My Gluten-Centric Take on Surviving Passover

03/28/2015 02:01 pm ET | Updated May 28, 2015

I've written a lot about how to "do Passover."


But honestly, the missing piece for me was the set of tips on how to survive Passover from a gluten-lover's point-of-view.

Surrounded by the gluten-free craze, I'm almost afraid to publicly trumpet my addiction to gluten. When I can't have a baguette or a slice of sourdough for days, I get cranky. And much as I like Passover-friendly chocolate cake and homemade macaroons, there is nothing like a decent cookie or slice of "real" cake to remind me that flourless goes only so far.


Why does this matter on Passover? During this 7 or 8 day holiday (depending on which branch of Judaism you follow) the Jewish tradition proscribes eating wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt and their derivatives in forms that take longer than 18 minutes to fully bake. (Some Ashkenazic Jews also give up legumes during Passover, which means they don't eat rice, corn, soybeans, stringbeans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame and poppy seeds - but we won't get into that.)

Matzo is made of flour so Passover is not exactly a time of gluten deprivation. Still, I don't know anyone who disagrees with my husband's description of matzo as "edible cardboard." Baked for less than 18 minutes, this crispy/hard sheet may have kept the Jews of old from starving as they escaped Pharoah (at least according to the Passover story), but it's not exactly a gourmet treat to 21st Century sensibilities.

So as a public service to those who observe Passover I figured I would put together a few tips on how a gluten-lover can survive 7 or 8 days of matzo/no bread/no "regular" flour.

I'm not talking about substituting zucchini noodles for the real thing. As far as I'm concerned, you can't spiralize me out of wanting pasta. I don't guarantee that these tips will save you from dreaming about corned beef on rye bread, hopefully they'll help keep you (and me too) from diving into hidden stashes of cookies during Passover week.

5 Tips to Keep Gluten-Lovers Sane During Passover

  1. Don't assume that a recipe that calls for breadcrumbs or flour is out of the question. Substitute matzo meal for bread crumbs, crushed matzo for panko (crunchy, Japanese-style bread crumbs) and matzo cake meal for flour in recipes that call for dredging meat or vegetables.
  2. Take a hint from the gluten-free, even if you don't want to become one. Use nut flours and gluten free recipes. And don't forget potatoes, which are great roasted or baked, or even in homemade chips.
  3. Get creative with matzo cake meal. Have you ever used it? Think of it as a slightly rough version of flour. Did you know that baking soda and baking powder are not forbidden during Passover? I recently learned that and it rocked my world. I'm going to see what I can do with matzo cake meal and baking soda/powder. I'll check in with you later on how it goes.
  4. Hide the matzo. Although you can't eat a lot of it without suffering intestinal consequences, matzo isn't half bad when covered with chocolate, toffee or both when you're dying for a Kit Kat bar. You can make matzo brei with it and douse it with maple syrup or cinnamon and sugar for brunch or make matzo granola with tons of dried fruit if you miss your Cliff bars.
  5. Pretend you are on a diet. For those of us who find it difficult to stay on diets, a week seems like an eternity. But with meringues and dark chocolate, even Passover desserts can be tolerable. Besides, you can still have crème brulee. And on what other diet are you allowed to have French fries as long as they aren't made with corn oil?