Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Kosher AND Vegan: Double Trouble or Easy Peasy?

Published on September 15, 2012 by   ·   20 Comments Social Buttons by Linksku - Share links onlinePin It
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I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family, so the “restrictions” of veganism didn’t feel foreign to me once I finally took the plunge.  Growing up in the secular world, you get pretty used to ordering the veg option or googling the kosher restaurants wherever you travel.  Veganism holds the same immediate challenges of getting used to ordering differently and choosing different restaurants, but what about if you are both vegan and kosher?  There are lots of us out here, as readers of sites Shalom Veg, The Jew & The Carrot, Jewish Vegetarians of North America, KosherVeganRaw, and VeggieJews can attest.  Even good old Blossom aka Mayim Bialik is writing a vegan kosher family cookbook.

List of all the vegan and kosher restaurants in your town is generally pretty google-able (as are recipes for vegan rugelech, matzah ball soup, and gefilte fish and the rest of the traditional Jewish foods you grew up with) in NYC we like this list which also notes who/ what is the restaurants hashgachah – meaning, which kashrut authority is supervising and certifying the establishment – some more respected and strict than others.

For example, for my son’s bris we had a horrible time finding a caterer whose hechsher was acceptable enough to our families Orthodox Synagogue, and ended up going with a mainstream bagel caterer that was super glatt and offered just vegan options for us.  Hint/ hint vegan caterers: getting a strict hechsher will open up your business ten-fold and get you tons of work!

SO — IS Kosher AND Vegan: Double Trouble or Easy Peasy?

Natalie Portman’s kosher vegan wedding

All vegan food is kosher by default for its lack of animal products (the basis of kashrut stemming from the way animals are killed and not mixing dairy and meat,) but not all vegan food holds a hechsher which means religious Jews won’t touch it even if it’s totally animal-free.

According to wiki;

A hechsher (הכשר‎) is the special certification marking found on the packages of products (usually foods) that have been certified as kosher (meaning “fit” for consumption). In Halakha (Jewish law), the dietary laws of kashrut specify food items that may be eaten and others that are prohibited as set out in the commandments of the Torah.

Observant Jews generally will only eat permitted foods. To assist Jewish consumers, rabbinic authorities produce and regulate their own hechsherim. It is usually Orthodox rabbis who assume the jobs of mashgichim (singular: mashgiach, “supervisor”). This means that they will “supervise” the products and processes that manufacture kosher food to ensure compliance with the required standards. The mashgiach will allow the manufacturer to apply a hechsher to the packaging of the product only if found to contain only kosher ingredients and produced in accordance with Halakha.

The rabbi may also apply additional words or letters after the hechsher to denote whether the product contains meat (often denoted “Meat”), dairy (D or Dairy), neither meat nor dairy (Pareve), whether the product is Kosher for Passover because it contains no chametz (P), whether the product is Pas Yisroel (bread baked at least in part by a Jew), cholov yisroel (any dairy products came from Jewish owned farms), or whether the product is yoshon (lit. “old”: all grain contents took root before the previous Passover).

So when the caterer of my son’s Jewish school recently asked me what exact brands of food he could look for when cooking for the vegan kids (okay, just mine for now, but I’m hoping my kid veganizes the class) I set out to make a list of healthy, organic vegan food brands that hold a hechsher (other than the obvious like fruits, veg, grain, pastas, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc.)

Here’s what I came up with, please let us know (in the comments section) what kosher vegan foods or products we missed out!   I left off most of the obvious ones – for example, Ritz Crackers are kosher and vegan, but not remotely healthy.  There are billions of cross-over accidentally vegan foods like that, but  I’m trying to keep this list focused on mainly organic and healthier brands, though I’ve made an exception for some mainstays.  I’ve also given this list some focus for us parents who are regularly seeking snacks that are both healthy and vegan – but also have the hechsher necessary for school lunches.  This is a list the Jewish vegan community is sorely lacking, and we know it will come in super handy for those of us who do both veggie parades and shabbos dinners;

Vegan Matzo Ball Soup From BonzaiAphrodite.com (click image for recipe)

