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Best Quinoa Substitute: Your Top 12 Options

Trying a recipe that requires quinoa? Don’t worry if you don’t like its taste or forgot to restock your quinoa supply. There’s a lot of quinoa substitutes to choose from. 

Depending on your diet, preference, or recipe, you can try a naturally gluten-free alternative or a low-carb substitute.

Some may be harder to find, but you can get most of these at your supermarkets and health food stores.

Here’s a list of some of the best quinoa substitutes. Pick one or try them all to find out which one you like best and which works well with your dishes. 

Yellow bowl with quinoa salad

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is known as a superfood for being a healthier substitute for pasta and rice and a source of complete protein for vegans and vegetarians. 

Aside from being high in protein, it’s packed with essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fiber. It’s also naturally gluten-free.

Quinoa is an edible seed from the area surrounding Lake Titicaca in the Andean Regions of Bolivia and Peru in South America.

It comes from a plant in the same family as chard and spinach. 

Although we often treat quinoa like a grain in baking and cooking, it has no grains and is more closely related to beets than wheat. 

Some of the most common varieties are black, red, and white quinoa.

What is Quinoa Used For?

You can use quinoa in many dishes because of its fluffy texture, mild flavor, and high nutritional content. 

It only takes a few minutes to cook quinoa. Season it with herbs and spices and mix it with roasted vegetables or dried fruits as a side dish. 

Add it to stews, soups, or chili for extra protein. It makes a great addition to porridge or cereal, too. 

Quinoa works as a good base for salads and adds a crunchy texture. 

12 Best Quinoa Substitutes 

If you’re running out of ideas on what to use to replace quinoa, here are some delicious and healthy suggestions.

Bowl with cooked couscous.

1. Cooked Couscous

Go for couscous if you want quinoa substitutes that look a lot like it when cooked. 

This staple in Mediterranean cuisine is made from semolina wheat and has a mild nutty flavor and delicate texture. 

Like quinoa, couscous cooks fast, so keep this in mind when using it as a substitute. 

Use this substitute in cold dishes or cold salads. Couscous tastes delicious with dried fruits, legumes, herbs, vegetables, and other sweet and savory ingredients. 

Also Read: Best Farro Substitutes To Try Today.

For more nutritional value, use whole wheat couscous. 

Cooking tip:

Toast the couscous lightly in a pan before using it for cooking to draw out extra flavors.

Follow a 1:1 ratio when using it as a quinoa substitute. 

Dish with cooked barley and vegetables.

2. Barley 

Another substitute for quinoa that’s perfect for cold salads, soups, and side dishes is barley. 

Barley taste has a slightly chewy texture and nutty flavor that can enhance any dish. 

Although not gluten-free, barley has essential nutrients and a high fiber content. 

Unlike couscous, barley takes longer to cook. But it’s a satisfying and filling ingredient that adds an earthy flavor to your dish. 

Use pearl barley for making barley risotto or as a soup thickener. Meanwhile, hulled barley will work better in pilafs, salads, and soups. 

Cooking tip:

Use a smaller portion of barley for salads. It’s heavier and has more chew. 

Colander with washed white rice.

3. Rice 

Did you know that rice is also an excellent substitute for quinoa? Like quinoa, it cooks quickly. Put your rice in the rice cooker, and it will automatically cook itself. 

But compared with quinoa, rice is softer, which means it won’t hold up that well in liquid dishes like soups and stews. 

 If you don’t frequently use or eat rice, it can be confusing to pick the right kind. But to substitute quinoa, buy long-grain or jasmine rice because it complements bolder flavors and is very filling and satisfying.  

Cooking tip:

You can use it as a quinoa substitute if you’re preparing Mexican or Mediterranean dishes. 

White bowl with cooked buckwheat.

4. Buckwheat 

If you need to whip up a meal and don’t have quinoa in your kitchen, try using buckwheat.

Don’t let the name fool you, though. Buckwheat does not contain wheat or gluten but can replace quinoa easily.

It’s the perfect addition to a gluten-free diet for anyone who has a gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity.

Buckwheat cooks as fast as quinoa and has that fluffy and slightly nutty flavor. 

But look for other quinoa substitutes that will not turn soggy in soups because buckwheat tends to stick together and get mushy. 

Cooking tip:

Try using cooked buckwheat in your pancake batter. It also tastes great as a side dish or a cold salad ingredient.

Close up image of the package with wild rice

5. Wild Rice 

A not-so-common quinoa substitute is wild rice. But it’s a good substitute for quinoa because it has rich flavors and protein. 

Using plain or wild rice blend, you’ll enjoy that nutty taste. And because it has that chewy texture, it doesn’t soften or get mushy when used in soups or salad dressing. 

It goes well with sweet and savory dishes, nuts, and dried fruit. You can also use them with mushrooms and stuffed vegetables like squash or peppers. 

Cooking tip:

Just cook early, as wild rice cooks longer than regular rice. The ratio is usually 1:1, but check the cooking instructions in the package for the best results. 

Bowl with cooked cauliflower rice topped with butter.

6. Cauliflower Rice 

Are you looking for a low-carb alternative to quinoa? Try cauliflower rice, which is also high in fiber and low in calories. 

Like quinoa, it cooks in less than 15 minutes. Achieving that quinoa consistency is also easy with the help of a food processor. Otherwise, you’ll have to chop it manually to achieve the desired texture. 

