9 Best Quinoa Substitutes

Quinoa has been a staple in many people’s diets for years now. It seems to be the latest “superfood” and is packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

It is a popular food in the health world, but it can be expensive. Other times, you might not be able to find it in your local stores.

Whatever the reason, these quinoa substitutes are an affordable way to reap the many benefits of this healthy grain.

The best substitutes for quinoa are Brown rice, Couscous, Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Barley, Broccoli, Red beans, Cauliflower, Nuts, and Legumes.

Read till the end as I talk about how you can substitute this superfood with other handy ingredients.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”), is a plant, an annual herb in the family Amaranthaceae. It is technically a seed, but it’s used as a grain. The grain is cooked like rice or ground into flour for baking.

It is the only plant in the world that contains all 9 essential amino acids (protein) making it a complete protein source for vegetarians.

Quona seeds are rich in healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They contain calcium, iron, and B vitamins such as folate, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine. Moreover, quinoa is gluten-free and super easy to digest.

Most people use quinoa in dishes that are savory; however, quinoa can actually be used as a substitute for oatmeal in breakfast cereals. It has even been said to be as good or better than other grains like barley when making beer.

9 Best Quinoa Substitutes

Read on for my favorite quinoa alternatives that will get you all the nutrients without breaking your budget!

1. Brown Rice

Brown Rice

First, we’ll start with brown rice. Brown rice is an excellent substitute for those who have gluten-free diets and want to eat something a little more filling than just vegetables or beans.

Brown rice is the most significant quinoa substitute, as it has an almost identical nutrient profile. Brown rice also provides more fiber and B vitamins when compared to quinoa.

Brown rice can be used in a wide range of dishes such as salads, stir-fries, casseroles, soups, and much more.

Brown rice is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber making it a great grain substitute for quinoa.

If you are in the mood for something spicy try stirring some brown rice into your favorite chili recipe! You will be amazed at the texture and flavor it adds to your dish!

2. Barley


You can substitute Quinoa with barley as well. It may not be the best option though, as it is a bit lower in protein than Quinoa and there are no essential amino acids found in this grain.

Barley is probably the best substitute when it comes to the texture and consistency of quinoa since barley has a very similar color scheme and grain size as quinoa itself.

It’s not gluten-free but because it has such similar properties as quinoa. However, barley does have significant amounts of fiber and potassium which are needed by our bodies every day.

It can be used in any dish where you’d usually use cooked quinoa but tastes less like a granola bar and more like a grain that is just as filling and tasty.

3. Chickpeas


Chickpeas are one of the best substitutes for quinoa because they can be used in any dish where you’d usually use cooked or fresh quinoa! They are high in protein and fiber.

Chickpeas are also a great source of iron and magnesium, making them an excellent substitute for those who have gluten intolerance. 

They taste just like cooked quinoa and can be used in many different types of dishes. Simply replace the quinoa with chickpeas and you are set!

You can feast on chickpeas as a cold salad or mixed into hummus!

4. Couscous


Couscous is another great substitute since it’s very similar to quinoa itself but couscous is actually more versatile than cooked quinoa.

Couscous is like a little grain that resembles pasta more than rice, but it’s actually still considered a grain. 

It’s made from semolina flour and is super easy to make. You just add boiling water, cover it with a lid then let it sit for about 10 minutes or until soft and fluffy!

Couscous can be used in place of quinoa in any recipe because of its light consistency and texture. It can also be seasoned and used as a cold salad or in place of rice.

5. Red Beans

Red Beans

Red beans are an excellent substitute for quinoa because they are very versatile, cheap, and easy to find. They are also a great substitute for those who don’t eat meat or wish to add some beans to their diet for fiber and protein purposes. 

They can be used in any dish but you may need to adjust the amount of liquid you use since red beans absorb a lot more water than quinoa (but less when compared with kidney beans.)

Red beans are very similar to brown rice in the sense that they both have similar nutrient profiles but red beans do not contain any gluten.

They can be used in soups, stews, and other dishes where the quinoa would normally be added. You can even use this bean as a replacement for rice! Overall, red beans make an excellent substitute for quinoa in any dish!

6. Cauliflower


Cauliflower is definitely a surprise when it comes to the list of quinoa substitutes. It may seem weird at first but it actually works!

Cauliflower is an excellent substitute for quinoa since it’s very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked. It has a very light consistency which means that it can be easily used as a rice alternative in any dish!

Moreover, it is a great substitute if you’re someone who doesn’t like the taste of cooked quinoa all that much or wants to add some extra vegetables to their diet when they can.

It tastes delicious when mashed like potatoes, thinned with water to make it like couscous, or simply steamed.

Cauliflower has the same amount of protein as well but it also contains very significant amounts of potassium, iron, and vitamin C!

7. Broccoli


Broccoli is another great substitute for quinoa since it has a similar texture and consistency to quinoa but the taste is slightly less grainy.

The broccoli won’t add as much fiber to your dish as the whole grain does but it will give you all the nutrients that make up this grain and it’s a very tasty choice for someone who doesn’t like quinoa.

It can be prepared in many different ways like cauliflower and used as a rice alternative or simply eaten raw! You can also use this vegetable for cold salads that contain cooked quinoa.

