Tradition and Inclusion

When I started hosting family holidays and celebrations, it was very important to me to have everyone feel included. That meant planning meals for people with celiac, vegetarians, vegans and food allergies. Celiacs were easy. I’m allergic  to gluten so I’ve had a lot of practice baking gluten-free treats. The most difficult challenge was trying to make charoset for passover without apples or nuts. Charoset is an important part of the passover seder representing the mortar that enslaved Jews used to build the pharaohs’ buildings. Our traditional recipe has been handed down for generations and is essentially the same for most Jews of Ashkenazi descent. For a non-allergenic version I had to find something with the crunch and sweetness of apples and the earthy flavor of walnuts. Here’s our traditional recipe and the allergen free version.

Traditional Charoset

Makes 6 Cups – 15 generous servings
2 Cup Chopped Walnuts
4 Cups Diced Apples
1 1/2  teaspoon Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons White Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Red Wine*
Mix together. Chill. Can be made 2-3 days ahead.
Let come to room temp before serving.
*Most people don’t do this, but I like to use apple juice
instead of wine.

Allergen Free Charoset

1/3 Cup Diced Water Chestnuts – Drained
1/4 Cup Diced Oranges** – Drained
1/4 Cup Diced Dates
1/8 teaspoon Cinnamon
Lemon Zest – from 1/2 Lemon
2 t Sugar
Pinch of Salt
Mix together and refrigerate to let flavors meld.
Can be made 2-3 days ahead.
Makes about 3/4 Cup
** I use kosher canned mandarin oranges.


  1. This looks delicious! I have a niece with a lot of food allergies. I’ll have to try this out! Happy Passover to you and your family! XO

  2. Victoria, I love developing recipes for different needs, and your charoset version sounds great! When I started reading your post, I was thinking of poached white carrots to replace the apples. The white carrots are easily found here in farmers’ markets. Chag sameach!

    • I forgot about white carrots. I haven’t had them since I was a kid and my mother grew them in the garden. Thanks, Kebba!

  3. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your efforts to make your family holidays and celebrations inclusive of everyone. It’s so important to make sure that everyone feels welcome and included, and it’s clear that you put a lot of thought and care into making your meals accessible to everyone.

    I also wanted to say that I’m really impressed with your charoset recipe. I’ve never had allergen-free charoset before, but it sounds delicious! I love the idea of using water chestnuts, oranges, and dates to create a similar texture and flavor to traditional charoset. I’m definitely going to try this recipe out .

    • Victoria Juster

      Thank you for all of the kind words, Julie! I’m so grateful for the wonderful people in my life and I want to make sure that they know that they’re loved and appreciated. I hope that you like it too!

  4. I like the idea of water chestnuts instead of apples – similar crunch and the taste is fairly bland so it doesn’t fight the other flavors.

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