What can You substitute for quinoa?

In this article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for quinoa?” and discuss what are the unique characteristics of quinoa, the possible substitutes products for quinoa and their properties.

What can You substitute for quinoa?

You can use amaranth and buckwheat to substitute for quinoa. You can also use rice and corn. These cereals are also gluten free and good sources of protein, although having different nutrition properties (1,2). 

Quinoa is an ancient crop cultivated in Latin America. It is a pseudo-cereal, that means, they are seeds that contain a high amount of starch and therefore are consumed as cereals (3).

What are the particularities of quinoa?

The particularities of quinoa are (1,2,3,4):

  • Differently from other cereals, such as corn and rice, quinoa contains a good amount of lysine and methionine and a well-balanced amino acid composition
  • Quinoa contains a high amount of fibers, which contribute to reducing cholesterol levels and preventing constipation. The consumption of fiber in adequate amounts is related to lower risks of developing diabetes
  • Quinoa contains carotenoids, vitamin C and other antioxidants
  • Due to the low glycemic index, quinoa can be consumed by diabetics
  • Individuals allergic to gluten and following a gluten-free diet can safely consume quinoa, as it does not contain gluten
  • Quinoa can be used in breads, cakes and be cooked as a side dish
  • Quinoa contains important vitamins of the B-complex, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids which favor neurological functions

What are the most recommended substitutes for quinoa?

The most recommended substitutes for quinoa are amaranth and buckwheat, as they are, similarly to quinoa, classified as pseudo-cereals and do not contain gluten. Their nutritional compositions are also similar. The composition of amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat are shown and compared in the table below (3):

Dietary fiber11.1412.888.62

The properties of these pseudo-cereals are described below:


Amaranth contains a high amount of proteins with improved digestibility and bioavailability which can be compared to casein. Amaranth is a good source of riboflavin, vitamin C and in particular of folic acid and vitamin E.

It also has a high amount of lipids, when compared to cereals, including unsaturated fatty acids which has been reported to help reduce the cholesterol levels in the blood (3).


Buckwheat contains a high amount of fibers, including d-chiro-inositol, which can be used to treat diabetic patients who do not use insulin. It also contains vitamin B2 and B6 and important minerals, including calcium and zinc (3).

Although buckwheat does not contain gluten, it contains anti-nutritional compounds and can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.

What are other substitutes of quinoa?

Some other substitutes for quinoa which are less recommended than amaranth and buckwheat, due to their lower nutritional properties. However, they are also gluten free and may be consumed by individuals following a gluten-free diet.

However, quinoa has a higher amount of minerals and vitamins than rice and corn, a protein with a higher biological value. While the biological value of quinoa protein is 73%, the biological value of rice and corn proteins are 56% and 36%, respectively. 

The amounts of minerals and vitamins of quinoa, rice and corn are compared in the table below (1):

Mineral / VitaminQuinoaCornRice
Folic acid0.07810.0260.02


In this brief article, we answered the question, “What can I substitute for quinoa?” and discussed what are the unique characteristics of quinoa, the possible substitutes products for quinoa and their properties.


  1. Singh, Kunwar Vikash, and Rashmi Singh. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd), functional superfood for today’s world: A Review. world scientific news, 2016, 58, 84-96.
  2. Satheesh, Neela, and Solomon Workneh Fanta. Review on structural, nutritional and anti-nutritional composition of Teff (Eragrostis tef) in comparison with Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.). Cogent Food Agri, 2018, 4, 1546942.
  3. Schoenlechner, Regine, Susanne Siebenhandl, and Emmerich Berghofer. Pseudocereals. Gluten-free cereal products and beverages. Academic Press, 2008. 149-VI.

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