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Gluten-Free Passover Foods 2014

passover 2014

Gluten-free Passover foods

Passover is a prime time for gluten-free food, since foods that are kosher for Passover do not contain wheat, rye, barley, spelt or oats — although the big exception is that wheat is used in regular matzah and in products using matzah meal or cake meal.

While many Passover products have always been gluten-free, in the past they have used the Yiddish term “non-gebrokts,” which indicates that no matzah (i.e. wheat) was used in the product. But now many Passover brands are recognizing the gluten-free appeal and specifically labeling their products as gluten-free.

Kedem Food Products began introducing products specifically labeled as certified gluten free five years ago, when it introduced Yehuda Gluten Free Matzo-Style Squares (a great gluten-free matzah). Now, many of Yehuda’s products are certified gluten-free, bearing the GIG’s “Certified GF” logo, meaning they’ve been tested to contain less than 10 ppm of gluten. I’m always more confident in buying a food when I see the certified GF logo.

“It started with Yehuda Gluten Free Matzo Style Squares, and grew from there,” notes Harold Weiss, Kedem vice president of sales, in a press release. “Fast forward five years, and we have a complete offering of gluten free items under various brands including cereals, candies, cake mixes and ingredients all certified GF and many now available year round.”

This year, Kedem introduced a number of new certified gluten free items including Yehuda Gluten Free Chocolate Covered Crackers, Yehuda Gluten Free Soup Crackers, Crispy-Os Gluten Free Cereal, Kedem Tilapia Gefilte Fish (exclusively available at Whole Foods) and Shefa Sweet Goodies.

Kedem Gourmet Passover gefilte fish and Kedem Israeli Style gefilte fish, as well as Rokeach Gourmet Sweet and Heimeshe Sweet gefilte fish, do not contain matzah meal and are gluten-free. (Most other brands contain matza meal and therefore gluten.)

All Manischewitz macaroons are certified gluten-free, too. (I’d take a pass on their new pistachio orange flavor, though.)

Some of my favorite returning gluten-free Passover products are Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares, Lieber’s Knaidel Mix (ie matzo ball mix), Frankel’s frozen Matzo-Free Balls, Jeff Nathan’s Seasoned Panko Flakes, Spring Valley chicken nuggets and blintzes and Gefen tapioca starch in a reclosable canister.

Do yourself a favor and pass over (get it: Passover, ha-ha) any of the gluten-free Passover boxed cake mixes or Passover noodles. They are rarely good.

Find some of my old Passover posts here:
Gluten-free Passover foods 2013
Gluten-free oat matzo 2013
Gluten-free matzo for Passover 2013
Gluten-free Passover foods 2012
Gluten-free Passover foods 2010

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Gluten-Free Passover Foods 2013

Because wheat, rye, barley, spelt and oats aren’t allowed on Passover (unless they’re in matzo or matzo meal), Passover can be a great gluten-free holiday. You can find gluten-free versions of foods that you can’t find the rest of the year, like gluten-free matzo ball mix, blintzes, cookies and cakes. But be careful to avoid my eternal mistake (when will I ever learn?), and don’t overbuy Passover products. Passover foods are almost always expensive, but they don’t always taste great.

Many foods are labeled “gluten-free” and some are labeled “non-gebrokts” (which is basically the equivalent of gluten-free). Non-gebrokts foods are increasing in popularity because of the growing Hassidic population and gluten-free population.

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– My top recommendation is Lieber’s Knaidel Mix. This gluten-free matzo ball mix makes light and fluffy matzo balls (called knaidlach in Yiddish). My guests have asked for seconds, unaware that the matzo balls were gluten-free. Another gluten-free matzo ball option is Frankel’s Matzo-Free Balls. These premade frozen gluten-free matzo balls (six to a package) are convenient when you want to take individual gluten-free matzo balls to a relative’s house to drop in their chicken soup.

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– Don’t let the “breaded” fool you, Spring Valley Breaded Chicken Pattie Nuggets (sorry, I can’t find an online link) are coated with potato starch – a great find, since it’s hard to find gluten-free kosher chicken 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. Also, it’s hard to find gluten-free blintzes during the year, so I stock up on gluten-free Spring Valley 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, not the ones they produce the rest of the year.

– Frankel’s makes a frozen gluten-free Passover cheesecake that’s great, as well as gluten-free potato knishes and gluten-free blintzes.

– Gefilte fish often is part of Passover meals, but most gefilte fish contains matzo meal. For the past few years, I’ve bought Kedem Gourmet Gefilte Fish, which is made without matzo meal, is gluten-free and does not contain MSG. This year, I also spotted Rokeach “Gourmet Sweet” and Rokeach “Heimeshe Sweet” gluten-free gefilte fish. Also, some of the frozen gefilte fish loaves are gluten-free.

– Most macaroons are gluten-free, including Manischewitz and Streit’s macaroons, which also use sulfite-free coconut. This year, Manischewitz introduced a frozen gluten-free macaroon dough.

