Kosher foods are those food items that are prepared as per the Jewish dietary laws (Kashrut). There are many different reasons for a food to be non-kosher. If a particular food contains ingredients derived from animals that have been slaughtered in a non-kosher method, then that food item is considered non-kosher. Foods with ingredients derived from non-kosher animals, also come under this category.
There are several other guidelines, according to which, foods are classified as kosher and non-kosher. Even the equipment used for preparing kosher foods must be separate. This is the reason why you find separate kosher and non-kosher foods in stores. However, gelatin is one of those controversial food products, as far as kosher laws are concerned.
Is Gelatin Kosher?
It is a common fact that regular gelatin is derived from the collagen extracted from the hides and bones of cattle and pigs. It is defined as irreversibly hydrolyzed collagen, which is translucent and almost tasteless. Gelatin is a substance with a wide range of applications, right from the food industry to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
It is an indispensable ingredient in candies, marshmallows, ready-made yogurt, ice cream, and a host of other food products. It is also used as a gelling agent in various food recipes. Gelatin is also used to make the coating in certain capsules and pills.
As it is made from collagen derived from pigs, gelatin is definitely non-kosher. Even if it is prepared from the hides and bones of cattle, there is no guarantee that the animals are slaughtered as per the kosher rules. Another problem is the presence of tiny bits of meat in the bones and hides used for making gelatin. Meat with blood traces is strictly non-kosher. In short, regular gelatin is non-kosher.
What is Kosher Gelatin?
So regular gelatin is non-kosher, and is not meant for those who follow the Jewish dietary laws. It is for such people, that kosher gelatin has been introduced. This product is nothing other than agar agar, a seaweed derivative. Even though it may not be a perfect substitute for regular gelatin in certain food recipes, this vegan alternative can be used in most of the recipes that require gelatin.
Another option is gelatin derived from the skin and bones of kosher fish (fish with fins and scales). This type of fish gelatin is widely used as an alternative to regular gelatin, by those who follow Jewish dietary laws. You may also buy certain kosher gelatin brands, like 'Kolatin', which is claimed to be derived from collagen extracted from the hides of kosher slaughtered cattle, and not pigs. According to the manufacturers, these products are made under strict kosher supervision, and is met with all the required kosher standards.
While the debate about kosher gelatin still continues, those who follow Jewish dietary laws have the option of using special fish gelatin (made from kosher fish), or the vegan one (made from agar agar). Another option is to use the kosher versions of other gelling agents like tapioca, xanthan gum, gum acacia, and guar gum.