Neither of the two pseudocereal grains I've seen used frequently for consumption,quinoa and buckwheat, are one of the 5 grains that can become chametz. I know that for many years, quinoa was banned, but in the past few years, some kosher agencies (OU for one) have allowed using quinoa. Yet no one has allowed using buckwheat on Pesach, AFAIK.

Both quinoa and buckwhet look like grains or "seeds". But have they still placed buckwheat in the kitniyot category, but not quinoa? If so, why? What's the difference with these two grains that allows one but not the other?

  • The strongest reason to allow quinoa is because it was only 'found' recently, therefore no minhag exists to not use it. An old world item that was not clearly used always has that door open to say aha! we didn't and shouldn't use it!
    – user6591
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 19:47
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    Source for buckwheat being included in kitniyot: M"B 453:4. I don't know his source (more precisely than what he says there: "acharonim") or how its approach to buckwheat is differentiable from quinoa.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 19:51
  • re "for many years, quinoa was banned": I've never heard of this. I also don't see anything like that here or from an online search. Can you substantiate it?
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 5:04

2 Answers 2


People have attempted all sorts of mental gymnastics to develop a Theory of Everything vis-a-vis kitniyot.

I spare my poor brain and follow Rav Moshe Feinstein's opinion (Igros, OC3:63): it's kitniyot if it happened to have been banned (or "warned against"); not if it didn't. Rav Moshe also suspects that at some point they stopped adding foods to the list of kitniyot, as otherwise there would be nothing left to eat! (This is certainly historically possible. It's also Rav Moshe projecting how he would approach the problem.)

Otherwise, asks Rav Moshe, explain to me why mustard was on the list 700 years ago, yet caraway was clearly not on the list as of 200 years ago?

So why buckwheat and not quinoa? Because buckwheat was known to Ashkenazic rabbis a few centuries ago, and quinoa was not. So they never developed a ban or warning about it.

If, instead, we look for categorical explanations, then several could be offered, e.g.:

  • Buckwheat and wheat can grow in the same field and therefore there is a cross-contamination risk, whereas quinoa is grown at such high altitudes that wheat couldn't grow there.
  • "Buckwheat" is a word that people can confuse with "wheat", but "quinoa" is not.
  • Quinoa's closest commonly-eaten relative is the beet, which everyone eats on Passover.

As for what's happened with quinoa in the past few years: there have been legitimate questions of cross-contamination in the factories and how it's processed. But assuming you know this is 100% pure quinoa, some poskim felt (and feel) that it is so grainlike that it should be prohibited, or it was already covered under some sort of categorical ban. (Some even attempted to split hairs and say it's so grainlike, even Rav Moshe would consider it prohibited; in my humble opinion that's a forced reading.) The Star-K has vociferously allowed it. There were differences of opinion among OU poskim, and my understanding is that recently, there was some change of thought among them to shift the official OU position from ask your posek, we're not commenting to it will say OU-P, and if your custom is otherwise, then follow your custom. I believe someone approached the OU poskim with the categorical arguments.

  • Re: confusion based on name: I've been thinking about for years but never gotten around to writing a Purim Torah devar Halacha on the category of "אף על פי שאין בה ממש חמץ, יש בה שם חמץ", including things like fire crackers, sweetbreads, etc. Are you suggesting that such a category actually exists?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 20:01
  • +1 just for the record Rabbi Belsky is personally very much against using quinoa on Pesach. But the OU uses their voting system for their policies.
    – user6591
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 20:32
  • @IsaacMoses a certain rabbi who's no longer zachur latov published something on Kitniyot in 2013 where he suggested this, especially with regards to "corn." He cited other places in halacha where the common name makes a difference. (E.g. azlinan batar shma in maachalot asurot).
    – Shalom
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 20:42
  • @user6591 yes my understanding is that Rabbis Genack or Schachter rethought their opinon, and this achieved acharei rabim lehatot against Rabbi Belsky.
    – Shalom
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 20:44
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    @DanF Rav Moshe said there was no custom against peanuts where he came from, and if you knew of no family custom, you could eat peanuts. He was okay with an OU-P peanut oil, with the understanding that if your custom was to avoid peanuts, you wouldn't buy it. My understanding is that enough Jews had a tradition against peanuts (Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector did, and I think most Hassidim do) that it wasn't worth the OU's headache as too large a percentage of their clientele didn't accept it. I heard a rabbi from the OK say that personally he still eats peanuts on pesach.
    – Shalom
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 2:38

Coffee beans are allowed, as well as cocoa beans. They are really a fruit od a plant, just like Kasha. If we don't call it buckweat but instead Kasha there is no confusion.

String beans or green beans are allowed because its a vegetable, not a legume. They both have the word bean in it to confuse it with a legume.

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    Hey Rachel welcome to the site! Consider improving this answer by editing in a source regarding the parameter of classes of foods included in kitniyot. If this is something that you heard , you can mention where you heard it. To lean more about the site, including what sorts of questions and answers are encouraged consider seeing here. For a brief tour of the site, see here. I hope you choose to stick around the site.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 5:46

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