The Quinoa - Kitniyos Conundrum
Generally, this time of year is the busiest for Rabbonim the world over; fielding questions on every aspect of the myriad and complex halachos of Pesach observance. This year is no different. Yet, interestingly, the question that seems to be utmost on people’s minds is not about chametz or even cleaning properly. Now, in 2014, the biggest issue still seems to be whether quinoa (pronounced Keen-Waah) is considered Kitniyos and whether Ashkenazim can eat it on Pesach. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the U.N. (Oom Shmoom in the Israeli vernacular) declared 2013 as the ‘International Year of the Quinoa’. Whatever the reason, after receiving this question numerous times in one day, this author decided to address the issue.
While not (yet) too common here in Yerushalayim, quinoa has developed an international following. Packed with protein (essential amino acids) and fiber, as well as magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and iron (and naturally cholesterol free!), quinoa packs quite a dietary punch. Although billed as the ‘Mother of All Grains’ and ‘the Super Grain’, this native of the Andes Mountains (think Bolivia and Peru) is actually a grain that isn’t; it does not even contain gluten. It turns out that quinoa is really a member of the ‘goose-foot’ family (Chenopodium), related to beets and spinach. But while its health benefits sound terrific, it still may be problematic on Pesach.
It is well known that the actual prohibition of Chametz on Pesach pertains exclusively to leavened products made from the five major grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye. Yet, already in place from the times of the Rishonim, there was an Ashkenazic prohibition against eating Kitniyos (legumes; literally ‘little things’) on Pesach, except in times of famine or grave need. Although several authorities opposed this prohibition, nonetheless it is binding on Ashkenazic Jewry in full force, even today. Although the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch refers to the Kitniyos prohibition as an ‘issur’, the Mishna Berura as a ‘chumra’, the Aruch Hashulchan as a ‘geder’, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l as a ‘gezeira’, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l as a ‘minhag’, and the Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l as a ‘takana’, nonetheless they all maintain that it is compulsory on all Ashkenazic Jewry. In fact, the Aruch Hashulchan writes that “once our forefathers have accepted this prohibition upon themselves, it is considered a ‘geder m’din Torah’ and one who is lenient is testifying about himself that he has no fear of Heaven”. He adds that one who breaks this prohibition deserves to be bitten by a snake.
Several reasons are given for the actual prohibition including that Kitniyos often grow in close proximity to grain; are commonly stored together with grain and actual chametz might actually end up mixed inside the Kitniyos container; cooked dishes made from grain and Kitniyos look similar; and that Kitniyos can likewise be ground up into flour - a ‘bread’ can actually be made from them. Since there are many who will not be able to differentiate between them and their biblically forbidden chametz counterparts, Kitniyos was likewise prohibited.
Potatoes, Peanuts and Corn…Oh My!
So how does our quinoa measure up? Although it has been used in the Andesfor millennia, it has only recently, in the last score or so, gained popularity around the world. Does quinoa fit the Kitniyos criteria or not?
Perhaps we can glean some insight to quinoa’s Kitniyos status from halachic precedents of other now-common food staples that were introduced long after the Kitniyos prohibition started, such as potatoes, peanuts and corn.
It would seemingly be quite difficult for anyone to mix up potatoes with chametz grain, so that rationale to regard potatoes as Kitniyos is out. But, potatoes can be and are made into potato flour and potato starch, and there are those who do bake potato ‘bread’! Yet, even so, we find that potatoes are not considered Kitniyos.
One of the main reasons for this is that at the time when the Ashkenazic Rishonim established the decree prohibiting Kitniyos, potatoes were completely unknown! It is possible that had they been readily available they might have been on the “forbidden list” as well! Yet, since they were never included, contemporary authorities have no right to add “new types” to the list. As Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l noted, Klal Yisrael never accepted the Kitniyos prohibition to include potatoes.
