Charoset, haroset, or charoses (Hebrew: חֲרֽוֹסֶת [ḥărōset]) is a sweet, dark-colored, paste made of fruits and nuts eaten at the Passover Seder. Its color and texture are meant to recall mortar (or mud used to make adobe bricks) which the Israelites used when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt as mentioned in Tractate Pesahim (page 116a) of the Talmud. The word "charoset" comes from the Hebrew word cheres — חרס — "clay."
Charoset is one of the symbolic foods on the Passover Seder Plate. After reciting the blessings, and eating a matzah "sandwich" combining charoset and maror, the remainder is often eaten plain, spread on matzah.
Charoset is mentioned in the Mishna in connection with the items placed on the Passover table: "unleavened bread and lettuce and charoset." Some say it can be traced back to the custom of symposia in ancient Greece, where philosophical discussions were accompanied by drinking large quantities of wine and consuming foods dipped into mixtures of pounded nuts and spices.
There are many recipes for charoset. Eastern European (or Ashkenazi) charoset is made from chopped walnuts and apples, spiced with cinnamon and sweet wine. Honey or sugar may be used as a sweetener and binder. The mixture is not cooked.
Sephardi charoset is a paste made of raisins, figs and date. Egyptian Jews make it from dates, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, and sweet wine. Greek and Turkish Jews use apples, dates, chopped almonds and wine. Italian Jews add chestnuts. Some Spanish and Portuguese communities such as the Jews of Suriname, add coconut.
Not all Jews use the term "charoset". Some of the Jews of the Middle East instead use the term "halegh". The origin of halegh is not clear. Rav Saadia Gaon uses the word and attributes it to a kind of walnut that was a mandatory ingredient in the preparation of the halegh.
Parts of the Jewish Diaspora in Iran have a tradition of including forty different ingredients in the halegh. The number forty signifies the forty years of wandering in the desert.
Charoset includes fruits and spices mentioned in the Song of Songs: apples 2-3, figs 2-13, pomegranates 4-3, grapes 2-15, walnuts 6-11, dates 7-7 with the addition of wine 1-2, saffron 4-14 and cinnamon 4-14.