Quinoa Replacements: 13 Healthy and Affordable Substitutes


There are many reasons someone would want to replace quinoa with another food. It may be price, availability or something as simple as wanting a different taste or texture for today’s meal. Therefore, let’s find out, what are good replacements for quinoa?

The following are good replacements for quinoa:

  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 list the replacements and compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods and times. In addition, I’ll examine and include a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients.

Quinoa Replacements

1. Brown Rice

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

Why brown rice is a good replacement for quinoa:

  • Brown rice and quinoa are gluten free.
  • Brown rice has a heartier, more substantial texture.
  • Brown rice costs less money.
  • Brown rice has fewer calories, fat and sugar but has the same amount of fiber.
  • Brown rice has a similar mild flavor which can taste slightly nutty.

Cooking comparison between brown rice and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams of cooked medium grain brown rice and cooked quinoa.

  Brown Rice (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 1 2

2. White Rice

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

Why white rice is a good replacement for quinoa:

  • White rice and quinoa are gluten free.
  • White rice has a heartier texture.
  • White rice costs less money than quinoa.
  • White rice has a similar mild, neutral flavor.

Cooking comparison between white rice and quinoa:

  • They are both boiled in water.
  • White rice and quinoa have similar cooking times.

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams of cooked medium grain white rice and cooked quinoa.

  White Rice (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 3

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 replacement for quinoa:

  • Lentils and quinoa are gluten free.
  • Lentils have a similar mild, earthy taste.
  • Lentils cost less than quinoa.
  • Lentils have fewer calories, more protein and fiber.

Cooking comparison between lentils and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

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

  Lentils (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 4 

4. Chickpeas

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

Why chickpeas are a good replacement for quinoa:

  • Chickpeas and quinoa are gluten free.
  • Chickpeas are larger and have a heartier texture.
  • Chickpeas costs less money.
  • Chickpeas have more protein and fiber than quinoa.
  • Chickpeas have a similar mild flavor.

Cooking comparison between chickpeas and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

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

  Chickpeas (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 5

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 is a good replacement for quinoa:

  • Cauliflower 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.
  • Cauliflower has fewer carbohydrates making it better for low-carb diets.

Cooking comparison between cauliflower and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

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

  Cauliflower (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 6

6. Couscous

Couscous is a pasta produced from semolina wheat flower. Couscous isn’t gluten free. Therefore, if you require gluten free food couscous shouldn’t be used.

Why couscous is a good replacement for quinoa:

  • Couscous is lower in calories and total fat.
  • Couscous costs less money.
  • Couscous has a mild, neutral flavor like quinoa.

Cooking comparison between couscous and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

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

  Couscous (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 7

7. Millet

Millet is a seed belonging to the grass family. It’s used in bird feed and other animal feed but is also consumed by humans.

Why millet is a good replacement for quinoa:

  • Millet and quinoa 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 between millet and quinoa:

  • 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 of cooked millet and cooked quinoa.

  Millet (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 8

8. Barley

Barley is a seed from the grass family and a cereal grain. Barley isn’t gluten free. Therefore, if you require gluten free food barley shouldn’t be used.

Why barley is a good replacement for quinoa:

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

Cooking comparison between barley and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams of raw pearl barley and quinoa.

  Pearl Barley (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 9

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

9. Bulgur

Bulgur is made from cracked parboiled groats of several wheat species. Bulgur isn’t gluten free. Therefore, if you require gluten free food, it shouldn’t be used.

Why bulgur is a good replacement for quinoa:

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

Cooking comparison between bulgur and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

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

  Bulgur (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 10

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

10. Amaranth

Amaranth is a seed from the same family as quinoa.

Why amaranth is a good replacement for quinoa:

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

Cooking comparison between amaranth and quinoa:

  • Amaranth is cooked by boiling it in water like quinoa.
  • 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 of cooked amaranth and cooked quinoa.

  Amaranth (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 11

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 replacement for quinoa:

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

Cooking comparison between buckwheat and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

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

  Buckwheat (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 12

12. Beans

Red, pinto or black beans can all be used instead of quinoa.

Why beans are a good replacement for quinoa:

  • Beans and quinoa are gluten free.
  • Beans are larger and have a heartier texture.
  • Beans cost less money.
  • Beans contain more protein and fiber than quinoa.
  • Beans have a similar mild flavor.

Cooking comparison between beans and quinoa:

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

Macro comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 100-grams of cooked black beans and cooked quinoa.

  Black Beans (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 13

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

picture of 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.

Why teff is a good replacement for quinoa:

  • Teff and quinoa are 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 between teff and quinoa:

  • 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.
  • Teff and quinoa 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 of cooked teff and cooked quinoa.

  Teff (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
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 Resources 14

Additional Resources 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Read Next – More Quinoa Food 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

 

Article 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.
  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: Barley, pearled, raw[]
  10. USDA: Bulgur, cooked[]
  11. USDA: Amaranth grain, cooked[]
  12. USDA: Buckwheat groats, roasted, cooked[]
  13. USDA: Beans, black, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt[]
  14. USDA: Teff, cooked[]
  15. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Chemical composition and food uses of teff (eragrostis ten) []
  16. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Buckwheat as a Functional Food and Its Effects on Health[]
  17. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.): An Overview of the Potentials of the “Golden Grain” and Socio-Economic and Environmental Aspects of Its Cultivation and Marketization[]
  18. National Center for Biotechnology Information: State of knowledge on amaranth grain: a comprehensive review[]
  19. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Bioactive healthy components of bulgur[]
  20. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Association of Lifelong Intake of Barley Diet with Healthy Aging: Changes in Physical and Cognitive Functions and Intestinal Microbiome in Senescence-Accelerated Mouse-Prone 8 (SAMP8) []
  21. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Polyphenol-Rich Lentils and Their Health Promoting Effects[]
  22. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Chickpeas—composition, nutritional value, health benefits, application to bread and snacks: a review[]
  23. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Brown Rice, a Diet Rich in Health Promoting Properties[]
  24. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity of Cauliflower According to Heat Treatment Method (P06-074-19) []
  25. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Durum Wheat Couscous Grains: An Ethnic Mediterranean Food at the Interface of Traditional Domestic Preparation and Industrial Manufacturing[]
  26. Wikipedia: Millet[]
  27. Wikipedia: Bean[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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