11 Amazing Substitutes for Quinoa to Keep You Healthy

Substitute for Quinoa

Among all types of grains, quinoa is getting more popular thanks to its nutritional benefits. Health conscious dieters are opting for this grain because it has low GI with high amounts of fiber. It’s also the number one grain in terms of protein content. 

The demand for quinoa is getting higher but it’s not as easily processed as other grains making it relatively expensive. Since this grain isn’t so accessible in terms of supply and cost, consumers turn to the other closest choices. Try the following substitutes for quinoa that you can eat, enjoy, and benefit from.

Alternative Grains to Use Instead of Quinoa

1.  Barley

Barley is packed with nutrients and offers great satiety. This makes it a wonderful alternative to quinoa.

Since ancient times, this staple grain has helped curb hunger. It’s been discovered that barley, with its many beneficial nutrients, has kept people from feeling hungry longer which results in better weight control. 

Slightly chewy, with nutty notes but overall mild taste, barley is a delicious food to serve with other dishes or used as an ingredient. You can cook it in soups, stews, casseroles, or stir-fries. Try it as a breakfast cereal, porridge, or risotto.

2. Brown Rice

Cooked rice is probably the closest and easiest replacement for cooked quinoa. While you can also use white rice as a substitute for quinoa, brown rice is closer in terms of flavor and nutrition.

Nutrients found in brown rice can help keep your heart healthy and reduce cell damage. This grain, like quinoa, is also composed of vitamins, minerals, and high amounts of dietary fiber.

Brown rice also has a similar flavor profile to most grains like a slightly nutty, earthy, and bready taste. Its mildness makes it a great base and pair for sauces, stews, and savory dishes. 

3. Millet

Millets are small-grained cereal crops that belong to the grass family. These tiny grains that grow as tall as grass have also fed human civilization for over 4000 years. With a long proven history, it is also a worthy substitute for quinoa. 

There are several different tiny grains to which the name millet refers to. Pearl millet is the variety that is most popular because it’s easy to produce and cook. 

Like other grains, millet is extremely versatile. While it’s commonly eaten like rice or as a porridge for breakfast, it can also be used for baked goods, soups, patties, salads, and casseroles.

4. Teff

Teff is another ancient grain that remains a popular choice in Ethiopian cuisine. While not as nutritious as the superfood quinoa, this grain still has great benefits like high calcium, iron, and protein.

This gluten-free grain tastes mild with hints of nutty flavor. It also has a lot of culinary uses like quinoa and you can use it as a whole grain or turn it into flour.

You can eat Teff as a porridge or breakfast cereal but it is not as smooth in texture. This grain is widely used in baked goods like breads and pancakes or as a side dish. 

5. Kamut

Kamut is a non-hybridized ancient wheat that is now trademarked with the US patent to protect its original quality. It looks like brown rice but is more elongated and plumper. Its taste is comparable to most grains but slightly more buttery and sweet.

These large-sized grains offer a firmer, chewier, and juicier texture than quinoa. This texture paired with its mildly sweet nutty flavor makes Kamut wheat a scrumptious food to eat.

You can enjoy Kamut, otherwise known as Khorasan wheat or Oriental wheat, in soups, salads, and savory dishes like those in Mexican cuisine. You can also eat it as a filling side dish or make some sweet treats and baked goods with it.

6. Fonio

Fonio is a delicious and healthy food that is not as known as others. This gluten-free grain comes with important micronutrients and amino acids which other types of grain lack. 

This grain is considered a superfood like quinoa. Both share the same nutty notes but overall mild flavor which can absorb sauces or other ingredients’ taste that results in a very flavorful dish.

Considered a food for chiefs and royalty, you can use and eat this whole grain in your salads, cereals, soups, stews, or a side dish on its own. Make sure to add this in your list as it can be the next popular choice over quinoa.

Other foods that can substitute for quinoa besides grains

7. Couscous

Creamy and tasty, couscous is a delicious and doable sub for quinoa. It may look like grain when you see it but it’s actually pasta made from small steamed granules of durum wheat called semolina.

Couscous is a great source of fiber and is a good aid in stabilizing blood sugar. Its health benefit also comes in a tasty package that goes well with veggies, fruits, and meat. Like other grains or pasta, couscous doesn’t really have a full flavor but it has faint sweetness and nutty notes.  

This grain-like pasta is usually eaten as a side dish or the base for a rice dish. It can also be added to soups and salads.

8. Chickpeas

A legume that comes in different colors, chickpeas can also work to replace quinoa in a pinch. It’s nutritious and filling and will give your dish an interesting flavor and texture.

Chickpeas is high in protein and is also used as an alternative to meat for vegetarian dishes. Also called garbanzo bean, this legume is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber which can help reduce risk of common life-threatening diseases. 

Sharing the same nutty and earthy flavor as quinoa, chickpeas can work in a variety of recipes. Turn it into hummus or dip, add it to salads, stews, and chilis, or eat it on its own roasted or sauteed. It’s a delicious little thing.

Read more: 11 Nutritious Chickpea Substitutes to Upscale Your Recipes 

9. Cauliflower

Cauliflower may not be a grain and has a lot of differences to quinoa. If you want to explore a healthier and gluten-free alternative, try using a veggie like cauliflower. 

This veggie is a significant source of nutrients. It tastes mildly nutty and sweet, sometimes subtly bitter, but overall bland. You can enjoy cauliflower in bite-sized florets or turn it into cauliflower rice. The latter would be the closest to quinoa if you’re wishing to enjoy it like how you would with grains. 

Cauliflower can be cooked in a lot of ways. Cook it as a quick veggie side dish, use it as an ingredient in soups, dips, stews, and casseroles. Cauliflower is low in calories and carbs so enjoy it in your meals.

10. Broccoli

Another cruciferous vegetable that you can use to sub for quinoa is broccoli. This green plant looks a lot like cauliflower so they are compared often. Broccoli however contains a bit more health benefits which is a plus to your diet.

Broccoli has a nice mild flavor like cauliflower. It will not overwhelm other ingredients and can pair well with meats. 

Compared to cauliflower, broccoli is more often enjoyed eaten on its own. You can steam, saute, roast, or blanch and eat it raw. You can also turn it into broccoli rice to mimic quinoa.

11. Beans

Protein-packed, meaty, and tasty, beans are a popular addition to meals. It not only works as an alternative for quinoa but also for vegan diets needing a meaty texture.

Pinto beans, black beans, or kidney beans are some of the popular legumes that are as delicious as they are filling. It gives your dish an added texture and flavor which are different from quinoa and other grains.

You can enjoy eating beans on its own or add it as an ingredient to stews, soups, chilis, and other savory dishes.

Related FAQs

Can I substitute rice for quinoa?

Yes, you can! It’s the most accessible sub for quinoa if you’re in a pinch. Although it does not share the same nutritional value, rice has its own worth and provides satiety.

What can I substitute for quinoa in salad?

Except for barley and brown rice, most of the options listed above can work deliciously in your salad. The non-grain alternatives like couscous and chickpeas are especially beneficial for your next green meal.

Which quinoa alternative is your choice?

Quinoa is a great addition to our diet but if it’s available, you can always turn to the closest alternatives. Grains like brown rice, barley, fonio, millet, teff, and kamut would be easiest to prepare and use like quinoa. 

These foods can help you feel fuller while also providing proper nutrition. If you’re in a pinch or you’d like to consider more substitutes for quinoa, you can try couscous, chickpeas, cauliflower, and broccoli. Happy eating!

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