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What is Parve?

Niki Acker
Updated May 16, 2024
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In Jewish dietary law, kosher foods, or foods that are allowable to eat, fall into one of three categories: dairy, meat, and parve or pareve. Parve foods are neither dairy nor meat, but are neutral, and may therefore be consumed on their own, or along with either meat or dairy foods. Meat and dairy may not be consumed together or combined in any way according to Jewish dietary law.

The prohibition against combining meat and milk is derived from a repeated injunction in the Bible, found in Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21: "Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk." Different Jewish traditions interpret this law slightly differently, with some requiring different dishes to be reserved for meat or dairy meals, or alternate days set aside as meat and dairy days respectively. According to the Talmud, there are three specific requirements involved, mirroring the three mentions of the prohibition in the Torah; one may not cook meat and dairy together, eat meat and dairy together, or derive any benefit from the combination of meat and milk. Deriving benefit could include feeding a pet a mixture of meat and dairy, or selling meat and dairy in a single transaction, for example.

Pareve foods can generally be eaten at any meal, unless they have previously come into contact with meat or dairy foods or byproducts, invalidating their parve status. Pareve foods include fish, vegetables, fruits, grains, eggs, nuts, honey, and salt. Some Jewish cultures consider poultry to be pareve as well, since birds do not produce milk, while other traditions consider poultry to be meat. A possible reason for considering poultry to be meat is that it can be confused with beef, and those traditions that consider poultry as meat often acknowledge that the Talmud does not specifically prohibit eating poultry with dairy.

Packaged kosher foods are labeled as dairy, meat, or parve. The parve designation can be helpful to vegetarians and people with dairy allergies, as well as to people who keep kosher, since kosher law is very strict regarding the absence of meat and dairy products and byproducts in parve foods. For example, foods made with gelatin derived from beef collagen are not pareve; nor are foods with the milk byproduct casein. However, some foods that are not acceptable in a vegan diet are considered pareve - namely honey, fish, and eggs - so it is important to check the ingredients on the label of each specific product.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By aviva — On Aug 17, 2011

If you're on a kosher diet or plan to be on one, then you need to be aware of processed meats. Many items like hot dogs, lunch meats and sausages quite often contain milk. You need to read the labels to be certain that you're getting true kosher meat or you might end up breaking the Jewish dietary law.

By goldensky — On Aug 16, 2011

My son was born with an allergy against milk and anything that's made with milk. I had to learn parve baking early on to avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room.

I guess you could say he's on a semi-kosher diet since he still consumes meat and the parve foods because they don't contain milk or milk products.

It's not hard to buy parve products. You just have to know what to watch out for and always read the label of ingredients.

By cloudel — On Aug 16, 2011

Wow, that sounds complicated. I would have trouble living like this. Since I’m not Jewish, I had never heard of parve before. I knew they had a strict diet to maintain, but I did not know what all it involved.

I often dip raw meat in milk before rolling it in breading. I use milk to make biscuits, which I always eat with some form of meat.

When I think of it, I use or consume milk with meat quite often. If I eat sausage or bacon for breakfast, I drink coffee with milk in it. Sometimes, I will drink a glass of milk with pizza topped in pepperoni and beef.

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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