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Passover Foods: Traditional Foods (or, What Is This?)

The food we serve at the Passover meal also tells our own family stories through traditional dishes.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Matzah or potato kugel is a sweet or savory pudding served as a side dish at the Passover meal.
  • 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.
  • 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 and Word formats.

Yiddish for "stuffed fish," a patty made of ground up varieties of fish, matzo meal and spices, boiled in fish broth. A popular dish on Passover, sometimes served on Shabbat and other holidays as well. The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." 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.

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