Similar logic was used by several poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, to permit peanuts for Pesach for those who did not have an opposing minhag. Yet, this was not as widely accepted since peanuts, a true legume, can get mixed up with grain. In fact, the minhag in Yerushalayim (going back well over a century) is to consider both the peanut and its oil Kitniyos.
On the other hand, we find that another New Worldcrop, corn, was seemingly unanimously included as part of the Kitniyos prohibition. Aside for the fact that the words ‘corn’ and ‘grain’ both stem from the same root, ‘corn’ is actually only the name for the grain ‘maize’ that is used in the United States, Canada and Australia. In other parts of the English-speaking world and much of Europe, the term ‘corn’ is a generic term for cereal crops, such as real chametz - wheat, barley, oats, or rye. Additionally, corn exhibits many characteristics of real-deal Kitniyos: it grows near other grains, is made into flour (that can be easily confused with grain flour), and corn bread is made from it. Therefore, since corn fits much of the criteria of Kitniyos, it is included in the prohibition.
So, which category should quinoa be a part of? Like the potato and be excluded from the prohibition? Or like corn and be considered Kitniyos? Actually, contemporary authorities and Kashrus agencies have been debating just this very question. It turns out that quinoa is halachically similar to the peanut, meaning that its status is debated.
Several Kashrus agencies, including the Star-K, who follow the psak of Rav Moshe Heinemann shlit”a, and the cRc (Chicago), following the psak of Rav Gedalia Schwartz shlit”a, as well as the Kof-K, maintain that quinoa is essentially Kosher for Pesach. Since it is not even remotely related to the five grains, and was not around at the time of the Kitniyos prohibition, it is not considered Kitniyos. Additionally, the Star-K tested quinoa to see if it would rise, yet instead, it decayed, a sure sign that it is not a true grain. The only issue, according to them, is the fact that quinoa is processed in facilities that other grains are processed in. Therefore, they maintain that if quinoa is processed in facilities under special reliable Pesach supervision, there is no Pesach problem. In fact, this year as well, the Star-K gives special kosher for Passover hashgacha on certain types of quinoa.
However, Rav Yisroel Belsky shlit”a, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah V’Daas and Posek for the OU disagreed. He argued that since quinoa fits every criterion for Kitniyos, it should be included in its prohibition. Quinoa is the staple grain in its country of origin. It is grown in proximity to and can be mixed up with the five grains. It is collected and processed the same (and in the same facilities) as the five grains, and is cooked into porridge and breads the same as the five grains. He maintained that it should be compared to corn, which was, for similar reasons, included in the Kitniyos prohibition. Although quinoa is a New Worldfood item and was not included in the original prohibition, nevertheless, he explained that that line of reasoning applies exclusively to items that are not clearly Kitniyos, to foods that may share only several characteristics with Kitniyos. However, since quinoa and corn would certainly have been included in the gezeira had they been discovered, as they share every criterion of Kitniyos, they are consequently by definition considered Kitniyos.
However, the OU’s other main posek, Rav Herschel Schachter shlit”a, Rosh Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, permits quinoa, concluding that if it is processed in a special facility with no other grains, it should be essentially permitted for Passover use. Due to the difference of opinions of their top Poskim, in the past, the OU did not certify quinoa as Kosher for Pesach. However, this year, 2014, the OU made a decision allowing quinoa for Pesach, provided that it is processed with special Passover supervision. In fact, the OU is recommended quinoa for Pesach 2014 and actually certifying special Pesach processing runs.  
However, not every Kashrus agency in North Americaagrees. The OK does not certify quinoa for Pesach as they consider it Kitniyos, as does the COR of Toronto. This is also the Badatz Eida Chareidis of Yerushalayim’s approach, as in their most recent Madrich HaKashrus, they maintain that food items that are planted in the ground as seeds (zironim), harvested as seeds (garinim) and are edible, are considered Kitniyos. As mentioned previously, the Yerushalmi Mesorah for this goes back centuries. This certainly would include quinoa as Kitniyos.
