Quinoa, the Grain That’s Not: Then Why the Need for Passover Certification

February 2024

Tired of potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes on Pesach? Maybe give quinoa a try.

Quinoa is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet – cooked like rice, is gluten-free and loaded with vitamins and minerals. Even NASA has considered quinoa for its long-duration planetary space flights. Quinoa has become increasingly popular in the United States, Canada, Europe, China and Japan, where the crop is not typically grown.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced kin-wa) is a species of seeds of the Chenopodium (or “goosefoot”) family, which includes sugar beets and beet root, and is botanically related to spinach. It was first brought to the United States from South America in the 1980s. Seeds range in color from pink and orange to blue-black, purple, and red. However, once their natural saponin coating is washed off, the seeds are pale yellow.

Quinoa has been cultivated in the Andes Mountains for thousands of years, growing three to six feet tall despite high altitudes, intense heat, freezing temperatures, and as little as four inches of annual rainfall. Peru and Bolivia maintain seed banks with 1,800 types of quinoa.

Quinoa is not related to the five types of chometz grains (chameishes minei dagan), nor to millet or rice. STAR-K tested quinoa to see if it would rise. The result was sirchon: unlike chometz grains which would undergo leavening, the quinoa simply decayed, rendering it fit for Passover use.

If It’s Not Kitniyos, Why Does Quinoa Need Passover Certification?

We have found that quinoa is sometimes either grown near barley or rotated with a barley crop, especially in Peru. Furthermore, on occasion, barley is used to cover quinoa during drying, and the bags used to transport the quinoa may have previously contained chometz flour.

STAR-K has sent mashgichim to quinoa fields and production sites in Bolivia to make sure there is no issue of quinoa intermingling with barley, thereby assuring it can properly be certified for Passover. Therefore, quinoa should only be used with reliable Kosher for Passover certification or agency approval.

Click here for a map and photographs of quinoa production in Bolivia and here for an informative shiur by the author on the topic.

Kosher for Passover Quinoa

The following is approved for Pesach 5784:  Natural Earth Products Quinoa when bearing STAR-K Passover symbol.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: There have been infestation issues in many brands of quinoa. We recommend quinoa be checked prior to use. Visit the STAR-K Insect Checking page for instructions.