(Update 3/14/13: For my 2013 gluten-free Passover list, click here.)
Passover, an eight-day holiday that celebrates when the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt, seems to be a great gluten-free holiday. On Passover, we cannot eat any leavened bread — basically, no wheat, rye, barley, spelt or oats. Sounds great so far, right? But here’s the rub: On Passover, we eat matzo, which is made from wheat. Many Passover foods are made with matzo meal, so you need to read labels carefully to avoid matzo meal. Still, Passover is a great opportunity to stock up on some gluten-free foods that are hard to find year-round.
Gluten-free Passover foods are either marked as “gluten free” or as “non-gebrokts” (which means it does not contain matzo meal and is therefore gluten-free). While there are many gluten-free Passover products, many of them are expensive, don’t taste great and don’t have much nutritional value. That’s due to Passover prohibitions against other foods such as rice, corn and soy, which means that most Passover products rely on potato starch and lack in taste and nutrition.
I used to buy bags of gluten-free products during Passover, but I don’t do that as much anymore. (Well, that’s what I say, but my grocery bills and pantry indicate otherwise.) I skip most of the Passover cookies and cake mixes, as well as the Passover noodles, waffles and pizza made with potato flour; they’re simply not worth the poor taste and the expense.
If you can find a grocery store with a large kosher section, or a dedicated kosher grocery store, look for these gluten-free, kosher for Passover products that have made it into my grocery cart. (These represent my personal opinion. I am not compensated for reviews, nor did I accept free samples.)
— Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares. A couple of years ago, the only gluten-free matzo on the market tasted like cardboard and cost $35 per box. I am thrilled about the Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares, which taste like a thin and flavorful flatbread and cost only $5.99 to $6.99 on sale. This year, Yehuda has a toasted onion flavor, which I have not yet tried. You might notice the box says “not for sacramental purposes.” That’s because, religiously, matzo should be made from wheat, rye, barley, spelt or oats. If you want a more official matzo, try Lakewood Gluten-Free Oat Shmurah Matzah ($25.99), made from oats and certified gluten-free.
— Lieber’s Knaidel Mix. This is my favorite gluten-free matzo ball mix, which makes light and fluffy matza balls (called knaidlach in Yiddish). My guests have asked for seconds, unaware that the matzo balls were gluten-free. The Knaidel Mix can be hard to find, so I bought six boxes to last throughout the year. Another gluten-free matzo ball option is Frankel’s Matzo-Free Balls. These premade frozen gluten-free matzah balls are convenient to take to my mother-in-law’s house and drop in her chicken soup.
– Spring Valley Breaded Chicken Pattie Nuggets. Don’t let the “breaded” fool you, these frozen chicken nuggets are coated with potato starch. It’s hard to find gluten-free kosher chicken nuggets, so I bought four bags of these tasty nuggets. Make sure the bag is labeled kosher for Passover and non-gebrokts. I also bought Spring Valley Frozen Stuffed Chicken Rolls (a good gluten-free kosher quick lunch) and Meal Mart Potato and Pastrami Knishes, both of which are labeled non-gebrokts. (Update: I didn’t like the pastrami knishes — way too salty.)
— Spring Valley Blintzes. It’s impossible to find gluten-free blintzes during the year, so I stock up on these “non-gebrokts” or gluten-free frozen blintzes, which come in cheese, apple and blueberry flavors. Make sure the box is labeled kosher for Passover and non-gebrokts, as only the Passover blintzes are gluten-free.
— Kedem Gourmet Gefilte Fish. Gefilte fish traditionally is a part of Passover meals, but most gefilte fish contains matzo meal (wheat). The Kedem Gourmet line is made without matzo meal, is gluten-free and does not contain MSG.
— Streit’s Macaroons. I love coconut macaroons and am always tempted by the variety of different flavors. Most are gluten-free, but I was happy to see that this year the Streit’s label proclaims “gluten-free.” I avoid a lot of Passover packaged cookies, because I try not to have too many sweets in the house. I did buy a box of Gefen Gluten-Free Almond Cookies, because they look like almond cookies from old-school Chinese restaurants. I also bought a Manischewitz Chocolate Macaroon Pie Shell; maybe there’s an ice cream pie or chocolate mousse pie in my future. Shabtai Gourmet, a kosher bakery, is dedicated to baking gluten-free Passover goodies year-round. Try their Baby Swiss Rolls (think Ho Hos). Oberlander’s and Hagadda also have a selection of gluten-free Passover cakes and cookies, like black-and-white cookies; all are pretty expensive and overly sugary, though.
— Did you know that most licorice contains wheat? It’s hard to find gluten-free licorice, which is why I was happy to pick up Sweet Goodies Gluten-Free Licorice, new this year from Kedem Foods, in strawberry, sour strawberry, sour green apple and sour blueberry. Update: Skip the Sweet Goodies licorice; you need jaws like a claw hammer to chew it. (When it’s not Passover, I also like Clif Kid Twisted Fruit Rope as a gluten-free licorice substitute.) For a salty snack, I bought Paskesz Onion Rings. Update: Skip those too, they are incredibly salty and artificial tasting and don’t actually include onion.
— My mother always serves mandlen, or “soup nuts,” with chicken soup on Passover. Lieber’s Mini Mandlin are gluten-free, and my kids like tossing them into their soup. Oberlander’s Soup Mandlen and Osem Soup Mandel Rings are also gluten-free.
— This was the first year I saw tapioca starch in the Passover aisle. I like the fact that the Gefen Tapioca Starch comes in an easily reclosable canister, as usually my bags of tapioca starch become powdery disasters. I also bought two canisters of potato starch, because I like the reclosable canister and it’s good for gluten-free baking throughout the year.
Again, Passover is a good time to stock up on some unusual gluten-free foods. But try not to buy too much (as I ended up doing), because the food is expensive. Some Passover products don’t taste great, but the above foods make it to our Passover table (although I haven’t tried all of the foods yet, since Passover hasn’t started).