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.
An Interview with Lakewood Matzoh
Recently, I had an email chat with Izzy Davidowitz, Internet division manager for Lakewood Matzoh, to find out more about their gluten-free oat matzo.
Gluten-Free Nosh: How long has Lakewood been producing gluten-free oat matzo, and why did you decide to offer it?
Davidowitz: This will be our fifth year manufacturing GF oat matzoh. The main reason we started was to accommodate celiacs who were not able to tolerate our wheat and spelt matzoh.
— How do you ensure that the oats are gluten-free and are not cross-contaminated during growing, harvesting or processing?
We depend on the GFCO for all aspects of the GF status of the oat grain and flour. The actual matzoh production is usually done before any gluten flour is introduced into our facility, and all our GF items are certified gluten free by the GFCO.
Also, the nature of matzoh production — even in a gluten environment — is that all surfaces that come in contact with the product are thoroughly cleaned or changed every 18 minutes, due to fear of leavened dough.
— What is the difference between machine and handmade oat matzo?
Machine matzoh refers to an automated mechanical system that kneads, shapes, rolls out and bakes the matzoh. The end matzoh is a square matzoh. Round matzohs are produced entirely by human interaction. The dough is kneaded, flattened, rolled out and baked all by trained individuals with experience in this line of work. The end result is a round well-baked matzoh. There are some people who will only eat round matzoh on Passover as they feel that is the authentic matzoh, and others who will only eat machine-made matzoh. We provide a full line of hand and machine to accommodate everyone. We have a link to YouTube on our home page where you can view each type of production.
— Why are gluten-free oat matzos so expensive?
Great question. There are a number of reasons; I’ll try to include as much information as possible.
- GF-certified oats simply cost a lot more than standard wheat. There is only a limited supply and it is a highly specialized item.
- Kosher for Passover supervision. With the wheat, we normally harvest it in New Jersey (our home state) and then clean and grind the grain in our own facility. The cost for rabbinical supervision is relatively low. Contrast that with a rabbi having to fly out of state multiple times (usually for a couple days each time) to supervise the [oat] harvest, and then the dehulling and finally the milling and you have a very different expense list.
- Our GF matzoh is made entirely from oats — an item that is suitable for the Hamotzi blessing as well as using at the seder. There are other “matzo style” crackers out there that are made from tapioca and potato starch, ingredients that are both a lot cheaper and a lot easier to manufacture matzoh from, but not OK to use at the seder or to make the Hamotzi blessing on.
— How about you, readers? What are your experiences with gluten-free matzo?