explain gen 9:3
gainesville, fl
October 1, 2011
i deliberately ate non-kosher food at a party. What do I do now?
sydney, australia
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