Kosher Food Categories
Kosher foods fall into three categories: meat, dairy, and "pareve," sometimes spelled "parve."
- Meat; Kosher meat comes from animals that have split hooves (like cows, sheep, and goats)and chew their cud. When these types of animals eat, partially digested food (cud) returns from the stomach for them to chew again. Pigs, for example, have split hooves, but they don’t chew their cud. So pork isn’t kosher. Jewish dietary law governs the method of slaughter and processing and the slaughterhouse equipment. Meat isn’t kosher if the animal died naturally. Certain parts of an animal, including types of fat, nerves, and all of the blood, are never kosher.
- Dairy; All dairy products, like milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese, must come from a kosher animal. All ingredients and equipment used to produce it have to be kosher, too.
- Pareve; This is the category for kosher foods that aren't meat or dairy. It covers everything from eggs and fish to fruits, vegetables, pasta, coffee, and packaged foods.
There are multiple layers of laws beneath these three. Here are just a few:
- You can't eat milk and meat products at the same time, put them on the same dishes, or prepare or eat them with the same utensils. You also have to wait a certain amount of time to eat milk after meat and vice versa.
- Fish is kosher if it has both fins and scales, like salmon, bass, or trout.
- Sea creatures that don't have fins and scales aren't kosher. This includes shellfish, crabs, shrimp, and lobster.
- Only a few cheeses are kosher. That's because they include an enzyme called rennet that comes from the stomachs of cows. Kosher cheese can't have animal-based rennet.
Plant-based foods are pareve, but they have their own set of kosher guidelines:
- Bread and grains; Grains used to bake bread are kosher, but bread is only kosher if it’s certified kosher. This is to make sure the baking process didn’t add non-kosher ingredients and the equipment used for baking wasn’t greased with fats or oils from animals.
- Fruits and vegetables; Fresh produce is pareve, but you have to check it for insects before eating because they aren’t kosher. If you find any, you can wash them off. Canned or frozen produce isn’t kosher if it was processed using non-kosher equipment or ingredients.
- Nuts seeds and oils; Nuts and seeds are kosher in their natural form. But if they’ve been processed, they have to be certified kosher. Oils have to come from ingredients that were kosher in the first place, then be certified kosher to ensure they didn’t come in contact with non-kosher ingredients when they were processed.
- Wine; In order to be kosher, wine must be prepared under strict rules and certified by an Orthodox rabbi.