Besides the difficulty people have with pronouncing it (try KEEN-wah, or Ki-NOH-ah), this nutritious, gluten-free pseudo-grain has become a bone of rabbinic contention.
Is it, or isn’t it, kosher for Pesach?
According to an article in today’s New York Times
, the Chicago Rabbinical Council gives the green light to certain brands of quinoa from Bolivia, while the Orthodox Union leaves the decision up to your rabbi.
Q: What about quinoa?
A: As mentioned previously, Ashkenazic Jews refrain from consuming kitniyos because: 1) kitniyos can be confused with chametz and 2) kitniyos might be mixed with any of the five grains. Although quinoa is not a grain (it is actually a chenopod), it looks very similar to grain. Additionally, quinoa can be ground into flour and is often processed at factories that handle wheat or other grains. Therefore, if we assume any item that meets these two criteria should be considered kitniyos, quinoa should therefore be prohibited as well. That is why a number of rabbinical authorities believe that it is kitniyos.
However, there are a number of other great rabbinical authorities who believe that kitniyos is not an abstract, all-inclusive category. According to these opinions, the custom only applies to particular species that Ashkenazic Jews have traditionally decided to refrain from. Therefore, since there was never such a widespread custom to refrain from quinoa, it should be acceptable.
Since there varying opinions amongst many rabbinical authorities, it is best to ask your local rabbi which opinion you should follow. However, if you follow the opinion that quinoa is permitted, care should be taken before cooking to sift through it and ensure that there are no chametz grains mixed in.