Unofficial Guide to Pesach Shopping in Israel

Seder table for Passover dinnerWhen my aunt first shopped for Pesach after making aliyah, she was excited by the huge assortment of kosher for Passover products. When Pesach was over, she learned that all those products contained kitniyot (legumes), which Ashkenazi (European) Jews avoid on Pesach. Israel has a much larger kitniyot-eating population, especially when you consider that most Ashkenazim eat them, even if they keep Pesach.

The best way to avoid the kitniyot issue is to shop at a haredi supermarket. The prices tend to be low, kitniyot are carefully labeled and kept apart, and you can get everything you could possibly need in one stop including kitchenware, clothes, small appliances and even shoes. Produce is usually cheaper in the shuk, but not always. Last year the store I frequent sold a 10-kg bag of potatoes for NIS 20, definitely a good price if you can use that much. My handy-dandy list says we ate 23 kilograms of potatoes last Pesach. You can buy hand shmura matzah there too, by the kilogram or in a box of three. At some point we decided that nostalgia did not justify the price of the hand shmura, so we’ve gone over to machine shmura for the seder.

The problem with the haredi chains, compared to US Pesach shopping, is that they are much stricter about kitniyot. Many Ashkenazi rabbis allow cottonseed oil (and the OU certainly did when I lived in the US) but here it is labeled as kitniyot. Gradually we have become comfortable serving food made with some products labeled “only for kitniyot eaters.”  We eat canola oil as well as some products that clearly have a minute amount of kitniyot, if any.

In the US, the OU publishes a list of products considered kosher for Passover, even without a special stamp (Domino sugar comes to mind). No such list exists here. Other than wine and a few canned goods say kosher for Passover all year, but you need to wait until about two weeks before the holiday. Then the stores turn over their stock. Of course, the sugar is almost certainly okay either way.

One thing I love about Israel is that the country celebrates every holiday together. People avoid scheduling meetings the week before Passover and the city supposedly gets cleaned up. But shopping before Rosh Hashanah and Pesach is a nightmare. You can find people waiting in line at one or two in the morning. One memorable year I brought my 6-month-old and 2-year-old to the store for Pesach shopping. I waited for three hours while my kids terrorized the store. The toddler was fascinated with operating the store’s freezer switch, set right at his level. So for many years my husband has taken half a day off of work so we can go together. Last year (2011), I got up from shiva a week before the holiday, and my friend offered to take two of my kids. They took care of the list and the store delivered the goods to our house.

As I posted earlier, I like to shop about a week before the holiday. It starts to get crowded then but the shelves are well-stocked. We inevitably need to get something at another store.

If you’re new here and you find preparation for Passover difficult, keep in mind that your reward will come when you can go to sleep on the second night of the holiday instead of taking out that seder plate once again.

Related post: Number one reason to make aliyah

The Pesach Problem. I should have called this one, “Why Only a Man Would Write that It’s Possible to Make Pesach in Four Hours.”

Pesach Menus

What is Gebrokt?

29th Kosher Cooking Carnival (Passover recipes)

Passover 5768/2008:

“Turning Over” the Kitchen

Preschool Passover Project: Simplified Haggadah

Pesach Crisis Cleaning

Keeping Kids Interested in the Seder

Passover 5769/2009:

Why “Average” Haredi Families Go to Hotels for Pesach Part II

The Indispensable Post-Pesach List

Pesach and Wasting Food

Post-Pesach Tips

Passover 5770/2010:

Four Pre-Passover Questions

Getting Your Kids to Help with Pesach Cleaning

More Passover Recipes and Cooking Tips at CookingManager.Com.



  1. my budget was obviously different then yours, but i remember fondly super cheap hazelnut oil, which lasted the rest of the year and was super yum in chocolate cakes.

  2. but i was in jerusalem, which may have better prices or selection?
    anonymom from above

  3. mominisrael says

    I’ll keep my eyes out for it. I’m talking about shemen egozim, maybe you are too?

  4. Regular Anonymous says

    Palm oil is cheap…yes, I know just looking at it makes the arteries harden.
    I bought Gefen Brand mayo – OUP, made from cottonseed oil. If it’s good enough for the OU it’s good enough for me. Cost 15.90
    Still pondering my current stand on lecithin (liftit).
    Just wait until next year when we can have the fun of Pesach and Shmitta.
    (I know it’s been a while but back around Purim you said you had a guess re my whereabouts. I’d love to hear it.)

  5. mominisrael says

    Please don’t say that word–shmitta. Pesach is hard work but at least it’s a fun holiday.
    My guess is Ginot Shomron.

  6. “Can you believe that some stores post a sign prohibiting writing down prices?”
    WHAT???? No, I can’t believe that! I’ve never seen those signs, but I’d definitely ignore them. How ridiculous!

  7. mominisrael says

    Glad to see you’re still around! I saw the sign at Hazi Hinam at Tzomet Yarkonim.

  8. mominisrael says

    So do you want to give me a hint LOL?

  9. Regular Anonymous says

    Sorry for the S word.
    Re my location – not even close.

  10. All I keep thinking about is 23 KILO of potatoes! Shetihiyu Bri’im!!! 🙂

  11. mominisrael says

    By the way, we got nut oil yesterday for NIS 18. A bargain! My husband saw it in the makolet for over NIS 30.
    RM–we were home the whole week, and we had an extra teenage boy.

  12. mominisrael says

    I’ve heard that it’s crazy, and that they make you take vacation after the holidays so they won’t have to pay overtime.

  13. If you think shopping for Pesach is insane, try working in the supermarket before Pesach and Rosh-ha-Shana. 😛 I did the year before I went to university… and I stopped complaining about the long lines ever since 🙂
    — Anna, Israel —

  14. there speaks a typical olah. obviously you haven’t learned yet that about 80% of the stuff that says for kitniot do not contain kitniot – they’re just made by the same company and it’s simpler to use the same stamp – see for instance all dates, cashews, hazelnuts!!, etc.
    most things marked kitniot are not and have never been kitniot. As my Rabbi says over and over again, kitniot is minhag avot and as such must be adhered to. On the other hand, one can not ‘develop’ new minhagei avot! as most American old olim seem to do over and over again. Food that wasn’t around in our grandparents day can not suddenly be named kitniot. A good example for this is Quinoa.
    Sometimes it pays to be sensible and not get conned in by the hasgacha world who are just out to make a buck like everyone else.

  15. mominisrael says

    Gella–thanks for stopping by. I must say that I found your tone a bit condescending. I agree with you that most things that say for kitniot eaters aren’t a problem, but there are many rabbis who don’t permit canola and even quinoa. And they have their halachic basis for this.

  16. Just googling “Pesach shopping in Israel” as we’re going out in 10 minutes for our first attempt… and you turned up. 🙂
    Really worried about the kitniyos thing – we don’t have a haredi supermarket here in the Krayot, but I will try my best and take comfort in the fact that it’s still (a few days) early. I’m sure there will be a few more trips after this.

    • Hi Tzivia and welcome to Israel. I think the kitniyot thing is a little easier since I wrote the original post. Just came back from our big shopping, it helps to have three kids aged 10-24! I was able to send one to help the neighbors in another line.

  17. You know what? I hate to say it, but I went (even brought my daughter)… and apart from a couple of self-induced snafus, it was EASIER than I expected. 😮