Can You Use Quinoa as a Substitute for Rice?

Gone are the days when you either used potatoes, pasta or rice exclusively, to complete a meal. Nowadays, you can also choose couscous or quinoa to name but a few additions to a complete lunch or dinner. That being said, not everyone knows what quinoa is, and those that don’t often wonder if it can replace rice in the various ways it can be prepared. Let’s examine more closely what is quinoa and how it can be cooked.

What are Quinoa’s Nutritional Values?

Let’s start understanding quinoa by looking at what it can bring us in terms of vitamins and minerals. The first thing you should know is that quinoa is a good source of antioxidants. This is really important as it protects us in many different ways. Our skin needs it to stay healthy and smooth. It also keeps us safe from cardiovascular illnesses and cancer. By ingesting it, we gain a part of the antioxidants we need to stay in better health.

One of the differences between rice and quinoa is that the first one is a grain and the second one, a seed. Seeds usually contain more minerals than grains. It is the case here, as quinoa provides more magnesium, iron, fiber and zinc than rice does.

Here are the nutritional elements brought by quinoa and what they do for you:


This mineral is important to keep the heart healthy and is not found sufficiently in Western diets.


They are part of the Vitamins B. They come to help for tissue growth and cell function. Folates are particularly needed during pregnancy.


This mineral is the one that helps to transport oxygen in our body, through red blood cells and it also helps for other body functions.


This is another mineral lacking in Western diets. Since it helps for various body processes, it is important to ingest some through food, such as quinoa.


It is a trace mineral which we need for our metabolism, growth and development.


Phosphorus is a mineral necessary for bone health and maintenance of the body tissues.


It takes part in many chemical reactions inside our body, and helps with overall health.

How does Quinoa compare to Rice?

As we noted above, quinoa is even better for our heath than rice. It is also a complete source of protein, which makes it an excellent addition to our diet. Because it is really soft, we can also grind it and make flour out of it, which is another advantage compared to rice.

Like rice, quinoa can come in a variety of colours (tan, red or black), besides its normal one, which is off-white. The taste difference between each colour is not very strong, so choose the quinoa according to the meal you are cooking, so that it adds a particular touch, by differentiating itself from the other elements on the plate.

Like most rice, you should wash quinoa before cooking it. Although it is true that most of them are processed these days (which is also the case for rice), quinoa is coated with saponin, which is a natural pesticide. Washing it in water will remove the last traces of it, if it did not fully go away when being manufactured and boxed. As you would do with rice to relieve it from starch, place the quinoa in a deep bowl and rinse it by waving your hands through the seeds in cold water. Drain and replace the water before doing it again a second time.

Can Quinoa be used as a Replacement for rice?

The answer is yes; quinoa can replace rice in most dishes. You can probably even use quinoa in a risotto recipe. However, you should keep in mind that it will change the flavour, since quinoa and rice taste differently. Quinoa also has a slightly crunchy texture which will feel different in the mouth.

If you were thinking of replacing your fried rice for fried quinoa, then we would not suggest it. Rice works much better fried, as it gives it a unique crispy feel. But quinoa will be great in many different other ways of serving it. Try it as: a side dish, with stir-fried vegetables and with a stew. You can also add it to your salads, casseroles and soups, and insert it into your stuffing and veggie burgers.

One of the nice things about quinoa is how you can use it for breakfast as porridge. You can also replace the rice in pudding by using quinoa instead, which will change the texture and the taste of it completely.

Keep in mind, when you use quinoa as a replacement for rice, that it cooks much quicker, even compared to plain white rice. Then, try it out by adding various foods to it, such as caramelized onions and other vegetables. You’ll certainly find your own favourite way of cooking it!


Adrian F.

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