Allergy-Safe Versions of Charoset

Adapting a Passover Tradition for Families with Food Allergies

Passover Seder Dishes
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The Passover specialty charoset is traditionally made with fruit and nuts, but if your child has a food allergy, that dish will need a do-over.

Nut Allergies

Nut allergies can be very concerning. When diagnosed with a tree nut allergy, often the advice is to avoid all nuts as there can be cross reactions. A doctor may also advise avoiding peanuts because there can be cross-contamination during processing.

The reverse is also the case, as many people who are diagnosed with a peanut allergy also are allergic to at least one tree nut.

Seeds can be substituted for nuts if no seed allergy has been diagnosed. They can add a nutty flavor, and sesame seeds are used instead of nuts in some traditional charoset recipes.

Nut-Free Charoset Recipes

You can leave the nuts out of your usual family recipe for charoset. Or, give one of these recipes a try.

Traditional Ingredients in Charoset

The tradition of eating charoset with the Passover Seder began around the first century.

The ingredients are traditionally linked to the fruits, spices, and nuts that were compared with the Jewish people in the Song of Songs. These were apples, figs, pomegranates, grapes, walnuts, dates, wine, cinnamon, and saffron. Different traditions developed that use some or all of these ingredients.

 

Are Nuts Required for Charoset?

Some traditions substitute a local nut, such chopped almonds in Greece and Turkey, chestnuts in Italy, and coconut in Suriname. In some traditions, charoset is called halegh, a name that is thought to refer to a type of walnut that was a mandatory ingredient for that community. While nuts are traditional, in most communities there isn't a prescribed recipe for charoset, leaving it open for modification.

Symbolism of Charoset

Charoset is a word derived from the word for clay, and it is believed to represent the mortar that the Jewish people used for building houses and temples for the Egyptians. As such, it should be thick and sticky in consistency. It traditionally has cinnamon to represent the straw in the mortar (think of cinnamon sticks). Apples were used for a tart flavor, as it is only recently that apples have bred into being the sweet fruit we enjoy today.  Apples have another traditional meaning from a legend that during the enslavement in Egypt, the Israelite women would go to the apple orchards to give birth in secret.

During the Passover Seder, charoset is eaten with the bitter herbs, often placed with them between two matzoh, forming a Hillel sandwich.

There is also discussion in the Talmud that charoset is a cure for the worms or toxic substances that can be found on the leafy greens.

Making Nut-Free Charoset

While you find a lot of lore about the mud-like consistency and apples, not much mention is made of the nuts. Unless your religious community has a mandatory recipe for charoset, it is your choice as to include nuts or not. If you miss some nutty flavor, think of substituting a seed, such as sunflower seeds or roasted pumpkin seeds.

Source:

American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, "Tree Nut Allergy."

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