Ingredient Intelligence

What Is Maror? The Story Behind the Seder Staple.

published Mar 8, 2023
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Table served for Passover Seder (Pesach)
Credit: Pixel-Shot/ Shutterstock

I love Passover. Because I grew up in a religiously mixed family, I didn’t get to celebrate Passover as a kid, and now I’m making up for lost time. Since I’ve had children of my own, I’ve started hosting a formal family Seder (the ritual storytelling and meal that epitomizes the holiday) on the first night of Passover, and then I follow it up with a more laid-back “Cool Kids’ Seder,” open to whomever wants to join, the next night.

For both, I trot out my trusty Seder plate and load it up with all the ceremonial items the holiday requires — a shank bone, a roasted egg, a sweet paste called charoset, parsley, an orange, and something called maror, or bitter herbs. Once the seder plate is stocked and the table is set, the festivities can begin!

What Is Maror on the Seder Plate?

Maror refers to the bitter herbs that are consumed during the Jewish holiday of Passover in a ritual meal called the Seder. Maror can be horseradish, lettuce, chicories, or dandelion greens. It is one of the components of the Seder plate, along with zeroa (lamb shank bone), beltza (roasted hard-boiled egg), charoset (a paste of apples and nuts), and karpas (parsley). According to newer traditions, the Seder plate may also include an orange, which represents marginalized Jews, including the LGBTQ+ community. 

What Is the Meaning of Maror?

The Hebrew word maror translates to bitter, and the bitterness is meant to symbolize the harshness of slavery, as experienced by the Jews in Egypt. During the Seder, maror is combined with sweet charoset, an apple and nut mixture that symbolizes the mortar used by the Jews to build the pyramids, to show the balance of bitter and sweet, but it’s important to savor the bitterness of maror to fully connect with the message of the Passover story.

What Vegetable Is Maror?

There is some debate about what constitutes maror, but typically horseradish, lettuce, and other bitter greens like chicories and dandelion greens are acceptable. Clover and endive may also be used.

How Do You Eat Maror?

During the Seder, after eating the matzo, it’s time to bless and eat the maror. We first dip the maror in charoset quickly, shaking off the excess, and then savoring the bitter flavor of the maror in our mouths to remind ourselves of the cruel reality of slavery. Then, the maror and charoset are combined between two pieces of matzo in what’s called a Korech or Hillel sandwich.