How Do You Celebrate Passover in Japan?

If there's one thing I've learned about living overseas, it is you never know what you will find when it comes to food. This goes both ways: Sometimes I am really surprised by something new and amazing; other times I find myself at a loss and relying on family to send needed ingredients in the mail.

And, if there's one time of year when I rely on those care packages from home, it is Passover. Jewish holidays can be tricky to prepare for when you live abroad, especially when you don't live near a Jewish community. And since I live in rural northern Japan, my options for kosher foods are limited!

I have access to many naturally Passover-friendly foods such as fruits, veggies, fish (I don't eat meat or poultry) and quinoa. While that does the trick for most nights of the Passover holiday, there are always those nights where I am looking for more of a comfort food – something that both reminds me of home and fits in the dietary rules of Passover. Since I usually end up eating less carbohydrates than usual (trust me, there is only so much matzo one person can eat in a week), those comfort foods that I miss during Passover focus on carbohydrates. Of course, it isn't easy to come up with recipes that I can easily prepare here in Japan. It takes some creativity and making use of the things my family members send me from back home. 

Thankfully, my family can send me Passover noodles.

Passover usually falls at a time of year where we are still getting snow here. That's what inspired me to make a cheesy mac and cheese dish that works for Passover. As a child, we always had mac and cheese on snow days when we stayed home from school. It brings back fond memories every time I enjoy mac and cheese on a snowy day. Since no meal in my house is complete without veggies, I made sure to find a couple that would go nicely with this dish. 

Easy Veggie Passover Mac and Cheese

Recipe by Melinda Boyd, MPG, MHR, RD

1 to 2 tablespoons oil
1½ cups chopped mushrooms
1 large zucchini, diced
1 eggplant, diced
1 to 2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 to 2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup dry macaroni or similar noodle (kosher for Passover)
1 cup extra sharp cheddar, divided
Red pepper flakes (if desired)


  1. Heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant. Cover and allow to cook down. Stir occasionally.
  2. Once some of the liquid has cooked out of the vegetables, add the garlic powder and black pepper. Continue to stir occasionally.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta, using directions on the package.
  4. Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot or mixing bowl. Add half the cheese and mix, so that the cheese melts and blends with the pasta.
  5. Add half the vegetables to the pasta and cheese, and stir.
  6. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if desired to add additional flavor.
  7. Add the remaining cheese and vegetables, stirring to allow the cheese to melt and the noodles and vegetables to become mixed well. Serves 4.
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Melinda Boyd
Melinda Boyd, MPH, MHR, RD, is a registered dietitian and military spouse living in Japan. She is co-author of Train Your Brain to Get Thin, and blogs at Nutrition, Food, Travel & More. Follow her on Twitter.