Bulgur vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison
Bulgur and quinoa are healthy options increasing in popularity. As a Certified Health Coach many people ask me if one is better than the other. Let’s answer, is bulgur better than quinoa?
Quinoa is better than bulgur due to its higher percentage of protein, B vitamins and minerals. Quinoa is a complete protein meaning it provides all nine essential amino acids, bulgur does not. Quinoa is naturally gluten free while bulgur is a wheat and not better for a gluten free diet.
This article will include a complete comparison of bulgur and quinoa including a side-by-side nutrient comparison. In addition, I’ll examine their tastes, textures, prices, glycemic index, satiety index and health benefits.
In addition to coaching clients about them, I’ve purchased, researched and consumed both prior to, during and after writing this article.
Many people aren’t familiar with one of the two foods or both. Therefore, a common question asked, what’s the main difference between the two?
Bulgur is made from cracked parboiled groats of several wheat species, while quinoa is the seed from a Chenopodium quinoa plant. Quinoa is not a grain but it is cooked in water and consumed like a grain. Quinoa are shaped more oval than the less round bulgur.
- Bulgur comes in an off white to reddish color depending on the coarseness. Common quinoa colors are white, red and black.
- Bulgur costs less money.
- Quinoa provides a higher percentage of protein, vitamins and minerals.
- Bulgur is lower in calories, provides more fiber and has a better glycemic index.
- Quinoa is naturally gluten free and bulgur is not.
- They both have a mild taste and may be slightly nutty depending on their color.
- They are both cooked by boiling in water.
- They have a similar fluffy, chewy texture.
Nutrient Comparison Between Bulgur and Quinoa
Both foods contain many of the same nutrients, although there are some differences. Different types of either one may vary slightly in their nutrient content.
The following table is a side-by-side comparison of the nutrients contained in a 100-gram cooked serving.
|Bulgur (100 g)||Quinoa (100 g)|
|Protein||3.08 g||4.40 g|
|Carbohydrates||18.6 g||21.3 g|
|Fiber||4.5 g||2.8 g|
|Fat||0.24 g||1.92 g|
|Sugar||0.10 g||0.87 g|
|Vitamin A||2 IU||5 IU|
|Beta-carotene||1 mcg||0 mcg|
|Vitamin C||0 mg||0 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.08 mg||0.12 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||18 mcg||42 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.05 mg||0.10 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.02 mg||0.11 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||1.00 mg||0.41 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.34 mg||0.33 mg|
|Magnesium||32 mg||64 mg|
|Phosphorous||40 mg||152 mg|
|Potassium||68 mg||172 mg|
|Iron||0.96 mg||1.49 mg|
|Copper||0.07 mg||0.19 mg|
|Calcium||10 mg||17 mg|
|Zinc||0.57 mg||1.09 mg|
At first glance it may be difficult to determine which one provides a higher percentage of nutrients than the other. This causes many people to ask, which one is healthier?
Quinoa is healthier than bulgur due to its higher percentage of protein, vitamins and minerals. It provides more vitamin A, B6, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, calcium and zinc than bulgur. Quinoa is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
Bulgur is very nutritious and provides many nutrients. It contains fewer calories, fat, sugar and carbohydrates. It provides a higher percentage of fiber, niacin and B5. It has a better glycemic index.
I consume quinoa more often although I include both foods as part of my nutrition plan. I choose it more due to its nutrients and protein.
Whichever you choose, you really can’t go wrong. Your decision may depend on your goals discussed next.
- Quinoa calories is 120 per 100 grams
- 83 calories per 100 grams
Quinoa is significantly higher in calories than bulgur.
Which to Choose?
Both foods are considered healthy. Some people prefer choosing just one, other people may want to alternate between the two for variety.
Some people choose food fitting their particular goals. Let’s examine some of these goals and determine which food is better for each one.
