Question: What is Pareve?
Answer: Pareve is the Yiddish term that refers to foods that contain no meat or dairy ingredients. (Parve is the Hebrew term.)
According to the Jewish dietary laws, or laws of kashrut, though meat and milk products may not be cooked or eaten together, pareve foods are considered neutral, and may be eaten with either meat or dairy dishes.
All fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans and legumes, and vegetable oils are pareve.
Interestingly, though they are animal products, both eggs and fish are considered pareve as well. (Note that in many Orthodox circles, while fish and meat may be eaten at the same meal, it is not considered permissible to cook fish and meat together, to serve or consume them from the same plate, or to eat them during the same course of a meal.)
With the exception of fish, pareve foods are inherently vegetarian and dairy-free. Therefore, many consumers who do not keep kosher for religious reasons may nevertheless seek out kosher pareve-certified products. Foods labeled pareve, along with those that do not specifically note "meat," "D" (or dairy) or "D.E." (dairy equipment) alongside their kosher symbol are both acceptable for vegetarians, and safe for those with dairy allergies or intolerances.
For those who do keep kosher as a matter of religious conviction, pareve recipes make it easier to build menus around meat or dairy dishes.
Because there are also required waiting periods between consumption of meat and dairy foods, pareve foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts are useful for snacking between meals.
For many decades -- particularly when it was assumed that all animal fats were unhealthy additions to the diet, kosher cooks embraced pareve stick margarine as a substitute for butter or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat).
Now, with the understanding that margarine is generally abundant in dangerous trans-fats, many have healthier pareve alternatives to margarine. For savory recipes, olive oil or neutral oils such as grapeseed or canola is often favored. Baked goods can pose a greater challenge, as solid fats are often essential for achieving the desired texture. Coconut oil and non-hydrogenated solid shortenings made from palm oil are becoming increasingly popular in kosher recipes as pareve alternatives to margarine as well.
More Kosher Vocabulary Words: Glossary of Kosher Terms
Pronunciation: PAHR-vuh (Hebrew) or PAHR-iv (Yiddish)
Common Misspellings: parave