Kosher Etiquette 4 Rules: How To Kosher Best

The most important rules and principles to planning a kosher menu. Follow kosher etiquette to prepare a menu that your guests will enjoy. Avoid embarrassment and be an ideal host.

What kosher etiquette is

Kosher etiquette is the set of rules to plan a menu that is appropriate for guests who follow a kosher diet. Such rules include:

  • The allowed foods and ingredients.
  • How to ask about dietary restrictions.
  • How to deal with your guests’ diets.

If you are hosting, respect kosher etiquette to properly plan a menu that your guests will enjoy and to avoid any embarrassments. 

If you are a guest, follow kosher etiquette to politely deal with your hosts and the other guests.

kosher menu rules

Kosher etiquette rules

Kosher dietary restrictions.

1) Respect kosher dietary restrictions in your menu

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.

Meat can be kosher

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. However, 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. 

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

It is appropriate to store meat and milk in the same fridge or freezer. However, the two foods must not come into contact with one another.

Fish is usually kosher, seafood is not

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. Such as lobster, crab, shrimp, or scampi.

Dairy products and cheese can be kosher

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 can be kosher

Eggs are kosher if they come from a kosher bird. When eggs display 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 and fruit are usually kosher

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

After planting a tree, it is not possible to eat fruit from it. The same rule applies to any product derived from such fruit. Such as jam or wine.

Grains are ok

In general, any type of grain is kosher. Of course, as long as the other kosher requirements are respected. Pasta. Couscous. Quinoa. Amaranth. The same applies to bakery products and bread.

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 are almost always ok

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 from a non-kosher animal is not kosher.

Sweets and desserts might not be kosher

In general, 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 with milk or dairy can be eaten only after a waiting period from eating meat.

Drinks and alcohol might not be kosher

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.

2) Etiquette for asking guests about their kosher diet

It is perfect etiquette to ask your guests about their kosher dietary restrictions. 

In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to please inform the hosts about any dietary requirements. 

In informal invitations, a simple “do you follow any diet or have any dietary restriction?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food.

It is against etiquette to ask further questions. Such as why someone follows the kosher rules. Or why someone excludes or includes a certain food. 

If you have a genuine curiosity, you may ask such questions. However, it is polite to justify your curiosity. In other words, state why you are curious about it. Be apologetic. Never judge or question the answers you get.

best practices to deal with kosher dietary restrictions

3) Kosher menu planning etiquette

Follow these key principles to deal with kosher guests’ dietary restrictions.

Serve each food on its dedicated plate 

Do not serve multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, separate them. Assign a plate and serving utensils to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separated from food.

This way you allow guests to pick the foods that are kosher and they can eat. Or to avoid the non-kosher foods that they cannot eat. 

Include safe options 

Many foods are allowed in almost every diet. Such as vegetables and fruit. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. As an example, only a few people say no to baked potatoes or salad.

Avoid risky foods

Many foods are not allowed in many diets. Pork meat. Alcohol. Beef. Crustaceans.

If you are unsure about your guests’ diet, play safe. Avoid cooking these foods altogether. Or, at least, plan one or two dishes without them.

4) Kosher guest etiquette

Guests following kosher rules should respect etiquette too. Otherwise, they risk disrespecting their host or the other guests.

Do not expect the host to guess your diet 

If you do not eat some foods, clearly state it with your host. 

It is bad etiquette to expect a change in the menu based on your needs. Instead, you may ask if there may be some kosher options. Be apologetic in your requests. It is rude to do otherwise. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled.

Be accommodating. Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests. However, any considerate host will feel compelled to provide guests with kosher options.

Politely refuse food that you do not eat

If the host serves 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 detail only if someone asks you. It is good etiquette to be brief. Otherwise, do not discuss your dietary restrictions in length.

Do not impose your diet on the other guests

Never expect others to adjust to your diet. Do not expect your hosts to change their menu to accommodate your needs. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order. 

kosher etiquette mistakes

Kosher etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst kosher etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Not accommodating kosher dietary restrictions.
  • 7/10. Imposing your diet on others.
  • 5/10. Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.
  • 5/10. Asking personal dietary questions.