Quinoa ban for Pesach goes against the grain

Quinoa

Quinoa

It was the grain that was thought to beat the Pesach ban.

Quinoa, the South American cereal-like substance that has become fashionable in health food shops, seemed to be the answer to those looking for an acceptable alternative to chametz.

But many rabbinic authorities remain reluctant to give it the all-clear for the festival.

Cultivated by the Incas, quinoa is unrelated to the five species of grain traditionally considered to produce chametz — wheat, oats, barley, spelt and rye. Its existence would have been unknown to most rabbis until very recently.

Some kashrut authorities, however, now classify it as kitniot — legumes such as beans, peas and rice — which are avoided by Ashkenazim on Pesach, but allowed by Sephardim.

Kitniot were banned either because they were grown close to chametz crops and could cause confusion, or because they could be made into breads.

Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein, head of the Federation Beth Din, said: “We don’t give quinoa a hechsher (kosher certificate) for Pesach. It fits the category of kitniot like a glove.

“Just like you can make corn bread, so you can make quinoa bread.”

A spokesman for the London Beth Din said: “There are some authorities in the USA who allow it on Pesach, although, particularly in Israel, many rabbis consider it kitniot.

“We recommend that one avoid the use of quinoa on Pesach, although if needed for special dietary reasons it would be permitted, provided it is carefully checked to ensure no other chametz grains are mixed in.”

Rabbi Yehuda Brodie, registrar of the Manchester Beth Din, said: “None of our manufacturers have ever asked us about quinoa, so we’ve never taken a formal position.”

One authority that does permit it is the American kosher label Star-K. Its kashrut administrator, Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, explained that when quinoa was tested, it did not rise.

However, recent investigations have found that there is a possibility that quinoa grows in proximity to certain grains and processed in facilities that compromise its kosher for Passover status, he said. “Therefore, quinoa should only be accepted with reliable kosher-for-Passover supervision.”

To prepare it, he said, one should “pour the quinoa into boiling water — twice as much water as quinoa — turn off the flame, and cover the pot. The quinoa will continue to cook itself, is ready in ten minutes or less, and can be served like rice.”

Last updated: 5:45pm, March 14 2013