The great thing about cauliflower rice is you can eat it alone. Add it to your favorite quinoa recipes. If you have a side dish or a delicious entree, it will go perfectly with it. 

Try cauliflower rice with stir-fries or grain bowls. You can also steam it or add it to your soup.  

Cooking tip:

Use the cauliflower stem and florets when ricing it. Cut it into one-inch pieces before you pulse it in the food processor, and it looks like rice.

7. Amaranth 

How about an ancient grain that’s a lot like quinoa? Amaranth is a tiny, light brown seed smaller than quinoa that you cook, like oats and rice. 

Amaranth is high-protein and gluten-free and is also known as a superfood.

You can buy it in seed or flour form at supermarkets or health food stores. 

Like quinoa, it cooks in under 15 minutes. But it turns sticky and mushy when cooked in water instead of getting fluffy.   

If you’ve never tried amaranth, use it in salads, side dishes, and desserts.

Enjoy it as a porridge or pilaf, or use it in baking or making gluten-free recipes. 

It also makes an excellent thickener for jams, soups, and sauces. 

Cooking tip:

Cook amaranth in water until it boils. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for around 15 minutes. Eat it as a porridge with a salt side dish or nuts, fruits, honey, and oats as granola bars.

Close up image of the package with teff

8. Teff 

One of the best substitutes for quinoa is a tiny, brown, gluten-free grain called teff. It’s also considered an ancient grain packed with vitamin C, essential amino acids, and other nutrients. 

Because it’s gluten-free, you can use its edible seeds for baked goods. You can grind the tiny grain into flour or crumble it to make meatless crumbles. 

Its milder flavor makes it easy to add to broths, herbs, and spices. It also pairs well with sweet flavors, especially in breakfast porridges. 

Cooking tip:

If you want to achieve a good texture and some crunch in your salads, follow the ratio of 1:1 of teff to water. For a consistency like porridge, use a ratio of 1:4 of teff to water.

9. Brown Rice 

Like white rice, brown rice is another good substitute for quinoa. This rice substitute is closer to quinoa in flavor and essential nutrients. 

Moreover, it’s a complete protein source and is a gluten-free grain. 

Although brown rice does not have a chewy texture, it has a quinoa’s nutty flavor that complements many types of dishes.

Brown rice has a slightly longer cooking time than quinoa and white rice. 

Cooking tip:

Pair your brown rice with savory meats like fish and chicken. It’s a high-fiber, low-carb, and low-calorie meal.

Wooden bowl with dry millet.

10. Millet 

Millet is another gluten-free substitute for quinoa that’s perfect for people on a healthy diet or those with dietary restrictions.

It has many health benefits and contains essential amino acids and a good amount of protein. 

Its slightly sweet flavor and fluffy texture make millet a versatile ingredient in many recipes. Use it for porridge, salads, or pilafs.  

Cooking tip:

Before you cook millet, soak it first to reduce the phytic acid and to absorb flavors better. Doing so also cooks it faster.

Bowl with uncooked pasta.

11. Pasta 

Yes, pasta can also be an excellent substitute for quinoa. As a quinoa alternative, go for smaller pasta like macaroni, rigatoni, or orzo. These go well in soups and salads. 

However, you can use any pasta you like if you just want the starch. Just cut it into small portions to avoid altering your recipe so much. 

Cooking tip:

Follow the package instructions and cook your pasta in boiling water with a pinch of salt. Then, use this as a cooked quinoa replacement in your recipe.

Skillet with cubed potatoes.

12. Potatoes 

Who doesn’t love potatoes? This staple food is an excellent substitute for quinoa because you can buy them anywhere.

You also have the option to use both sweet or white potatoes. 

This quinoa alternative is perfect for a balanced diet. Potatoes are a good source of vitamins and other essential nutrients. 

Cooking tip:

How you cook potatoes can vary their nutritional profiles.

To take advantage of their health benefits, boil, steam, mash, or bake them. 

What grain is similar to quinoa?

Millet is very similar to quinoa, although it’s a gluten-free option. Like quinoa, it cooks in less than 15 minutes and has a mildly sweet flavor. 

Does quinoa taste like brown rice?

Yes. Quinoa has a similar nutty flavor and earthy undertone, much like brown rice. Brown rice also has a nice, chewy texture.

Yellow bowl with quinoa salad

Best Quinoa Substitute: Your Top 12 Options

Natalia-Flavorful Home
Trying a recipe that requires quinoa? Don’t worry if you don’t like its taste or forgot to restock your quinoa supply. There’s a lot of quinoa substitutes to choose from. 
No ratings yet
Course Side Dish, substitutes
Cuisine American


  • Couscous
  • Barley
  • Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Wild Rice
  • Cauliflower Rice 
  • Amaranth
  • Teff
  • Brown Rice
  • Millet
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes


  • Choose a suitable substitute from our list.
  • Adjust the recipe if needed.
Tried this Recipe? Leave us a Comment!


Now that you have quite a few options for quinoa substitutes, you won’t have difficulty replacing it should your quinoa stock run out. You can try any of these quinoa alternatives to put a unique twist on your dish and draw out different flavors. 

Each healthy alternative offers different textures and flavors, from couscous and barley to cauliflower rice and millet. Try cooking with all of these other grains and substitutes to discover your favorites in terms of taste, texture, and cooking time. 

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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