Other Poskim who ruled similarly include Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, who paskened that it should be considered Kitniyos after being shown quinoa and hearing from representatives of various kashrus agencies, and Rav Asher Weiss shlit”a (the renowned Minchas Asher), who recently addressed this topic in his weekly halacha shiur, and concluding that it is indeed Kitniyos. This was also the opinion of Rav Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth zt”l, venerated author of Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa. The current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav David Lau, as well, wrote that quinoa is only permitted on Pesach for Ochlei Kitniyos. In light of all this, it seems much less likely to see quinoa gracing a Pesach table in Eretz Yisrael.
Rav Avrohom Blumenkrantz zt”l, in his annual Kovetz Hilchos Pesach, took a middle-of-the-road approach, acknowledging both sides to this quinoa quarrel. He did not give carte blanche for everyone to use it for Pesach, but concluded that anyone who suffers from gluten or any Pesach-related allergies or conditions (ex. celiac) may comfortably use quinoa on Pesach without hesitation. Rav Mordechai Tendler shlit”a, grandson of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and author of Mesores Moshe, told this author that this is the approach that he felt his venerated grandfather would have taken (and not, as many mistakenly opine, that Rav Moshe zt”l would have permitted it outright) had quinoa been introduced while he was still alive.
It seems that there truly is no quiet conclusion to this contemporary kashrus controversy. Should one eat it on Pesach? One must ask his local halachic authority for guidance to clear up any quinoa / Kitniyos kashrus confusion or questions. But all concerns being equal, in this author’s mind one thing is certain regarding a holiday that is all about Mesorah and tradition: quinoa was not served at Bubby’s Seder!
Mishna Pesachim (Ch.3, 1), Gemara Pesachim 42a - 43a, Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matza Ch.5, 1). These are also the only grains with which one may fulfill his Mitzva of Achilas Matza - see Mishna Pesachim 35a, Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matza Ch. 6, 4), and Tur / Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 453, 1).
See for example Mordechai (Pesachim 588), SMa”K (222), Haghos Maimoniyos (Hilchos Chametz U’Matza Ch. 5, 1), Ohr Zarua (vol. 2, 256, pg. 59, 3rd column), Rabbeinu Manoach (on the Rambam Hilchos Chametz U’Matza Ch. 5, 1; cited in Biur Halacha 453, 1 s.v. v’yeish), Maharil (Minhagim, Hilchos Maachalos Asuros b’Pesach 16), Terumas HaDeshen (113, & 133), Ritva (Pesachim 35a s.v. hani) and Tur (O.C. 453). Not that they all hold of the prohibition of Kitniyos, but they all mention it.
Chayei Adam (127, 1), Mor U’Ketzia (beg. O.C. 453), Shu”t Chasam Sofer (O.C. 122), Mishna Berura (453, 7 & Shaar HaTziyun 6), and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. end 5). For a discussion on what is considered great need in order to allow Kitniyos, see Shu”t Zeicher Yehosef (O.C. 157), Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv (Mahadura Tinyana vol. 4, 128) and Shu”t Divrei Malkiel (vol. 1, 28, 20). However, the Vilna Gaon is quoted (Maaseh Rav 184) as being extremely makpid with Kitniyos, even ‘B’shnas B’tzores’.
See Beis Yosef (beg. O.C. 453), quoting Rabbeini Yerucham, who called the Kitniyos prohibition a “minhag shtus”, and Rabbeinu Yechiel. The prohibition is also noticeably rejected by Tur (O.C. 453), who writes regarding not eating rice nor Kitniyos on Pesach as a “chumra yeseirah, v’lo nahagu kein”. The Ya’avetz (Mor U’Ketzia beg. O.C. 453), quoting his father, the great Chacham Tzvi, famously declared that if he had the ability to cancel the Kitniyos prohibition he would, as it mostly affects the poor.
