Sliced brisket on a platter, some salad on a separate plate
Credit: Olive & Mango

How To Cook for Passover This Year: A Small Menu Just for You and Those You Shelter With

updated Apr 6, 2020
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If you’ve ever been to a Passover Seder, you know there is a point where the youngest child asks aloud, “Why is tonight different than all other nights?” It’s a question with great meaning (and a great response), but this year, there’s no question that 2020’s Seder is different than all other Seders.

While most of the country (and still, the world), is staying home in an attempt to #flattenthecurve, it’s a tough time to have such an important holiday. But the calendar waits for no one (and no pathogen), so a lot of us are trying to figure out how to celebrate Passover this week, to the best of our ability. That means hosts who usually have a dozen people may find themselves looking at a much smaller crowd (i.e., just the folks who live under the same roof) and people who are usually guests may be wondering how to set up their first-ever Seder plate. Passover in 2020 means having to pull together a Kosher meal using what we can (safely) find at the grocery store, and planning a menu that won’t go to waste. We’ve attempted to do just that for you.

Kitchn’s Guide for an Easy, Small-Scale Passover Menu

The First Course: Matzo Ball Soup

Even if you’re just cooking for two, you should absolutely still make a big pot of matzo ball soup. If your family has a recipe, use that, and don’t scale it down. If you have family or friends nearby who are celebrating, leave the extra on their porches for their own Seder. If not, leftovers are delicious and extremely versatile. Refrigerate or freeze the leftover soup separately from the matzo balls, then enjoy warm bowls for days to come. (Add the leftover matzo balls to the simmering soup just before serving, to heat them up and keep them intact). If you still have frozen broth left after Passover, add shredded chicken and noodles to it for the best chicken noodle soup ever.

Our Best Matzo Ball and Matzo Ball Soup Recipes

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Main Dish: Brisket

Brisket is often the star of the Passover table, and it deserves the spotlight this year, too. Especially because it tastes even better in the days after its first prepared. Serve leftovers atop mashed potatoes, eat a helping for breakfast with an egg on top, or steal bites straight from the fridge. It also freezes beautifully — which means, after Passover is over, you can reheat it and use it for brisket sandwiches.

You can also buy a smaller brisket to start with and scale the rest of your recipe accordingly. Butchers generally recommend about 1/2-pound of brisket per person, so if you’re cooking for two, opt for a 2-pound brisket rather than a 6-pound one (you’ll still have leftovers). If you can only find larger cuts, you can also cut off and cook what you need and freeze the rest raw.

No matter how you cook your brisket, it’s pretty hands-off and can usually be made with only pantry ingredients (just double-check that your ingredients are Kosher for Passover). Here are some options for your slow cooker, your Instant Pot, and your oven.

Kitchn’s Best Brisket Recipes

If, historically, your family makes a leg of lamb for Passover but there’s only a few of you this year, opt for some lovely lamb chops instead. They’re much more manageable and very quick-cooking, and need little more than whatever fresh herb you’ve got to taste and look incredible. We recommend these Lamb Chops with Pesto Croute.

The Sides: Charoset (and Vegetables Too)

Let’s talk about the most important side first — charoset! Charoset, like matzo ball soup, is a non-negotiable on Passover, no matter what your Seder looks like this year. It’s also probably the easiest thing you’ll make. Leftover charoset, however, isn’t quite as desirable as leftover soup — the apples begin to brown pretty quickly. Scale your recipe down to make just what you need for Seder, or mix your leftovers into ice cream (homemade or store-bought).

Kitchn’s Best Charoset Recipes

Typically, it’s nice to have both a root vegetable side and a green vegetable side on the table. Roasted new potatoes, roasted butternut squash, or sautéed carrots are all great options, as are a leafy green salad, sautéed asparagus, and green beans.

While this might still be a great strategy for larger groups, this might be too much for smaller ones. Try cooking the carrots and potatoes with the brisket, and then just do one more vegetable side. We like the idea of a kale or cabbage salad, because leftovers will hold up in the fridge for a few days afterward.

Kitchn’s Best Passover Sides

The Dessert: Matzo Brittle

We’re all in agreement that chocolate caramel matzo brittle is the best way to go here, right? Making matzo brittle for Seder is a gift to yourself for the week to come — the perfect sweet-and-salty snack for you to munch on when cravings hit.

If you must make something else, coconut macaroons are always a hit and keep equally as well throughout the week. They’re also a fun dish for the kids to help with.

Kitchn’s Best Passover Desserts

3 Ways To Make a Quarantine Passover More Festive

Credit: Lauren Volo

1. DIY a Seder Plate

Those of you who are usually guests for Passover probably don’t have a Seder plate on hand, but with us all sheltering in place, you’ll have to work with what you’ve got. (There’s no reason to order one online and add to the workload of mail carriers!) A few years ago, we made our own Seder plate using just a wood platter and a few dip bowls and you can do the same. Also, if you’re now planning a Seder for just the few people in your household and you don’t want to/can’t get everything together for the plate, consider a compromise and write things down on slips of paper to stand in, symbolically.

2. Make a Matzo Background For Zoom

If you’ve been working from home and/or scheduling Zoom hangs with your loved ones, then you probably already know that you can customize the background behind you using a preset option or a pic from your phone. (In case you need it: Here’s how to change your Zoom background!) If you’re having a virtual Seder, take a picture of a sheet (or some tiled sheets) of matzo and upload that. It’ll look like you wallpapered your dining room with unleavened bread for the occasion!

Credit: Lauren Volo

3. Have a Mini Afikoman Search

Any Jewish child or fun-loving adult will tell you that finding the Afikoman is the best part of Passover. Just because we can’t all be gathered together doesn’t mean the tradition has to be paused. If there are only two of you at home, you can mix things up a little and hide two Afikoman (you each hide one for the other!). Obviously, if there are three or more, one of you can be in charge of hiding the Afikoman for everyone else to find. And hey, the smaller the group, the better odds of you winning.

How are you celebrating Passover this year with everything that’s going on?