Recipe Spotlight

Simple Passover Seder Recipes For First-Time Hosts

Recipes you can handle, no matter your cooking ability.

Published Apr. 2, 2020.

Mari Levine

This year, my Passover seder is going to be much smaller than usual. Well, there might be as many attendants—but all but two of them (my partner and I) won’t be in my home with me. Everyone else will be on the computer, in their own homes.

I’ve already decided on a few adjustments I’ll be making to adapt to the situation, including:

  • Having a communal, virtual seder plate with my family. Since we’re all trying to be conscious of our consumption right now, especially when it comes to perishables, we’re going to divvy up the components and everyone will have an item with them when they Zoom in to our virtual seder. I called dibs on horseradish, since I managed to grab some from the take-home fridge at America’s Test Kitchen’s office before we all started working from home.
  • Opening up the afikomen search. I’m a competitive person, and with a two-person household, I need to recruit some competition in this search for the sought-after piece of matzo. Fortunately, I live in a house with two other units and I have four neighbors—who have all been strictly self-quarantining. I plan to ask my partner to hide the afikomen in a shared space and the rest of us will search for it. If anyone’s uncomfortable being in close quarters, we’ll go in shifts and time how long it takes each person to find it. (Did I mention I’m competitive?)
  • Loosening up the rules. Since I’m trying to minimize my trips to the grocery store, and I don’t know what I’ll find when I go, I’m going to mine my pantry before I go shopping. So yes, that might mean using an ingredient that isn’t kosher for Passover. It’s not traditional, but nothing about this situation is. And we’re all just doing the best we can.

No matter how you usually observe Passover, one thing that has resulted from quarantining is that many people have no choice but to become first-time hosts, even if it's just for one or two people. As the resident cook in my family, I’m going to help my relatives plan seder foods that match their abilities and preferences. That means finding an easy, mostly meat-free menu for my vegetarian sister and her carnivore husband, a make-ahead option that my parents can prepare and eat for a couple days afterwards, and scaled-down versions of traditional dishes for other family members who are cooking for one.

If you’re in the position of being a first-time host, here are some simple recipes that will help you make it a holiday to remember.

The Classics

Cast Iron Potato Kugel

Cast Iron Potato Kugel: This supersavory dish gets its crisp edges from a cast-iron skillet, but you can also use a 10-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet. The recipe also calls for schmaltz, but you can use extra-virgin olive oil in its place. [GET THE RECIPE]

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup: This make-ahead soup features substantial yet delicate matzo balls and a broth that’s been fortified with celery, onion, carrot, and subtly sweet parsnips. [GET THE RECIPE]

Slow Cooker Brisket and Onions

Slow Cooker Brisket and Onions: If you’re looking for a hands-off main course, this recipe requires some prep work, but then it cooks for hours in the slow cooker. Replace the flour with matzo meal to keep it kosher, and plan ahead. This is a two-day recipe. (Most of that time, the meat is in the fridge or the slow cooker.) [GET THE RECIPE]

Simple Sides

Roasted carrots

Skillet-Roasted Carrots: For roasted carrots in less than half the time they take in the oven, we steam the carrots in a covered skillet on the stovetop, then remove the lid and let them develop oven-worthy roast-y browning. If you think carrots are boring, you need to try this recipe. [GET THE RECIPE]

Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette: This perfect asparagus recipe includes a simple sauce and can be completed in just 10 minutes. [GET THE RECIPE]

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes: The key to super-sweet and tender potatoes with a slightly crisp, caramelized exterior is starting them in a cold (versus preheated) oven, covering them with foil, then removing the foil and continuing to roast the potatoes until crisp. [GET THE RECIPE]

Crispy Potato Latkes

Crispy Potato Latkes: Why shouldn’t latkes be part of your Passover menu? Hosting means you can design the menu you want, and if you’re like me you have two bags of potatoes in your pantry and a container of homemade applesauce in your freezer. [GET THE RECIPE]

Non-Brisket Mains

Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions

Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions (Mujaddara): Mujaddara is the rice and beans of the Middle East. It’s a hearty one-dish vegetarian rice and lentil pilaf containing large brown or green lentils and crispy fried onion strings. And there’s a good chance you already have all of the ingredients in your kitchen. [GET THE RECIPE]

Roasted Salmon with Broccoli and Red Potatoes

One-Pan Roasted Salmon with Broccoli and Red Potatoes: If the idea of coordinating different cooking times and negotiating several pans makes you nervous, then a one-pan recipe is the answer. This well-balanced meal solves the puzzle of cooking all the components on one pan without any of them coming out overcooked or undercooked. [GET THE RECIPE]

Roast Chicken and Potatoes

One-Pan Roast Chicken and Potatoes: If you don’t think a roast chicken and potatoes is a special-occasion meal, you haven’t made this recipe. The chicken’s juices baste the potatoes as it cooks, giving them schmaltzy, savory flavor and crisping their exteriors. [GET THE RECIPE]


Torta Caprese

Torta Caprese: This Italian flourless chocolate cake is so moist and tender that it still tastes great a few days after baking. Simply wrap it in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature. [GET THE RECIPE]

Triple Coconut Macaroons

The Best Chocolate-Dipped Triple Coconut Macaroons: If you can find the three coconut products called for in this recipe in your pantry or in your grocery store, these macaroons are worth making. Together, this trio of ingredients gives these cookies a complex (and not-too-sweet) flavor and tender texture. [GET THE RECIPE]

Matzo Brittle

Matzo Brittle: Matzo brittle is the perfect Passover treat, which is why there are so many recipes for it out there. Ours uses a made-from-scratch caramel to produce a texture and flavor far superior to store-bought. [GET THE RECIPE]

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