What’s the Difference between White, Black, and Red Quinoa? (and other colors too)

All about the Different Quinoa Colors

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I know I usually don’t post on Thursdays, but someone just asked a really great question in the comments section of one of my Quinoa Recipes, and after my reply reached 200+ words, I realized I should just give the answer in this post.

So, What’s Up With All the Different Colors of Quinoa?

This super-versatile grain-like seed grows in a rainbow of colors, from white to black to red to green and many colors in between.

White Quinoa

The most common color of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) is white.

White quinoa is actually a bit more tan than white, so sometimes it’s called tan quinoa, ivory quinoa, golden quinoa, yellow quinoa, blond quinoa, or just quinoa.

Of all the quinoa colors, white quinoa has the most delicate taste and the lightest texture and it cooks up a bit fluffier than other types of quinoa.

Red Quinoa

Red quinoa (which takes on a brownish hue when cooked) has a richer taste, slightly chewier and heartier texture, and somewhat nuttier flavor compared to white quinoa. It’s often the quinoa of choice for cold salads as it holds its shape better during cooking.

Black Quinoa

Black quinoa has more of an earthy flavor than white quinoa and is ever so slightly sweeter.

Purple Quinoa

Purple quinoa is very similar to red quinoa. It isn’t readily available in grocery stores.

Orange Quinoa

Orange quinoa is a slightly milder version of red quinoa. It is also hard to find.

Pink, Gray, and Green Quinoa

I have no idea 😉  Have you ever tried these colors of quinoa?

Rainbow Quinoa

Rainbow quinoa is a packaged blend of different colors of quinoa – usually white, red, and black.  It’s also called tri-color quinoa or quinoa blend.

Which Color Quinoa Should I Use?

While flavor differences are subtle making it possible to use the different colors of this super-versatile grain-like food interchangeably, there are slight texture and taste differences that may influence you to choose one color of quinoa over another for certain dishes.

Because of its fluffy texture and milder flavor, white quinoa works well as a substitute for rice in many dishes.  This is not always the case for the black and red; they don’t have the light texture that white quinoa has, and their stronger flavor may overpower other ingredients in the dish.  However, black and red quinoa work great in salads or other dishes where the quinoa needs to hold its shape.

Bottom Line:  They all work, but you may prefer one over another in particular dishes.

Where Can I Buy Different Colors of Quinoa?

You can sometimes find the different colors of quinoa at large grocery stores.

I really like Azure Standard’s quinoa. It’s always fresh and delicious. They carry white quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa, and even quinoa flakes!

I have also purchased quinoa from Amazon and it’s usually decent quality. I’ve never been really happy with quinoa from the grocery store; it’s not only more expensive, but it usually isn’t fresh.

How Long Does It Take to Cook the Different Types of Quinoa?

White quinoa is the fastest-cooking quinoa.  Click here for my easy, step-by-step instructions for cooking white quinoa.

Red quinoa takes about 3 to 4 minutes longer.  And black quinoa needs about 5 to 6 more minutes than white quinoa does.

Personally, I don’t like to purchase rainbow or tri-color quinoa because of the different cooking times needed for each color of quinoa, but many people use it this way and like it.

Is Quinoa Gluten-Free?

Yes. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free.

Is Quinoa Good for Weight Loss?

Yep. Absolutely. In fact, I have a couple amazing quinoa recipes in my weight loss program.

Healthy Weight Loss Program

How Do I Cook Quinoa?

Step-by-step instructions for you right here.

My Quinoa Tastes Bitter!  How Can I Make Quinoa Not Taste Bitter?

Been there.  Here’s the secret to quinoa that isn’t bitter.

How Can I Get My Kids to Like Quinoa?

Including small amounts of quinoa in foods that they already like will help the taste center in their brain adjust to the new taste without their even knowing it.  For example, mix a small amount of cooked white quinoa in meatballs, macaroni and cheese, a casserole, or even cookies.  With some time, their taste buds will become more accepting of the quinoa flavor and they’ll be more likely to eat quinoa out-of-disguise.

For a bunch more tips, you can also see my post on How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy.

Can I Freeze Quinoa?

Yes, it freezes and reheats well.

Do You Have Any Recipes for Quinoa?

Yes. Here you go:

Vegan Quinoa Recipes

What Do You Think?

Do you like quinoa? Have you ever tried other colors of quinoa?  How about green or pink quinoa?  What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa?


You my also like:

Before you go . . .

Did you know that you can eat all this delicious food AND lose weight? You can!

No calorie counting. No portion sizes.

Join my online weight loss program today!

28 Comments

  1. Thank you for this informative blog…I have been looking for another way to cook besides RICE! or PASTA! I was watching a program on (Create) this morning and a very nice lady from India was using this product, white quinoa. Right away I looked on the internet and found you… My daughter is Gluten intolerant, she is 35yrs old and has Celiac disease and cannot eat anything with Gluten.

