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Is Quinoa Kosher for Passover?

Is Quinoa Kosher for Passover?

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During the holiday of Passover, the Torah prohibits us from owning or consuming any foods which are chametz or which contain it. Chametz is any food product made of wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt, or their derivatives, which has leavened (risen) or fermented. Our sages have determined that flour from any of these five grains that comes into contact with water or moisture will leaven unless fully baked within eighteen minutes.

Quinoa is not one of these grains, nor is it related to any of these grains, and is therefore not considered chametz. (Botanically, it is a member of the goosefoot family, which includes beets and spinach.)

Nevertheless, there are two factors which must be taken into consideration with regards to consuming quinoa on Passover:

1) Due to the gravity of the prohibition against chametz, the medieval Ashkenazic rabbis forbade the consumption of kitniyot (lit., “legumes”) on Passover, since they can be confused with the forbidden grains. This includes (but is not limited to): rice, corn, soybeans, stringbeans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame and poppy seeds. This ban was accepted as law by Ashkenazic Jewry.

While some kashrut organization take the position that quinoa need not be added to the kitniyot list, others hold that the prohibition of kitniyot applies to any legume-like produce whose cooked dishes or porridge appear similar to those dishes made out of grain. Accordingly, quinoa would be considered kitniyot.

2) Quinoa is often grown in close proximity to grains which can become chametz, such as barley. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons given for the original kitniyot ban mentioned above.1) It is also often processed in the same factories as other grains, and the machines may not be adequately cleaned between runs of grain products and quinoa; both of these factors lead to a risk of chametz traces being found in the quinoa. Furthermore, the leading kashrut agencies have recently discovered that some farmers cover their quinoa with barley and/or oats to keep the birds from eating the quinoa while it dries, creating a concern that there may be grain kernels within the packaged quinoa. Finally, the sacks used to transport quinoa may have been previously used to hold barley or oats, which again raises the same concern.

Unlike the first, issue, these concerns can be mitigated through proper supervision.

In light of the above, if you are of Ashkenazic descent and therefore bound by the prohibition of consuming kitniyot on Passover, you should consult with your community rabbi as to whether to treat quinoa as kitniyot or not. And whether you are Ashkenazic or Sephardic, any quinoa would require kosher for Passover certification to ensure that it was carefully kept from contact with barley or other grains (covering all of the various scenarios described above in point 2), and it may be advisable to check the quinoa before Passover for any foreign matter (such as barley) before use, by placing the quinoa on a plate and looking through the grains.

Have a happy and kosher Pesach!

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

Footnotes
1.
Pri Chadash, Orach Chaim 453:1.
Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a writer who lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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Discussion (43)
April 25, 2016
...placing the quinoa on a plate and looking through the grains.?
If I use my Passover plate and find grains it will no longer be a Passover plate. If I use a year round plate then the quinoa will no longer be for Pesach... I guess I can use a paper plate.
Anonymous
April 10, 2016
re: there should at least be a logical self-consistency in our beliefs
Anonymous of Los Angeles says that all the rules are based on the one rule that we follow whatever the sages ruled.

But no sages ever ruled either way on maize (what the U.S. calls corn) because it was found only in the Americas or tomatoes (because they were incorrectly thought to be poison). So following the sages doesn't explain why we can eat tomatoes and can't eat maize (what the U.S. calls corn).
Anonymous
Camarillo, CA, USA
April 8, 2016
I disagree the consistency is in the discussion and constructive arguing. G-d did not want blind faith, He wanted lively intellectual debate about the rules and it is not this debate that we satisfy the commandments not through faith, but through genuine discussion of what G-d actually wanted. He won't be upset over eating quinoa but He might be if we don't actually think about what we put in our mouth
Melissa
April 8, 2016
Dear Anonymous (LA)
But is it right for the recent Sages to have been at odds with the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch? This is not about wearing a shtreiml or not. To say that kitniyot is forbidden - when half of the world's practicing Jews eat kitniyot deuring Pesach - is necessarily saying that they, the Rambam and Rav Caro were wrong.
Howard
new york
April 6, 2016
re: there should at least be a logical self-consistency in our beliefs
There is a consistency, We follow our Sages directives, one of the 613 Mitzvos. So when several centuries ago Ashkenazic sages legislated out Kitniyot, Ashkenazim listened, and when centuries later sages ruled on potatoes, Ashkenazim listened again.
Anonymous
los angeles, ca
April 13, 2015
Re: Potatoes and Kitniyot
Yehuda Shurpin: Thank you for the reference. But with all due respect, I don't think it's a question of understanding the origins of the customs. Rather, there is a growing realization among modern Jews that some of these customs--those regarding Kitniyot in particular--are unreasonable and illogical. And while it is true that religion should be based on faith, there should at least be a logical self-consistency in our beliefs.
Anonymous
April 12, 2015
Re: Potatoes and Kitniyot
To learn more about the origins of the custom not to eat Kitniyot See The History, Rationale and Practice of Avoiding Kitniyos on Passover. With regards to the question about why potatoes aren't Kitniyot as well as a discussion about whether new foods can be added to the list of Kitnot see Why Aren’t Potatoes Kitniyot?
Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org
April 10, 2015
Kitnyot
I agree with Melissa. No more matzah balls! Following that reasoning, coffee should be prohibited too because of its similarity to legumes. The "similarity" argument is a slippery slope and could lead to all sorts of ridiculous bans and behavior. Beef is "similar" to pork....maybe we should't eat beef any more. In short, I am against any prohibition that is in place simply to protect people from their own mistakes or the multitude of "what if" possibilities.
Todd
Chicago
April 10, 2015
is my higher power's will for me to be OCD? is this what the torah, living torah, is about? a rabbi 2000 years ago is not my god nor is a european decision in the middle ages. I'm grateful this question was answered: it is completely a human made custom and decision to not eat quinoa this week. be well and love others—faith in a great big god, not worrying about having enough faith all the time. Gets in the way of being free from shame and free to love others and accept them on their journey. Like Isiah says, 'is this the fast...'?
Anonymous
April 8, 2015
Many many kosher for Passover foods and baked items look like hametz. One of the reasons for the kitniyot prohibition for Ashkenazim is that it is similar to the five grains and can be ground into flour and baked into bread. Using this reasoning, potatoes should also be prohibited. We should also ban all the Pesach cakes and cookies lest one think if it's ok to eat cookies then it's ok to eat chips ahoy cookies made of wheat flour!!! Just because it looks similar to hametz doesn't mean it is hametz!! The major kashrut organizations including the star k and the ou permit approved quinoa for Pesach and as rav Feinstein said we don't add to the kitniyot list. Prohibition of kitniyot is a minhag, a custom, even less than rabbinic.
Albert