Quinoa is one of these food items where you need the pronounciation indicated next to the name (it’s "Keen-Wa"). It popped up in the 1970ies and the status of quinoa as kitniot is since then one of the most discussed questions on pessach.
Here are some examples:
- Ask the rabbi and similar:
Ask the Rav at machon shilo: Peanut Oil and Quinoa During Pesah (not kitniot),
Mi yodea: Quinoa Kitniyos status (ask your rabbi),
Chabad Q&A: Is Quinoa Kosher for Passover? (ask your rabbi),
Aish haTora: Rice and Beans (not kitniot)
- Official statements:
OU: Curious about kitniyot ("the OU does not recommend using quinoa on Pesach"),
OU: Guidelines Quinoa ("Ask your Rabbi for his guidance"),
Star-k: Quinoa: The Grain That’s Not ("Quinoa was determined to be Kosher L’Pesach"),
cRc Quinoa Policy for 2013 ("This year the Star K has certified certain productions of quinoa")
- Articles and blog posts:
Morethodoxy: Fight For Your Quinoa! (not kitniot),
The Rebbetzin’s Husband: Is Quinoa Kosher for Passover? (not kitniot),
Ohr somayach: The Quinoa – Kitniyos Conundrum (ask your rabbi),
thegameiam: OU812 (or Oh, You are at it Again!) (not kitniot),
Kochava: The Quinoa Debate of 2013 (not kitniot),
DovBear: Quinoa on Pesach 2.0,
This is only a small sample of pages that deal exclusively with quinoa. I would have never learned of the existence of this food if not for this discussion that starts again every year!
Botanically, quinoa is a goosefoot (chenopod) from the of the Amaranthaceae family. It is related to species such as beets, spinach and tumbleweeds. Because it is used as a cereal, it belongs to the pseudocereals, like buckwheat. So, quinoa does not botanically qualify for kitniot (not a cereal grain, not a legume). From a usage point of view, as a pseudocereal it would certainly qualify.
The use of quinoa in our kitchens is very new. The reasoning can therefore be made (as with peanuts), that "Kitniot that didn’t exist (that is, they were unknown and/or existed only in far-away lands) at the time of the Gzeira (prohibition) were not included in it. Therefore, Soya and Quinoa should be permitted." (Rabbi Lior)
Those of the opinion that quinoa is kitniot argue with the similarity to maize: "Others are less sanguine to this point, however, and reason that since quinoa exhibits properties classic to kitniyos, it should be so considered (as is the case with maize)." (Chabad: Know Thy Beans) or "Some argue that since quinoa is a staple grain in its native lands, and is ground and baked into bread in a similar manner to wheat, it should be considered kitniyot, like corn." (OU)
All agree, that a problem with quinoa (as with other food items) can be that the processing of quinoa takes places at the same location as actual chametz, so quinoa or quinoa products may contain traces of chametz. So certification is needed and provided by star-k.
- Danger of chametz traces: Yes.
- Danger of confusion with chametz (raw): Yes.
- Danger of confusion with chametz (processed): Yes.
- Botanical categorization: Pseudocereal, goosefoot.
- Known in 13th century: No.
- Verdict: Not kitniot.
photo (c) Christian Guthier