Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Kosher AND Vegan: Double Trouble or Easy Peasy?

Published on September 15, 2012 by   ·   18 Comments Pin 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!

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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Readers Comments (18)

  1. [...] and others that are prohibited as set out in the commandments of the Torah. … View post: Kosher AND Vegan: Double Trouble or Easy Peasy? | GirlieGirl Army ← Horseradish Sauce | Vegan I've Gone Vegan-ish | Reduced Fat Girl [...]

  2. [...] original here:  Kosher AND Vegan: Double Trouble or Easy Peasy? | GirlieGirl Army Tags: [...]

  3. Fantastic! Thank you taking the time, as you do, to share:-) I’ve been a globe trotting japa bag wearing bhakti yogi for years now, and being vegan is the actual reason I have not been heading to all my Jewish holidays and ‘traditional’ meal events… slowly but surely my veg life is infiltrating, but it’s articles like THIS that make educating my family easier! Challah back!!!!

  4. [...] Kosher AND Vegan: Double Trouble or Easy Peasy? [...]

  5. audi says:

    great piece – you must check out: http://www.aboveandbeyondny.com/vegan.html
    they are an awesome kosher (OU certified) caterer and although many of their clients are not vegan, they have done masterful vegan events for the kosher (& celebrity!!) world. they are also incredibly kind, talented and they go the extra mile for clients. i’ve used them for small and large events – i just can’t say enough.

  6. Robin says:

    Parve foods can include fish so best to check for that as well as eggs.

  7. Mindy Schaper says:

    Thanks for the list. I’m Ortho and vegan too. Hubby is desperate for cheese, though, so on the lookout for vegan cheese.

  8. Ahavah says:

    I’ve been eating Mon Cuisine vegetarian frozen meals for years, and I can’t figure out why it doesn’t make more lists like this one! They are under the Meal Mart brand, and have a variety of vegetarian and vegan meals. (Spaghetti and “meat”balls is a favorite in my family, but it contains eggs).

    Check ‘em out here: http://www.alleprocessing.com/alle/MonCuisineV/10oz_entrees.htm

  9. Laurie Kriger says:

    For our wedding last month, we hired a wonderful caterer that specializes in and has a huge selection of Jewish-style, vegan, Glatt Kosher items. They can be found at http://www.yidelsvittles.com.
    Because we wanted non-vegan, Glatt Kosher items as well, they teamed-up with another wonderful caterer who did the non-vegan food.
    All of the food was delicious and the service was great.

    Laurie Kriger

  10. Eric says:

    I’m a long-time vegan (18 years) and somewhat longtime Orthodox Jew (9 years), and feel obliged to point out that not all vegan food, whether packaged or prepared in a restaurant or private home is kosher: vegetables need to have been checked for bugs, any vinegar or items like mustard that may contain vinegar needs to be kosher certified, and many processed foods may have been processed in non-kosher facilities, or may haveon-vegan “natural flavorings.” On top of that, there’s the unfortunate, and I think, ugly, prohibition on eating foods that haven’t had an observant Jew involved with the cooking.

  11. As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and author of the book “Judaism and Vegetarianism,” I was very pleased to see this article. I hope it will result in many more Jews becoming vegans..

    Here is the basic case for Jews to be vegetarians, and preferably vegans:

    
Meat consumption and the ways in which meat is produced today conflict with Judaism in at least six important areas:

    1. While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.
    2. While Judaism forbids tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, most farm animals—including those raised for kosher consumers—are raised on “factory farms” where they live in cramped, confined spaces, and are often drugged, mutilated, and denied fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and any enjoyment of life, before they are slaughtered and eaten.
    3. While Judaism teaches that “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God’s partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes substantially to soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, global warming, and other environmental damage.
    4 While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, that we are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, and that we are not to use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, animal agriculture requires the wasteful use of grain, land, water, energy, and other resources.
    5. While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million people worldwide die because of hunger and its effects each year.
    6. While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that eventually lead to instability and war.
    In view of these important Jewish mandates to preserve human health, attend to the welfare of animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, help feed hungry people, and pursue peace, and since animal-centered diets violate and contradict each of these responsibilities, committed Jews (and others) should sharply reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products.
    One could say “dayenu” (it would be enough) after any of the arguments above, because each one constitutes by itself a serious conflict between Jewish values and current practice that should impel Jews to seriously consider a plant-based diet. Combined, they make an urgently compelling case for the Jewish community to address these issues.

    For more information on Jewish teachings on vegetarianism and related issues, please visit the JVNA website (JewishVeg.com) and JewishVeg.com/schwartz, and see JVNA’s documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World” at ASacredDuty.com.

    • Fatima Medeiros says:

      Thank you so much for this information. I am an XChristian and also vegan and I have been so concerned about Kosher eating and what is acceptable and what is not. Thanks, I will go to the websites you recommended to learn more.

  12. A major societal shift toward vegan diets is especially important today is order to provide at least a chance to avert a climate catastrophe and major food, water, and energy scarcities. Of course such a shift would also reduce the massive horrendous mistreatment of animals on factory farms and also reduce the current epidemic of chronic, degenerative diseases that afflict the Jewish community and many others.

  13. Joy says:

    Babycakes bakery makes awesome and healthful desserts! http://www.babycakesnyc.com/ Even though I live in NYC, I’ve only been to the one in Orlando.

  14. Shloime says:

    Beyond meat has star K certification !
    -too many vegetarian /vegan resteraunts & products are using agencies that are just not acceptable by observant (orthodox )Jews -

  15. Fatima Medeiros says:

    Thank you so much for this article and thanks also to Richard Schwartz. I’m so glad I came across this article. I am an XChristian and it’s been hard for me to navigate the dos and the don’ts of kosher eating. I am vegan but I was reluctant to eat anything that did not have the kosher symbol and in addition I still do not know which kosher symbols are truly kosher.

    I still have a lot to learn.

    Thank you again.




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