Shabbat with food allergies
The Jewish Sabbath, “Shabbat,” is a spiritually uplifting and beautiful day filled with festive foods. Many of the traditional Shabbat foods like challah, kugels, and gefilte fish are loaded with food allergens. Let’s explore delicious, food allergy-friendly alternatives to some Shabbat classics.
Challah, the traditional bread eaten at the beginning of all Shabbat meals, is usually made from wheat flour and eggs. Both ingredients are on the “big eight” list of common allergens. Whip up an eggless challah recipe and you’ll find it hard to tell it apart from its egg-based counterpart. Be sure to skip the egg glaze so it’s truly eggless. Sesame seeds are also potential allergens for some people.
Gluten-free shallots are a bit harder to find. Luckily we live in incredible times of access to gluten-free products. There are several companies that make ready-made gluten-free shallots. If you’re ready to make gluten-free challah from scratch, roll up your sleeves, find a good gluten-free challah recipe, and make it. Make sure it’s dairy-free (so it’s suitable for a meat-based Saturday meal). Also, you’ll want to check the ingredient list to make sure it has some of the hard-to-find ingredients.
The next dish in a traditional Shabbat meal is fish. If you’re allergic to fish, just substitute any non-dairy snack you like. Hot soup, cold soups, salads, fresh fruit, etc. If you are not allergic to fish but do have egg and gluten sensitivities, be aware that most prepared gefilte fish breads contain egg and wheat. The exception is on Pesach. During Easter, the gefilte breads omit the wheat but still have eggs. Skip the gefilte fish and make a plain fish fillet with no breading or egg dressing. Salmon, tilapia, flounder, and sole are suitable solutions for egg-free and gluten-free fish.
Moving on to the soup. Steaming bowls of chicken soup with matzah balls are a Shabbat classic. These special meatballs have wheat and egg ingredients. You can make gluten-free matzoh balls (Passover is a great time to look for gluten-free matzoh ball mixes) or skip the matzoh balls. Add more carrots, squash, onion, and noodles (wheat-free varieties).
The main dish of the Shabbat meal doesn’t have to be an obstacle course for food allergies. Serve the chicken without breading. Keep plenty of fresh salads on hand (skip the nuts and croutons) and steamed vegetables. Potatoes or rice make great gluten-free side dishes. If you avoid wheat, don’t make rice pilaf. Pilaf is a wheat orzo-based pasta.
Kugel, a traditional Saturday staple, usually calls for wheat flour and eggs. Find recipes that omit one or both. Potato kugel can be made gluten-free as can a variety of vegetable soufflés.
No Shabbat lunch is complete without a beef stew called cholent. Cholent is usually made with stewed meat, sliced potatoes, barley, beans, onions, water, and seasonings (cooked in a slow cooker to bring out all the flavors and to comply with Jewish Sabbath cooking prohibitions). Cholent can easily be adapted to be gluten-free. Just substitute a bag of successful brown rice for the barley (just leave the rice in a crock pot, not a plastic bag). Also, check seasoning labels to see if they contain gluten-containing ingredients. Teriyaki sauce, onion soup mix, and barbecue (popular cholent enhancers) may contain wheat.
Now the best part of the meal, the dessert. Some non-dairy ice creams require egg ingredients. Opt for soy- or rice-based ice creams (see parve designation). Baked goods often have wheat, egg, and nut ingredients, so be especially careful with items you didn’t make yourself. Buy prepared baked goods from specialty allergy bakeries or look for recipes that omit your allergens (eggless chocolate chip cookies, flourless chocolate cake, etc.).