  • Daiya Cheese: Yummy melty vegan cheese!  Here’s the release about them getting kosher certified.
  • WholeSoy: Vegan and kosher soy yogurts in many flavors.
  • Tofurky Products : Owned by Orthodox Jews, a massive range of vegan meats, cheeses, and ready-mades.  Deli slices, mini pizzas, tempehs, sausages, hot dogs, and more.
  • Tofutti:  A range of vegan kosher cheese, ice cream, sour cream, and cream cheese.
  • Vegenaise: Vegan and kosher mayo and dressings and cheeses.
  • Amy’s Organic: Very popular line of ready-made organic foods, kosher, most vegan but not all.. some just vegetarian.  You can search via just vegan on their site.
  • Sweet & Sara: These are amazing vegan and kosher marshmallows, also treats like ‘smores.. all incredible and great for kids.  It’s especially hard to find kosher marshmallow treats that aren’t full of gelatin, this line does it.
  • Sol Foods: Organic, Non-GMO, Kosher, wheat-free, gluten-free, nutritious, vegan protein products..tofu, veggie burgers, veggie dogs, falafel, veggie burger dry mix, veggie crumbles and more.
  • Dr. Praegers:  Not all vegan, but they are kosher and have decent vegan veggie burgers that are easy for kids who are teething or the elderly (read: super soft and mushy.)
  • Gardein:  By far the best range of faux meats but their hechsher isn’t in place yet.. apparently it’s pending – so stay tuned on this one.
  • Silk: Soy, Almond, Non-Dairy milks.
  • Happy Baby Foods: Line of kosher organic baby foods, most not vegan, however the organic baby food pouches are.. and they are super convenient for moms on-the-go. Also their Happy puffs are healthy mainstays for any toddler – made with fruit juice instead of sugar and containing super veggies like kale.
  • Earth Balance: The most delicious vegan butter there is, plus non-dairy milks and other spreads and nut butters.
  • Vegan Divas NYC: A kosher vegan bakery in NYC that delivers world-wide.
  • Sophie’s Kitchen:  All vegan seafood in the process of certification, another one to check back about. They have mock fish sticks and (funny to try for us kosher folks) things like calamari and shrimp – all mock.
  • Soyatoo:  Dairy-free whipped cream.
  • Wayfare Foods: Vegan/ kosher cheeses, puddings, bacon bits (!)
  • Lightlife: A line of vegan/kosher veg meats and crumbles – most vegan but some are vegetarian  so best to check.
  • DeBoles: Organic Pastas, some gluten-free.
  • Bute Island: Sheese is kosher vegan cheese.
  • Eco-Planet: Their non-dairy cheddar crackers (organic, healthy, and in amazing shapes all related to the environment!) are staples in homes with kids, and all kosher.  They also make other amazing cookies, gluten-free toaster pastries (read: healthy pop tarts) and snacks.  These crackers are sort of like the “Goldfish” for us vegans, since they are simple and shaped and kids love them.  Believe it or not Goldfish (even the pretzel ones) are not vegan and are laden with whey and/ or casein.
  • Nature’s Path: This company makes Cold Cereals, Granola, Hot Cereals, Bars, Pancake Mixes, Waffles, Toaster Pastries, and Breads.. most of them are vegan, all organic and kosher.  Also non-gmo and tons of gluten-free.
  • Late July Crackers: Organic crackers, not all vegan, but some great that are – like their Ritz stand-ins and peanut butter crackers.
  • Pirate’s Brands: Yummy snacks (not all vegan, most are – check in ingredients) that are both healthy and kosher.
  • Heaven Mills: They have a vegan challah, the only ready-made one I’ve found which is also sugar and gluten free. You can occasionally find egg-free challot at certain bakeries, but be sure to ask for ingredients.
  • Vegan & Kosher Candy: This site gives lists of candy for kids who are kosher/ vegan/ raw/ no-sugar/ gluten-free/ etc – just in time for Halloween.. which Jews don’t generally celebrate, still.. who doesn’t like candy?
  • Blue Mounain Organics: Kosher vegan snack foods, seed butters, and cookies.
  • Manischewitz: Not all vegan, but a traditional line of Jewish foods and mixes that you can buy anywhere. These products can easily veganize any non-vegan recipe, meaning their matzoh ball soup mix may call for eggs, but you can simply sub in soft tofu or flax meal.
  • Candle Cafe Dessert Line: Delicious tarts, cheese cake and some mini muffins are certified kosher with a U O  (however not the frozen meal line which is vegan but not kosher certified) and they are at Whole Foods across the country and at Deans foods in NJ.
  • Earth’s Best: Line of organic baby and toddler foods: Many not vegan, but a few key items are – like the Elmo Oatmeal (a big hit in my house) and the organic juice boxes.
  • Back To Nature:  Organic kosher crackers, juices, granolas and cookies, not all vegan but favorites like the Chocolate Chunk Cookies and trail mix are. Many BTN products are kosher certified.  Refer to the label of each product for a kosher symbol.
  • Ener-g:  Egg replacer for baking and cooking.
  • Spectrum Organics: Organic oils and seeds.
  • Traina Foods:  Line of fruits and sun-dried tomatoes and ketchups. Products are kosher certified, California grown, and produced with or without sulfites.
  • Alvarado St. Bakery Products : Organic, certified Kosher whole grain breads, bagels, and wheat tortillas made from sprouted grains rather than flour.
  • Cherrybrook Kitchen: All-natural baking mixes for people affected by food allergies. Mixes are free of peanuts, dairy, eggs, and nuts, and are kosher, and vegan. Included are mixes for cakes, pancakes, brownies, cookies, and frosting.
  • Alle Processing:  Vegan and glatt kosher meats available from non-vegan caterer – including ready-made meals (ziti, ravioli, etc), and bulk foods.
  • Cedar’s Foods: Not all vegan, but mostly.  Tons of fabulous hummus options.
  • Chocolate Decadence:  Line of chocolate covered everything, all gluten-free and vegan.
  • Chicago Vegan Foods:  Delicious vegan marshmallows, Teese Vegan Cheese, and Temptation Vegan Ice Cream.  The entire line is vegan and kosher.
  • Double Rainbow: Huge line of vegan and kosher ice creams.
  • Health is Wealth:  Amazing vegan spring rolls, chicken nuggets, and burgers – veg and kosher.
  • Lara Bars: Vegan and kosher energy bars. One or two not vegan due to honey inclusion, the rest are.
  • Living Harvest: Hemp based milks, protein powders, and ice creams. Vegan/ kosher.
  • Blue Diamond: Line of nuts and nut milks, all vegan and kosher.
  • Berlin Natural Bakery: Spelt breads.
  • Barbara’s:  Cereals, bars, and animal crackers – mostly vegan, all kosher.
  • Anicent Sun: Highly nutritional energy bars and powders. All vegan and kosher.
  • Flamous Brands: Hummus chips and dressings, all veg and kosher.
  • The Filo Factory: Filo doughs, pastry shells, and filo pocket sandwiches.  Many vegan options, all kosher.
  • Foods Alive: Raw foods like flax crackers and oils. Vegan and kosher and raw.
  • Starlite Foods: Amazing faux-meat taquitos and frozen apps. All kosher and vegan.
  • Simple Fare: The company that makes Nuxy Grahams: non-dairy & soy-free frozen dessert made from creamy cashews, sandwiched between two whole wheat graham crackers.  Kosher and vegan.
  • Sheffa Foods: Delicious salad sprinkles all kosher and vegan.
  • Primal Spirit Foods: All vegan and kosher meat jerky, high protein and delicious.
  • Artisana Foods: Organic, kosher, and vegan nut butters and oils.
  • Near East: Quinoas, taboulehs, rice, falafel couscous mixes – many kosher and vegan.
  • Peanut Butter & Co: Peanut butters and baking mixes, all kosher/ mostly all vegan.
  • Nutritional Design: Flours, TVP’s, meat substitutes, meatless meals, protein powders and more. Vegan and kosher.
  • Nana’s Cookie Company: Amazing vegan and kosher and gluten free cookies.
  • Mums Originals: Superfoods like goji, hemp, etc.  All kosher and vegan.
  • Mimi’s Gourmet: All vegan and kosher line of chilis.
  • Mimic Creme:  Non dairy creamers. All kosher and vegan.
  • Coconut Bliss: Home to Luna & Larry’s incredible coconut based ice creams. All kosher and vegan.
  • Lotus Foods: Gourmet rice, infinite options. All kosher and vegan.

