Grocery shopping for Passover pretty much means completely restocking your kitchen for the holiday. Remembering everything you'll need for the weeklong holiday can be a daunting task, especially if you're also hosting a Seder or two!
This guide is designed to help you devise a comprehensive Pesach shopping list (here's a printable one that's ready to go!), and includes lots of tips—along with helpful information about notable foods that do and don't require special kosher for Passover certification.
Please note that there can be differences of opinion regarding which foods require certification, so please check with a trusted local Rav (Rabbi) if you have a question in that regard.
- Handmade shmurah matzo: Handmade matzo tends to be quite expensive (typically $20 to $30 per box), but the large rounds make an impressive display at the Seder, and have a better flavor and texture than machine-made matzo.
- "Regular" matzo: These familiar machine-made squares are the stuff to buy in quantity. Now, in addition to plain white flour matzo, it's possible to find whole wheat, rye, spelt, and gluten-free oat matzo in addition to gluten-free matzo-style squares (the latter does not fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzo at the Seder, but are helpful to have on hand for those with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance). Use it for matzo pizza, toasted cheese, and panini, spread with almond butter and jam, for matzo brei (fried matzo), matzo lasagna, etc.
- Matzo meal (ground matzo): This is for matzo balls, dredging, stuffing, making Passover rolls. Gluten-free matzo meal is now available.
- Cake meal (very finely ground matzo): Cake meal matzo is used for dessert baking and other recipes that require a finer-textured, more flour-like binder than matzo meal. A gluten-free version is now available.
- Matzo farfel (matzo broken into very small chunks): This is used it for cookies, matzo granola, stuffing, etc.
- Eggs: Get lots of eggs. Eggs are used in large quantities to lighten and leaven many Passover recipes. Plus some people serve them hard-boiled at the Seder. And many have the custom to purchase eggs before Pesach, in order to avoid those laid during the holiday by chickens that may have eaten chametz feed. Take a look at the recipes you're interested in making, and count up how many eggs you'll need. Then buy 2 to 3 dozen extra.
- Milk: Thanks to vitamin additives, which may be derived from chametz, it's best to buy milk before Passover. Milk that is certified Kosher for Passover is preferable. Note that if you usually buy Lactaid milk, you should definitely purchase it before Passover, because Lactaid production may involve chametz. Rabbinic authorities have different opinions regarding whether it is permissible to use non-chewable Lactaid caplets during Pesach, so ask if this is a concern.
- Yogurt: Use yogurt for breakfast, smoothies, snacks, dressings, and sauces.
- Whipping cream: This requires special Passover certification. Try to stick to real dairy whipping cream, and skip the chemical-laden pareve whipping "creams." (No good dessert needs the fake stuff that desperately; for savory recipes, try almond milk to keep it pareve.)
- Orange juice: Use orange juice for drinking, baking, marinades, vinaigrettes, etc.
- Cheese: Stock up on Cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, Colby, goat cheese, etc. More variety gives you more flexibility with recipes and staves off boredom. Cheeses require special Passover certification.
- Cream cheese: Whipped cream cheese is ideal if you want to be able to spread it on matzo without breaking. Block cream cheese is handy if you plan to bake cheesecake.
- Sour cream: Mix sour cream with sliced fruit, use it in dips, sauces, baking, or to top Matzo Tostados.
- Butter: Unsalted (sweet) stick butter is used for baking and you can use whipped butter (salted or unsalted) for spreading on matzo.
- Margarine: Kosher for Passover margarine is made from cottonseed oil, and is full of trans-fats. If you can avoid it entirely, do. If you need a pareve dessert or side dish, look for recipes that use olive oil, grapeseed oil, or coconut oil instead of margarine.
- Smoked salmon: Try it on matzo with cream cheese, wrapped around vegetables, served atop potato latkes with sour cream, or in salads.
- Gefilte fish: Jarred or frozen, fans will enjoy this Seder staple all week long.
