What Is Kosher?


Are you wondering what kosher is? Don’t worry, we don’t expect that everyone who comes to our site already knows! Here’s an overview for you.

Kosher food is essentially food that does not have any non-kosher ingredients in accordance with Jewish law. What makes something kosher is that meat and milk products are not mixed together, animal products from non-kosher animals (like pork, shellfish, and others) are not included, and any meat from kosher animals is slaughtered in the correct procedure. There are a number of other requirements that need to be met, both in the process of food preparation and who performs the process (see the glossary below for some examples).

Nowadays, because of the complexity of the kosher requirements and modes of food production, kosher certification is needed to check that all the criteria for kosher have been met (leading to the misconception that the food needs to be “blessed by a rabbi”).

logo of the show Ou and You, Sponsored by OU Kosher

Kosher level is indicated by a symbol printed on the package representing an agency’s certification. There are hundreds of kosher certification agencies in the U.S. Kosher.com is partnered with the oldest and largest of these organizations, OU Kosher, which provides the kashrut content on our site to help educate our readers. We also co-produce the video series OU & You, to answer your most frequently asked questions about kosher.

About Kosher Consumers

The majority of kosher food sales are not to kosher-observant Jewish consumers! Other religious denominations take advantage of overlapping dietary restrictions, like halal, or Christian sects like Seventh Day Adventists that avoid pork. Gluten-free and other special diets work well with Passover grain-free food items. Vegetarians can feel certain that their dairy products are meat-free. General consumers buy kosher products with a higher level of comfort and trust.

Glossary of Kosher Terms

  1. Kosher for Passover: Kosher foods that are not made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, or those that have not been baked for more than 18 minutes.
  2. Glatt: a glatt animal is one with no adhesions on the outside of its lungs.
  3. Parve: Both Dairy- and Meat-free. Can be consumed at the same time as either meat or dairy. (For example, eggs, fish, fruit, and vegetables.)
  4. Hechsher (HEKH-sher): A rabbinical supervision certifying an item kosher according to their standard.
  5. Mashgiach (mash-GEE-akh): A religious person supervising the production and handling of food to ensure that Kosher regulations are being met.
  6. Cholov Yisroel: Dairy products which derive from milk that have been milked under the supervision of an observant Jew.
  7. Pas Yisroel: Grain products that were baked with the participation of an observant Jew.
  8. Yoshon: New grains from the spring crop after Passover are called Chodosh and can’t be eaten until the following year, according to this standard.
  9. Mevushal: Wine or grape juice that has been heated to a certain temperature, which allows it to be poured by non-Jews.