Is quinoa kosher for Passover?

Answered by
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

Once again, the debate over quinoa, the darling of health-conscious Jews, has risen to the top of our "Is it kosher for Passover?" list of questions. Just Google this question, and you will see that everyone is talking about quinoa!

Quinoa, a grain-like crop grown in South America, is not one of the grains considered chametzchametzחָמֵץFoods not eaten during Passover. Chametz typically includes leavened bread or any food that contains wheat, rye, barley, oats, or spelt, unless production has been supervised to ensure that it has not leavened. . Some medieval Ashkenazi rabbis ruled that kitniyot (legumes) could not be eaten during Passover because they could be confused with chametz products. Some authorities consider quinoa to be kitniyot, while others do not.

But there's more. In order for quinoa to be kosher for Passover, it seems to hinge on how the quinoa is grown. Some authorities have expressed concern because quinoa is processed in factories along with grains that are not kosher for Passover. In addition, kashrut authorities have learned that some farmers use barley or oats as a protective covering over their quinoa crops to prevent birds from eating it. According to an article in the New York Times, the debate is not likely to be resolved until one of the major kashrut certification companies can send a rabbi to the mountain region of Bolivia to inspect some of these factories.

So what is a Reform Jew to do? If you endeavor to keep kosher for Passover and want to eat quinoa this year, make sure the package specifically says it is kosher for Passover; there are several brands available.