Food & Recipes

What’s the Difference Between Red, Black, and White Quinoa?

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I love substituting in protein-rich quinoa for rice when I cook, but it always leads me to question my options when I get to the grocery store. Is there really a difference between red, black, and white quinoa?

While in the moment, I usually go for whatever’s cheapest, I would consider splurging on a more expensive option if it was, in fact, healthier. Or what if one is tastier than the other and I’ve been missing out on an amazing flavor just waiting to liven up my meals. With that in mind, I did some digging.

It turns out, there’s not too much difference when it comes to the nutrition in red, black, or white quinoa. Here’s a breakdown of the fiber, carbs, and protein found in 1/4 cup of each option:

Fiber

  • Red Quinoa: 6 grams
  • Black Quinoa: 2 grams
  • White Quinoa: 3 grams

Carbohydrates

  • Red Quinoa: 31 grams
  • Black Quinoa: 30 grams
  • White Quinoa:  28 grams

Protein

  • Red Quinoa: 7 grams
  • Black Quinoa: 6 grams
  • White Quinoa: 6 grams

I took those numbers straight from the nutritional info on the backs of three versions you can buy online —  RiceSelect Red Quinoa ($8.50, Amazon), NOW Foods, Organic Black Quinoa ($6.99, Amazon), and 365 Everyday Value, Organic White Quinoa ($5.99, Amazon). Prices can vary from store to store, but white is typically the most affordable and black can be a bit pricier since it’s more difficult to find. 

The biggest difference seems to be in the amount of fiber offered in each serving, so that might be a factor in your decision. Personally, I’m most concerned about getting plenty of protein, so it’s nice to know that I get that from any color of quinoa. 

As for their flavors, the experts at Cook’s Illustrated tasted each one side-by-side to compare and found that  red and white can be used pretty much interchangeably for similar flavor and textures. The red seed coating, however, gave it a bit more of a crunch than the fluffy white version. Black quinoa, which is the smallest option but with the thickest coating, were much crunchier and had the mildest flavor — but they noted “many tasters disliked their sandy texture.” 

I’m happy to report that whichever hue of quinoa you decide to go with for your recipes, you’ll be serving up a hearty, healthy, and hopefully delicious dish. 

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