I hear from lots of folks about how nervous they are about holidays that so often seem to center around food. Easter and Passover are two of those holidays, but they are far more gluten-free friendly than you might think!
I’ll first address Passover – and this is not just for those in the Jewish faith. There are loads of foods that are Kosher for Passover and are available this time of year because wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt are forbidden in any form other than matzo. You’ll probably recognize that wheat, barley and rye (and spelt is a wheat cousin) are all the gluten-containing grains!
So what does that mean? It means take a few extra minutes the next time you’re in the grocery store and peruse the kosher section! Look for certified GF products or those labeled Kosher for Passover AND “Non-Gebrokts” (“Non-Gebroktz” or “Non-Gebroks”) or “Gluten-Free.” The ingredients should show that the product does not include matzo as ingredient.
When you shop, watch for all kinds of Kosher for Passover products made with potato starch instead of flour. Good products include potato starch noodles, potato starch cake mixes, Passover cereals made without wheat, and even frozen foods like potato starch pizza crusts, blintzes, waffles and knishes. Potato Pancakes or latkes, are another product in a box mix that is fun to make at this time of year, and can easily be made from scratch recipes instead, using any kind of potato or sweet potato or even spaghetti squash!
While foods containing gluten are generally forbidden during Passover, there is one very important exception — matzo. This unleavened bread actually must be made with one of the aforementioned gluten grains or oats in order to duplicate those used by the Hebrews making bread in haste when fleeing Egypt.
Matzo is the oldest and most well-known (edible) symbol of the exodus of the Jews from Egyptian slavery. According to the Bible, Aaron and Moses warned of 10 plagues sent to cause Pharaoh to free the Jews. When the final plague killed all the first-born sons of Egypt but passed over the Jewish houses, Pharaoh finally released the Jews from their bondage in Egypt. However, they were forced to leave in such great haste that their bread dough did not have time to rise, leaving them with what we now know as “matzo” (matzah, matza, matzoth, matzot), or unleavened bread.
Since matzo is typically made with wheat flour, gluten-free folks must think outside the proverbial cracker box for safe and tasty options. Fortunately, there are now some gluten-free “Mazo-Style” oat cracker alternatives available, and of course you can always make your own!
Like any other wheat flour recipe we might long to enjoy again, devising a gluten-free solution is simple: modify, substitute and perfect using gluten-free ingredients. My recipe for Gluten-Free Matzo made with GF grains and certified GF oat flour, is simple and can be made and baked within 18 minutes to prevent any leavening in the dough. It’s a simple 5 ingredient recipe that takes only 20 minutes from start to finish! (See my article on Gluten-Free Matzo on Prevention.com)
However, Orthodox Jews and others wishing to only serve Kosher for Passover, Gluten-Free Shemura (supervised grains, watched from time of harvest to be sure no fermentation occurs) matzo, will need to buy GF matzo made in that manner instead.
Fair warning: gluten-free Shemura Oat Matzo is expensive! One 1 pound box can cost $40.00, while regular Kosher for Passover (non-gluten-free) Matzo is generally 14 times less expensive (around $2.75-$3.00/ 1 pound box).
Non Kosher for Passover, gluten-free “Matzo Style” crackers made from tapioca and potato are available at a much lower cost, but they are not suggested “as a replacement for matzo at the seder.” Consult with your family and religious leaders to see what works best for your needs this holiday.
Other Kosher for Passover foods include all fresh fruits and most vegetables, though no beans, grains, pasta, soy products like tofu, or many seeds are allowed during Passover.
Eggs (think quiches, omelets and frittatas) and dairy are Kosher for Passover, and many yogurts, cream cheeses, and other dairy products will bear that special certification. Other grains like quinoa are also a wonderful addition to your Passover menu.
While religious tenants don’t dictate the menu at Easter as they do with the Passover Seder, there are many dishes that are symbolic of the holiday and are often served at Easter suppers or brunch. Hot Cross Buns, Easter Lamb Cake and even Easter Basket Cupcakes can easily be made gluten-free – check my links for the recipes!
Other recipes to consider for your Easter meal include any kind of egg dish (again, omelets, frittatas, quiche – even crustless! — deviled eggs …).
Casseroles like overnight French Toast Casserole and hash brown casserole are universally well-loved and easy to make gluten-free; homemade pancakes or waffles are perfect for brunch; muffins (think spring! like Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins) and scones are easy to transport and go well with the meal at any time of day.
Even doughnuts, coffee cake, bread pudding and cinnamon rolls make delicious additions to serve at your Easter meal. The potential is nearly endless!
And of course there’s the Easter Candy!!! Check updated lists for the latest safe and unsafe products, but good ones to keep on your Easter Bunny radar are M&Ms; Hershey’s Kisses; Jelly Belly Jelly Beans; Starburst; Tootsie Roll candies including pops; Necco Candy Eggs; marshmallow Peeps; and Kraft Bunny Marshmallows. Always avoid Whoppers & other malted candies, and check manufacturer websites for any other products you are unsure of.
For more information on Passover and Easter products, recipes, menus and candies, listen to the free podcast of my radio show, The Gluten Free Voice.
Happy Gluten-Free Holidays!