Passover Recipes: These Dishes Will Add Sephardic Flare to Your Seder Table (2024)

Try adding a few of these recipes for your seders or during the week of Passover.

For Passover, I prefer the gastronomic “middle ground” which means you make your usual entrees — simple and delicious — and elaborate on the side dishes.

But in truth, foods do not have to be “traditional” to any holiday for inclusion. Salad for example, is an American addition that has nothing to do with, well, anything. Still, we like to serve greens in one form or another. They make us feel lighter and healthier. And there’s no reason it can’t be included as part of the main meal, along with a vegetable or served as a bed for gefilte fish.

Some foods are almost always reserved for the week of Pesach and special holidays. Matzah brie is one that quickly comes to mind. While some of us may eat matzah from time to time during the year (even buying it when it’s not “the season”), most people just don’t think of it as a year-round food. For that reason, we tend not to prepare matzah brie many other times of the year.

The most adventurous will risk it all by serving new foods at the first seder.

Most American-style Jewish foods are Ashkenazi, or of Eastern European origin. Sephardim, the other major classification of Jews, have their roots in Southern Europe and the Middle East. Most Israeli Jews, no matter where they came from, enjoy mostly Sephardic foods, with Middle Eastern influences. Why, then, do Americans choose to prepare the more Ashkenazi-inspired holiday foods? Perhaps because serving Israeli or Sephardic foods during Passover just doesn’t feel right or special to some who wait all year for gefilte fish and matzah brie.

The greatest Passover food disparity has to do with kitniyot (legumes or grains). While Ashkenazim permit no kitniyot, other than those used in matzah during Passover, many Sephardim allow the use of fresh legumes and rice. The main reasoning is that “in the past” for Jews living in the countries of the Sephardic diaspora, legumes and rice were the major sources of nourishment.

The following recipes are Sephardic in origin, using the flavors and ingredients inherent to the Sephardic diaspora, but contain no kitniyot for our American sensibilities. Try adding a few of these recipes for your seders or during the week of Passover.

Good Basic Beef Brisket

Some people trim the fat from the brisket before they cook it, others do so afterwards. It’s a matter of preference but trimming first is easier and makes for a leaner sauce, right off the bat.


  • 1 5- to 6-pound beef brisket (first cut is best), trimmed of extra fat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cups red wine, any kind
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Water


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place brisket in a large roasting pan. Season it with salt and pepper and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Turn brisket over and roast another 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle onions, garlic and brown sugar around the meat. Pour the wine and tomato sauce over the onions and add enough water to reach about halfway up the side of the meat. Add the bay leaf to the liquid.

Cover the pan well with foil and cook 325ºF., covered, 3½ hours. Remove the beef from the oven and chill for 4 hours or up to one day (the brisket may not be tender at this point.)

Remove the meat from the liquid (it will most likely be slightly jellied). Discard fat from the top of the brisket liquid (a spoon should lift the solid stuff quickly) and discard it.

Slice the cold brisket against the grain into about ¼-inch slices and replace it in the pan (If there is a lot of liquid, remove some of it to a sauce pan and boil to reduce the amount and thicken the liquid before returning it to the pan).

Cover the pan with foil and heat for 1 to 4 hours at 250ºF. Or, carefully transfer the meat to an ovenproof serving dish with the sauce poured over, and heat it the same way. Makes 6 or more servings.

Berenjena(Savory Eggplant Stew)

This is a vegetarian version of a recipe that calls for cooked ground lamb or meatballs.


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1½-2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 medium eggplants (about 3 pounds), cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt pepper to taste
  • ½ cup lightly toasted almonds
  • 1 cup yellow raisins, optional


In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook for 1 minute more. Add the eggplant, tomatoes and lemon juice, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the parsley, almonds and raisins if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes more. Keep warm until ready to serve. Serve alone or over rice. Makes 12 servings or more if serving with other foods.

Pignoli and Dried-Fruit Farfel Pilaf


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1½ cups chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 8 cups matzah farfel
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock or broth
  • ¼ cup lightly toasted pine nuts or pignoli
  • 1½ cups dried sweetened cherries or other dried fruit (golden raisins, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, or a combination of these), chopped if large
  • ½ cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the farfel and sauté until the farfel is lightlytoasted and browned.

Add the stock and sauté until the liquid is incorporated. Add remaining ingredients and season to taste.

Cover and chill until ready to serve. Reheat in the microwave and serve warm. Makes 8 or more for servings.

Keftes de Pescada (Sephardic Fish Patties)

For variety, replace the fish with fresh cooked spinach (well drained) and serve with a wedge of lemon.



  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 can (28-ounces) diced tomatoes in juice or 4 cups fresh chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup fresh chopped basil
  • Fresh chopped parsley, garnish


  • 2 pounds skinned and boned cod (salmon or whitefish)
  • ground or chopped in a food processor
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups matzah meal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1-2 cups matzah meal (to coat fish patties)


Make sauce: Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste and add basil. Keep warm until ready to serve or chill and reheat.

