12 Quinoa Substitutes For Any Dish Or Diet

Quinoa is a popular seed-like grain that is a breeze to substitute. There are myriad ways to replace its delicate fluffy texture, nutty flavor, and high nutritional profile. 

Quinoa is used in everything from soups to salads, side dishes, and savory bowls. It also works perfectly as a sweet breakfast porridge or in granola and baked goods. 

Whether you need to replace quinoa in a sweet or savory recipe, this article has you covered. You’ll find substitution options with and without gluten, plus a great low-carb option.  

7 Gluten-Free Quinoa Substitutes

1. Rice

Grains of Rice on a Plate

Both brown and white rice have a mild flavor that can fill in for quinoa in most dishes. Try using rice as a substitute in side dishes, as a base grain in savory bowls, and in cold salads.

One bonus of using white rice is that it cooks quickly like quinoa. Brown rice can take longer to cook, though, up to 50 minutes for some varieties.

One downside to white rice is that it won’t hold up as well in soups as quinoa does. It also provides less nutrition and protein.

Brown rice, however, will hold up and taste better in soups. Plus, it has more nutrition than white varieties, although it still can’t compete with the high protein content of quinoa.

Use brown or white rice at a 1:1 ratio to substitute for quinoa. A good rice cooker will do most of the work for you, and following the package instructions for your particular type of rice will yield the best results.

2. Wild Rice

wild rice on a wooden surface

Wild rice is an underrated substitute for quinoa. It adds flavor and texture to soups and goes exceptionally well with mushrooms. It’s also delectable in salads, as a side dish, and in stuffed vegetables, like peppers or squash.

Much like quinoa, wild rice has complete protein and tons of flavor. Whether you buy plain wild rice or a blend, its taste is earthy, nutty, and satisfying.

The chewy texture of this type of rice stays firm in soups and when coated in salad dressing. And like quinoa, wild rice goes very well with dried fruits and nuts.

The only downside of wild rice is that it can take much longer than quinoa to cook. 

Substitute wild rice at a 1:1 ratio for quinoa, and use the cooking instructions on your package for the best results. 

3. Buckwheat

Buckwheat on a spoon

Buckwheat groats are pyramid-shaped grains that, despite their name, don’t contain any wheat or gluten. This substitute is great in cold salads, sweet breakfast porridges, and as a side dish. 

Buckwheat takes about the same amount of time to cook as quinoa. Making it an excellent direct substitute when you’re pressed for time. It’s nice and fluffy and has a rich, nutty taste.

Try adding a handful of cooked buckwheat to pancake batter for hearty multigrain pancakes.  

One downside of buckwheat is that it gets soggy in soups.

Use buckwheat at a 1:1 ratio in place of quinoa. Take note that overcooking it can cause it to stick together and get mushy. 

Pro Tip: Try kasha (pre-toasted buckwheat) in place of raw buckwheat groats. They have a toasty flavor and will cook in about half the time as buckwheat groats. 

4. Millet 

Millet is another gluten-free option to use instead of quinoa. It’s tasty in soups, veggie bowls, stuffed vegetables, and as a side dish. It also holds its shape in salad dressings and pilaf-style dishes.

Similar to quinoa, millet is quick-cooking. It’s ready in 15-20 minutes. And its mild, sweet flavor makes it easy to pair with almost anything. 

The only caveat about millet is that it can get dry. So, you may need to experiment to find your ideal ratio of water to raw millet. 

Use millet as a 1:1 substitute for quinoa. Start with 1 part millet to 2 parts water, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the millet is fluffy and soft. 

Pro Tip: Try toasting millet pilaf-style before cooking. It will provide more depth of flavor and can even shorten your cooking time by a few minutes. 

5. Riced Cauliflower

Cauliflower Rice in a Bowl

This low-carb substitute for quinoa can hold its own in any savory entree or side dish. It’s delicious steamed, in stir-fries, or as an addition to soups. 

Riced cauliflower is low in calories and high in fiber. Like quinoa, it cooks within 15 minutes or less once it’s been “riced.”  

This substitute is easiest to make if you have a food processor at home. If you don’t, I’m afraid it will involve a lot of chopping to get the right texture by hand. 

When ricing cauliflower, use both the florets and stems. For easy processing, cut it down into roughly 1-inch pieces. Then pulse it in the food processor until it looks like rice. Scrape the sides as needed while processing to break it up evenly.

Once it’s riced and cooked, use riced cauliflower at a 1:1 ratio to replace quinoa. 

6. Teff 

This tiny brown grain (the world’s tiniest, in fact!) can be a delightful substitute for quinoa. It pairs well with sweet flavors in breakfast porridges and pilafs. It’s also used in soups, stews, and the famous Ethiopian injera bread. 

Considered an “ancient” grain, teff is an un-modified whole grain packed with nutrition and contains tons of vitamin C. 

There are two ways to cook teff to replace quinoa. First, if you want a texture good for salads with a little crunch, cook it at a 1:1 ratio of teff to water.

For a porridge type of consistency, use 1 part teff to 4 parts water. You’ll generally want to cook teff between 8-20 minutes, depending on the texture you want. 

7. Amaranth

Amaranth is another mini-grain that’s excellent in breakfast porridges, side dishes, and salads. It can even be used in desserts and granola. 

It’s both high in protein and gluten-free, like quinoa. Amaranth also has the bonus of cooking in 15 minutes or less. 

