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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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Anonymous April 25, 2016

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. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA April 10, 2016

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). Reply

Melissa 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 Reply

Howard new york April 8, 2016

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. Reply

Anonymous los angeles, ca April 6, 2016

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. Reply

Anonymous April 13, 2015

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. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org April 12, 2015

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? Reply

Todd Chicago April 10, 2015

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. Reply

Anonymous 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...'? Reply

Albert 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. Reply

Melissa April 7, 2015

By this reasoning matzah balls should be forbidden as they get larger or 'rise' when boiled in the soup Reply

Vicki Stone Portland April 5, 2017
in response to Melissa:

you are correct. that is why the custom of Gibrukts was created, prohibiting the wetting of matza on the fear the matzo might leaven. this is in Chabad, I do not know if this is the custom in other orthodox interpretations Reply

natan honokaa April 1, 2015

Hag Sameach...for the past 30 years..i have celebrated Pesach as a raw vegan..no cooked or processed foods for the Hag..spring cleaning..liberation..so many of my mishpocha are constipated after Pesach...Baruch Hashem..i'm free..and flowing..btw..hemp seeds are great source of protein..kol tov Reply

Anonymous los angeles March 30, 2015

Yesterday I saw spelt matzos being sold for Passover use. They are totally chametz and yet there they were, in a well known glatt kosher supermarket. Imagine people worrying about eating corn (not specified in the Torah) and then eating spelt. Ignorance. Reply

ZG NY March 30, 2015

"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." But this doesn't answer the question... Reply

Anonymous March 26, 2015

Pass the brisket please! Reply

Albert March 27, 2014

The minute Hametz in an item when mixed BEFORE Pesach is nullified in the 1 in 60 rule. This does not apply on Pesach. This is the reason many Sephardic rabbis AND others allow frozen vegetables, for example, even when processed on the same equipment as pasta. The halachot for Sephardim regarding Pesach is different. For the Sephardim, any food which is expected to be free of Hametz may be considered kosher for Passover where the Ashkenazim may insist that all foods be watched in order to be kosher for Passover. This is not to say that certification is not necessary and preferred but there is a difference in the Halacha. Reply

Anonymous March 27, 2014

You said, "Secondly, I don't think that quinoa can be compared to milk...we are stringent about consuming even the most minute amount of chametz, even if it is smaller than the traces which could be cause of an allergic reaction."

Actually, you are arguing against your own position with this statement. You regularly breathe in small quantities of airborne chametz during Passover that are nonetheless sufficient to cause allergic reactions in those with sensitivities (peanut allergies, for example.) Since there is no requirement to avoid breathing in chametz during Passover (for example, by wearing masks or avoiding leaving your home), it is obviously understood that such a small amount of chametz is tolerated. The amount of chametz in gluten-free quinoa is even smaller than this. Reply

Albert Plainview March 26, 2014

I have previously argued that the Ashkenazim can and should adopt the Sephardic minhag of eating kitniyot on Pesach. The custom was implemented because of the possible confusion with actual Hametz and Kitniyot. For example, a sack of rice would be near a sack of wheat so there was a real possibility of mixing of actual grain biblically prohibited and non-Hametz grains. These issues are not relevant today. It was imposed because of the real possibility of eating Hametz. As to Kitniyot flour looking like Hametz flour, how about Passover bagels and the abundance of cakes that look no different from year round cakes. If Ashkenazim want to follow Beit Yosef who permits kitniyot on Pesah it would be no different then Sephardim who adopt the Ashkenazaic minhag which at the end of the day is a stringency. Reply

Howard New York March 26, 2014

Morah,

Looking again at the Shulchan Aruch--which no one would doubt was the most historically important and authoritative halachic synthesis after the works of Rashi and Rambam--I have to stand again by my comment of last year regarding the dubious nature of upholding the restrictive Ashkenazic minhag, which serves only to divide Jews at a time of increasing need for unity and strengthening universal halachic observance.

Can anyone seriously claim that those of the Sephardi tradition gain less from scrupulous observance of Pesach than Ashkenazim? Should there really be negative halachic consequences to an Askenazic Jew adopting the customs of the Rambam? This is not to say that the Rema or other sages were "narrow minded". But it does beg many questions--and we should be careful not to answer them reflexively. As a friend once said to me, "Are you going to merely listen to the rebbe, or are you going to read the Shulchan Aruch?"

Chag Kasher v'Sameach Reply