Combine cod, onions, egg, matzah meal, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and mash well with your hands until the mixture is uniform. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 or more hours (up to overnight).

Heat about ¼-inch of oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Place 1 cup of matzah meal in a shallow dish. Using wet hands, shape the fish mixture into flattened patties (about one-third cup of mixture each). Carefully dredge the patties in the matzah meal and fry on both sides until golden. Place the finished patties on the prepared baking sheet. Add more oil if needed and the second cup of matzah meal if needed for dredging.

About 30 minutes before serving, place the patties (uncovered) in a 250ºF. oven to heat. Serve keftes with sauce spooned over the top and sprinkled with chopped parsley. Makes 8 servings.

Roasted Carrots with Onions and Sage


  • 3 lbs. (pounds) carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • Kosher salt and pepper seasoning to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped sage leaves


Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Toss carrots with oil in a large bowl and transfer to a roasting pan or disposable aluminum pan (the carrots should be in a single layer as much as possible).

Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Turn the carrots and roast for 10 minutes more, until just tender-crisp (do not overcook).

Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss with the sage. May be made several hours in advance (do not add sage) and reheated in the microwave oven (add sage after reheating). Makes 8 or more servings.

Lemon Chicken

Passover Recipes: These Dishes Will Add Sephardic Flare to Your Seder Table (3)

Passover Recipes: These Dishes Will Add Sephardic Flare to Your Seder Table (4)


  • Boneless and skinless chicken breast halves, about 2 pounds
  • Matzah cake meal (for dredging chicken) start with 1 cup
    Olive oil for sautéing chicken
  • ½-1 bottle white wine (any kind)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of up to 2 lemons
  • Chopped parsley, garnish (at the last minute)

Optional: Artichoke hearts (not marinated), capers, slivered almonds as garnish, sliced mushrooms


Pound chicken breasts slightly to make them more or less the same thickness throughout, or,

if breasts are large, slice through them horizontally making two halves for each breast half. Dredge the chicken pieces in the matzah cake meal and coat well.

Heat oil, about ¼ cup or more, in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chicken breasts (you’ll need to do this a few times if you have a lot of breasts) on each side until they are light golden. Remove and set aside to finish remaining breasts (you may need more matzah cake meal).

After all the breasts have been cooked, place them back in the pan. Pour wine over the breasts and cook until the wine mixture is reduced and makes a thickened sauce.

At this point, you could put this away until the next day or later the same day (place in glass baking dish in fridge). Or, serve right away with juice sprinkled on top and garnished with artichokes, etc. If keeping to serve later, 1 hour before serving, place in 250ºF oven with garnish ingredients (except parsley) and heat through. You may need to add more liquid if the sauce has become too thick. Wine or chicken broth will do.

Ginger Balsamic Sweet Potato, Dried Cherry and Pear Tzimmes


  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 firm but ripe pears, unpeeled, cut into ½-wedges
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cherries, cranberries or golden raisin
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • ½ cup sweet red wine
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh minced peeled ginger root
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. or more 1 tsp. ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg


Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Combine all of the ingredients (including olive oil) in a roasting pan or disposable aluminum pan.

Toss well and spread the mixture in the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil and cook for 20 minutes more, until the potatoes are very tender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve. Transfer to a serving dish and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Chocolate Torte

Passover Recipes: These Dishes Will Add Sephardic Flare to Your Seder Table (5)

Passover Recipes: These Dishes Will Add Sephardic Flare to Your Seder Table (6)


  • 12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped (or about 1½ cups chocolate chips)
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter or margarine, cut into pieces
  • 7 large eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°F. Use butter or margarine to grease a 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Place the pan on a sheet of parchment or wax paper and trace a circle around the pan with a pencil. Use scissors to cut the paper just inside the line and place the circle of paper in pan. Butter the paper.

Combine chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir until smooth. If the chocolate is not completely melted, cook for 30 seconds more. Alternately, cook the chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat until melted, stirring constantly until smooth. Set aside.

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks and half the sugar in large bowl with an electric mixer until the mixture is very thick and light in color. Beat in the vanilla. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate mixture. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly beat in the remaining sugar and continue beating until the whites are stiff. Use a rubber spatula to fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Transfer the mixture to prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes (the cake will rise, then sink as it cools — this is normal).

Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the collar from the springform pan. Chill the cake until ready to serve. Sprinkle the cake with cocoa powder before serving. Alternately, turn the cake over onto a serving plate and carefully pry off the metal bottom and peel off the wax paper. Makes 12 servings.

Passover Recipes: These Dishes Will Add Sephardic Flare to Your Seder Table (2024)


What is the Seder plate for the Sephardic Passover? ›

Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews share many things in common but differ slightly when it comes to Passover traditions. The Passover seder plate contains karpas, charoset, maror, hazeret, zeroa, and beitzah. The Jewish community prides itself on being united as we strive to see our similarities instead of our differences.