Rema (O.C. 453, 1 & Darchei Moshe ad loc. 2), Levush (ad loc. 1), Pri Chadash (ad loc. 1; he cites a mekor from the Gemara - Pesachim 40b), Gr”a (Biur HaGr”a ad loc. & Maaseh Rav 184; he cites a mekor from the Gemara - Pesachim 40b), Chayei Adam (127, 1), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (O.C. 453, 3 - 5), Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc. 1), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (117, 4), Mishna Berura (453, 6 and Biur Halacha s.v. v’yesh), Aruch Hashulchan (453, 4 & 5). See the Maharsham’s Daas Torah (ad loc.) and the Chida’s Tov Ayin (18) who discuss the strength of this prohibition. Even the Shulchan Aruch (Beis Yosef ad loc.) calls it an Ashkenazic issue. Although the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch refers to the Kitniyos Prohibition as an ‘issur’, the Mishna Berura as a ‘chumra’, the Aruch Hashulchan as a ‘geder’, the Har Tzvi as a ‘gezeira’, Rav Moshe Feinstein as a ‘minhag’, and the Klausenberger Rebbe as a ‘takana’, nonetheless they all maintain that it is binding on all Ashkenazic Jewry. Yet, although not me’iker hadin, there are some Sefardim who are machmir as well, especially with rice - see Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (117, 2) and Chazon Ovadia (Pesach ppg. 82 - 86).
See O.C. 473, 1 inBeis Yosef and Rema and major commentaries - Gr”a (5), Chok Yaakov (5 & 6), Shaarei Teshuva (1), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (3, 4, & 5), Mishna Berura (6), and Biur Halacha (s.v. v’yesh).
See Shu”t Levushei Mordechai (O.C. vol. 1, 127 s.v. a”d) and Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 4, Devar Halacha 28). This is a very important factor, as the Levushei Mordechai writes that although there are several reasons mentioned for the Kitniyos ban, the most important one being that Kitnyos look similar to grain and get mixed up. This would obviously exclude potatoes from the Kitniyos category.
Although the Chayei Adam (Nishmas Adam, Hilchos Pesach, Question 20) writes that potatoes should be Kitniyos and Pri Megadim (O.C. 453 M.Z. 1) mentions that he knows of such a minhag, nevertheless the vast majority of poskim, including the Pri Megadim himself (O.C. 464 E.A. 1) rule that potatoes are not considered Kitniyos. Others who write that potatoes are not Kitniyos include the Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz (vol. 2, 147, 4 s.v. u’vhiyosi), Shu”t Divrei Malkiel (vol. 2, end 112; he adds an additional reason to be lenient: potato flour doesn’t look like grain flour and has a different consistency, therefore mitigating potential mix-ups), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 453, 5; he adds that with the advent of potatoes one should never have to rely on the hetter of permitting Kitniyos b’shaas hadchak), Shu”t Levushei Mordechai (O.C. vol. 1, 127), Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 453, 21), Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 3, 63), Halichos Shlomo (ibid.), and Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov (new print, O.C. end 207).
For more on this topic, as well as the potato’s fascinating halachic history, see this author’s recent article “The Halachic Adventures of the Potato” - http://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/5184.
Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz (vol. 2, 147, 4 s.v. u’vhiyosi), Shu”t Levushei Mordechai (O.C. vol. 1, 127 s.v. v’ra’isi), Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 3, 63), and Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov (new print, O.C. end 207), similar to the rule set by the Chok Yaakov (O.C. 453, 9). Others who cite this sevara include the Shu”t Melamed L’Hoyeel (Shu”t vol. 1, 87 & 88), and Shu”t Seridei Aish (vol. 2, 37, 2; new print vol. 1, 50).
Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 4, Dvar Halacha 28). However, Rav Shlomo Zalman personally was stringent with potato flour [starch] (ad loc. footnote 109). It is known that the Badatz Eida Chareidis of Yerushalayim were also stringent until the renowned Minchas Yitzchak became the Ga’avad and ruled that there was no reason to be machmir, even with potato starch. Other poskim who explicitly permit potato starch on Pesach include the Aryeh D’vei Ila’i (Shu”t, Kuntress Avnei Zikaron 10, based on the Pri Chadash’s hetter - O.C. 461, 2 regarding matzah meal), the Arugas HaBosem (Shu”t 124), the Levushei Mordechai (Shu”t O.C. vol. 1, 127) and Shaarim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (117, end 7 s.v. v’ugos).
Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 3, 63). Others who accept peanuts for Pesach include the Seridei Aish (Shu”t vol. 2, 37, 2; new print vol. 1, 50 - through a combination of factors), the Yeshuas Moshe (Shu”t vol. 1, 35; he opines that the Kitniyos prohibition never applied to legumes that are eaten raw, but concludes similar to Rav Moshe, that if one has an existing minhag not to eat peanuts on Pesach he still should not do so), and the Rivevos Efraim (Shu”t vol. 7, 257; only if it came still in its shell - based on the Shulchan HaRav’s - O.C. 453, 5 understanding that the prohibition of Kitniyos only applies when it gets wet). See also Shu”t Atzei HaLevanon (vol. 1, 18) who also permits peanuts for Pesach, yet based on his description it seems he is referring to a pistachio (as per the Yeshuas Moshe ibid.).
There are several poskim who technically agree in logic that the peanut should not be considered Kitniyos; yet, still, since it can get mixed up with grain, they rule that only its oil or derivatives may be used. These include Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (cited in Mikraei Kodesh Pesach vol. 2, 60, 2), the Melamed L’Hoyeel (Shu”t vol. 1, 87 & 88; he mentions though that the minhag in Yerushalayim is to consider both the peanut and its oil Kitniyos), the Har Tzvi (Mikraei Kodesh ad loc.), Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (Teshuvos Ibra Ch. 2, 28, 3, and in his posthumously published Shu”t Gevuros Eliyahu vol. 1, 141, 3), and the Chelkas Yaakov (Shu”t new print O.C. end 207). The issue of whether oil from Kitniyos maintains Kitniyos status is a complicated one and actually is huge machlokes haposkim to this day. Additionally, some authorities make a distinction if the Kitniyos item in question is inedible in its natural form. See Terumas Hadeshen (113), Shu”t Maharil (28), Rema (O.C. 453, 1), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc.), Pri Chadash (O.C. 447, se’if 5), Maaseh Rav (184), Nishmas Adam (Hilchos Pesach Question 32), Birkei Yosef (O.C. 447, 14 & 453, 5), Shu”t Beis Shlomo (Y”D 177), Shu”t Beis Shearim (215), Shu”t Ba’er Yitzchok (11), Shu”t Maharsham (vol. 1, 183), Shu”t Avnei Nezer (O.C. 373 & 533), Shu”t Chavalim B’Neimim (vol. 5, 7), Shu”t Marcheshes (3), Shu”t Minchas Elazar (vol. 1, 16 s.v. ach hinei & vol. 4, 30), Shu”t Yad Yitzchok (vol. 3, 8, 20), Shu”t Zichron Yehuda (139), Shu”t Ma’amar Mordechai (32), Shu”t Melamed L’Hoyeel (Shu”t vol. 1, 87 & 88), Shu”t Seridei Aish (vol. 2, 37, 2; new print vol. 1, 50), Shu”t Orach Mishpat (O.C. 111), Shu”t VaYaan Yosef (Mishpatecha L’Yaakov O.C. 41), Mikraei Kodesh (Pesach vol. 2, 60, 2), Shu”t Minchas Yitzchok (vol. 3, 138, 2 & vol. 4, 114, 3), Teshuvos Ibra (Ch. 2, 28, 3), Shu”t Gevuros Eliyahu (vol. 1, 141, 3), Shu”t Cheishev HaEifod (vol. 2, 18), Shu”t Divrei Yatziv (O.C. vol. 2, 196), Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov (new print O.C. end 207), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 