Jewish Cooking Terms

Halacha literally, the path that one walks. It refers to Jewish Law, the complete body of rules and practices that Jews are bound to follow, including biblical commandments, directives of the Rabbis, and binding customs.

Hashgacha  literally, supervision, generally refers to kosher supervision.

Hechsher to the certification of a kosher product or ingredient, given by a Rabbi or a kosher supervisory agency.

Kasher to make kosher, usually applied to the salting and soaking procedures used in the production of kosher meat and poultry. The term is also used to describe the kosherization procedure of a non-kosher facility or utensil, so that it may be used in the preparation of kosher food.

Kashruth the state of being kosher.

Keilim – vessels or utensils.

Kli Rishon, Kli Sheni, Kli Shlishi

Kli rishon, literally the first utensil, refers to a utensil that is used for cooking, baking or roasting food or liquid, and contains that hot food or liquid. When hot food or liquid is transferred from the kli rishon into a second utensil, this utensil is called a kli sheni. A kli shlishi is the third utensil into which hot food or liquid is transferred.

Kosher is the Hebrew word meaning fit or proper, designating foods whose ingredients and manufacturing procedures comply with Jewish dietary laws.

Kosherization  – the process of changing the status of equipment which had been used with non-kosher ingredients or products, to use with kosher ingredients or products.

Mashgiach – one who is trained to supervise kosher food production.

Mehadrin –  to the most stringent level of kosher supervision.

Mikvah – literally, gathering, refers to a structure, a ritualarium, in which water is gathered for purposes of immersion.

Milchig – dairy, refers to dairy products as well as dishes, utensils, and equipment used in their preparation.

Mevushal refers to wine which has been cooked.

Orla – the Torah commandment to wait for three years before partaking of any fruit from fruit-bearing trees. The forbidden fruit of this period is known as orla.

Pareve – neutral, indicates a product which contains no derivatives of poultry, meat, or dairy ingredients and can therefore be eaten with either a meat, poultry or dairy meal. Pareve items include all fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, eggs, kosher fish, etc.

Pas Yisroel baked goods prepared in ovens which are turned on by the mashgiach.

Shechita – the Torah prescribed manner of slaughtering an animal or fowl for consumption.

Shochet – one who is specially trained to slaughter kosher meat and poultry according to the Jewish tradition.

Shmitta the agricultural cycle observed in Israel, in which every seventh year the land lies fallow.

Tevilas Keilim  meaning dipping of utensils, refers to the immersion of vessels, utensils, or dishes in a ritualarium (mikvah) before their first use.

Click here for “The Mitzvah of Tevilas Keilim” article.

Tovel To dip or immerse in a ritualarium (mikvah).

Traiboring the process of removing forbidden fats and veins from meat in order to be prepared for the next stage of kashering, namely, the salting process.

Click here for “Beware: Glatt May Not Always Be Kosher” article.

Treifah – food that is not kosher. The term is generally used to refer to all foods, vessels, and utensils that are not kosher. Literally, it means an animal whose flesh was torn or ripped.

Yoshon, literally, old, refers to the grain that has taken root before Pesach, even if it is harvested after Pesach. It is called “old grain.” It is permitted to be eaten without restriction. When a product is yoshon, it means that yoshon grains, including wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt, were used in its preparation.

Click here for yoshon articles.

Other Related Jewish Terms

Birkas HaMazon

Birkas HaMazon – blessing of the food, commonly referred to as Grace After Meals. The recitation of birkas hamazon is called “bentsching” in Yiddish.


Kiddush – sanctification. Kiddush is the prayer recited over wine sanctifying Shabbos or a Yom Tov.


See “Seder” in Passover Terms.


Seuda – a meal, specifically a festive or Shabbos meal.


Shabbos is the seventh day of the week, which in the Jewish calendar begins at sunset on Friday and ends after dark on Saturday night.