What can Sephardic Jews eat on Passover? ›

According to our customs, we are permitted to eat legumes such as rice, lentils, peas, and corn. We check these very carefully before Passover to ensure that no hametz is mixed in.

What is the difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Passover foods? ›

Ashkenazi foods are more familiar to American cooks (bagels, gefilte fish), while Sephardic foods tend to be more exotic in terms of flavor (hummus, baba ghanoush). Why the difference? It basically boils down to the weather.

What are 3 of the traditional foods Jews eat during the Passover seder? ›

Traditions among Ashkenazi Jews generally include gefilte fish (poached fish dumplings), matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel (somewhat like a casserole) and tzimmes, a stew of carrots and prunes, sometimes including potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Can Sephardic Jews eat rice on Passover? ›

These new kosher foods have always been a part of the diet of Sephardic Jews, whose ancestry goes back to the Middle East, North Africa and other areas around the Mediterranean Sea. Legumes and grains are considered kosher, and rice, bean and lentil dishes have long been served at Passover.

What are 4 items Jews are not allowed to eat? ›

Kosher rules
  • Land animals must have cloven (split) hooves and must chew the cud, meaning that they must eat grass.
  • Seafood must have fins and scales. Eating shellfish is not allowed.
  • It is forbidden to eat birds of prey. ...
  • Meat and dairy cannot be eaten together, as it says in the Torah.

Can Sephardic Jews eat pasta on Passover? ›

Because of this, any type of leavened bread or bread product is prohibited during Passover. These leavened products, known as chametz, include certain grain-based foods like breads, pasta, pastries, breadcrumbs, crackers, etc. Unleavened bread, aka “matzo,” traditionally takes the place of chametz during Passover.

Can Sephardic eat hummus on Passover? ›

Different Sephardic communities have various customs with regards to kitniyot. However, even if you do eat chickpeas on Passover, be sure that the hummus has kosher for Passover certification.

Is Israel more Sephardic or Ashkenazi? ›

About 85 percent of the world's Jews are considered Ashkenazim, the other 15 percent Sephardim. About 10 percent of the world's Ashkenazim live in Israel com- pared with about 80 percent of all Sephardim. The Sephardim make up about 55 percent of Israel's Jewish population and the Ashkenazim about 45 percent.

Is soy sauce kosher for Passover for Sephardic? ›

Soybeans are included in the general class of kitniyot, foods that Ashkenazim (and some Sephardim) may not eat on Passover. This would mean that tofu, soy milk, soy burgers, edamame, miso, tempeh, and soy sauce are all forbidden for Ashkenazim on Pesach even if they contain no chametz, grain which has risen.

Can Ashkenazi Jews eat popcorn on Passover? ›

Popcorn is now on the Passover menu, following the change in kitniyot policy. Though quinoa is a grain-like food, its qualification has long been the subject of much debate within the Jewish community.

What did Jesus eat for Passover? ›

If the Last Supper was a Passover dinner, held by Jews then as now to commemorate the exodus from Egypt, the meal would have likely included lamb. Scripture provides us with another clue: unleavened bread and wine were also on the menu.

What are the five forbidden foods on Passover? ›

Consider this a brief slice of a very complicated discussion. The Obvious No-Nos: Wheat, spelt, barley, oats and rye. Known collectively as chometz, these grains are universally left out of diets during Passover week.

What not to eat during Passover? ›

During Passover, Ashkenazi Jews traditionally stay away from not only leavened foods like bread, namely barley, oats, rye, spelt, and wheat, but also legumes, rice, seeds, and corn. The ban has been in place since the 13th century, but it's always been controversial.

Do Sephardic Jews eat pasta on Passover? ›

But both avoid leavened foods, like pasta, cereal, cakes, bread and cookies – and instead eat matzos, lots of matzos. (Matzo, unleavened bread, is eaten because, according to the Bible, the Jews didn't have time to wait for their bread to rise as they fled Egypt.)

What is the difference between chazeret and maror? ›

Maror is one of the foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate and there is a rabbinical requirement to eat maror at the Seder. Chazeret (Hebrew: חזרת) is used for the requirement called Korech, in which the maror is eaten together with matzo. There are various customs about the kinds of maror placed at each location.

Can Sephardic Jews eat soy on Passover? ›

Soybeans are included in the general class of kitniyot, foods that Ashkenazim (and some Sephardim) may not eat on Passover.

Why is karpas on the Seder plate? ›

Some have explained the dipping of the Karpas into salt water to symbolize Joseph's tunic being dipped into blood by his brothers. Karpas is therefore done at the beginning of the seder, just as Joseph's tunic being dipped into blood began the Israelites' descent to Egypt.

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