Low-carb or Keto Diet
If your goal is a Keto or low-carb diet then carbohydrates may be your number one concern. If you’re on a low-carb diet, you may ask which has more carbohydrates?
Bulgur contains 15% less carbohydrates per 100 grams cooked than quinoa making it better for a low-carb diet. Bulgur contains 18.6 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams cooked.
The Doctors in the following video inform you about the health benefits of quinoa, bulgur and other similar foods.
If you have celiac disease or choose to consume a gluten free diet, this can make or break your choice. Between the two, which one is gluten free?
Quinoa is naturally gluten free while bulgur is a wheat and not gluten free. Therefore, if you require a gluten free diet, quinoa is the choice for you.
In addition, it can be made into flour and used as a substitute for regular flour in gluten free recipes.
My Vitamix blender I use at home can make many types of flour, millet, almond, cashew or any nut flour in seconds. Check out my blender review here, Vitamix Venturist V1220 Review.
Weight loss may be the most common goal of all. If you want to lose extra pounds from the mid-section, you may ask, which is better for weight loss?
Bulgur is better for weight loss than quinoa due to its 45% fewer calories per 100 grams. Bulgur contains 83 calories per 100 grams cooked. It also contains 60% more fiber which can increase the feeling of fullness.
It also has a lower glycemic index. This combined with more fiber means less blood sugar increases, an increased feeling of fullness and slower digestion. This has been associated in some studies helping weight loss.
If you’re bodybuilding or just have a goal to gain lean muscle mass, there’s a good chance you’re lifting weights at the gym or home. Which is better for bodybuilding?
Quinoa is better than bulgur for bodybuilding due to its higher percentage of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Quinoa provides 4.40 grams of protein per 100 grams cooked.
This means it provides 43% more protein. The extra amount of protein, vitamins and minerals help to repair and build new muscle after exercise.
The extra carbohydrates help to fuel energy and increase exercise performance when lifting weights and exercising.
I often eat quinoa during the morning on the days I train at the gym. The carbs help fuel my workout and I’m getting protein at the same time.
Supplements for bodybuilding are expensive, and the costs add up pretty fast. For more details about the prices check out the next section of this article.
Which Costs More?
It seems every supermarket visit results in a higher price at checkout than the last time. Unless you hit the lottery, the cost of food certainly matters to most, especially with the rising costs of everything.
Therefore, the price may sway your decision about which one to use in your meals more often. Let’s examine, which costs more?
Quinoa costs 62% more per 1/4 cup than bulgur. The average price for quinoa is $0.57 per 1/4 cup. The average price for bulgur is $0.35 per 1/4 cup.
The prices for both foods vary depending on the store, location and sales offered.
Therefore, to conduct some original research, I searched various different stores to compare the price of both foods.
I first visited the Shoprite supermarket first:
- Wholesome Pantry White Quinoa
- $3.99 per 12 oz bag (7 servings) equaling $0.57 per 1/4 cup serving.
- Wholesome Pantry Tri-Color (White, Red, Black)
- $3.99 per 12 oz bag (7 servings) equaling $0.57 per 1/4 cup serving.
- Bob’s Red Mill Red Bulgur
- $4.49 per 24 oz bag (15 servings) equaling $0.30 per 1/4 cup serving.
- Arrowhead Organic Bulgur
- $5.99 per 24 oz bag (15 servings) equaling $0.40 per 1/4 cup serving.
I then checked Walmart:
- Food to Live White Quinoa
- $10.99 per 1 pound bag
- Food to Live Organic Red Quinoa
- $13.48 per 1 pound bag
- Food to Live organic wheat bulgur
- $6.16 per 1 pound bag
Taste and Texture
Besides the nutrients, many people choose one food over the other because of its taste. Since there are some similarities between the two, many people wonder and ask, does each one taste the same?
Bulgur and quinoa have a mild flavor. Bulgur is nuttier than the blander quinoa. The red or black quinoa may be sweeter than the white quinoa or bulgur. White quinoa and bulgur are light and fluffy. Red and black quinoa and bulgur are chewier than white quinoa.
