Staying Low Carb During Passover + Spinach Mushroom Kugel Recipe by Dana Carpender

Most people are aware of some Jewish dietary laws – that Jews who keep kosher do not eat pork or shellfish, or consume meat and milk products together. The laws are more complex than that, governing how kitchens are run, how animals are slaughtered, and who may or may not prepare certain foods. These rules do not interfere with a low carbohydrate diet.

However, there are additional laws governing foods eaten during the Passover season, and many Jews who don’t keep kosher the rest of the year follow the Passover laws, and of course, there are food traditions. Some of the Passover laws and traditions do, indeed, make it more difficult to stick to the diet.

A Passover rule followed even by many Jews who do not generally keep kosher is the ridding the home of chometz – any leavened grain product. In memorial of the unleavened bread eaten by the Hebrews in their haste to flee Egypt, nothing leavened may be eaten during Passover. The chometz is ritually gathered up, and disposed of.

Since grains may contain wild yeasts, they are not allowed during Passover, either. This is not a hardship for us, since we don’t eat much in the way of grains anyway. However, Jews of European descent also shun rice, millet, corn, legumes or foods made from them. This rules out soy and everything made from it – including many low carb specialty foods. It also eliminates rice protein powder, one of my favorite flour substitutes.

Usually, high-carb matzoh meal is used in place of flour. My best suggestion is to simply skip things that are very carb-rich, like matzoh balls – try egg drops in your soup instead. One-quarter cup of matzoh meal contains 27 grams of carbohydrate, and just 1 gram of fiber, so you’ll want to go very easy. Potato starch is also traditionally used during Passover, but is even higher carb.

Low Carb Advice from Rabbi Hirsch Meisels

Rabbi Hirsch Meisels, who runs Friends With Diabetes, a support organization for Jewish diabetics, tells me that ground nuts or seeds would also be acceptable flour substitutes. Now Foods Almond Flour is now widely available. A quarter-cup of almond meal has 6 grams of carbohydrate, with 3 grams are fiber, for a usable carb count of just 3 grams. Or you can simply grind almonds to a cornmeal consistency in your food processor. I like to use almond meal half-and-half with vanilla whey protein powder in baked goods, but of course this would result in a product that could only be eaten at a dairy meal.

Guar and Xanthan gums, low carb thickeners, are okay. Guar is derived from a seed, not a grain, and xanthan from a microorganism. One of these would be my choice for thickening gravies and sauces.

Mass-market powdered artificial sweeteners, including Splenda, Sweet ‘n’ Low, and Equal, contain corn products, and are not acceptable. However, kosher for Passover versions are made, including one by Sweet ‘n’ Low; look for them. Rabbi Meisels has kindly provided a list of kosher for Passover sweeteners:

Sugar Substitutes – Kosher for Pesach

  • Pure Aspartame (not Equal)
  • Gefen, Kojel Kosher L’Pesach Sweet’N Good with Aspartame (powder)
  • Kosher L’Pesach Sweet’N Low (powder) with the O.U.-P
  • Pillsbury sweet-10 (liquid)
  • Sweetie with Badatz supervision from Eretz Yisroel
  • American Liquid Sweet’N Low (Liquid)
  • Kojel kosher L’Pesach Liquid Sweetener (Liquid)
  • Zees from Ungar’s Food

Equal, Splenda and Nutrasweet spoonful are NOT kosher for Pesach, and may not be used by Ashkenaizim and not by Sefardim.

The Kosher L’Pesach powder Sweet’N Low is now being produced in the U.S. and it must have an O.U.-P (the regular powder contains kitniyos.) The liquid Sweet’N Low may also be used on Pesach, even if it has only the O.U.

Passover- Low Carb Seder Recipes from a Jewish Mama

At the Seder, there is a Seder plate of traditional foods which must be eaten. Eggs are dipped in salt water, to symbolize tears. A roasted bone symbolizes the Passover sacrifices from before the destruction of the Temple. Bitter herbs – usually horseradish – symbolize the travails of the Hebrew people. A green vegetable, such as romaine or celery, symbolizes the fruits of the earth. All of these things are low carb! There is also charoset, a mixture of fruit, nuts, spices, and wine, symbolizing the mortar made by Jewish slaves in Egypt. Very little of this need be eaten, but if you like, you may make it with more nuts than fruit, and with dry wine, to reduce the carb count.

Eating 45 grams of carb worth of matzoh is required, unless you get permission from your Rabbi to eat less, or even skip it – one assumes that the gluten intolerant can get rabbinical permission to not eat matzoh, but I don’t know for sure. Barring medical problems, I’d just eat it. It is a holiday, after all! If you can find it, oat matzoh has more fiber, and thus fewer usable carbs, than wheat matzoh. Four glasses of wine are also required – sounds like fun to me! Make sure it’s a dry wine; dry reds have 3 grams of carb per glass or less.

This Passover side dish is great for anyone!

Spinach Mushroom Kugel Low-Carb Recipe

  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 30 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon concentrate
  • 2 tablespoons almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon guar or xanthan (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Sauté mushrooms and onions in the oil until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms soften. Transfer to a mixing bowl, reserving 9 mushrooms slices for garnish, and add spinach; mix well.

Stir together eggs, mayo, and bouillon granules till the granules dissolve. Stir into vegetables. Stir in the almond meal. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of the guar or xanthan over mixture, and stir in well; repeat with the second ¼ teaspoon.

Spread evenly in a greased 8″x8″ baking dish. Decorate with reserved mushrooms. Bake for 1 hour. Cut in squares to serve.

9 servings. 214 Calories; 20g Fat; 6g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 4 grams usable carb.

NOTE: The first time I published this recipe, I got a furious email from a woman who took me to task for daring to suggest a recipe that included mayonnaise and beef bouillon concentrate as kosher for passover. Perhaps she was under the impression that mayonnaise contains dairy products, or assumed that because most commercial mayonnaise contains soy oil, which is not kosher for Passover, the recipe was inappropriate; I really don’t know. I assure you, this recipe was vetted by Rabbi Meisels, and assuming you use kosher-for-Passover mayonnaise (available in the passover section of ANY grocery store) and bouillon concentrate, it is fine for any meat meal.

© 2011 by Dana Carpender. Used by permission of the author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.

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  1. Hi, Dana!

    This is a good article, thank you.

    Although my family always used apples to make charoset, I learned from my rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife) that the apple/walnuts/red wine/cinnamon charoset is only traditional amongst the Ashkenazi Jews. The Sephardic Jews more typically used dates, raisins, and other dried fruits, a much heavier hand with the spices (allspice, ginger, cloves, etc), and their charoses is ground finer but thick and heavy like the mortar it symbolizes. I’ve tasted a Sephardic charoset that was made of pears and dates, with pistachios, and I’ve heard of figs being used, too. But lierally none oof this is required, like most of the Pesach foods.

    That said you could make charoset from strawberries and chayote, or as I do, with chopped canteloupe and chayote.

    The biggest challenge IMO, is the matzah. Jewish law says that if eating a “required” food makes a person sick. don’t eat it. Mane LC Jews just eat the smallest amount possible, as you said. Here are 2 alternatives. Barbara Pollack invented a LC motzah recipe, made from not/Starch and pecans. It works with the newer gum-based thickeners. It tends to gum up in your teeth, but it worked for my sister with celiac disease, and myself. There’s also a low-carb cracker called Matzos, but I haven’t looked for it or tried it.

  2. One can also make their own mayo and then be sure it is low carb! I found a KLP brand that was made with non kitniyot oils but the carb content was much higher. Checking lables is key!!!

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