7, 257), Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 4, Dvar Halacha 28), Shaarim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (117, end 6), Kovetz Teshuvos (vol. 3, 81, 5), Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 4, pg. 166, 49), Shmaatseh D’Moshe (Pesach, Shmuos Moshe 453, 2, pg. 368), Mesores Moshe (pg. 149, 301), Shu”t Yissa Yosef (O.C. vol. 2, 111, 4), and the Badatz Eida Chareidis of Yerushalayim’s annual Madrich HaKashrus (5772, Ch. 15, pg. 47). Anecdotally, this author once heard from noted historian Rabbi Berel Wein that he was head of the OU's Kashrus department when the question arose whether or not to allow peanut oil for Pesach. Rabbi Wein related that he had remarked that "the great Kovno Rav, Rav Yitzchok Elchanan Spektor ruled that peanut oil is not Kitniyos, and Berel Wein is not going to be the one to say it is".
See the Chida’s Birkei Yosef (O.C. 447, 14 & 453, 5) who writes that in Eretz Yisrael, already in his time (late 1700s) they were machmir not to use sesame oil on Pesach. This is also cited by the Melamed L’Ho’yeel (Shu”t vol. 1, 87 & 88 – late 1800’s, that the minhag in Yerushalayim (Takkanas Yerushalayim) dating back to at least 5602 / 1842 (!) was not to use sesame oil, nor various nuts for Pesach. Some opine that this minhag Yerushalayim dates back to the Talmidei HaGr”a, as it is well known (see Maaseh Rav 184) that the Vilna Gaon was extremely makpid with even considering seeds, as well as their oils, as Kitniyos. See Shu”t Yissa Yosef (O.C. vol. 2, 111, 4) who writes that Rav Elyashiv’s being machmir for cottonseed oil [‘Minhag Yerushalayim shemen kutna Kitniyos B’Pesach’ – see Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 4, pg. 166, 49], is based on the Maaseh Rav.
Chok Yaakov (O.C. 453, 1), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 1), Aruch Hashulchan (ad. loc. 3), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 4), Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (new print - Ch. 40, 92).
In fact, the infamous British Corn Laws (1815 - 1846) were concerning wheat and other grains, not corn! Thanks are due to Rabbi Arnie Wittenstein for pointing this out to me.
See cRc alert dated February 23, 2012: “In 2007 HaRav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Shlit''a, the Av Beis Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, issued a p'sak that quinoa is not considered kitniyos and therefore may be used on Pesach. Most of the quinoa comes from Peruand Boliviaand has been grown in areas where other (problematic for Pesach) grains were generally not grown. However, as the popularity of quinoa has risen, this is no longer the absolute case. This was confirmed this year by a Star-K mashgiach who visited Boliviaand found that barley does indeed grow in those areas. It was also recently discovered that some farmers cover their quinoa with barley and/or oats to keep the birds from eating the quinoa while it dries. Finally, there is a concern that the sacks used to transfer the quinoa may have been previously used to hold barley or oats. We have, therefore, determined that the only way to allow quinoa for use on Pesach is to track the quinoa from certain farms that are free from the above concern.The Star-K spearheaded this endeavor and sent a mashgiach to find such a farm. While they were successful in their search, it proved to be challenging from a practical point of view, as the company visited generally sells their products in large quantities. The Star-K has now worked with other companies to pack the usable quinoa into smaller packages, and several options have been approved for Pesach quinoa consumption”.
As per personal communication received from a Rabbinic Coordinator at the Kof-K.