A great place to find accidentally vegan food is at kosher markets by reviewing the ingredients of their Parve (no dairy or meat) products.  Parve doesn’t ensure that the products are egg free however, so best to check.  I’ve found treasure troves (things like vegan knishes, pizzas, and snack foods) at kosher markets by double checking ingredients.

Interestingly, according to the website GoDairyFree.com, based on policies of the Orthodox Union, the world’s super power of Kosher certification, those individuals with a severe milk allergy (or in our case vegan) should not rely completely on Kosher certification when selecting foods.  A detailed explanation is stated on the Orthodox Union’s website and here. That is, of course, up to you to decide how strict you want your kashrut to be.   However if you are cooking for a synagogue event or if your child is attending a religious Jewish school, you’ll most likely need all your foods to be strictly certified regardless of the GoDairyFree.com well-explained and logical conclusion.

Some brands go back and forth on their certificates, so always double check the box and/ or website of the brand.  For example Annie’s Homegrown, long time kosher (and mostly veg) organic snack foods and meals has just recently let us know that ; “Due to manufacturing complexity and increased costs, we have discontinued Kosher certification. We will continue to evaluate the costs and complexity of certification to determine if we can return to Kosher at a future date.”  This was a major bummer to us as their vegan gummies called “Orchard Bites” are the only healthier organic gummy candies we’ve found that were also certified kosher. Come back to the chosen peeps, Annie’s!

What are your kosher vegan go-to’s and favorites?  Please share below.  We will be adding to this list as companies are certified and as more kosher vegan brands are released, so do check back!

Front image via ShalomVeg

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