    “Thank you for your website and Recipes” Jennifer 😉

    1. Thank you, Kim, for your very kind and encouraging comment! It makes me so happy to hear my blog has been helpful!

      I hope you enjoy the quinoa. If you want some recipes that use quinoa, you can go to the link at the top of my site that says “Recipes” and in the drop-down menu click “Recipes by Category”. Toward the bottom of the new page that appears is a link for all my quinoa recipes.

      Jennifer

  2. I am eating black quinoa as I type! I became curious and decided to research it, and your website popped up. I made mine “mexican style”, with black beans, tomatoes, cumin, and cilantro. I felt like I added a lot of salt to the quinoa itself, yet I still can’t taste the salt. Overall I like it, it’s just missing some flavor for me. I found it in the bulk section of Smith’s grocery store for around $3 per cup. Great write up of all the basic info 🙂 -Alicia @ http://www.girlonahike.com

    1. Some things I do with quinoa for flavor-
      veganaise
      garlic powder
      turmeric powder
      cayenne
      yogurt
      olive oil
      home made hot sauce using apple cider vinegar and spices listed above
      (any combo of the above)

  3. Hi Jenn,

    Happy to see this website.
    I have low good cholesterol and high bad cholesterol.
    I’m from India and we eat more rice every day.
    So I wanted to reduce the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol.
    I want to quit rice and switch to quinoa so suggest me which quinoa is good white quinoa or red quinoa .
    And please suggest me any other suggestions.
    Right now I am in USA California.
    Thanks, Ramesh
    +1 4089166322

    1. Hi Ramesh,

      Both white and red quinoa will help your cholesterol profile.

      Other foods that can help raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol are garlic, onions, and beans. Avoiding oil, dairy products, eggs, and meat will also be very beneficial.

      Jennifer

  4. Im on a mission to be healthier and always mindful of cost. I consistently saw a price difference when I saw white and red in various stores. I wanted to know why. Hence, my Google search. Usually, the more common item is less expensive than the less common item. Not in the case of quinoa. It seems white is more expensive than red. I can gather why from your post. Thank you. I haven’t seen the other colors ime your post but I’ll be on the look out.

    1. Hi Jan,
      I don’t have an exact recipe, but here is a general guideline:
      Spray insert with cooking spray.
      Add 1 cup quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water.
      Cook on high pressure for 1 minute. Allow pressure to release naturally for about 10 to 12 minutes and then release remaining pressure … and it’s done!
      Some people like to use less water, but I like to make sure my quinoa is all the way cooked.

      Here’s a delicious recipe for Cheesy Vegan Quinoa you may like.

      Jennifer

      1. I use my instant pot all the time to make (white) quinoa just like this. Bur I recently tried black quinoa and learned it definitely needs to cook longer than white! The texture of it was like sand after 1 minute the first time and after 2 minutes the second time. And it certainly doesn’t digest well in that state! So now I will try 6 minutes next time, as you mentioned in your article. I wish the package would note the difference in cooking time!

        1. I agree, it would be helpful if the package of black quinoa would specify that it needed to cook longer. It’s kinda rough on the digestive system to eat quinoa that isn’t thoroughly cooked.
          The extra 6 minutes usually works for me, but some brands take up to 10 minutes longer. Not sure why.

  5. Red quinoa has a heavier texture compared to white, and also has a more prominent flavour that is often described as “nutty”. The heavy texture of red quinoa allows it to hold up very well when cooked. This texture makes red quinoa a great cold salad ingredient! It also maintains its red colour after cooking, so if you are looking to add some colour to a dish, red quinoa can be a great addition.

  6. Thank you for clarifying the differences between the different colors of quinoa.

    One of our favorite quinoa recipes is fried “rice” quinoa. You cook the quinoa the night before (or early in the day) and refrigerate it. Then you proceed as with a regular fried rice recipe. It’s delicious.

  7. I’m so glad I found this article! I try to eat healthy (emphasis) on try), but I have a problem eating vegetables, especially if they’re organic. Either I don’t like them or they don’t like me.

    A few times a year, I complete a 21-day cleanse in which I can only eat organic veggies and a little bit of fruit for the first ten days. (Chicken can be added on the 11th day.) Currently, I’m on my tenth cleanse.

    I don’t enjoy doing these cleanses because of my problem with vegetables. I’m delighted, however, that quinoa is on the menu! What a lifesaver!

  8. hi jennifer,
    i am curious about the nutrition profile. are the white, red, and black quinoa of equal nutritional value?
    thank=you,
    brenda.

  9. Sorry for the stupid question but just to clarify, you can freeze COOKED quinoa and reheat it? I’m new to cooking altogether.

    1. Hi Laura,
      That’s actually an EXCELLENT and very helpful question. I love being able to make a big batch of something ahead of time, portioning it out, and keeping the portions in the freezer for a later time for a quick meal.
      And thankfully, quinoa freezes very well.

      To reheat, place a small amount of water in the bottom of a saucepan and bring to boil. Add frozen (or thawed) quinoa, cover, and cook until thoroughly heated. This works best if you allow your quinoa to thaw a bit before reheating, but it works fine for completely frozen quinoa too – just watch the pan to make sure you have sufficient water to keep the quinoa from burning.

      Enjoy!

      Jennifer

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