Passover is almost here and I always chuckle a little bit watching the frenzy of Jewish people purchase Passover-friendly foods. Instead of reaching for all that gross processed stuff, it’s just better to cook with real ingredients – but that’s just my humble opinion.
During the week of Passover, us Jewish people commemorate our freedom from slavery, our exodus from Egypt, and the birth of the Torah given to our people at Mt. Sinai.
During this time, we don’t eat leavened bread made from one of the five grains mentioned in the Torah – wheat, spelt, rye, barley and oats (all which are not gluten-free anyway except for certified gluten-free oats). You will still find wheat in matzah and matzah meal that is labeled for Passover, so don’t forget, not all Passover-friendly food is gluten-free.
The reason us Jews don’t eat leavened bread during Passover is to mark the fact that the Jews left Egypt in haste, and therefore they didn’t have time for the bread to rise. To get a taste of what that must have felt like, we eat unleavened products that haven’t risen, so to speak.
The irony is that it’s pretty much Passover year-round in my GF house. The only things I eliminate from my diet (beyond gluten and corn, which I don’t eat) during Passover are oats. I just learned that a new Jewish law from the Conservative Movement now permits the consumption of rice, legumes and corn over Passover. If you’re gluten-free, and already cook with clean ingredients, Passover is a breeze. Meats, cheeses, potatoes, quinoa, vegetables and fruits are all safe to eat during Passover, and these foods are already staples in my GF diet.
If you want to buy some packaged items for your gluten-free pantry – to enjoy during Passover or beyond – this is a good time of year to do so. You can stock up on gluten-free baking mixes that would also be rice-free and corn-free, as Jews do not eat rice and corn during Passover. I told my friend, Jennifer to shop the Passover aisles for some gluten-free items for her corn-free, gluten-free son. While she is not Jewish, these are safe products for her son to consume (Passover manufacturers haven’t yet added corn, legumes and rice into their foods – this may change down the road with the new Conservative movement ruling. I am not certain with the Orthodox movement stands.)
While it’s exciting to see all the gluten-free options available for Passover, it’s important to note that these items are not healthy by any measure of the imagination. The gluten-free, Passover baking mixes are loaded with sugars and white potato flours and starches. Potato flour quickly converts to sugar and leaves you feeling hungry, and the sugar is needed to cover up the poor taste and texture.
I’m not here to lecture you about eating healthy during Passover (ok, maybe a little), but if you want to have a truly lovely Passover, stick to the meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and quinoa. It’ll be a breeze and you’ll feel great too!
If you want to indulge in some gluten-free Passover finds, here are some gluten-free, Passover-friendly finds:
- Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares: These are really good and I enjoy eating them year round. Stock up!
- Yehuda Gluten-Free Soup Crackers: Also yummy and fun to add to soup year-round. Get some.
- Gefen Gluten-Free Cake Mixes: The nutritional value of these cake mixes is null, but if you have a gluten and corn allergy, these will make life easier so go ahead and buy some. You could always add flax or chia seeds, as well as some whole fruit (bananas, pumpkin) to the mix to health-ify it a bit.
- Streits and Manischewitz Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup Mix: Both brands make gluten-free matzo ball soup mixes. I have found them both to be similar to regular matzo balls in both both taste and texture. Eating these will make you feel right at home at your Passover seder! I recommend not using the actual soup mixes that come with the matzo ball mixes, and instead making your own chicken broth. Those soup mixes are loaded with salt and ingredients worth “passing over.”
- Gefen and Manischewitz Noodles: I say skip the GF for Passover noodles. They are are made from potato starches and nothing redeeming. Plus, when you cook them, the result is a starchy mess. But if you must have noodles – there are plenty of GF options.
A few additional gluten-free Passover tips:
(1) Not all Passover-friendly foods are gluten-free. For example, matzah is still made with wheat flour. Look for GF specific products.
(2) Remember, Passover-friendly doesn’t mean healthy AT ALL! These products are filled with white potato flours, starches and sugars.
(3) Eat clean and you don’t have to buy any packaged or processed Passover foods. Meats, cheeses, quinoa, sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free and Passover-friendly.
(4) Unfortunately, in order to “take” the mitzvah of matzah for Passover, it has to be one of the gluten-y matzos made with wheat because it’s made in a certain way that you can read about here. Don’t beat yourself up, there are 600+ other mitzvahs you can do without damaging your body, so just stick with the gluten-free matzah and put your health first!
(5) Instead of gluten-free noodles, try zucchini noodles!
(6) Hang on to your gluten-free matzah at the seder. It tastes WAY better than the gluten-y stuff they serve, and people will try to steal it from you.
Happy Passover my friends!