Traditional Passover Foods
Of the culture of Jews with family origins in Spain, Portugal or North Africa.
The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach."
Hebrew for "eastern," the term refers to Jews descended from the Jewish communities of the Middle East, North Africa and the Caucasus. The term Mizrahi is used in Israel in the language of politics, media and some social scientists for Jews from the Arab world and adjacent, primarily Muslim-majority countries.
Hebrew word for an unleavened bread, traditionally eaten during the holiday of Passover.
Yiddish word for a savory or sweet pudding made from either noodles, potatoes or matzah.
Hebrew for "order," refers to the traditional course of events, or service, surrounding the Passover and Tu Bishvat meals.
The food we serve at the Passover meal also can tell our own family stories through traditional dishes that have been passed on through the generations.
Passover foods are alien to most people who have not celebrated the holiday before. All families have different traditions, but there are some foods common to most Jewish households in the United States. We have lots of Passover recipes available on our website.
- Horseradish is what most American Jews use for the ritual bitter herbs in the Passover seder. If you've never had it, be careful: It's related to mustard and wasabi, and is strong and pungent.
- Matzah ball soup, either chicken or vegetarian based, is a favorite holiday food. Matzah balls are dumplings made from matzah meal and eggs. You can buy a mix to make matzah balls. If you Google “matzah ball soup recipes” you’ll find literally hundreds, including videos. (And there’s a matzah ball app for your iPhone.)
- Gefilte fish is a poached fish ball or patty made of chopped deboned freshwater fish, eggs and matzah meal. Many families eat it with horseradish to give it a kick. It was a food eaten by poor Jews in Eastern Europe and Russia. People who are new to it – including Jews of Sephardic or Mizrahi background – tend to either love it or hate it.
- Matzah or potato kugel is a sweet or savory pudding sometimes served as a side dish at the Passover meal. It can also be made with Passover egg noodles. Want to see a master at work making one? Click here.
- Tzimmis is a mixture of fruits and vegetables, often carrots, potatoes and dried fruits. Sometimes meat or chicken is added, and the Tzimmis cooked into a sweet and savory side dish. You can see a video demonstration on one family’s recipe here.
- Sponge cake, macaroons, meringues and other eggy desserts are traditional for Passover.
For recipes for many of these dishes (and more), see our Passover Recipes index.
The Guide to Passover for Interfaith Families is also available in PDF