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Vegan Gefilte "Fish"

Passover was one of my favorite holidays during my childhood. It meant attending a seder which meant having a special dinner with my grandfather. He would be so proud of me when I, as the youngest, asked The Four Questions in Hebrew, and he would recite the answer to me.

Other highlights of the holiday: being allowed to stay up late enough to watch the entire movie “The Ten Commandments.” I loved this movie which is only aired once a year. Even as a child I could appreciate the hunkiness of the handsome Biblical heroes and villains in armor and loincloths – Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and (sigh) John Derek.
As the tenth plague, Death of the First-Born, tore through the land, the ominous green mist that enveloped and killed those marked became, in my child’s mind, the animated personification of Death itself.
But even scarier than the horrible plagues of blood and locusts? Gefilte fish. How this dish of ground up fish covered in slime and served cold became a delicacy is the greatest mystery of all. In my opinion, if Moses had fed Pharoah some Gefilte fish, he might have let the Hebrews go a lot faster!
The only redeemable part of eating Gefilte fish was getting to cover up the slimy, tasteless fish blob with spicy (yummy), purple (pretty) horseradish. And yet as horrible as I found Gefilte fish, it just wouldn’t be Passover without it. It’s tradition. So what’s a vegan – who would NEVER be part of the pain, suffering and death of innocent sea animals – to do?
The past few Passovers I just skipped it but this year I wanted to make a vegan version of Gefilte fish – a version without the cruelty and death, without the cold tastelessness and slime. And I wanted it to look like the original and taste like fish (but better).
This is the recipe I came up with. It’s made with chickpeas and sauteed vegetables. The fish flavor comes from the seasoning – kelp and dulce flakes (if you don’t have both you can just use whichever you have), Old Bay and lemon. They look just like Gefilte fish, the texture is spot on and they taste like a much yummier version of the original “treat.” I’m so glad my Vegan Gefilte “Fish” will grace my seder table this year. Happy Passover and Enjoy!
Note: Although I am of Ashkenazic descent, I do not agree with nor follow the prohibition of Kitniyot –  eating legumes and rice – on Passover. I agree with Rabbi David Golinkin who believes this custom (that he says is in opposition to Talmudic writings) is devisive between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews and diminishes the importance of the hametz.

Vegan Gefilte “Fish”

(Makes 4)

1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
2 small or 1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped (save some for garnish)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 ½ tsp. dulce flakes
1 tsp. kelp flakes
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Zest and juice of one lemon
Red cabbage, shredded
Prepared horseradish, if desired


Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and let the sweat for about 3-4 minutes. You don’t want them to brown or change color. The veggies should just get softer. Add the chickpeas to the skillet and toss with the veggies. Mix in the seasonings. Remove from the heat and let cool.


Transfer the chickpeas and veggie mixture to a food processor. Add the lemon zest and juice of half the lemon. Pulse the mixture and then process until smooth. Taste for any seasoning adjustments. Using a measuring cup, scoop 1/3 cup of the mixture and mold it into a gefilte fish shape. The shape is like a small football or a lemon. Lay the molded gefilte “fish” on a small baking sheet or plate. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Cover the gefilte fishies with plastic wrap, letting the wrap fit around each piece. Refrigerate for at least an hour or until ready to serve.


Serve each piece of Gefilte “fish” on a small bed of red cabbage and garnished with a small slice or a few shreds of carrot. Squeeze the remaining half lemon over the “fish” and cabbage. Serve with horseradish, if desired.

Other Passover recipes:
Fried Matzo/Matzo Brei
Mushroom and Walnut Chopped “Liver”
Matzo Ball Soup
Chocolate-Covered Matzo

The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.

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16 Responses to Vegan Gefilte "Fish"

  1. Michele November 12, 2016 at 3:08 am #

    They fell apart. What could I do to prevent that from happening?

    • Rhea November 12, 2016 at 10:50 am #

      Oh no! That’s never happened. When I form them, I pack them tight into their shapes and wrap them in saran wrap securely. They go in the fridge for hours and when I pull them out, they are really strong and hold through slicing. Maybe pack yours tighter, keep them in the fridge longer. Make sure the mixture is not wet. Hope it works better next time.

  2. Carol September 13, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

    Can this be frozen?

    • Rhea September 14, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

      I never have myself but other people have told me they have frozen them and it’s fine.

      • Carol September 25, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

        Thanks! Will let you know how it turns out.

  3. Carolyn Donovan April 24, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    Wow. Wow wow wow. I brought this to a long-standing Passover gathering last night, and it was unanimously celebrated as “fantastic.”

    This was a buffet event (with more than 20 people), so I made them small in order to have enough for everyone. I created a platter instead of individual plates, with the shredded cabbage as the base. It was pretty, and, if I might say, quite fetching 😉

    Those in the know proclaimed it much better than the, um, original, and it sparked a lively dialog about “what else” you could do with the “gefilties.” A dip and a spread were the two that popped up immediately.

    Thank you for coming up with this clever, tasty dish!

    • Rhea April 24, 2016 at 10:44 am #

      Hi Carolyn, thank you so much! I’m glad they were a hit and I’ll bet a platter looked beautiful. Another thing you can do with them is cook them – then they are kind of like crab cakes. xoxo

  4. Laura April 15, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    Hi, Rhea! I live in Argentina and we are celebrating Pesach this time with a vegetarian son, who has decided to be one just recently… So our first Sedder last evening, I replaced gefilte fish for… “capresse salad”. But tonight I’m trying your recipe. Just one question: you explain in your instructions that after giving the appropriate shape to the mixture, they have to be placed on a small “baking” sheet. Does that mean that they go to the oven before going to the fridge? Or just directly to the fridge? I’m not baking them today, but would love to know if this is right. Thanks! And Hag Sameach! Laura

    • Rhea April 15, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

      Hi Laura, sorry I confused you. The baking sheet is just a tray to go into the fridge. Yesterday I actually wrapped each “fishie” individually and just put them on a plate into the fridge. No baking. Hope your son likes them. They were a hit here last night. Happy Pesach!!! xoxo

  5. Rhea Parsons March 22, 2013 at 5:05 am #

    Hi Rachel (that’s my Hebrew name),
    I’m so glad you found my blog. Congrats on doing the 30 day challenge. I hope you’re enjoying it! Let me know how you like my version of the classic.
    Happy Passover!

  6. rachel March 22, 2013 at 3:26 am #

    I’m SO excited to see this recipe! Just found your blog yesterday. I am a rare one who loves gefilte fish and was wondering how I could do an alternative this year. Can’t wait to make this! I’ve loved reading your other posts, too. I’m on day 21 of a 30 day vegan challenge myself, so it is helpful to read others’ stories.

  7. Rhea Parsons March 19, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    Hey Gina, yeah, chickpeas seemed obvious for the bland taste. It could also be done with tempeh or nuts using the same spices, I think.
    Thanks for the well wishes!

  8. Ginger Cat Bed and Breakfast March 19, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    That should have read, somehow, not someone. I don’t think chickpeas have reached that status quite yet 🙂

  9. Ginger Cat Bed and Breakfast March 19, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    Hi Rhea – welcome back. When you’d first mentioned on FB that you were coming up with a vegan gefilte fish recipe, I thought, WHY?

    Just like you – I always thought it was pretty disgusting to eat. Much preferred matzoh brie.

    And I knew, before reading the recipe, that someone, chickpeas would be involved.

    Just might have to try this one out.




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