10 Best Quinoa Substitutes That We Recommend

If you’ve ever cooked with quinoa, you know how versatile it is. It’s become quite the health food over the last few years due to its lower carb content and higher protein. 

Sometimes it’s hard to track down or you simply don’t have it in the pantry

In this article, we’ll go over some of the best quinoa substitutes that we recommend using if you’re looking to add more variety to your meals.

Some of the best alternatives include rice, couscous, and barley.

Why Do People Eat Quinoa Instead of Rice?

If you’re wondering why people eat quinoa instead of rice, here are just a few reasons:

  • It’s a great source of protein.
  • It’s gluten-free.
  • It has more fiber than most other grains and can help you feel full longer because it takes longer to digest in your body. 
  • Quinoa also contains all nine essential amino acids–the building blocks that makeup protein–so it provides an excellent source for vegans or vegetarians looking for something different from their regular meals (or anyone who just wants more protein).
  • Quinoa contains iron, magnesium, and potassium (among many other nutrients) which helps prevent heart disease and diabetes by lowering blood pressure levels while strengthening bones with its high mineral content!
  • It’s a low-glycemic food making it a better choice than many of the other grains available.

What is a Good Substitute for Quinoa?

1. Couscous

Couscous is a type of pasta made from semolina flour, which is a type of wheat flour. It’s very versatile and can be used in many different recipes. 

Couscous has become popular in recent years as an alternative to quinoa because it’s easy to prepare and tastes great! It’s also the most similar, visually. You’ll find the same nutty flavors in this tiny pasta.

Couscous, being pasta, is not gluten-free. If you’re following a gluten-free diet, then this isn’t a great substitution for you. 

2. Brown Rice

Brown rice is a great substitute for quinoa. It’s a whole grain that contains fiber and protein, which means it will keep you fuller longer. In addition to brown rice, you could also use long-grain or jasmine rice. 

The nutty undertones that you’ll find with brown rice suit well to replace the same flavors found in quinoa. 

It’s also easy to cook and can be used in a variety of dishes–from soups and salads to stir-fries! Brown rice is also high in energy, so if you’re looking for an alternative that can help boost your metabolism or curb sugar cravings, brown rice may be just what the doctor ordered.

Cook the rice as normal and then prepare your recipe as you would with the quinoa. 

Take note, that nutritionally rice and quinoa are not equal. Rice doesn’t provide the protein, amino acids, and other nutrients that you’ll find in quinoa. Rice is also higher in carbohydrates. 

3. Millet

Millet is a gluten-free grain that has a nutty flavor and can be used in place of quinoa in most recipes. These tiny grains look a lot like couscous when they’re cooked with the same flavor profile as quinoa. 

It’s best used as a quinoa substitute in salads and side dishes where you want the texture more than the flavor. It pairs well with other bold ingredients. 

Millet can be difficult to cook. The water ratio needs to be precise or you’ll get results more like grits than quinoa. You want to use a 2:1 water-to-millet ratio unless you want the mush. 

4. Barley

While barley grains are significantly bigger than quinoa, they have the same chewy texture and flavors. It’s actually one of the most popular grains grown worldwide, so it’s easy to find. 

While you’ll get the chewy texture you won’t get the fluffiness of quinoa. Barley, though, is a great addition to a recipe where you need it to thicken up a bit. 

Be advised, barley cooks slower than quinoa. You’ll need to take that into account as you prepare your recipe. We’re talking up to an hour of cooking time. 

While it doesn’t contain as much protein as quinoa and has gluten, it does have some of the other macronutrients that have made quinoa so popular. 

5. Chickpeas

A quick alternative that looks completely different, but chickpeas are also gluten-free with protein and fiber contents that are very close to what you’ll find in quinoa. 

Chickpeas are a great swap as the base for a salad or for soups. They also take next to no time to cook, making them a fast substitute in a pinch. 

6. Cauliflower

Roasted riced cauliflower is a great low-carb alternative for quinoa. 

7. Sorghum

Another ancient grain like quinoa, sorghum can be cooked in a variety of ways. Even popped like popcorn!

You cook it like other grains by using hot water. 

You’ll want to use sorghum as a quinoa substitute in recipes that lean to the sweeter and warmer side as it does as well. Salads are a great option but it blends well with ingredients like berries, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. 

8. Teff

These grass seeds are probably one of the lesser known alternatives to quinoa. Because of that it’s hard to find on the shelves of your grocery store and tends to be on the expensive side. 

Even so, it’s gluten-free and full of vitamins and protein. Even better? It has more protein and fiber than quinoa. 

It cooks up just like brown rice and has that same nutty flavor. You’ll find other notes too like coffee and molasses. 

You can use it in both sweet and savory recipes, but maybe not all of them. 

9. Kamut

Kamut is packed with more protein, more than quinoa. You can use it to replace many grains like rice because of the nutty flavor and the texture that remains firm even after cooking. 

It’s not just the protein either, Kamut is higher in fiber as well. If you’re looking for the healthiest swap for quinoa, this would be it. 

It is a wheat grain, so it’s not suitable for those on a gluten-free diet. 

Much like barley, you’re going to need to factor in around an hour for cooking. 

10. Amaranth

This ancient grain from South America is technically a seed, but aren’t all grains seeds? They cook the same in around the same amount of time.

The hesitation to list it as a substitute comes from the flavor. Quinoa has a far more neutral flavor profile that absorbs the bolder flavors of your recipe. Amaranth has bold flavors all on its own. It’s sweet and nutty with a little bit of grass. Many people find it hard to get past the grassy scent.


We hope that we’ve helped you find a good substitute for quinoa. If there is one thing that we know, it’s that there are many different types of grains out there and they all have their own unique flavors and textures. 

So if you prefer to avoid switching over entirely to another grain, try mixing up your usual recipes with some new additions!

Keep in mind that not all the substitutes are as healthy or gluten-free. Make your choice according to your dietary needs!