The Ultimate Guide to Kosher Food and Diet Guidelines

The Ultimate Guide to Kosher Food and Diet Guidelines



Like most diets, kosher can be challenging to follow. You may hear conflicting information about what fits the guidelines and what doesn’t.

Following the guidelines of a kosher diet becomes a little easier when you have a definitive list of kosher foods and rules. This way, whenever you hear new information that you aren’t quite sure about, you can always return to your basic kosher dietary guidelines and check this new idea against what you already know to be true.

Today, we want to supply you with this definitive guide. As you work to navigate through kosher diet guidelines, we hope that these tips are an invaluable help. Be sure to bookmark us so you can always come back whenever you want to refresh your memory or reference a certain food or rule.


What Is Kosher?

Kosher is both the name of a specific type of diet as well as a term that describes foods which fit within the boundaries of this diet. The same term applies to both. For example, you might say that you eat kosher, to refer to the diet. You also might describe chicken as a kosher animal, as this meat fits within the diet, as opposed to a pig, which is not a kosher animal.

What Is Kosher


What Does Kosher Mean?

Kosher comes from the Hebrew word meaning “proper” or “pure.” In other words, the foods that are kosher are those that are considered pure, clean and untainted. There are foods that fall within the categories of both kosher and non-kosher, as well as certain foods that are only kosher when prepared a certain way, and vice versa.

Kosher as a concept is many thousands of years old, dating back to ancient Hebrew civilization. This diet originated as part of the Jewish religious tradition and was seen as a necessary part of keeping with this religion. These strict dietary guidelines are laid out in the Jewish religious texts of the time and have been passed down by way of these texts as well as through oral tradition.

Today, while the basic outlines of the diet remain the same, the boundaries of who keeps the diet and how they choose to do so are more flexible. Not every Jewish community abides by these guidelines. Many non-Jews may decide to keep this diet as well. For some people, the diet continues to be about adhering to religious tradition, while others may decide to follow it for health reasons. Anyone can follow this diet, and modern grocery stores make it easy and simple to do so.


What Does It Mean to Keep Kosher?

The rules of a kosher diet can be complex. However, the diet can be summed up by three principle guidelines that govern the entire scope of what should and should not be eaten.

In keeping with this diet, the three primary kosher food rules are:

What Does It Mean to Keep Kosher

  • Avoid any animals that are not kosher. This includes fish that have neither fins nor scales, most birds and land animals that don’t chew their cud or have cloven hooves. We’ll talk about more certain animals later, but these are the broad categories to avoid.
  • Avoid consuming meat and dairy together. You can consume particular types of meat and dairy separately, but you cannot mix the two.
  • Only eat meat that has been slaughtered in a very particular way, and that is drained of blood.

Keep in mind that even within these three guidelines, there is much room for interpretation, and different people may disagree on how to apply these rules. You will need to decide which interpretations fit best with your health concerns as well as your religious beliefs and use these to guide your decision-making process.


What Is Kosher Food?

In keeping with the origins of the diet, kosher food is that which would have been considered clean according to ancient Hebrew tradition. While some of the specifics of what our food looks like have changed, the broad strokes and the main kosher food groups remain the same, even thousands of years later.

If you’re looking to begin keeping kosher, the best place to start is with some examples of kosher foods. Here is our kosher food list:

What Is Kosher Food

1. Meats

Many types of meat are kosher, including:

  • Goats
  • Cattle
  • Deer
  • Sheep

2. Birds and Poultry

Most poultry is kosher, including:

  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Chicken
  • Goose
  • Pigeon

3. Fish

Nearly all fish are kosher. Kosher fish include:

  • Salmon
  • Flounder
  • Anchovies
  • Whitefish
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Bluefish
  • Haddock
  • Fluke
  • Herring
  • Halibut
  • Sea bass
  • Sole
  • Red snapper

4. Eggs

All eggs are kosher, provided they have been laid by kosher birds and have no blood spots in them.

5. Dairy

For milk, butter, and cheese to be kosher, they must be only from kosher animals. No non-kosher additives or other animal products can be added.

6. Fruits, Vegetables and Plant-Based Foods

All fruits and vegetables are kosher, but to fit this bill, they must be thoroughly cleaned and free from any insects or bugs. Nuts, seeds and dried fruits of all kinds are kosher as well, as long as they’re clean and free from any additives that may break kosher guidelines. Just a few examples of the types of these products that are permissible include:

7. Grains

All grains are kosher, although if you’re keeping kosher for religious reasons, it’s important to note that grains are not permitted during Passover.

