Symbolic and Traditional Passover Recipes

Image for illustration - A Passover seder table setting (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A poll just taken in Israel – which, incidentally has a majority secular population – found that 67.3 percent of Israeli Jews will eat only kosher (satisfying the requirements of Jewish law) food for Passover and that 63.1 percent will also clean their homes, removing all traces of hametz, or leavened products, symbolic of sin.

We won’t go into all the rules of kosher-for-Passover food here, but if you are planning to host a Passover seder – the traditional holiday meal – you should know what is kosher and what is not, especially if you plan to invite Jews! Plenty of helpful explanations by Messianic Jews can fill you in on those important rules, to which 67.3 percent will adhere during the holiday period even when dining outside their own homes.   

Here we want to share a few recipes of some wonderful, kosher foods that are both symbolic and traditional to the Passover seder. Some of these foods are symbolic and are used to the tell the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt described in Exodus 12. Since there is no more animal sacrifice, a shank bone, zeroah, is used to symbolize the sacrificed lamb. For the actual meal, meats other than lamb are usually prepared such as brisket, fish or chicken.  

Other symbolic foods central to the telling of the Passover story are the maror, or bitter herbs (usually horseradish); haroset, a sweet paste of fruit and nuts symbolizing the mortar Jewish slaves used to build Egyptian pyramids; a green leafy vegetable called karpas, either lettuce or parsley; and salt water to symbolize the tears of the slaves in bondage in Egypt.

According to the Haggadah, the order of the seder, participants drink four glasses of wine at certain intervals. The Peniel Fellowship in Tiberias offers a Messianic Haggadah, available free for download in Hebrew-English, Hebrew-Spanish, Hebrew-German and Hebrew-Finnish. It was written and is used by the fellowship, and incorporates elements of the Passover meal with their fulfillment in the New Covenant. Another Messianic Haggadah, available for free download in Hebrew, English, Spanish and Russian, was authored by Howard Bass of Nachalat Yeshua Congregation in Beersheba. It tells the Passover story with past, present and future views of the feast.

The unleavened bread in the Passover meal, matzah, takes a central role in the seder because it symbolizes the sinless, unblemished, broken Bread of Life, Yeshua. This symbolism of the matzah is still a mystery hidden from the spiritual eyes of most Jews in the world, but the Passover seder, commanded by God for Jews to observe annually, is a powerful picture and, in this appointed season, God unveils and reveals the mystery to many. This is why we encourage Christians to attend a Messianic Passover seder, to see how this annual rehearsal of the Exodus from sin and slavery through the sacrifice commanded by God is a witness to all Jews throughout history of His salvation in Yeshua. But! We leave this most basic of understanding of Passover to share with you traditional Passover recipes.

Different Jewish traditions dictate the meals that accompany the symbolic foods. Even among the Jews themselves we see the different interpretations of what is kosher for Passover: What is considered kosher for Ashkenazi (German/Eastern European Jews) Passover dishes is different than those for Sephardic (Spanish/Middle Eastern) Jews. But not to worry, many recipes span the geographical and religious differences.

Symbolic Passover Food:

Thanks to Sally at Kehilat HaMaayan (the Wellspring) in Kfar Saba for a maror recipe of Beet Horseradish with its brilliant crimson color. Her recipe comes with a spice warning:  “Be very careful, it is extremely hot. Do not take an entire spoonful to taste.” This bitter herbs recipe just keeps it real!

Maror/Bitter Herbs: Beet Horseradish

1 horseradish root (Peeled and finely chopped)
3 beets cooked and chopped (reserve the beet juice)
1\3 cup of white vinegar
2 Tablespoons of sugar

Grind the horseradish root and beets together very fine. (Be prepared to cry)

Mix the sugar and white vinegar together with it afterward.

Ha’ro’set, symbolizing the mortar, is to be eaten with the matzah. Randi Bass of Nachalat Yeshua Congregation (Yeshua’s Inheritance) writes, “In Israel, if you want to feel the panic mixed with pride of Passover, go shopping for your ingredients just a few days before Passover where you will see people buying such huge amounts of food of all sorts that you are led to think that WWIII will begin within 48 hours!”

