What does ‘kosher for Passover’ mean?
Jewish dietary laws restrict consumption of food by forbidding certain foods. Those foods that meet the Jewish dietary laws are known as ‘kosher’. Passover, in Jewish tradition is a festival that lasts for 7 to 8 days in spring. On these Passover days, observant Jews, who strictly follow Jewish traditions, observe another set of dietary laws that overlay the primary kosher rules.
Specifically, during Passover days, grains that can be leavened by fermentation are forbidden. They can therefore, not consume grains like wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. Wheat flour is permitted on one condition; if it is baked into Matzah (unleavened bread). These Passover restrictions also vary across Jews.
Variations in Passover restrictions across Jews
Ashkenazi Jews are Jews from Eastern Europe, France and Germany. Ashkenazi Jews and their descendants strictly follow dietary restrictions in the Passover period. Sephardic Jews, i.e. Jews from Spain, Portugal, Middle East and North Africa, on the other hand follow a different set of rules. During Passover, Ashkenazi Jews avoid consumption of corn, soybeans, legumes, rice, millets, and other such grains. Some Ashkenazi Jews also prohibit the use of caraway, dry peas, mustard, garlic and peanut. Since there are variations within Jewish communities themselves, it raises the question of whether peanut butter is kosher for Passover or not.
Is peanut butter kosher for Passover?
According to the Jewish tradition, the Torah prohibits ‘chometz’ and ‘kitenyot’ during Passover. Chometz include wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelt. Kitenyots include corn, rice, lentils, peas and peanuts. Now the extent which these rules are followed and any additional prohibited foods if included, vary across Jewish communities, so the answer to the question is not really straight forward. Over time, the Ashkenazi Jews prohibited consumption of kitenyot foods during Passover. They refrain from peanut butter consumption so peanut butter is not kosher for Passover for these Jews. Most of the brands of peanut butter are also sweetened with corn syrup so that means it contains two kinds of kitenyot foods. Some jam and jelly brands are also prohibited because these contain corn syrup.
For Sephardim who do allow kitenyot in Passover, peanut butter is kosher during Passover. This however, is only the case if there is a 100% guarantee that it contains no other product that is not permissible during Passover. Peanut butter made in kitchens with only products that are kosher for Passover is allowed. Peanut butter sold by many brands is not kosher because they do contain certain other prohibited ingredients so a check is necessary.
There is thus no definite answer to the question. It all depends on whether you are Ashkenazi or a Sephardim Jew.
How to prepare for Passover
During Passover, and as time passes, the availability of kosher products can decline because of the increased number of customers buying them. It is always wise to stock your kitchen before the Passover period starts so that you do not face problems during Passover. Some kosher products are available all year around so that will not be a problem.