– There has been a debate the past few years about whether quinoa is kosher for Passover. Quinoa is not a grain, but some want to count it as kitniyot and not permit it. Other rabbis say it’s fine for Passover. For a discussion of quinoa, see this article, “Quinoa, ‘mother of all grains,’ may (or may not) be kosher for Passover” published by the JTA news service, which has a quote at the end from me. (To save you the suspense, here’s the quote: “It’s a tiny powerhouse packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, and it’s an important grain alternative, especially on Passover,” Becker said. “It’s great to have it on Passover instead of the usual potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Most of the Passover foods just end up tasting like Passover, so we rely on quinoa to be that side staple.”)

– I’ve already discussed gluten-free matzo-style squares and gluten-free oat matzos in other posts, so I’ll be brief here. Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares are tasty, gluten-free matzos that taste like crispy flatbread crackers. Yehuda also offers a toasted onion flavor and a fiber-enriched version, as well as gluten-free matzo crackers. I still haven’t tried to cook with Yehuda gluten-free cake meal, but some readers have told me that they haven’t been successful with it. This year, Manischewitz came out with its own Gluten-Free Matzo Squares along with gluten-free Passover crackers.

– New this year is a seasoned version of Jeff Nathan Creations Gluten-Free Panko Flakes. I used the plain panko flakes last year as a gluten-free crumb coating for chicken and fish and liked their texture. But they didn’t have much taste, so I’m happy to see a seasoned version.

– I hate it when I open a bag of tapioca starch and get coated in a puff of white powder. So I like the fact that Gefen Tapioca Starch comes in an easily reclosable canister. I also like the reclosable canisters of potato starch from a few Passover brands.

Dr Praeger’s offers some nice gluten-free options year-round and even more during Passover. I bought “Potato Crusted Fishies,” though now my kids have informed me that they will not eat fish sticks. Go figure.

passover food-1

– You can now buy so many gluten-free cookies, crackers and cakes throughout the year, it doesn’t make sense to buy the Passover versions, which are generally less nutritious and less tasty. Sometimes I’m tempted to buy the boxed bakery-style cookies, though most tend to be expensive and sugary. Still, it is sometimes nice to keep a box or two in the freezer. Shabtai Gourmet, a kosher bakery, is dedicated to baking gluten-free Passover goodies year-round. Oberlander’s , Schick’s and Hagadda also have a selection of gluten-free, bakery-style Passover cakes and cookies. I skip the Passover cake mixes; they’re generally not great. There are some frozen cake loaves that can be worthwhile, such as Osem marble cake and pound cake, which are small and easy to keep in the freezer.

– Generally, I skip the Passover noodles, pizza, pancakes and waffles. They usually end up mushy and gummy. Although this year I did buy frozen Heaven and Health gluten-free potato gnocchi.

– I’m always tempted by snack foods. I love all the boxes of chocolate available at Passover, though check the ingredients — not all are gluten-free. For snacks this year, I bought Guiltless Gourmet Crunchies nut squares and Paskesz Soft Crunch granola-style bars.

Click here for my shortened, printable gluten-free Passover shopping list.

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Gluten-Free Matzo for Passover-Part 2

gf matzos

Recently, I wrote a post about gluten-free oat matzo for Passover. Fortunately, there’s also a different kind of gluten-free matzo on the block. These gluten-free “matzo-style squares” are matzo alternatives that taste better than regular wheat matzo or gluten-free oat matzo. With a crisp, cracker consistency, these gluten-free matzos are good enough to be eaten year-round (really!).

Made primarily from potato starch and tapioca starch, and lightly salted, the matzos have a delicate taste, unlike regular dry matzo that leaves you parched and scrambling for water. Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares have been on the market for the past two years. Not to be left out, Manischewitz came out with its own “Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares” this year. (How odd that they have the same name.)

Now, these matzos don’t technically meet the seder requirements of matzo — that’s why you’ll notice a disclaimer on the box that says “not a replacement for seder matzo” or “not for sacramental purposes.” At the seder the Hamotzi blessing is supposed to be said over matzo made from one of five grains: wheat, rye, barley, spelt and oats. That’s why some people turn to gluten-free oat matzo, though the oat matzo tastes like cardboard and is much more expensive, because of the supervision involved in ensuring that it’s both gluten-free and kosher for Passover.

The Manischewitz and Yehuda gluten-free matzo-style squares are very similar — with a crisp, flatbread consistency. Manischewitz is cheaper, which is always a plus, though I like Yehuda’s flavor slightly better. Both are certified gluten-free, and both do not contain oats (doctors now say that most celiacs can tolerate pure, uncontaminated gluten-free oats, but some celiacs still have reactions from oats). Yehuda and Manischewitz also make smaller gluten-free matzo crackers, too.