8. Cooking Oils

If the cooking oils are extracted from nuts, fruits, seeds or grains, then check for a kosher label. If one is present, the oil is safe for use.

9. Processed Foods

With processed foods, it can be difficult to know what is inside the package. Even reading the ingredient list can be unenlightening, as many ingredients are unrecognizable chemicals. If you’re looking at a processed food like bread, pasta, cereal or a baked good, check for a kosher label to be sure.


Guidelines of a Kosher Diet

We’ve now talked about which foods are permitted under kosher, as well as the very broadest strokes that guide the diet. Now, let’s take a closer look at the underpinnings of these guidelines and how you can apply them yourself in situations where it isn’t immediately clear if the food is kosher or not. By following these guidelines, you can likely come to the appropriate conclusion on your own.

1. The Separation of Meat and Dairy

One of the most basic guiding laws of eating kosher is the separation of meat and dairy. In the original religious texts, it states that “you may not cook a young animal in the milk of its mother.” From this statement, the Hebrews derived the principle that it was not in keeping with kosher to combine meat with any dairy product. This principle, which is known as kashrut, still applies today to those following kosher.

The Separation of Meat and Dairy

Under this rule, meat and dairy cannot be either consumed or cooked together. In a strictly kosher kitchen, this guideline even dictates that different utensils, dishes and preparation areas are used for the two food groups to avoid cross-contamination.

2. Meat and Meat Preparation

We’ve already discussed the idea that only particular animals are kosher. More complex than this, however, are the guidelines that control how meat can and cannot be prepared. While these rules are extensive, a few of the major points include the fact that the slaughter must be done quickly and cleanly, the meat must be salted to draw out the blood and that animals that have died due to accident, disease or natural causes are not fit for eating.

3. Dairy

While we don’t often associate dairy with meat, they are both animal products. This means rules about which animals are kosher also apply to dairy. Milk and all of its derivative dairy products — such as butter, cheese, yogurt, and cream — must come from kosher animals. For example, while cow’s milk is acceptable, camel’s milk would not be. Additionally, kosher dairy products may not have any animal product additives in them, as this would violate the directive not to mix dairy and meat.

4. Pareve

It refers to all foods that don’t fit under the umbrella of meat or dairy. Most often, however, this term is used to refer to eggs and fish. In this category, eggs must be laid by kosher animals and must be free from any blood spots. All fish products must come from the right kind of fish, or they will not be kosher.

5. Wine and Grapes

Whether these are fresh grapes, dried grapes, wine or even grape juice, you’ll need to look for a kosher sticker to be sure they’re permissible. This sticker certifies that they’ve been handled exclusively by Jews.

6. Bread

Many different types of bread can be kosher and are perfectly permissible to eat under these dietary guidelines. If you aren’t sure, check for the kosher sticker. In this case, this sticker represents two different levels of certification. Firstly, this signifies that it was a Jewish baker in either a kosher home or a kosher kitchen who baked the bread. While this may seem like an arbitrary detail, it’s critical because many bakeries across the country use animal products in their bread, such as animal fats used to grease a pan.

Secondly, current product labeling regulations do not stipulate that certain additives such as whey —a dairy product — need to be declared in the ingredient list. This means that even though bread might look kosher, based on this list, it actually isn’t. The only way to know for sure is to buy from a Jewish baker.

7. Fruits and Vegetables

We’ve already mentioned that fruits and vegetables are perfectly kosher, as long as they’re free from any bugs or insects. While most fresh produce is easy to check and simple to determine in this way, some vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can be difficult to examine. Where this rule gets a bit complicated is when it comes to packaged produce. When buying canned or jarred produce, check for the kosher sticker to make sure there are no non-permissible additives. Frozen produce is also typically kosher, but the drawback here is that it’s tricky to examine for insects because the items are sealed in a bag. To be absolutely sure, thaw and examine the veggies before you eat them.

Fruits and Vegetables

8. Passover

The final element of keeping kosher is editing your eating habits for the Passover season. During this period, you’ll avoid chametz, wheat barley, oats, and rye, as well as fermented or leavened spelt. You’ll also avoid legumes, corn, beans, peanuts, soy, and rice. Additionally, it’s important to use separate dishes than the ones you usually use for grains.


Why Keep Kosher?