As per the cRc and Kof-K,it is important to note that even the quinoa that is under Pesach supervision should be carefully checked before Pesach for any foreign matter before use. This can be done by spreading the quinoa out on a plate and carefully checking there are no other grains or foreign matter mixed in. However, this author has been informed by Rabbi Zvi Goldberg of the Star-K that if one purchases the quinoa for Pesach that is under their hashgacha, checking is unnecessary.
Ve’Kasher HaDavar (July 2012, pg. 9).
 Although the OU’s other main posek, Rav Herschel Schachter shlit”a, permits quinoa, until recently the OU did not grant it Pesach approval out of deference to Rav Belsky’s ruling.This is what the OU released about quinoa in the past: http://oukosher.org/passover/guidelines/food-items/quinoa/:“There is a difference of opinion among Rabbinic decisors (machloket ha-poskim) as to whether quinoa is considered kitniyot. Ask your Rabbi for his guidance. Additionally, while quinoa is not one of the five grains that can create chametz (wheat, oat, barley, spelt and rye), and quinoa is not grown in the same vicinity as the grains mentioned above, the processing of quinoa is sometimes done at the same location where they process wheat and wheat flour. It is highly doubtful that the mills are effectively cleaned between grains. The concern of wheat flour or particles finding their way into the quinoa flour would be a serious one”.
This is what the OU released regarding quinoa on December 20, 2013: Quinoa is Now Kosher for Passover with OU-P Certification. Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, announced today that quinoa, the grain-like seed grown in South America, is Kosher for Passover when processed with special OU Passover supervision and bearing the OU-P symbol. His statement is as follows: “It is only recently that quinoa has become popular outside of its high-altitude growing area in the Andean mountain region of South America. Known for its nutritional qualities, it has been referred to as a “superfood.” In recognition of its unique properties and growing popularity with consumers, 2013 has been proclaimed by the UN “The International Year of Quinoa.” Due to conflicting reports regarding growing conditions and final usage of this new world, gluten-free pseudo-cereal plant, OU Kosher was hesitant to conclusively declare it Kosher for Passover and non-kitniyot. (Kitniyot is a category of foods that were forbidden by Ashkenazic custom during Passover because 1) they bear similarities to and might become confused with forbidden grains and 2) can become intermingled with those grains. Included in this group are: beans (all), buckwheat/kasha, caraway, cardamom, chickpeas, corn, fennel, fenugreek, grains-of-paradise, lentils, millet, mustard, peas, poppy seeds, rapeseed/canola, rice, sesame seeds, snow peas, sorghum, sugar-snap peas, soybeans, sunflower seeds and — according to some — include even cottonseed.) Following extensive research and on-site investigation of cross-contamination issues by OU Kosher personnel at all quinoa growing areas including: Puno, Cuzco, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Junin and Chiclayo in Peru; and Alto la Pazand Chayapata in Bolivia; as well as the collection, washing and milling stations of quinoa, OU Kosher is pleased to announce that, for the first time, it is recommending quinoa for Passover, when processed with special OU Passover supervision and bearing the OU-P symbol. In addition to quinoa, OU Kosher has concluded that related canihua, kiwicha and maca seeds processed under supervised conditions may also be approved for Passover (OU-P).”
This does not mean that Rav Belsky has in fact changed his position. In fact, this author has heard from several of his talmidim, as well as my father, renowned kashrus expert Rabbi Manish Spitz, who spoke with Rav Belsky directly, that he still personally does not recommend quinoa for Pesach use.
This author was not entirely surprised by the OU’s eventually permitting quinoa for Pesach use, as a contact at a Kashrus agency wrote to me last year that “As far as U.S. psak, the Star-K, Kof-K, cRc Chicago, and half the OU (Rav Schachter) hold it’s not kitniyos, so its very strong and not likely to go away or become the minhag to assur. I think the OU will probably be mattir in future years based on Rav Schachter’s psak, but I am only guessing”.
As per personal communication received from a consumer liaison at the OK.