Yom Tov

Yom Tov refers to the holidays on the Jewish calendar. These include: Rosh Hashana (September or October), Yom Kippur (September or October), Succos (October), Chanukah (December), Tu B’Shvat (January or February), Purim (February or March), Passover (March or April), Shavuot (May or June) Tisha B’Av (July or August).

Glossary of Passover Terms


Chometz refers to food products containing any grain (wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt) or grain derivative, not specially prepared for Passover use.

Chometz Gamur

Chometz gamur, colloquially called “real chometz,” refers to products containing fermented grains. These products are biblically prohibited on Passover.


Kitniyos – legumes, are those grains that can be cooked and baked in a fashion similar to chometz grain and yet are not considered, in the eyes of halacha, to be in the same category as chometz. Some examples are rice, corn, peas, mustard seed, and the whole bean family (i.e. kidney, lima, garbanzo, etc.). It is customary for Jews of Ashkenazic descent to refrain from eating kitniyos on Passover.

Kosher for Passover – foods acceptable for use during the Passover holiday which require special preparation. See “chometz”.

Matzoh  – specially prepared unleavened bread which is acceptable for Passover use.

Passover – Pesach in Hebrew – is the Jewish holiday commemorating the exodus from Egypt, observed in the spring.

Seder  – order. A seder is the Jewish ritual conducted as part of the observance of Passover. The Haggada, the text from which the seder is conducted, contains the precise order of the prayers, song, discussion, story-telling, eating of ritual foods and the festive meal.

 Glossary of Ethnic Foods Throughout history, Jews have lived around the globe. Consequently, their cuisine reflects the culinary influences of their host country. For example, stuffed grape leaves are popular with Sephardic Jews whose roots are in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. For Ashkenazic families who trace their roots to Central and Eastern Europe, a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal is not complete without gefilte fish. Lox and bagels, a popular American combination, was originated by impoverished Jewish immigrants to these shores because lox was inexpensive fare. Therefore, only a few foods actually relate to Jewish religious ritual. These include matzoh and charoses which are required eating on Passover. Wine and challah are essential to the Shabbos and Yom Tov rituals. Latkes have become traditional Chanukah foods because they are fried in oil. In this case, the oil is the essential ingredient. Some have the custom to eat donuts (sufganiot in Hebrew), which are also fried in oil, instead of latkes.

Blintz – a thin crepe-like pancake rolled around a filling of cheese or fruit.

Borscht – a classic beet soup served hot or chilled, pureed or chunky.

Challah  – a sweet, eggy bread, usually braided, which is served on Shabbos or Jewish festivals.

Charoses – a mixture of fruit, wine and nuts eaten at the Passover seder meal. This condiment is symbolic of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt.

Cholent – a slow cooked stew (from the French chaud – hot/warm and lent -slow) which is served on Shabbos. Ingredients generally include beef, vegetables, beans and barley. Since it is not permitted to light a fire on Shabbos, and since Jews wanted to eat hot food on Shabbos, cholent became a popular dish. Cooking starts before Shabbos begins, and continues on a covered flame or in a crockpot on Shabbos.

Click here for “Oven Kashrus: For Shabbos Use” article. Gefilte Fish – traditionally served on Shabbos, made with ground or chopped fish and shaped into balls or a loaf.


Holiptches – stuffed cabbage, a favorite Hungarian dish.

Kreplach – small squares or circles of rolled pasta dough filled with ground beef or chicken and folded into triangles. They can be boiled and served in soup or fried and served as a side dish. They are traditionally served at the Erev Yom Kippur meal as well as on Hoshana Rabbah and Purim.


Kugel – a casserole of potatoes, noodles or vegetables in an egg based pudding. Kugel is a traditional dish served on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Latke – a potato pancake, fried in oil, traditionally eaten during Chanukah. Matzoh See “Matzoh” in Passover Terms.

Tzimmes Tzimmes – a sweet stew containing carrots.