Can I eat matzo made from oats? Can I make matzo made from bean flour? Around this time of year, I get a flurry of emails asking about gluten free matzo. In my four+ years of being gluten free, I’ve made matzo from Breads From Anna prepared bread mixes and I’ve made matzo from my own combination of flours and starches. And I’ve eaten pre-packaged gluten free matzo made from oats.

    Before I went gluten free, I never even considered making my own matzo. For me, it was just about how many cases of matzo to buy! At this point in time, while I wouldn’t even consider not making my own gluten free matzo, I realize that others might not have the time or luxury to make their own. Please know that this post is meant to primarily address those who want to make their own gluten free matzo, though I do include some links for companies that make and sell pre-packaged gluten free matzo.

    The options discussed below reflect my experience and my beliefs. You will ultimately have to follow your own customs and beliefs in deciding whether to, how to, and from what to make your gluten free matzo.

    On Passover, those who aren’t gluten free can eat matzo made from wheat flour mixed with water and then baked, with no more than 18 minutes passing from the time the flour has been mixed with the water until it is completely baked. There are those who follow even stricter procedures – in this case, the grain must be guarded by someone to make sure it doesn’t come into contact with water from the time it is milled (or reaped in some cases) until it is prepared for making into matzo. The matzo you eat (or make) will depend on your level of observance. Some Jews will only eat “Shemurah” matzo which is very carefully watched to make sure it meets the strictest of standards in baking matzo. Why is it called “Shemurah”? It comes from the Hebrew root which means guarded.

    Why can’t the flour come into contact with water? Because the moment it does, the process of fermentation or rising begins. And on Passover, we don’t eat or keep anything fermented or risen in our houses. Remember the Israelites and their escape from Egypt? They barely had time to gather their belongings let alone allow their unleavened dough to rise and bake properly. They quickly baked their unleavened bread, grabbed whatever they could throw on their backs, and scrambled out of Egypt. I know of one rabbi who even questions whether the Israelites had time to bake their unleavened bread. His theory – the Israelites threw their possessions and their unleavened dough on their backs and while trekking to the Reed Sea, the hot sun baked the dough into matzo. What do you think?

    During Passover, observant Jews do not eat anything made from chametz or have anything in their houses made from it. Chametz comes from a Hebrew root that means fermented or risen and refers to any fermented grain product, more specifically from one of the five grains mentioned in rabbinic literature: wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye. Within 18 minutes of coming into contact with moisture, these five grains begin to ferment or rise. Even if this happened by accident or without one being aware of it, the grains (or anything made with it) can’t be eaten or remain in ones’ house. This explains why observant Jews clean their kitchens and houses to prepare for Passover by sweeping and vacuuming and getting rid of all chametz, some even following the custom of cleaning their cupboards with a feather, to get rid of every trace of chametz.

    In addition, for those Jews who are very strict and follow Ashkenazic (Eastern European) customs, eating anything that is considered “kitniyot” isn’t allowed. This can include rice, soy beans, buckwheat, millet, beans, string beans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds, and can vary according to locale and customs. If you follow these customs, not only wouldn’t you eat any of these foods, but you also wouldn’t make or eat matzo made from any flours or starches derived from these foods. The reason for this further prohibition is that these foods undergo a similar process to fermentation when exposed to moisture. “Kitniyot”, by the way, comes from the Hebrew word “katan” meaning small. My take on the root of this word: these grains are so small that one wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from the standard five grains mentioned in rabbinic literature (wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye). Better to avoid them altogether.

    Those who don’t follow the rules of “kitniyot”, often Sephardic Jews or those who follow Sephardic customs, allow themselves to eat foods that would otherwise be considered off limits by Ashkenazic Jews. Though I grew up in an Ashkenazic household, since becoming gluten free, I have adopted the Sephardic custom of eating “kitniyot”. Thus, I’m willing and happy to eat matzo that I make from bread mixes that contain rice flour or millet or bean flour. Here are some of my homemade matzo recipes and an instructional video on making matzo:

    1. My gluten free matzo recipe made from a Breads From Anna mix.

    2. Another gluten free matzo recipe from Breads From Anna mix.

    3. One of my earlier gluten free matzo recipes which, depending on your observance, this could be considered “kitniyot”.

    4. Click here and then scroll down for Gluten Free Matzo Recipe Variation #2.

    5. Click here – this gluten free matzo recipe is gluten free and dairy free and includes oats, one of the five grains mentioned in rabbinic literature.

    6. A video of me making my gluten free matzo recipe.

    And if you don’t have time to make your own matzo, there are a number of companies that are offering packaged matzo. Go here and here. If you’re really in a pinch and can’t find the packaged gluten free matzo, you could always eat some sort of rice cracker instead of matzo, like those made by Blue Diamond for example. Their first ingredient is rice flour and while rice is not allowed by Ashkenazic Jews, if you’re willing to look past the laws prohibiting the eating of “kitniyot”, maybe these would work for you.

    But if you can find the time, try making your own matzo. You won’t be disappointed. And trust me, everyone at your seder will be begging for a taste! You might be the most popular person at your seder:).
    • Aviva

      Thanks, Ellen! That did answer most of my questions. One last one that I think I know the answer to but would love to be wrong: If we're following Sephardic customs and eating kitniyot, is there still a prohibition against leavening with those kitniyot? My husband thinks, for example, that the gluten-free cinnamon crumble coffee cake by The Cravings Place is almost identical to the kosher-for-Pesach cinnamon coffee cake mix that I've always stocked up with before Pesach in previous years. It's true that the Cravings Place cake is pretty dense and doesn't seem to rise much, but I question whether it's really ok to eat if I want to be keeping Pesach.

      Thanks so much!

    • Andrea

      Ellen, have you thought about using parchment paper for rolling the matzoh? Or is there a reason it wouldn't work. The dough wouldn't stick much and you could even put the matzoh right into the oven on the parchment. I've done this with pizza.

    • I Am Gluten Free

      Aviva – I don't know for sure, but I think you're supposed to avoid all leavening, so therefore, yeast would be forbidden.

      Andrea – I've used parchment paper and yes, it works well. But I've found that the best surface is my granite countertops sprinkled with lots of potato starch. Either way, as long as the matzah comes out well, and it always does!!! It's made Passover enjoyable!

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    • Monica

      All of the links to your recipes for matzo are “broken”. :( I realize they were posted many years ago but are they still available? Also, you mention that the Breads from Anna mixes are rice blended with soy. My doctor has me avoiding wheat, corn, potato AND soy. Can you recommend any matzo brands or recipes that just use rice, almond, coconut and maybe garbanzo bean flours?

      Thanks so much!
      -Monica on my first GF Pesach 2014
      Dallas, TX

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