G‑d’s vision for Passover cuisine is simple: we are to eat the roasted paschal lamb with matzah and bitter herbs, and then for the next seven days we are to avoid chametz (leaven). And so, over the years diverse Jewish communities have developed their own Passover cuisines, introducing foods that have become uniquely associated with the holiday. Here is our list of favorites.

1. Egg Lokshen

Since flour-based noodles are out, many people make thin crepe-like pancakes out of eggs and potato starch, which they then roll up and cut into strips, forming kosher-for-Passover noodles (lokshen, in Yiddish) which taste marvelous in chicken soup. (Note: they last only a few days in the refrigerator before becoming mealy. Also note that the thinner you make them the better they taste.)

View Egg Lokshen recipe

2. Schmaltz

(Photo: Rainer Zenz)
(Photo: Rainer Zenz)

Yes, rendered chicken fat. Many chassidic communities do not used processed foods during Passover, as an extra precaution against chametz. And so, some people do their cooking—and even salad dressing—with schmaltz, chicken fat which is cooked over a low heat until it melts. Schmaltz has a creamy consistency when served at room temperature.

Recipe: How to Make Schmaltz and Gribbenes (Step-by-Step Pictures and Directions)

3. Gribenes

One delicious but very unhealthy Passover treat is gribenes, crispy onions and chicken skins that have been fried in schmaltz.

4. Soft Matzah

Soft matzah baked in the UK (Image: Mashiach Kelaty)
Soft matzah baked in the UK (Image: Mashiach Kelaty)

Almost all of us are familiar with the crunchy matzah that looks and tastes like cardboard and lasts almost forever. Once upon a time, it was common to bake fresh matzahs that were soft and thick. For a number of reasons, which you can read about here, this kind of matzah was phased out in almost all Jewish communities hundreds of years ago. However, some communities still bake soft matzah the old-fashioned way. The matzahs pictured above were baked by Sephardic Jews in London, England.

5. Macaroons

Yep, you knew that macaroons would be on this list somewhere. Our informal polling shows that coconut-based macaroons are like cilantro. Some people love them, and the rest of us are left scratching our heads trying to figure out why. Yet, for whatever reason, Manischewitz has made a killing convincing Jews all over that these mushy excuses for cookies are part of the Passover experience.

Make your own macaroons with this recipe

6. Thick Seder Wine

Talking of Manischewitz, there is another persistent idea out there that Seder wine needs to be gloopy sweet stuff that comes in a square bottle and tastes like cough syrup. At one time, this kind of wine was so ingrained as a Jewish wine preference that Schapiro’s Wine advertised (in Yiddish) that their wine was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife! Thankfully, there are hundreds of high-quality kosher wines out there, but we respect the traditionalists who like the old thick stuff.

7. Borscht

Back in the old country, there were very few fresh veggies by winter’s end. So when grain was eliminated from the menu on Passover, potatoes, beets, and other long-lasting produce from the cold cellar became Passover staples. Nothing quite says Passover like a glass of deep purple borscht.

View Borscht recipe

8. Sugar Water

There is an interesting rule in Jewish law whereby a small particle of chametz can be rendered null if it is in an overwhelmingly large mixture of non-chametz before Passover, but once the holiday begins, even the smallest speck of chametz is prohibited. And so, there are some who like to make any food that has even the slightest possibility of containing chametz before Passover as an added precaution. Because of this, many people prepare “sugar water” (known to foodies as simple syrup) before the onset of the holiday, which they then use instead of regular sugar over Passover.

9. No Matzah Balls!

You’re probably wondering why there is no matzah ball in the bowl of chicken soup pictured here. After all, isn’t it Passover? You may be surprised to learn that many Ashkenazic Jews (particularly chassidim) are particular not to let their matzah come in contact with water on Passover, lest there be a speck of flour trapped in the dough that could still be “activated” and rise.This means no matzah balls. But there is an important exception. For reasons you can read about here, we do use wetted matzah, known as gebrokts, on the eighth day of Passover (celebrated only in the Diaspora). So the matzah ball does finally roll out of the kitchen, but a week later than expected.

10. Mimounah

Just because Passover has ended doesn’t mean that the food parade needs to come to a halt. Many Moroccan Jews have the custom of hosting family and friends for a post-Passover feast known as Mimounah. A traditional food at this feast is a fried pancake known as moufleta.