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Kashrut: Spicy Food

by Rabbi Dovid Bendory, II Adar 12 5765 (March 23, 2005)


What's the difference if the food is spicy or not?

Earlier, when we discussed the preparation of pareve food in a meat (dairy) pot, we learned that the rules given only apply if the food involved isn't spicy. So what if it is spicy?

Spicy foods change everything and present a whole set of exceptions to the general rules of keeping kosher. Because of the strong flavors involved, spicy foods transfer tastes much more easily than other foods. Here is a brief summary of the rules:

That sounds like I need to have a pareve cutting board and knife just for onions and garlic!

That's one way to deal with the problem of spicy foods. Another way is to always cut them with the correct knife corresponding to how they will be cooked and eaten.

By the way, because of the strong tastes involved, professional chefs keep a separate cutting board and knife for onions and garlic. This both prevents the tastes from contaminating other foods and prevents the tastes of other foods from contaminating the onions and garlic.

OK, so what else is spicy besides onions and garlic? Hot peppers? Lemons? Tomatoes?

L'chatchila, most foods that we commonly call "spicy" are treated as spicy in halacha — onions, garlic, horseradish, ginger, turnips, hot peppers, and more. Lemons are subject to debate as is vinegar. Most tomatoes are not considered spicy, but pickled or sundried tomatoes may be. B'dieved, we can often say that none of these foods are spicy — only chiltis, the exemplary (and unidentified) spicy vegetable brought in the Talmud, holds that distinction. If you have a kashrus issue and spicy foods are involved, consult with your rabbi.

Questions to ponder:


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