kosher menu rules

Kosher Menu Etiquette: 4 Rules For Guests And Hosts

Earn a free micro-certificate with a quick quiz!

Who is this micro-class for

* Waiters and hospitality staff

* House-party hosts

* Guests who follow the kosher diet principles.

What you’ll learn

* What a kosher diet is

* How to provide a safe dining experience to guests who follow the kosher diet principles.

Resources

* Less than 6 minutes to complete

About this micro-class

Kosher food etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately plan a menu and manage the dining experience for guests who follow the kosher diet principles.

Kosher food etiquette micro-class

1. Be prepared to tend to guests on a kosher diet

Kosher means “appropriate” in Hebrew. It is the set of dietary rules followed by Jewish persons.

In general, most kosher rules are widely accepted by the people who follow a kosher diet. However, there are some other rules that are debated in the Jewish community. Thus, there are some stricter or more flexible interpretations of kosher. Furthermore, some people may include or exclude some foods due to health, personal, or other concerns.

2. Plan an enjoyable kosher menu and dining experience

Avoid traces of forbidden foods and cross-contamination

Follow cooking etiquette principles to cook food safely. Designate specific utensils, cutting boards, and cooking surfaces for kosher dishes.

Create a transparent kosher-friendly menu

Clearly mark all the dishes or items on the menu that are kosher. Label them with a recognized symbol or statement. Make detailed ingredient lists available to customers or guests upon request.

Serve each food on its dedicated plate

Allow your guests who follow kosher rules to pick the foods they can eat and avoid the ones they cannot eat. 

Avoid serving multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, try to separate them. Assign a plate to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separately from food. Present each food with its serving utensils.

Include kosher options for your guests

Some foods present a lower risk of being inappropriate or forbidden. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. For instance, baked potatoes or salad are safe options for most guests.

Be open to accomodate special needs of your guests

Offer ingredient substitutions whenever possible to accommodate guests who follow kosher rules. Be transparent about potential substitutions and any extra costs involved.

Be open to customizing dishes and offering a kosher version. Clearly communicate any limitations in customization due to the nature of the dish or kitchen processes.

Avoid foods that may be forbidden by kosher rules

Meat

Meat products need to be butchered in a certain method. Blood is never allowed. Thus, meat is kosher only after removing all the blood through a process of salting and soaking in water.

Meat must come from the forequarters of approved animals. Cows, lambs, sheep, goats, and deer are kosher. Poultry is kosher too. Birds of prey are not kosher. Pork meat is always forbidden. The same rule applies to amphibious animals, such as frogs.

People following kosher rules cannot mix meat with dairy products. Eating dairy and meat separately is possible though. However, there must be separate cooking tools, cutlery, and plates for meat and for dairy. It is acceptable to store meat and milk in the same fridge or freezer. However, the two foods must not come into contact with one another.

Furthermore, there must be a waiting period between eating meat and dairy. While there is more than one version of this rule, the waiting period cannot be shorter than one hour and can last up to six hours.

Fish and seafood

Fish is kosher if it has fins and scales. Thus, fish such as tuna, salmon, cod, and sardines are kosher. Sturgeon is not kosher. Thus, sturgeon caviar is not kosher.

Shellfish and most seafood are not kosher. For instance, lobster, crab, shrimp, or scampi are not kosher.

Dairy products and cheese

Milk, dairy products, and cheese are normally kosher. However, the milk must come from a kosher animal. Cheese and dairy are kosher when they are made only from kosher milk.

It is not allowed to mix milk, dairy, or cheese with meat.

Eggs and honey

Eggs are kosher if they come from a kosher bird. When eggs show traces of blood, they are not kosher.

Honey is debated. Like most insects, honeybees are not kosher. Thus, honey should not be kosher as it comes from a non-kosher animal. However, according to most interpretations, honey is kosher.

Vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts

Most vegetables and fruits are kosher. However, it is not allowed to eat insects, and thus fruits and vegetables must be washed before eating them.

After planting a tree, it is not possible to eat fruit of that tree for three years. The same rule applies to any product derived from fruits of that tree, such as jam or wine.

Grains

In general, any type of grain is kosher, as long as the other kosher requirements are respected. Pasta, couscous, quinoa, and amaranth are kosher. Bakery products and bread also are kosher.

Pizza is kosher unless some of its toppings are both meat and dairy. Thus, any pizza with mozzarella and a meat topping is not kosher.

Condiments and sauces

Oil, salt, and spices are kosher. There is a variety of kosher salt too, which is more appropriate than normal salt. Vinegar based on wine is not kosher unless it is produced under rabbinic supervision.

Any condiment derived from a non-kosher animal is not kosher.

Sweets and desserts

Most types of sweets or desserts are kosher. However, sweets or desserts are not kosher if they include any product from a non-kosher animal. Thus, some emulsifiers or gelatine may be forbidden

Any sweet or dessert that contains milk or dairy can be eaten only after a waiting period from eating meat.

Drinks and alcoholic beverages

The rules for alcoholic drinks are ambiguous. Wine is kosher if it comes from kosher wineries. Spirits distilled from wine might be subject to restrictions too.

Many producers use products from non-kosher animals to make their wine or spirits. Thus, such beverages cannot be kosher. Guests who follow kosher rules may avoid alcoholic drinks altogether. The exceptions are wines and spirits made under rabbinical supervision.

Coffee and tea are generally kosher.

3. Politely ask your Jewish guests about their food restrictions

At home

It is perfect etiquette to ask your Jewish guests about their dietary restrictions. The interpretation and application of the kosher rules may differ and may include or exclude different foods.

In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to inform the hosts about any dietary requirements. In informal invitations, a simple “Do you follow any diet or have any dietary restrictions?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food. 

Never judge or question someone’s dietary restrictions. Avoid asking additional questions, such as why someone follows a diet. Some guests may be uncomfortable sharing their food restrictions.

Hospitality

Hospitality staff should encourage guests to communicate their food allergies or intolerances when making reservations and upon arrival. 

Waiters should ask about food allergies before taking orders, and convey this information to the kitchen.

4. Etiquette for guests who follow kosher rules

Clearly communicate your food restrictions

Clearly state with your host if you have any dietary restrictions.

Do not expect a change in the menu based on your needs. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled. Instead, you can ask if there may be some kosher options for you. 

Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests. However, any considerate host will feel compelled to adjust the menu to your needs.

Politely refuse food that you do not eat

If the host serves a type of food that you do not eat, simply avoid it. If the host or another guest explicitly offers such food to you, politely refuse it. It is enough to say “no, thank you”. 

Provide additional details only if someone asks you. Be brief and avoid annoying others with your dietary restrictions.

Do not pressure others

Do not expect others to adjust their menu or diet to your dietary restrictions. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order.

Kosher food etiquette mistakes

The worst etiquette mistakes for a host are: 

  • Not accommodating Jewish guests’ needs that are due to kosher rules.
  • Using the same kitchenware with different foods.
  • Asking personal dietary questions.

The worst etiquette mistakes for guests who follow kosher rules are: 

  • Not communicating your dietary restrictions to the host.
  • Pressuring others.
  • Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.

Test Your Knowledge and Earn a Free Micro-certificate

Earn a free micro-certificate with a quick quiz!

Additional resources & links