See article on the COR website titled “Is Quinoa Quitniyos”; and in personal communication with Rabbi Tsvi Heber, Director of the COR. He wrote that while the COR will not change its shitta vis-à-vis its own certified establishments, it has decided to advise the tzibbur to consult with their own Rav regarding the status of quinoa.
Badatz Eida Chareidis of Yerushalayim’s annual Madrich HaKashrus (5772, Ch. 15, 4, pg. 47; 5773, Ch. 15, 4, pg. 163). This can also be seen on pg. 38 of the 5773 Madrich HaKashrus by the listing of baby cereals which are permitted for Pesach use even though they contain Kitniyos, such as rice, quinoa, and corn flour. Thanks are due to Rabbi Tzvi Price for pointing this out to me. Although this author has heard differing accounts from various North American kashrus agencies on as to what mv”r Rav Yaakov Blau zt”l, head of the Badatz’s hashgacha held regarding quinoa, when I asked his son, Rav Chaim Yosef Blau shlit”a (an expert in his father’s shittos) about his father’s position, he replied that he never heard his father discuss it, implying that it would not be different than the Badatz’s official position. See also Rav Dovid Lau’s Shu”t Maskil L’Dovid (end 15, s.v. quinoa) who reports that after hearing differing accounts as to Rav Blau’s shitta regarding quinoa, he asked him directly and Rav Blau zt”l replied that he never checked into the matter sufficiently to permit it for Pesach, and when he was asked previously (over 15 years ago) he simply replied that “he did not know (anything about the topic)”. Thanks are due to Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Frankel for providing this author with this important source.
See footnote 13.
As heard from his talmid, Rav Nochum Eisenstein shlit”a, Mara D’Asra of Maalot Dafna, Yerushalayim. See also http://www.ohelyonah.com/shutim/%D7%A7%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%90%D7%94_%D7%91%D7%A4%D7%A1%D7%97.pdf.
As mentioned in this article by Rav Dovid Avraham Spektor of Bet Shemesh: http://www.ohelyonah.com/shutim/%D7%A7%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%90%D7%94_%D7%91%D7%A4%D7%A1%D7%97.pdf.
Shu”t Maskil L’Dovid (end 15, s.v. quinoa). He concludes that although quinoa is commonly referred to as ‘The Mother of All Grains’, nonetheless, since it is not an actual grain, it is still permitted for Sefardim to eat on Pesach. See here: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=41222&st=&pgnum=223&hilite=.
Kovetz Hilchos Pesach (2006, ppg. 141 - 143).
There seems to be a common misconception that Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l, in his oft-cited teshuva about peanuts' Kitniyos status (Shu”t Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 3, 63), gave a blanket hetter for any "New World' food item. In this author’s opinion, this is not entirely correct, as was mentioned previously that everyone considers corn as Kitniyos, even though it was introduced long after the Kitniyos restriction. Rav Moshe used that as a sevara (and he was not the first nor the only posek to do so) to explain why potatoes were not included in the restriction, as well as peanuts for those who did not have an existing minhag. He did not give a carte blanche hetter for every 'new food'. Meaning, Rav Moshe held that minhag and similarity to all Kitniyos factors also play a role. As such, Rav Tendler was relating, it would seem tenuous at best to apply that teshuva as the exclusive basis to a hetter permitting quinoa for Pesach. In fact, this author has since heard that Rav Dovid Feinstein shlit"a, Rav Moshe's son, as well as Rav Moshe Dovid Tendler, Rav Moshe's son-in-law, both do not recommend Ashkezaim eating quinoa on Pesach. Other well-known Rabbanim who have gone on record as considering quinoa kitniyos include Rav Osher Westheim of Manchester, Rav Yaakov Ariel of Ramat Gan, Rav Yaakov Reismann of Far Rockaway and Rav Gershon Bess of Los Angeles.
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.
L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!