If quinoa isn’t rinsed or pre rinsed prior to cooking it may taste bitter. Red and black is chewier than the white color variety.
Bulgur has a mild flavor with a hint of nuttiness. It will take on the flavor of ingredients added to the mixture. It has a light and chewy texture.
To conduct original research and get the opinions of real people like you, I decided to poll my clients, readers and people in food groups. I asked them, which one do you prefer the taste of?
- 61% said they preferred the taste of quinoa.
- 28% said they preferred the taste of bulgur.
- 11% said they had no preference or haven’t tasted one of the two.
I also setup and participated in a taste test at home. Two out of three people chose the quinoa.
How to Cook Red Bulgur
It is partially cooked and for that reason most types take less than 15 minutes to cook. Different types require different cooking times, therefore always check the instructions on your package.
It can be used like rice, quinoa, barley or couscous.
- Bring 2 cups of water and 1 cup of bulgur to a boil in a pot.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until tender. About 12 minutes.
- Drain off any remaining water, fluff with a fork and serve.
How to Cook Red Quinoa
Most store bought is pre-rinsed, if it is not pre-rinsed it should be to avoid a bitter taste.
- In a pot combine 1 cup with 2 cups of water or broth.
- Bring to a rolling boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid is evaporated (about 10-15 minutes).
- Let stand 5 minutes then fluff with a fork and serve.
- Salt or add spices to taste.
- Red takes about 3-5 minutes longer to cook.
- It is done when the liquid is absorbed.
- If it’s properly cooked, you can see little, curled ends.
- 1 cup of dry makes about 3 1/2 to 4 cups cooked.
- It should be cooked and not eaten raw.
- For finicky kids, consider adding small amounts to cookies, salads, meatballs or even macaroni and cheese.
Find out how barley compared and if it was found to be better in my article.
When someone can’t find one of the two foods called for in a recipe, a common question asked is, can I substitute one for the other?
Bulgur can substitute for quinoa and both are interchangeable with each other in recipes, side dishes, salads and baking. Bulgur cannot substitute in gluten free dishes as quinoa is naturally gluten free and bulgur isn’t. When substituting use equal amounts called for in the recipe.
The best substitutes for quinoa are:
The best substitutes for bulgur are:
Find out how these two quinoa varieties compared in my article.
The following video informs you how to cook bulgur.
Avoiding blood sugar spikes is an important part of consuming healthy food. This is true for diabetics or anyone worrying about their health 3. For this reason, the glycemic index of food is important.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 4. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 5.
Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:
- Low-GI foods: 55 or under
- Medium-GI foods: 56-69
- High-GI foods: 70 or over
How blood sugars levels are affected:
- Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.
Knowing more about the glycemic index of food and how it raises blood sugar, many people ask, which one has a better glycemic index?
Bulgur has a better glycemic index than quinoa making it more desirable for diabetics. Even though, both bulgur and quinoa are low GI foods.
- Bulgur cooked in boiling water for 20 minutes has a glycemic index of 46.
- Red and white quinoa cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes has a glycemic index of 54 and 50.
Find out how these two quinoa varieties compared to each other in my article.
Satiety is a term used to explain the feeling of being full and the loss of appetite which occurs after eating food. The satiety index is a scale showing how full a person feels after eating a certain food.
The satiety index was developed in 1995 from a study which tested 38 foods. The foods were ranked how they satisfied a person’s hunger. Foods scoring under 100 are considered less filling and foods scoring above 100 are considered more filling 6.
The table below shows the satiety scores of oats, lentils, rice and a few other filling foods.
|Food||Satiety Index Score|
Unfortunately, either food was not one of the 38 foods tested. I researched scientific studies and found a few which tested the satiety of quinoa or bulgur compared to rice.