Haroset is a favorite of the symbolic seder foods because of its sweetness. It is usually eaten throughout the holiday period with matzah, that’s why Randi says she makes a major amount to last several days after the seder. She says it is a labor intensive endeavor to make so it is nice to have a friend to talk with while you are making it. Also she adds, “One must understand that the making of this yummy topping for matzah is somewhat intuitive. Every year is a new experience of getting the consistency and taste just right.”


8 apples (not too tart or hard)
2 cups whole walnuts
2 cups dried dates
1/2 cup or more date paste ( vacuum-packed mashed dates without the pits are available here in Israel)
1/2 cup or less date syrup (called “silan” in Israel)
1/2 cup or less of honey
1/2 cup red wine or a little water if it seems dry (optional)
The juice of 1-2 lemons squeezed
dash of cinnamon is optional, but, you don’t want a heavy cinnamon taste

1. Peel and cut the apples away from the core. Chop and dice to a very small size. It’s very helpful to use the right knives! First, a small one to cut the apple away from the core, and then a larger curved chopping knife, one that you can rock back and forth. Dicing the apples small enough is key to a good product and takes time.
2.  Chop the walnuts to a fine size, but not too small. It should add a small crunch in the charoset.
3.  Chop dates just as fine as walnuts. This can be a little challenging, as well as sticky, but that’s the way it goes…
4. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix with hands. Really, hands are the most effective way to combine all these ingredients into a sticky conglomerate! This is where you now use your own judgment and taste buds to form a charoset that seems good to you. Go back in time and think “Will this hold the stones together?” “Can I spread this with a trowel?” That’s one way to figure it out! Really, it’s up to you as to the consistency and taste. I prefer to be able to still distinguish the ingredients. Occasionally I’ve seen a charoset made which was such a heavy ‘mud’ that it wasn’t such fun to eat. But to each his own version. Highly recommended to let your charoset creation sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the flavors blend.

Serve in bowls scattered around the table so everyone can easily take a portion (again and again) for their matzah; it’s just one more item that all will enjoy on that special festive night, full of friends and family, full of history and revelation and a full moon that we call “Erev Pesach.”

Traditional Passover Recipes

Sally from the HaMayaan congregation also offers her family secret to light fluffy matzah balls: 

Matzah Ball Soup  

1 package of matzah meal
2 eggs
Garlic salt to family taste
Water to matzah meal package recipe instructions

After making the mix to recipe, chill the mix a minimum of 4 hours, over night is better. (This is my mom’s secret recipe. It is against the package recipe directions, but trust me it is the secret to light, fluffy matzah balls.)

The next day, before the Seder begins, roll the balls in small dime size, then while the Seder is going on drop into the soup.

(Soup for Matzah Ball Soup is a pretty standard chicken stock soup usually but Tory Avey is a Jewish chef who shares several variations on this and many Passover recipes on her website, including recipes for traditional West African Brisket, Mediterranean Olive Chicken, Lemon Tumeric Salmon, Israeli salad with avocado and mint, Classic Hummus, Dark Chocolate-dipped Macaroons and Date Truffles.)

Devorah from Hasdey Yeshua Congregation (Mercy of Yeshua) in Arad sends this traditional favorite dessert:

Apple-Matzah Kugel.

4 large apples, Granny Smith or any tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into medium dice
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
6 plain matzahs
8 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar (I use less!)
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, for casserole topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 177°C/350°F
     2. Toss the apples with the brown sugar and orange juice, set aside in a medium bowl.
     3. Break the matzah into 2- to 3-inch pieces and soak in 1 cup of warm water until soft but not mushy.
    Set aside.
     4. While the matzah soaks, beat the eggs with a wire whisk in a large bowl until blended. Add the salt, sugar, cinnamon, melted butter, raisins, and apricots.
     5. Squeeze the liquid from the softened matzah and add the matzah to the egg mixture with the apples. Stir the kugel well and pour into a lightly greased 2 1/2-quart casserole dish or a 10×14-inch pan. Dot the top of the kugel with the 4 tablespoons of butter.
     6. Bake the kugel for 1 hour. Cover the top with foil if the top begins to become too brown early in the baking. Remove the kugel from the oven and cool to room temperature.

Cook’s Tip: The kugel can be made two days ahead, cooled, and refrigerated, covered. Bring to room temperature and reheat in a 350°F oven.

As we will hear and say countless times over the next week in Israel, Hag Sameach! Happy holiday!