Like quinoa, broccoli is a great substitute for those who are allergic to gluten since it contains very few amounts of gluten.

Broccoli is also quite nutritious as well! It’s a good source of vitamin C and fiber. 

8. Nuts


Nuts are another excellent substitute for quinoa. It may seem weird at first but if you think about it, nuts have a very similar taste and can be used in many different dishes like a quinoa-lentil casserole or even breakfast porridge!

They contain lots of healthy fats and protein so they’re very fulfilling to eat.

They’re also cheaper and easier to find than quinoa so it’s another great replacement if you aren’t too fond of this particular grain. You can use walnuts, sesame seeds, or even almonds as a substitute for quinoa!

And they can be used in all sorts of recipes like stews and soups!

9. Legumes


Legumes are a great source of protein and fiber. They have a very similar consistency to quinoa but slightly less filling since they don’t contain as much fiber as whole grains do.

You can use this replacement in place of quinoa in any dish that calls for lentils, beans, or chickpeas.

Legumes are also very versatile since they can be cooked with rice, in salads, eaten raw, or added as an ingredient to different types of dishes, such as soups or stews!

They are very cheap and easy to find so this is definitely one of the best quinoa substitutes if you’re a vegetarian on a budget!

And that’s it for the best quinoa substitutes.

What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

Quinoa is a gluten-free, high-protein grain that can be used for many different dishes.

Quinoa has a slightly nutty and earthy flavor which allows it to go along with a very wide range of flavors. It also has its own unique texture which is slightly chewy and crunchy at the same time.

Those who dislike quinoa have commented that it tastes like dirt, soil, or clay but this is not the case!

Quinoa is simply a grain with an unusual texture and consistency which is why you will see that it’s rather bland when it comes to taste.

However, you can easily add more flavor to any dish that uses quinoa as an ingredient by preparing it in different ways.

What Can You Eat With Quinoa?

A lot of ingredients work well with quinoa because it’s such a versatile grain. It can be used for many different recipes like salads, soups, stews, and casseroles.

You can also use it in vegetarian dishes if you want to make sure that there isn’t any meat involved since this is a vegan-friendly food.

And with so many different dishes that you can cook using quinoa, here is a list of ingredients that work great with the grain.

  • Fruits & Vegetables: Avocados, apples, tomatoes, onions, parsley (just to name a few)
  • Meat: Any type of meat or fish
  • Dairy: Cheese
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas
  • Grains: Pasta, couscous
  • Nuts & Seeds: Pine nuts, watermelon seeds

How Do You Cook Quinoa?

Okay so you’ve picked your best quinoa substitute and now you’re probably wondering how to cook it in order to make it taste good!

Here is a step-by-step guide that will teach you how to cook quinoa correctly. (Remember, just because it resembles rice doesn’t mean that the cooking process is going to be the same!)

Step 1: Rinse and strain your quinoa thoroughly since dirt and residue can stick to the grain if left exposed for too long.

Step 2: Place 3 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa in a saucepan. (The ratio is usually 2:1 for water to quinoa but you can change this as long as the total amount of liquid in the pan does not exceed four cups.)

Step 3: Place the lid on your pot, turn up the heat, and let it boil for 12-15 minutes.

Step 4: Once the quinoa is done boiling, remove it from heat and let it stand for about five minutes. Then open up the lid and fluff your quinoa with a fork so all of the grains can separate!

What’s the Difference Between White, Black, and Red Quinoa?

Quinoa actually comes in three different colors: white, black, and red. The difference between these colors is the way that each one is processed when it’s first harvested.

White quinoa has the outer layer removed before being dehydrated which gives this type of quinoa a smoother texture and brighter color.

Red quinoa is also dried but it goes through a process that gives it a more reddish hue.

This is the quinoa that you will find in ancient Tibetan and Peruvian cultures since it was considered to be sacred! (But don’t worry, white and black quinoa can also be used for rituals…or if you just want to be extra creative with your meals!)

The last color of quinoa is black and it’s processed the same way as red quinoa except that it goes through a slightly different drying process.

This type of quinoa has a nuttier flavor compared to how white and red quinoa taste so it can be used in different types of recipes including salads, pilafs, and soups.

Is Quinoa Better Than Rice??

Compared to rice, quinoa has a higher amount of protein and other essential nutrients. More importantly, there are significantly fewer carbohydrates in quinoa and this is why it’s been labeled as one of the healthiest grains out there! 

If you’re trying to avoid carbohydrates and eat more whole foods that feature plenty of fiber then this makes quinoa the best grain for you!

But don’t worry if you love rice. You can still use quinoa as a substitute because it has an appetizing flavor and works well with different types of dishes.

In fact, there are ways to cook quinoa that make it taste similar to white or brown rice!

Final Words

Before you start cooking with these substitutes, remember that not all of them are gluten-free and a lot of them are not as filling or nutritious as quinoa is.

Use these substitutes for quinoa to switch up your diet and cook some new dishes without needing to get really creative. It will also help you get more fiber and protein in your diet without having to cook a lot of meat!

Stay healthy and thanks for following along and reading about the best quinoa substitutes!

I’m a passionate food blogger on a journey to become a go-to person who can help others prepare delicious foods. I share recipes, food substitutes, and other cooking tips. Read more about my journey...

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