Manna from Bolivia for Passover

By Melvyn Kohn
April 19, 2011

Last week many went out and bought quinoa in preparation for Passover. Some, however, want to know if this grain chews its cud or has a cloven hoof and are looking to their kashrut experts for answers. Two experts, three opinions. So they are waiting for the kosher inspectors to travel to remote mountains of Bolivia to get an answer. Or so says the New York Times in a front page article yesterday.

Why do people like this so much for the religious holiday? Could be it comes from Bolivia, which helped by being the only South American country to accept Jewish refugees in WWII. Exodus to Latin America. And on generous terms, there was no red tape with the Bolivians, who saved thousands back in the day.

However, Jesse Blonder, director of the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts in Brooklyn, has another idea: "When you're eating this stuff, you know, it tastes different from everything you've always had for Passover - different enough that you feel, you know, like, maybe you shouldn't be eating it. For some people, that makes it taste better."

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Wed, 04/20/2011 - 13:45

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Since quinoa is a seed - from a plant closely related to beetroot, which is definitely kosher for Pesach - and not a grain despite its grain-like appearance, it would appear to be definitely kosher as far as the Sephardim and concerned. For the Ashkenazim, with our rules surrounding kitniyot, it's a bit more complex. Of course, we don't know exactly why we traditionally avoid kitniyot at this time of the year, but one commonly given reason is that we should avoid any food that resembles chametz so that we won't be seen by other Jews who might then think eating chametz is alright or in case there might be a tiny bit of chametz contaminating the food. Since quinoa does so closely resemble chametz, I can quite believe that some people question whether it's kosher for Pesach.

As is so often the case, the only way forward seems to be to find out the opinion of one's chosen rabbi - or if one is Ashkenazi, do as I do due to the fact that I'm vegan in addition to keeping kosher: temporarily declare oneself Sephardic, take very great care to ensure the quinoa or kitniyot is kosher and hope for the best. It's either that or eight days of dry matzah and potato kugel!

Joe Millis

Thu, 04/21/2011 - 10:50

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Quinoa is absolutely kosher for pesach, even for those who do not eat kitniyot.


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