Is quinoa kosher for Passover?

Answered by
Rabbi Victor S. Appell
Rabbi Julie Zupan

Every year the debate over quinoa rises to the top of our "Is it kosher for Passover?" list of questions.

Quinoa, a grain-like crop grown in South America, is loved - and consumed - by many, because it is both high in protein and easy to prepare. Quinoa is especially loved by many Jews during Passover because it is actually not a grain, but a seed, and therefore is not considered chametzchameitzחָמֵץFoods not eaten during Passover. Chameitz 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..

However, some kosher authorities have ruled that quinoa is in the category of kitniyot (legumes). Medieval Ashkenazi rabbis ruled that kitniyot could not be eaten during Passover because they could be confused with chametz products, and even today many Jews of Ashkenazi descent do not kitniyot like corn, peas, beans, rice, and lentils on the holiday.

But there's more! Whether or not quinoa is certified kosher for Passover, hinges on how the quinoa is grown and processed. Some authorities have expressed concern because often quinoa is processed in factories along with grains that are not kosher for Passover. In addition, some farmers use barley or oats as a protective covering over their quinoa crops to prevent birds from eating it; the risk of contamination with grains that are chametz is high.

If you endeavor to keep kosher for Passover and want to eat quinoa this year, you may want to make sure the package specifically says it is kosher for Passover; there are several brands available. Here is a recipe you can try.