- Other protein foods: Deli meats, fish, beef, and poultry are other options you can look for.
- Sugar: If you're planning any dessert-making, you'll need sugar. It will come in handy for plenty of other recipes as well. Plain white granulated sugar does not require special Passover certification.
- Brown sugar: Some recipes call for brown sugar, but you can probably get away with not buying it.
- Confectioners' sugar: It's now possible to find kosher for Passover confectioners' sugar. It's made with potato starch instead of corn starch. This can be useful if you plan to make frosting or icing.
- Potato starch: This is useful for improving the texture of baked goods made with cake or matzo meal, or for thickening sauces. Potato starch is also an essential ingredient for those who eat only non-gebrokts (foods without matzo and liquid mixed together) during Pesach. It's useful in year-round gluten-free cooking as well, so Passover is a good time to stock up if this is a concern.
- Tapioca starch: Another staple in gluten-free cooking, tapioca starch is a good thickener, and gives a nice chewy texture to recipes like Passover pancakes.
- Cocoa powder: Use this in brownies, cakes, cookies, homemade hot cocoa or chocolate syrup. 100 percent pure cocoa powder (not cocoa mix) does not require special Passover certification.
- Ground nuts: Used both as a flour replacement and to impart flavor to baked goods and other recipes—including charoset—ground nuts (aka nut flours) are a Passover essential. If you don't have a Pesach food processor or coffee grinder, packages of ground nuts are a huge convenience. Unlike raw whole nuts, ground nuts do require Passover certification.
- Dark, bittersweet, or semisweet pareve chocolate: Use it in cakes and cookies, melted or chopped. Look for high-quality, real chocolate—cocoa butter, and not vegetable fat, should be listed in the ingredients. Alprose makes a large bar that's convenient if you use a lot of chocolate in your Pesach desserts.
- Pure vanilla extract: It's now possible to find pure vanilla extract with Passover certification. It has much better flavor and none of the bitter notes of artificially flavored vanilla extract.
- Vanilla beans: These are a great purchase if you can't find pure vanilla extract, or if you want to infuse your baked goods, puddings, or compotes with incredible vanilla flavor. Like all whole spices, they do not require special kosher or Passover certification.
Oils and Vinegars
- Extra virgin olive oil: All unflavored extra virgin olive oil is kosher and kosher for Passover, even if it doesn't have a hechsher. So you can go ahead and buy the big bottle at Trader Joe's EVOO for $5.99, instead of the little bottle of KFP-certified oil that costs $16.99.
- Grapeseed oil: This neutral-flavored oil is a far healthier alternative to the cottonseed or safflower oils commonly sold for Pesach. It also has a high smoke point, which makes it a good choice for frying. Per the Star-K for 2017, the Delarosa brand requires Passover certification, while the Pompeian brand may be used with a regular Star-K.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil is pareve and solid at cool room temperature, which makes it a good alternative to margarine. The options have expanded and now include both refined and unrefined (virgin) coconut oils. Some require Passover certification and others don't; lists from the Star-K and Kashrut.com help clarify which brands are acceptable for Pesach. This information is for Passover 2017 only.
- Balsamic vinegar: This is used for vinaigrettes, marinades, and glazes.
- Red wine and/or white wine vinegar: A lighter alternative to balsamic vinegar, these brighten dishes without overwhelming other flavors.
- Apple cider vinegar: Great for vegetable slaws.
- Quinoa: In 2014, after years of controversy, there was finally consensus from several leading kashrut agencies that quinoa is both Kosher-for-Passover and non-kitniyot. This is a huge boon for those looking for a light, healthful, gluten-free whole-grain alternative for Passover. Quinoa is versatile too—use it in salads, pilafs, as a stuffing for vegetables, or even cooked with fruit and almond milk as a hot breakfast porridge. Per the Star-K, reliable Passover certification is required for most brands; the Ancient Harvest brand, however, is fine with a regular Star-K symbol and a “Best By” date of 2/01/19 through 2/28/19. This information is for 2017.
