Quinoa Replacements: 13 Healthy Quinoa Substitutes

There are many reasons someone would want to replace quinoa with another food. Many of my health coaching clients ask me about food alternatives including quinoa. Therefore, let’s find out, what are good replacements for quinoa?

The following are quinoa substitutes:

  1. Brown rice
  2. White rice
  3. Lentils
  4. Chickpeas
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Couscous
  7. Millet
  8. Barley
  9. Bulgur
  10. Amaranth
  11. Buckwheat
  12. Beans
  13. Teff

This article will compare each one of their tastes, textures, cooking methods and times. In addition, I’ll examine and include a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients.

In addition to coaching clients about them, I’ve purchased, researched and used all the alternatives in this article prior to, during and sometimes after writing this article.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Keto Tip: Good news! You don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza and sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto Diet. Find out here, Keto Breads.

Uncooked quinoa.
Uncooked quinoa

Quinoa Substitutes

1. Brown Rice

White or brown rice can be used but brown rice is better due to a more similar nutty flavor and nutrition. Brown rice is a whole grain with the outer hull removed and the bran and germ layer remaining.

The ancient grain is free of gluten making it an ideal substitute for gluten-free quinoa.

Why brown rice is a good option:

  • It is gluten free.
  • Brown rice has a heartier, more substantial texture.
  • More affordable.
  • Brown rice has fewer calories, fat and sugar but has the same amount of fiber.
  • It has a similar mild flavor which can taste slightly nutty.
Cooked quinoa and brown rice in bowls.
Cooked brown rice on the left Cooked quinoa with vegetables on the right

Cooking comparison:

  • They are both boiled in water.
  • Although they are cooked the same way, brown rice takes longer to cook.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Brown Rice (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 112 120
Protein 2.32 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 23.5 g 21.3 g
Fiber 2.8 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.83 g 1.92 g
Sugar 0.40 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources12

Due to its nutrients I use brown rice often in my regular nutrition plan.

Cooking brown rice.
Cooking brown rice

2. White Rice

White rice is not as ideal as brown rice but it can still be used as a side dish.

Why white rice is a good substitute:

  • It is gluten free.
  • White rice has a heartier texture.
  • More affordable.
  • White rice has a similar mild, neutral flavor.

Cooking comparison:

  • They are both boiled in water.
  • They both have similar cooking times.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  White Rice (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 130 120
Protein 2.38 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 28.6 g 21.3 g
Fiber 0.3 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.21 g 1.92 g
Sugar 0.10 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources3

cooking rice
Cooking white rice

3. Lentils

Lentils are the seeds of a legume plant. Many people call them beans even though they’re not.

Why lentils is a good choice for quinoa:

  • Both are gluten free.
  • Lentils have a similar mild, earthy taste.
  • Lentils cost less money.
  • They have fewer calories, more protein and a good source of dietary fiber.

Cooking comparison:

  • They are both boiled in water.
  • Both have similar cooking times.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Lentils (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 116 120
Protein 9.02 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 20.1 g 21.3 g
Fiber 7.9 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.38 g 1.92 g
Sugar 1.80 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources4

Lentils are my favorite on the list. When I consume them I know I’m getting more nutrients, fiber and a better texture.

Cooked lentils with vegetables in a bowl.
Cooked lentils with vegetables

4. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a type of legume. The most common ones are round with a beige color.

Why chickpeas made the list:

  • Gluten free.
  • They are larger and have a heartier texture.
  • Costs less money.
  • Chickpeas have more protein and fiber.
  • Chickpeas have a similar mild flavor.

Cooking comparison:

  • Canned chickpeas don’t have to be cooked. Therefore cooking time is less.
  • Dried chickpeas are boiled in water.
  • Dried chickpeas take longer to cook.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Chickpeas (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 164 120
Protein 8.86 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 27.4 g 21.3 g
Fiber 7.6 g 2.8 g
Fat 2.59 g 1.92 g
Sugar 4.80 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources5

I try to add chickpeas to my salads as often as possible.

The following video informs you of three ways to cook chickpeas.

5. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable which resembles broccoli but is white instead of green. It’s best to mix the cauliflower with a food processor or a blender like the one I reviewed here.

This will turn the cauliflower into rice size and more similar in size to quinoa.

Why cauliflower made the list:

  • It is also gluten free.
  • They both have a mild flavor although cauliflower tastes more like a vegetable.
  • Cauliflower costs less money.
  • Cauliflower has much less calories.
  • It has fewer carbohydrates making it better for low-carb diets.

Cooking comparison:

  • Cauliflower doesn’t have to be cooked. Therefore cooking time is less.
  • Cauliflower can be steamed or boiled in water.
  • Cooking time is quicker when using cauliflower.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Cauliflower (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 32 120
Protein 3.04 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 6.28 g 21.3 g
Fiber 3.3 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.31 g 1.92 g
Sugar 3.12 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources6

Kevin Garce checking organic cauliflower at his local supermarket.
Checking organic cauliflower at my local supermarket

I purchase cauliflower often and sometimes mash it for other purposes. It’s part of my regular nutrition plan.

6. Couscous

Couscous isn’t gluten free. Therefore, if you require gluten free food it shouldn’t be used.

Why couscous is a good substitute:

  • It’s lower in calories and total fat.
  • Costs less money.
  • Couscous has a mild, neutral flavor.

Cooking comparison:

  • They take about the same time to cook.
  • They are both boiled in water.
  • The texture will change with couscous which is softer.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Couscous (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 112 120
Protein 3.79 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 23.2 g 21.3 g
Fiber 1.40 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.16 g 1.92 g
Sugar 0.10 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources7

The video below describes couscous and compares it to quinoa and brown rice.

7. Millet

Why millet is a good option:

  • They are both gluten free.
  • Millet costs less money.
  • They both have a similar mild flavor.
  • They are both light and fluffy.
  • Millet has similar calories.

Cooking comparison:

  • They take about the same time to cook.
  • They are both boiled in water.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Millet (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 119 120
Protein 3.51 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 23.7 g 21.3 g
Fiber 1.30 g 2.8 g
Fat 1.00 g 1.92 g
Sugar 0.13 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources8

8. Barley

Barley isn’t gluten free. Therefore, if you require gluten free quinoa substitute it shouldn’t be used.

Why barley made the list:

  • Barley has less calories.
  • Barley adds more flavor to the recipe due to its malty and nuttier flavor.
  • Barley costs less money.
  • Barley provides more fiber.

Cooking comparison:

  • Barley takes longer to cook.
  • They are both boiled in water.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Pearl Barley (100 g)Raw Quinoa (100 g)Raw
Calories 352 368
Protein 9.91 g 14.1 g
Carbohydrates 77.7 g 64.2 g
Fiber 15.6 g 7.0 g
Fat 1.16 g 6.07 g

Nutrient Resources ((USDA: Barley, pearled, raw))

Raw nutrients were compared instead of cooked because there is limited unverified nutrient data available for cooked barley.

Substitutes for quinoa.
Substitutes for Quinoa Pin to Pinterest

9. Bulgur

Bulgur isn’t gluten free. Therefore, if you require a gluten free substitute, it shouldn’t be used.

Why bulgur is a good replacement:

  • They both have a mild, sometimes nutty taste.
  • Bulgur has a similar texture.
  • It costs less money.
  • Bulgur contains fewer calories and more fiber.
  • Bulgur has a better glycemic index and fewer carbohydrates.

Cooking comparison:

  • They are both boiled in water.
  • Bulgur cooks slightly quicker.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Bulgur (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 83 120
Protein 3.08 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 18.6 g 21.3 g
Fiber 4.50 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.24 g 1.92 g
Sugar 0.10 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources9

Find out how quinoa compared to bulgur in my article, Bulgur vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.

Cooked bulgur with vegetables.
Cooked bulgur with vegetables

10. Amaranth

Why amaranth is a good replacement:

  • Amaranth is gluten free.
  • It adds more flavor due to its nuttier and slightly peppery taste.
  • Amaranth contains fewer calories and carbohydrates.
  • It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.

