Is Gluten-Free Kosher for Passover?
Passover (Pesach) is one of the major Jewish holiday that recounts the story of the exodus from slavery in Egypt, and remembering how the angel of death “passed over” the houses of the Israelites during the tenth plague sent by G-d on Egypt. During Passover Jews don’t eat any chametz which are foods with leavening agents that are forbidden on the Jewish holiday of Passover. The Passover dietary rules restrict the use of grains that can ferment and become leavened. These grains include wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye. During Passover, people can only eat unleavened wheat. Wheat flour is permitted only if it is baked into Matzah (unleavened bread).
Not all Jews follow the same set of Passover restrictions. Ashkenazi Jews are from Eastern Europe, France and Germany. Sephardic Jews are from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East. Ashkenazi Jews follow a set of restrictions for Passover that is different than the restrictions set by Sephardic Jews. It is not uncommon for Ashkenazi Jews to avoid kitniyot during Passover. Kitniyot includes legumes, beans, rice, and corns. It’s worth noting that in 2016, an 800-year-old ban on rice and beans was lifted, so Jews that were abiding by this restriction now have a little bit more flexibility with their diet. However, there are some Ashkenazi communities forbid eating things like garlic, peanut, mustard, fennel seeds, and other items including derivatives of any of the forbidden items.
Food during Passover, though delicious and traditional, tends to be very dense and heavy, especially with a lot of items made from Matzah/Matzo meal. Those people who suffer from celiac or gluten-intolerance and even those who want to avoid wheat just for dietary reason instead of allergies would avoid a lot of food items made for Passover, including the traditional Matzah. However, over the last 10 years or so, more and more gluten-free products have been made available, even gluten-free Matzah. The variety of gluten-free and even other food allergies products have grown exponentially offering people many choices.
But the question begs: is gluten-free kosher for Passover? Not necessarily. There could be ingredients in any gluten-free product that are chametz and therefore not Kosher for Passover. For example, products that contains oats, could be gluten free and yet be chametz. Fermentation can yield products that are gluten-free but nevertheless are chametz. Thickeners, acidifiers, flavors, and other specialty ingredients can benefit from this process. Even soy milk can be produced on equipment that produced oat-milk. It is very difficult to know whether any of the ingredients are truly Kosher for Passover. The only way to know is to look for a label on the packaging that confirms whether the product is, in fact, Kosher for Passover.
There are a variety of certifying entities that label food “Kosher.” Two of the most common symbols feature either a “K” or a “U” in a circle with the letter P to the right of the circle. The P can also refer to pareve, a food that’s prepared without meat or dairy or its products. Seeing that on the label of a particular food or wine often signifies that it is Kosher to consume during Passover, but the words “Kosher for Passover” are the most concise and are considered 100% Kosher for Passover.
Bon Appetit. Happy Passover. Chag Pesach Same’ach.