A study in 2005, by the University of Milan, tested the satiety of quinoa, oats and buckwheat compared to eating rice. All three had a higher satiating efficiency than rice 7.
A study involving 22 people was published in 2007 and compared boiled and steamed bulgur to rice. The researchers found the participants felt less hungry after one hour and 1.5 hours after consuming the bulgur compared to rice 8.
Since rice has satiety scores of 132% and 138%, we may be able to assume bulgur and quinoa has a higher satiety score than 138%.
High satiety foods are likely to have a high satiety score for the following reasons:
- High in protein.
- High in fiber.
- High in volume (foods containing a lot of water or air).
- Low in energy density (foods low in calories for their weight).
Find out how lentils compared in my article. Is it better?
Health Benefits of Bulgur and Quinoa
The nutrients in both foods are similar just in different percentages. Therefore, the benefits contained in both are similar. The following describes how each nutrient may benefit health and which food provides the greater percentage.
Quinoa has a higher percentage of minerals than bulgur. Let’s take a closer look at some of these minerals and how they benefit health.
Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. Recent scientific research examined previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 9.
Magnesium helps control the following:
- Nerve function
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
In the heart and muscles, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat 10.
One reason many people supplement with magnesium in the evening is because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.
Check out 13 healthy substitutes in my article, Quinoa Replacements: 13 Healthy Substitutes.
Iron is essential in the creation of red blood cells and is a necessary part of any healthy diet. Iron is also vital for growth and development, as some hormones need iron to be appropriately balanced 11.
Calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 12.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Helps nerve function.
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- Maintain and build strong bones.
Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium reducing fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 13.
Some medical experts recommend the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 14.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 15. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.
Phosphorus has been shown in scientific studies to help with the following:
- Promote teeth and bone health.
- Help the kidneys remove waste.
- Muscle recovery and contraction.
- Promote healthy nerve conduction.
- Help the body manage and store energy.
Macros & Fiber
Soluble fiber is helpful for many reasons 16. What makes fiber soluble is it dissolves in water.
Soluble fiber is known for the following:
- Helps avoid constipation and have a more regular stool.
- Manage the blood glucose levels which helps decrease the risk of diabetes.
- Aids greatly in weight management because it allows you to feel full faster and eat less.
- Help overall digestive health.
Both foods are a good source of protein. Protein may help benefit the following:
- Boost metabolism
- Reduce appetite
- Weight loss
- Build and repair muscle
As noted earlier in the nutrition section of the article, quinoa is a complete protein and contains all the essential amino acids.
The following video explains everything you need to know about bulgur wheat and its benefits.
Quinoa provides a higher percentage of four of the six B vitamins listed below. The B vitamins provided include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Nerve function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Brain function.
- Energy levels.
- Red blood cells.
A lack of B vitamins has been associated with oxidative stress and neural inflammation.
In a study released in 2018 32 healthy adults were given B vitamin supplementation for six months. The results indicated preliminary evidence B vitamin supplementation reduced oxidative stress and inflammation 17.
If you have any questions about this article don’t hesitate to email us. You can find an email on our contact page.
Read Next – More Food vs Food Articles!
Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison
Couscous vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison
Millet vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison
Quinoa Vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s CompareArticle Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
- USDA: Bulgur, cooked[↩]
- USDA: Quinoa, cooked[↩]
- The University of Sydney: Your GI Shopping Guide[↩]
- Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods[↩]
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: A satiety index of common foods[↩]
- Pub Med: Effect on appetite control of minor cereal and pseudo cereal products[↩]
- ResearchGate: Measurement of Satiety of Wheat-Based Bulgur by Intervention and Sensory Evaluation[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[↩]
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[↩]
- National Institutes of Health: Iron[↩]
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[↩]
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[↩]
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of a High-Dose Vitamin B Multivitamin Supplement on the Relationship between Brain Metabolism and Blood Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress: A Randomized Control Trial[↩]