This tiny grain has one unique quality that quinoa does not. It can be popped like popcorn and used in sweets and granola. Once popped, try combining it with dried fruits, oats, honey, and chocolate to make granola bars. 

To substitute amaranth for quinoa, use at a 1:1 ratio once it’s been cooked.

The ratio of amaranth to water can vary from 1 part amaranth to 2.5 to 3 parts of water. For breakfast porridges, you’ll want to use the higher water ratio. It takes around 15-20 minutes to cook.

Pro Tip: To pop amaranth, place a dry pot over medium-high heat and add no more than 1-2 tablespoons of amaranth. Stir continuously while popping until it’s all (or mostly) popped. 

5 Quinoa Substitutes With Gluten

1. Couscous

This fluffy substitute for quinoa is great in cold salads like tabbouleh or as a versatile side. It can be a blank canvas for any flavorings but works especially well with legumes, vegetables, herbs, and dried fruits. 

If you want a substitute with the best appearance, couscous looks a lot like quinoa once it’s cooked. It also cooks fast, like quinoa, in about 10 minutes. 

Since this substitution contains gluten, it’s not safe for people who are sensitive to it. It’s also not the best to use in soups as the gluten can cause soups to become cloudy and overly thick.

Use couscous as a 1:1 substitute for quinoa. Try pan-toasting it lightly before cooking for extra flavor. 

2. Barley

Barley is a well-suited quinoa substitute for soups, side dishes, and cold salads. 

Its chewy texture and earthy flavor make it a satisfying and filling grain. However, be aware that its grains are larger than quinoa, so this may not be ideal for some dishes. 

There are many types of barley, but the two most common are Pearl and Hulled:

  • Pearl Barley- Polished grains that cook faster than hulled barley. It’s great for thickening soups and making barley risotto. 
  • Hulled Barley- Whole grains that take longer to cook. Delicious in salads and pilafs. It can be used in soups without thickening the soup. 

Once you’ve cooked your preferred type of barley, use it at a 1:1 ratio to replace quinoa. You may prefer to use a smaller proportion in salads that have several ingredients. This is because the barley is heavier and has more volume and chew.  

3. Farro

Farro is another ancient whole grain that’s less hybridized than common wheat. It can replace quinoa in soups, side dishes, and cold salads. It also makes a fine risotto. 

Farro’s nutty flavor and chewy texture make it filling and satisfying as a substitute. Its unique flavor pairs well with dried fruits, vegetables, dressings, and herbs. 

Another bonus of using farro as a quinoa substitute is that it keeps its flavor and shape upon reheating. This can be super helpful for weekly meal planning.

To use farro in place of quinoa, substitute it at a 1:1 ratio once it’s already cooked. For best results, follow the package instructions to cook it properly. 

4. Kamut 

Organic Kamut grain on wooden background

Yet another ancient grain containing gluten, Kamut can make a pleasing substitute for quinoa. Add it to soups, salads, side dishes, and stir-fries. Or, try it as a breakfast grain for a sweet, wholesome treat. 

This grain has a natural buttery flavor. Similar to brown rice in shape, it holds up well in most dishes and with reheating. 

Keep in mind that Kamut is much more time-consuming than quinoa to cook. It requires soaking overnight before cooking and still takes 40-60 minutes to cook the next day. So plan ahead.

Use Kamut as a 1:1 substitute for quinoa once it’s cooked if you decide to give it a try. The flavor is worth it!

5. Bulgur

wooden bowl on a table cloth

Bulgur wheat is well-known for its taste in Lebanese tabbouleh. Given this, it’s easy to understand why it’s a great substitute for quinoa in cold salads. It can also replace quinoa in soups, stews, and warm breakfast cereals. 

Like quinoa, bulgur has a short cooking time and a light, nutty flavor. 

There are four main types of bulgur, each corresponding to the size of the grain: 

  • Fine
  • Medium
  • Coarse
  • Extra Coarse

Fine-grain bulgur is your best bet for whipping up cold salads in no time. It only needs a brief soak in water and is ready to eat.

The medium to extra-coarse bulgur take longer to cook but will hold up better in soups and stews. 

Once it’s cooked, bulgur can substitute quinoa at a 1:1 ratio.

Final Tips on Quinoa Substitutions

As you can see, there are many fun ways to replace quinoa in your favorite dishes. You have options with and without gluten and many textures and flavors to choose from.

Are you trying out a new grain that you’ve never used before? Remember that following the package instructions will ensure they cook perfectly every time. 

Additionally, don’t forget to check the preparation time before you start preparing your recipe. Some grains can take much longer to cook than quinoa or may require soaking overnight.

Last of all, don’t be afraid to experiment freely. Get creative with oils, vinegars, herbs, and seasonings as you find your ideal quinoa replacement.   

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the closest substitute for quinoa? 

Couscous is the closest in texture and appearance to quinoa, but it contains gluten.

What’s the best keto substitute for quinoa?

Riced cauliflower is the best low-carb, gluten-free, and grain-free substitute for quinoa. 

What’s the best gluten-free quinoa substitute?

Millet is a gluten-free quinoa substitute that’s similar in appearance, texture, and cooking time. 

About the author

Freya is a trained pastry chef with over 20 years of professional kitchen experience, cooking and baking everywhere from high-end restaurants to classical bakeries. Some of her interests include Qigong, foreign languages, and songwriting.