Cooking comparison:

  • They both are cooked by boiling it in water.
  • Amaranth cooks in about the same time.
  • Amaranth can be popped like popcorn in a hot, dry skillet.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Amaranth (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 102 120
Protein 3.80 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 18.7 g 21.3 g
Fiber 2.1 g 2.8 g
Fat 1.58 g 1.92 g

Nutrient Resources10

The following video explains how to cook amaranth.

11. Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a seed and called a pseudo cereal like quinoa. It’s not a wheat even though the word is part of its name.

Why buckwheat is a good substitute:

  • Buckwheat is gluten free.
  • Buckwheat contains fewer calories and carbohydrates but similar fiber.
  • It adds more toasty and nutty flavor.

Cooking comparison:

  • Buckwheat and quinoa are both cooked by boiling in water.
  • Buckwheat has a similar cooking time.
  • Both can be ground into flour.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Buckwheat (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 92 120
Protein 3.38 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 19.9 g 21.3 g
Fiber 2.7 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.62 g 1.92 g
Sugar 0.90 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources11

12. Beans

Red, pinto or black beans can all be used.

Why beans are a good choice:

  • They are gluten free making them one of the best substitutions.
  • Beans are larger and have a heartier texture.
  • They cost less money.
  • Beans contain more protein and fiber.
  • Beans have a similar mild flavor.

Cooking comparison:

  • Canned beans don’t have to be cooked. Therefore cooking time is less.
  • Dried beans are boiled in water.
  • Dried beans take longer to cook.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Black Beans (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 132 120
Protein 8.86 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 23.7 g 21.3 g
Fiber 8.7 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.54 g 1.92 g
Sugar 0.32 g 0.87 g

Nutrient Resources12

Red and black beans are my favorite varieties but for some reason I seem to eat red beans more often.

Beans were one of 12 in my ground beef article. Find out the other 11 here, Ground Beef Alternatives: 12 Healthy Substitutes.

picture of teff
Teff

13. Teff

Teff is a seed belonging to the grass family. It’s smaller than quinoa, about the same size as a poppy seed. It also has a nutty flavor.

Why teff made the list:

  • Teff is both gluten free.
  • They have a similar mild flavor, but teff is nuttier.
  • Teff has less calories but the same amount of fiber.

Cooking comparison:

  • They take about the same time to cook.
  • They are both boiled in water.
  • Teff can be made creamier, like porridge, by adding more water.
  • Both can be ground into a gluten free flour.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams.

  Teff (100 g)Cooked Quinoa (100 g)Cooked
Calories 101 120
Protein 3.87 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 19.9 g 21.3 g
Fiber 2.8 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.65 g 1.92 g

Nutrient Resources13

Summary & Tips

Gluten-Free Quinoa Substitutes

  • Teff
  • Beans
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Cauliflower
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils

Low-Carb Quinoa Substitutes

  • Cauliflower

If you require a gluten-free and low-carb substitute, cauliflower is the best option.

Quinoa Substitute Poll

To conduct some original research and get the opinions of real people like you, I polled my readers, clients and members of some food groups. I asked them what was the best quinoa substitute?

  • 28% said the best one was couscous which was the winner of the poll.
  • 18% said ground lentils which came in 2nd place.
  • 12% said brown rice which came in 3rd place.

If you have any questions about this quinoa substitutes article don’t hesitate to email us. You can find an email on our contact page.

Read Next – More Gluten-Free Quinoa Articles!

Couscous vs Rice vs Quinoa: Which is Better? Let’s Compare

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison

Barley 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 Compare

  1. USDA: Rice, brown, medium-grain, cooked []
  2. USDA: Quinoa, cooked []
  3. USDA: Rice, white, medium-grain, cooked, unenriched []
  4. USDA: Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt []
  5. USDA: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt []
  6. USDA: Cauliflower, green, cooked, no salt added []
  7. USDA: Couscous, cooked []
  8. USDA: Millet, cooked []
  9. USDA: Bulgur, cooked []
  10. USDA: Amaranth grain, cooked []
  11. USDA: Buckwheat groats, roasted, cooked []
  12. USDA: Beans, black, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt []
  13. USDA: Teff, cooked []

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