From traditional ingredients to more recent ideas, here's how to build a seder plate.

By Kelly Vaughan
March 16, 2020
Kristen Francis

The Passover seder plate can be traditional and ornate, or sparse and modern. It's usually one large centerpiece, but can also be individual seder plates for everyone at the table. Regardless of style, everything on the seder plate should symbolize a tribulation that the Jewish community has faced. Shannon Sarna, editor of The Nosher and author of Modern Jewish Baker ($20.49, target.com), shares the traditional elements of a seder plate and outlines the modern ingredients that have made their way onto the table.

Related: Our 17 Best Passover Seder Recipes

What Is a Seder Plate?

Passover is celebrated as a way to commemorate the history of Jewish people. "The Passover story and the seder imparts lessons that have varied takeaways for modern-day about slavery, injustice, overcoming adversity, and standing up for what is right," says Sarna. The seder plate serves as the centerpiece of the table and has five key components, all of which symbolize something significant about the Passover story. Horseradish symbolizes the bitterness and difficulties of life as a slave in Egypt; parsley celebrates the spring season; a hard-boiled egg symbolizes the circle of life and a time of renewal for Jewish people; a shank bone represents the sacrificial lamb; and haroset, which is a sweet mixture of apples or dried fruit, nuts, and sweet wine, symbolizes the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used to build for the Egyptians.

Modern-Day Seder Plate

This year, consider adding an orange to your seder plate. The custom originated in the 1980s, to represent solidarity with gay Jews, but has since evolved to encompass all marginalized Jewish people, and the sweetness they bring to the table. Sarna notes that while the orange is perhaps the most popular new ingredient, "the practice of placing a banana on the seder plate for Syrian refugees was adopted by some Reform Jewish communities in 2015." She also adds that some people have incorporated olives as a symbol of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and fair trade coffee or chocolate have been used to symbolize workers' rights.

"All of these new ingredients and traditions that are being adopted are really about what modern liberation looks like and a way to bring attention to these struggles," says Sarna. So this Passover, let your seder plate serve as an opportunity to converse about the struggles—and successes—of the Jewish community.

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