Happy Rosh Hashana: Celebrating the Jewish New Year the Vegan Way

With Rosh Hashanah (otherwise known as Jewish New Year) approaching it is time for us Jewish vegans to think of innovative new traditions in the spirit of the customary food.

Honey is the main focus of this holiday as it is sweet and represents the beginning of a “sweet new year”. Honey however is not vegan and there are plenty of alternatives (some of which are discussed below).

Round Challah (an egg based bread), pomegranate, honey cake and fish head are other traditional elements at the Rosh Hashanah dinner table. So let’s start to talk about making Rosh Hashanah a cruelty free experience!

Honey and honey cake 

Malia, Natalie’s daughter, eating a mini vegan “honey” cake made from Sweet Freedom Natural Syrup

As I mentioned above, honey is important because its sweetness represents the desire to have a sweet new year. There are two major ways that honey is eaten on Rosh Hashanah; Tapuchim U’Dvash (apples dipped in honey) and honey cake.

Fortunately there are arrays of alternatives that do the job just the same, if not better. Some examples are maple syrup, agave syrup, rice syrup, date syrup and golden syrup but if you want something authentic that really tastes like honey, get your little vegan hands on Sweet Freedom Award Winning Natural Syrup. This stuff has a flavour that is virtually identical to honey so it is perfect for those of you who want a traditional Rosh Hashanah experience. It works really well in baking too so you will be able to make the perfect “honey” cake using this product.

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Round Challah

Challah, a traditional Jewish bread that is normally eaten on Shabbat is a plaited bread that is usually egg based, obviously not vegan. On Rosh Hashanah, this bread is rounded to symbolise continuity and therefore is a staple on the Rosh Hashanah table.

Pomegranate and other fruits that just come into season are a traditional addition to the Rosh Hashana table

Finding an egg-free challah may be as simple as going to your local Jewish bakery and just asking for them to make you an egg free round challah, preparing your own Challa yourself, or if you are lucky like me, you have a local Glicks Bakery which do not base their Challah’s on egg at all! They do however use an egg-wash but they also have some without.

Pomegranate (or other fruit that has come into season)

Pomegranate, an anti-oxidant rich fruit, is not only vegan but also very healthy so eat up! The significance of this delicious fruit is that it becomes in season in Israel around Rosh Hashanah and eating fruit that is new in season is customary.

Of course if you do not live in Israel and you cannot find a pomegranate you can substitute it with any fruit that has just come into season. I plan on using mango this year if my pomegranate ventures fail!

Fish head substitute

Rosh Hashanah translates in English to “Head of The Year” and the eating of a fish head was traditionally used to demonstrate this meaning.I however think you can still keep things traditional by using the “head” of anything that is cruelty free instead of fish.For example the head of a zucchini or if you take the advice of Rabbi Rick Brody, a head of lettuce would do just fine! Personally I find that way more appealing than a fish head (gross!) and I am pretty sure my non-vegan friends would agree too!

May you all have a happy and healthy Jewish New Year! Chag Sameach


Natalie Cunningham

Writter & Reviewer

Vegan Super Mum Columnist

My name is Natalie Cunningham and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I am a mum of two beautiful girls, Leilani and Malia and my husband is Robert. We are a vegan family – I have been vegan for over 10 years now, Robert for 3 years and our children have been vegan since birth. I am the vice president and one of the founders of Vegan Parents Australia – an organisation dedicated to bringing vegan families together for moral support and friendships and to mainstream veganism by dispelling the myths that it is dangerous for children to be vegan, and that it is in fact easy and healthy!

More about Natalie

Check out Natalie’s co-founded organization – Vegan Parents Australia

Check out Natalie's Vegan Family blog - The Veggiebacons