If you belong to a Jewish family, it’s easy to see the benefits of keeping kosher. You’re preserving centuries of tradition, carrying on a family legacy and upholding personal convictions. If you’re not Jewish, however, and don’t have a family tradition to carry on, it might not be so immediately apparent why someone might choose to be kosher.

But the truth is that there are plenty of non-religious reasons a person might choose to keep kosher in today’s world. Here are just a few of the lifestyle and health benefits of the kosher diet.

Why Keep Kosher

1. Safer Processes

It isn’t easy to get food certified as kosher. The right people have to oversee the production and packaging, and these people won’t give the food their seal of approval unless it’s earned. This means that as a whole, kosher foods are prepared with safer methods and in cleaner environments, simply because more care is taken along the way. Additionally, even kosher food delivery trucks need to be washed and sanitized after every delivery, making for a far smaller risk of disease and contamination.

2. Non-Meat Foods Don’t Contain Meat

Trying to maintain a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle can be a major headache, as so many foods that don’t appear to contain animal products actually contain small amounts, often far down the list of ingredients. With kosher foods, however, it’s easy to feel confident that there are no animal products present unless the food in question is blatantly an animal product.

3. Fewer Allergens

Kosher food also makes a point of avoiding multiple potential allergens, such as shellfish. Because these are not permitted within the realm of the kosher diet, there’s no need to make a special point of avoiding them. By keeping kosher, you’ll already be steering clear of these allergens.

4. All Dairy Is Labeled

Whether you’re lactose intolerant, vegan or just looking to make the lifestyle change of avoiding dairy, the kosher diet makes it easy. All food products with even the smallest amounts of dairy must be labeled as such, making it easy for someone looking to avoid this food group to do so.

5. No Pig-Products

While bacon, ham, and pork are usually risk-free, they are also major targets for many common viruses and diseases. Farmers, suppliers, and grocery stores work hard to provide only safe products, but the fact remains that pig-products can present a higher risk than other meats, such as beef. By eliminating this food, you cut out this risk.

6. More Humane Methods

Due to the restrictions that govern the way kosher animals can and cannot be killed, you can feel confident that all animal products marked as kosher were treated humanely. Whether you’re an animal rights activist or not, this can be a great comfort to many people who may otherwise feel uncomfortable consuming animal products.


Helpful Tips for People on a Kosher Diet

If you’re just beginning with kosher, or if you’re seriously considering it, you might feel intimidated by all that there is to remember. This is understandable, but it’s important to remember that things always seem trickier from the outside than they truly are. Once you truly get started and begin to explore this new lifestyle, you’ll soon realize how beneficial and manageable it is. The best way to get to this stage of easy comfort? Follow these handy kosher diet tips.

1. Know Where to Find Kosher Products

While most major grocery stores will carry kosher products, it can often be a challenge to sort through the shelves to find them. One of the best ways to make your life easier is to see if your city or town has any stores that sell exclusively kosher items. This way, you can feel sure that every item on the shelves fits within these guidelines. Someone else has already done this work for you, and all you need to do is grab the items you want from among these approved products.

Know Where to Find Kosher Products

Even if you’re shopping in an ordinary grocery store, you may be lucky enough to have an entire section or aisle dedicated to kosher products that will make your shopping much easier.

2. Learn How to Recognize Kosher Products

Certified kosher products will be marked with a specific sticker or label. One of the best tips for the kosher diet is learning to recognize these labels. There are several different ones, but they all mean the same thing — that the food is safe and kosher. Some of the most common symbols to look out for include the letter K inside a circle, and the letter U inside a circle. The reasons there are multiple symbols for the same thing is that each label represents a different organization which has certified that particular product.

3. Keep Educating Yourself

Stumped about whether a product fits into your diet? Can’t decide if a certain recipe is allowed under these guidelines? Don’t be afraid to keep doing your research and learning more about this diet, its history and the reasoning behind the rules. The more you learn, the more the information will stick and the greater your knowledge base becomes. Before you know it, you’ll be able to recite all the best kosher foods to eat off the top of your head.

Keep Educating Yourself


Shop Kosher Products at Sincerely Nuts

Having a hard time finding snack foods now that you’re working to keep kosher? Visit Sincerely Nuts today to learn more about our delicious selection of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and other snack foods. We offer a wide range of kosher treats, all clearly labeled so that you’ll have no trouble narrowing your search by the items you’re looking for. So what are you waiting for? Start shopping today and stock your home with tasty kosher snacks.

Shop Kosher Products


Published: May 14, 2019