How To Make Common Non-Kosher Recipes Kosher

If you're beginning to keep kosher and miss your favorite non-kosher foods, see these tips for cooking your old favorites in a new, kosher way.

Very often, people who are beginning to keep kosher will miss their favorite non-kosher foods and look for ways to approximate them with kosher ingredients. This isn't always easy to do, but where there's an appetite, there's a way!

Ethnic foods are a fun challenge, but can be approximated with the right ingredients. For example, if you love Cajun food but are daunted by all the seafood that is involved in classic New Orleans cuisine, there are still ways to enjoy that great Louisiana flavor. When making red beans and rice, use a garlicky kosher kielbasa sausage in place of the traditional andouille sausage. Make your gumbo with chicken instead of shrimp - the roux is easy to make, and file powder can be found with a reliable hechsher (kosher symbol). Blackened tuna or salmon is also easy to make kosher, because the recipes don't involve any non-kosher ingredients. And of course, don't forget to serve Tabasco sauce or Louisiana hot sauce with your Cajun meal for that little extra touch of heat and authenticity (fortunately, many hot sauces are kosher).

If you want to make your favorite dairy dessert pareve (neither meat nor dairy) for use with a meat meal, simply substitute either plain soymilk or pareve coffee whitener (usually available in the freezer section at most supermarkets) for the milk or condensed milk that the recipe calls for. Butter can be replaced by margarine or vegetable oil in many recipes for baked goods. And soymilk can also be used in recipes for French toast or pancakes when you wish to make them non-dairy.

Some of the most delicious non-kosher dishes are those that mix dairy products and meat or chicken - a combination which is forbidden for Torah Jews. For example, if you enjoy tacos or beef nachos with all the trimmings (including cheddar cheese), try substituting soy-based ground beef substitute for the real thing. These "fake beef" products are especially tasty when used in a vegetarian chili or spaghetti sauce - and you can still enjoy your cheese with these pareve dishes. Or if you miss chicken parmigiana, try using breaded fake-chicken "cutlets" with good-quality cheese and marinara sauce.

Other soy-based substitutes, such as sausage patties or links, are easy to find in your grocer's freezer (or sometimes in the produce section). Meat substitutes range in quality and in their resemblance to the "real thing," but with some experimentation, the kosher cook can usually find one that works.

For your favorite ethnic sauces and condiments that you usually can't find with a hechsher, be sure to look in gourmet food stores and whole-foods groceries. These upscale markets often carry high-end specialty items and brands that can't be found in mainstream supermarkets - and you might be surprised how many of these sauces, spices and condiments carry a kosher certification.

How else can you expand your new kosher recipe repertoire? The Internet offers a great deal of tips and inspiration. There are a few large kosher recipe databases, most of which are searchable by courses (such as appetizers, soups, side dishes, and main courses) or cuisines, from Mexican to Moroccan and Italian to Indian. And recent years have seen the publication of several gourmet kosher cookbooks that can spur your imagination further.

Cooking kosher doesn't have to be difficult or boring - and it doesn't have to be all about matzo balls and chicken soup. With a little experimentation and the right ingredients, learning to make your old favorite dishes in a new way can be a fun culinary adventure.

© High Speed Ventures 2011