Why a plant-based Seder beautifully reflects the values of this important Jewish holiday
A brief history of Passover
The story of Passover dates back over 3,000 years ago when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt under the rule of the Pharaoh. Moses, who was raised as an Egyptian, learned of his true heritage and led the Israelites to freedom.
After enduring a series of plagues, including the death of all their firstborn, the Pharaoh finally relented and let the Israelites leave Egypt. They were in such a hurry to leave that they did not have time to let their bread rise, and instead made unleavened bread to take with them on their journey.
The Passover Seder, the ritual feast that begins the Passover holiday, includes a retelling of the Exodus story, using symbolic foods and rituals that represent the Jewish people’s journey to freedom. It is a time for families and communities to come together and share in the tradition, history, and values that have sustained the Jewish people for generations.
How the values of Passover and veganism align
Passover commemorates the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom, and emphasizes the importance of treating others with dignity and respect.
Similarly, veganism seeks to minimize harm to animals and reduce exploitation in the food system, promoting compassion for all beings.
Both values highlight the importance of recognizing the inherent worth and value of all individuals, regardless of their species, background, or circumstances. Freedom from harm, liberation from enslavement, and hope for a better future are central values in both Passover and veganism.
Vegan Passover Seder menu
The Seder, which means “order,” is the traditional Passover meal that includes reading, drinking wine, telling stories, remembering history, eating special foods, singing, and other Passover traditions.
One significant practice of this holiday involves the removal of leavened foods commemorating the fact that the slaves fleeing Egypt did not have time to let their bread rise.
Matzo represents this unleavened bread and is used in many forms throughout the holiday — as crackers, as flour, as meal / bread crumbs, as bread.
Options for a vegan Passover menu abound, and you can find 11 delicious recipes in my specially curated RECIPE BUNDLE FOR A VEGAN PASSOVER. Enjoy these easy-to-make, eager-to-please recipes for:
- Matzo Ball Soup
- Borscht (Beet Soup)
- Noodle Kugel
- Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Roasted Beets and Fennel Bulbs with Fennel Oil
- Matzo Pizza with Cashew Mozzarella
- Mushroom Walnut Pâté
- Matzo Chocolate Brittle
- Flourless Chocolate Tart
- Coconut Macaroons
Most of the ingredients in these recipes are whole plant foods, some of them call for store-bought ingredients, such as olive oil or balsamic vinegar. If you are keeping kosher for Passover, just double-check your commercially bought ingredients before using.
I included ingredients that you should have no problem finding certified kosher, but depending on how observant you or your host and their guests are, you’ll want to double-check if they’re labeled “kosher for Passover.”
Your best bet is to check a kosher grocery store, the kosher section of a larger grocery, or one of the many online stores that carry kosher products, especially if they come from Israel!
Vegan Seder plate
The six symbolic foods on the Seder plate play an important role, since they’re used to recount the story of the exodus and convey the elements of the powerful message of Passover: that freedom is possible, that slavery can end, and that the future can be better than the past.
Many plant foods are already traditionally part of the Seder plate, namely:
- Charoset, which represents the mortar that Jews worked with when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. Ashkenazi Jews typically make charoset with apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and wine; Sephardic Jews often use figs and dates. Also delicious.
- Bitter herbs, which symbolize the bitterness and harshness of slavery. This is often represented with horseradish.
- Additional bitter herbs, such as romaine lettuce or endive, have the same effect.
- A green vegetable, such as parsley, which represents new life, is dipped in salt water, signifying the tears of the slaves.
A couple animal products are also used as symbols, namely a boiled egg to symbolize new life and a shank bone to represent the lamb who was offered for sacrifice, but non-animal alternatives are widely accepted:
- The most common vegan substitute for the shank bone is a roasted beet, whose “bloody” appearance is used to represent the blood of the sacrificial lambs. Beets are referenced as a Passover Seder option in the Talmud.
- While the egg doesn’t have the same kind of long-established traditional substitute, there are a few different options used by Jewish vegans in its place:
- something egg-shaped — like a plastic or wooden egg, or even a smooth rock
- seeds, because they symbolize and hold the potential for new life, can be used in place of an egg. An avocado pit is used by many because it is a seed and it somewhat resembles the shape of the egg it is replacing.
- the type of eggplant that is round and white is a great substitute; it even looks like an egg.
- rice, being outside of the category for grains forbidden to eat at Passover, was another vegetarian Seder option given in the Talmud.
Pick the one that resonates with you and take heart in the fact that a vegan Seder is not only traditional in its own right, it reflects the principles of freedom and mercy that signify this holiday.