- Canned fish: Sardines, salmon, and tuna make good snacks, salads, or matzo toppers; salmon and tuna also work in fish cakes.
- Jarred tomato sauce: You can serve this over spaghetti squash or stuffed veggies. It also works great for matzo lasagna or matzo pizza.
- Almond butter and/or cashew butter: Use these for snacking, baking, and sauces.
- Chia seeds: Can't imagine a week without chia pudding? No worries! For 2017, per the Star-K, Navitas chia seeds are fine for Pesach without special certification. The cRc has okayed any raw chia seeds, as long as they contain no additional kosher sensitive ingredients. Note that this refers to the whole seeds only; chia flour requires special Passover certification.
- Other products: Olives and jams and jellies are also common products you may need in your pantry.
- Citrus: Lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit
- Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Tropical fruits: Pineapple, mango, kiwi
- Other fruits: Apples and pears
- Red peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Spaghetti squash
- Salad greens
Herbs and Spices
- Salt: Non-iodized salt and pure sea salt is kosher for Passover without special certification; iodized salt requires it.
- Pepper: Whole peppercorns do not require special kosher certification; jars with built-in grinders are a good option.
- Nutmeg: If you can't find ground nutmeg, buy it whole and grate it with a microplane or box grater.
- Prepared horseradish: Use this as maror at the Seder, then throughout the week as a condiment.
- Other spices: Fresh garlic, fresh ginger, dill, parsley, and cinnamon are also other kosher herbs and spices you should stock up on.
- Root vegetable or potato chips: Terra Chips (Original and Sweet Potato) had limited edition kosher for Passover product runs for these chips in 2017. Packages must have special Passover certification.
- Matzo "granola": Matzolah or Blanchard & Blanchard are good for snacking out of hand, with milk, or over yogurt or ice cream.
- Chocolate: Even if you get a big bar or chips for baking, get extra chocolate for snacking.
- Marshmallows: Pesach is the one time of year that it becomes pretty easy to find kosher marshmallows. Most brands are made with fish gelatin.
- Nuts: Whole for snacking, salads, etc. Chopped nuts are useful for charoset and baking recipes. Packaged raw nuts—whether whole or chopped—that contain no preservatives or other additives are kosher for Passover without special certification. Dry roasted and ground nuts require Passover certification.
- Dried fruit: These are used for charoset recipes, snacking, salads, and baking. Reliable Passover certification is necessary, which can make it cost-prohibitive to buy a big variety of dried fruit, but if you can afford to, it's nice to have raisins, prunes, and dried apricots on hand, along with a couple of more exotic offerings, like dates, figs, guava, or cranberries.
- Sparkling and/or still mineral water: Unflavored bottled mineral water that does not contain additional additives (such as vitamins) is kosher for Passover without special certification.
- Wine: You'll need plenty for the Seder, plus more for the week.
- Spirits: These are optional, though it's nice to have Kosher for Passover liqueurs on hand for cocktails, after-dinner drinks, or for flavoring desserts.
- Coffee: Unflavored, regular (not decaffeinated) ground coffee does not need special Passover certification.
- Almond milk: This is a good substitute for milk in pareve recipe adaptations for those who are lactose intolerant. Lieber's makes kosher for Passover almond milk in plain and vanilla varieties.
- Other beverages: Seltzer, grape juice, and tea
- Xylitol: Health Garden produces Kosher for Passover xylitol, a naturally-derived low-calorie, low glycemic index sweetener made from birch. Please note that while xylitol can be helpful for preventing dental caries (cavities), it is also dangerously toxic to dogs and possibly ferrets, so if you have those pets, it may be wise to avoid it altogether.
- Other sweeteners: Chocolate syrup, honey, and pure maple syrup are also common sweeteners you can use in your recipes.