Last year, Yehuda added a toasted onion flavor, and this year adds a fiber-enriched version. The fiber-enriched version has 3 grams of dietary fiber, compared to 1.2 grams in the regular matzo squares. The additional fiber comes in the form of “apple fiber” and “plant fiber.” The fiber-enriched version is dry, though. If you want fiber, you’d probably be better off eating a fresh apple, which has 4 grams of fiber, instead of eating apple fiber in your matzo.

Depending on where you live, these matzos can be hard to find. I’ve found them at a local Jewel that has a good kosher selection. Some Whole Foods stores (at least in Chicago) carry the Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares, too. You can also order them online, or ask if your local grocery store can order them for you.

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Gluten-Free Oat Matzo 2013

oat matza2

Gluten-free oat matzo for Passover

This Passover brings more gluten-free matzo choices than ever, which is a welcome relief from a few short years ago when you had to hunt to find any gluten-free options.

Gluten-free matzo falls into two categories. The first is gluten-free oat matzo, which is expensive and tastes like cardboard, but is the ritually correct type of matzo to include in a Passover seder. During the Passover seder, the Hamotzi blessing should be recited over matzo made from one of five grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats), so gluten-free oat matzo qualifies.

The other type of gluten-free matzo is much more tasty (good enough to eat year-round as a crispy flatbread cracker) and much cheaper, but is made primarily from potato starch and tapioca starch. These “matzo-style squares” don’t meet ritual requirements, because they don’t contain wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats, so the box states “not a replacement for seder matzo” or “not for sacramental purposes.”  Yehuda has produced matzo-style squares since 2011, and Manischewitz has come out with its own version this year. (For more information, Tablet magazine published an interesting discussion of the merits of gluten-free matzo.)

Gluten-Free Oat Matzo

In this post, I focus on gluten-free oat matzo. Stay tuned for my post later this week about “matzo-style squares.” (Update: Posted 3/8. “Gluten-Free Matzo for Passover Part 2.”)

A few years ago, oat matzo was the only kind of gluten-free matzo on the market, and it cost about $35-$40/box. Now, prices have come down to about $20-$25/box. There are two versions: machine-made matzas, which are square, and handmade matzas, which are round and are kneaded and baked by hand.

Lakewood Matzah uses certified gluten-free oats that are grown, cleaned and ground in a gluten-free environment. The oat matzo is certified gluten-free by the GFCO, making it a safe choice for celiacs. Their matzo comes in two versions: Gluten Free Oat Machine (Square) Matzoh, $25.99 per lb, with nine matzos per pound, and Gluten Free Oat Hand (Round) Matzoh, $25.99 for three hand matzohs (at least half a pound).

Gluten-Free Oat Matzos. Rabbi Kestenbaum’s gluten-free oat matzos were the first, and for many years the only, gluten-free matzos on the market. Based in London, Kestenbaum has been making them for more than 20 years. This year, for the first time, his Gluten-Free Oat Matzos are certified by the GFCO, making them a safe choice for celiacs. They cost about $29.99 per pound.

Click to read our Q&A interview with Lakewood Matzoh

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Gluten-Free Passover Foods 2012

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(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.)

Click for printable gluten-free Passover shopping list

Continue reading my gluten-free Passover shopping list.

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GF Matzo: Better Than the Real Deal

Saying something “tastes better than matzo” is not normally the strongest compliment. After all, matzo is somewhat dry and tasteless. But when a gluten-free product tastes better than the real deal, it’s cause for celebration.

New this year, Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares have a lighter, more tender taste that traditional matzo. With a hint of salt, they taste similar to a thin, flaky flatbread or cracker. We opened a box so we could taste the product, and since then my kids have been begging for more. Seriously. And it’s not even Passover yet.

During the eight-day holiday of Passover, we do not eat grains that can ferment and become leavened. Interestingly, those grains are wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt — the same glulten-containing grains that people with celiac disease must not eat. However, in another twist, matzo must be made from one of those five grains, though the flour must come into contact with water for less than 18 minutes so it doesn’t rise.

For the past few years, we’ve bought gluten-free oat matzo. It was expensive ($25 to $35 a box) and tasted only slightly better than the actual box.

The new Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares aren’t halachically (according to Jewish law) a replacement for matzo at the seder, since they are made from potato starch and tapioca starch, instead of wheat or oats. That’s why they are called “matzo style” instead of just “matzo.” But they taste better than gluten-free oat matzo and, at $5 to $7 a box, they are priced better too.

If you would like to buy gluten-free oat matzo that meets seder requirements, try Lakewood Matzoh or Gluten-Free Oat Matzos. Last year, Gluten-Free Oat Matzos had problems with cross-contamination at the factory, resulting in 80 ppm of gluten. This year, they say they’ve tested the oat matzo repeatedly and it was less than 5ppm. (A gluten-free product should be under 20ppm, under proposed FDA guidelines.)

I can’t find a link to buy the Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares online, but I bought them at a Chicago-area Jewel-Osco that carries kosher food. Happy Passover!

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