Who doesn’t love quinoa?

It’s grainy, flavorful, filling, and super healthy!

But you may be thinking that quinoa is not all that keto-friendly due to its carb content and close resemblance to rice (the evil keto grain)…

However, there is a way to incorporate it into your keto lifestyle without compromising ketosis.

You can still enjoy its taste, versatility in cooking recipes, and numerous health benefits while maintaining your diet.

In this article, we’re going to highlight the food quinoa and see what its place is in the keto diet.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is an Andean plant which originated in Bolivia and Peru and is known as a pseudo-grain (or pseudo-cereal) due to it being a seed that acts like a grain. [1]

It’s loved by health-conscious consumers due to its delicious taste (hot or cold) and beneficial ingredients. Quinoa is high in protein and contains all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein, which is quite rare for plant-based food.

It’s filled with manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate, and can be an excellent source of fiber. A 100-gram serving contains 2.8 grams of dietary fiber, which is roughly 11% of your recommended daily intake.

You can use quinoa as a base in many dishes and add a variety of foods to it—broccoli, black beans, cheese, and more. It’s also an excellent food due to it being naturally gluten-free, making it a perfect choice for people with wheat intolerances.

Certain foods are known to be dangerous due to their effect on blood sugar levels, but fortunately, quinoa can help neutralize your blood sugars.

When Quinoa Is Acceptable on Keto

Now that we know a little bit more about quinoa, we can try to work out how to implement it into a keto-diet.

There are two different styles of eating on keto that allow you to consume carbs, such as quinoa, but only on certain occasions.

The first being: The Targeted Ketogenic Diet.

This is more or less the same as a regular keto-diet with the exception that you’re allowed to eat carbs around the times of exercising. The most common practice is to intake the carbs around thirty minutes before your workout, so your body uses it as energy. This ensures the carbs won’t be stored in any unwanted places.

Quinoa has a pretty high-carb profile with a 100-gram serving containing 21.3 grams. You have to make sure you’re doing enough exercise to burn it off so you don’t compromise ketosis.

The second being: The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet.

Also known as Keto Cycling, which refers to a period where you switch between eating carbs and not eating carbs.

This could be an effective method for those who have a hard time cutting carbs out. It usually consists of five days of eating, as if you were on your old keto diet, followed by eating moderate amounts of carbs for one or two days.

Carbs should be eaten in moderation: if they’re over-consumed, your body cannot maintain ketosis, and all of your efforts go to waste. However, if you’re disciplined and don’t go too overboard, you’ll have the ability to enjoy healthy carb-based products just like quinoa.

When It Isn’t Acceptable

Taking all of that information in, we can see that quinoa can be safe, but are there times when it should be avoided?

Its nutritional data may suggest so: the carb-levels are high, as we know, and this could interfere with keeping your body in a ketogenic state.

If you are on a keto diet that only allows you to eat 20-50 grams of carbs per day, then quinoa would limit your carb intake for the rest of the day. In this case, it might not make sense to include quinoa in your diet.

It can be easier than you think to accidentally go over your carb-threshold. This is due to lots of food having hidden carbs and sugar content. Because of this, it’s probably not worth the risk.

Low-Carb Quinoa Substitutes

Maybe you’re not ready to leave the strictness of your current keto diet just yet. That’s not a problem as there are plenty of great low-carb alternatives to quinoa.

Did you know you can make your own “rice” from other vegetables?

Using cauliflower: A fantastic option due to its versatility in the kitchen and the nutrition it contains. You can flavor it with any herb or spice you love while gaining heaps of vitamins and antioxidants, making it one of the best low-carb replacements for quinoa.

Using Broccoli: Another vegetable that can also be turned into a bowl of tasty rice. You can blend it up or chop it with a knife and then either steam, stir-fry or sauté it for best results.

Like cauliflower rice, broccoli rice is packed with nutrients and contains vitamin C [2] and K [3] which are known for protecting cells and making sure blood clots properly.

Ultimately, you really don’t need to worry about missing out on quinoa as there are plenty of other great low-carb substitutes you can try.

So Is Quinoa Keto-Friendly?

There are many benefits to quinoa—it tastes good, it’s teeming with nutrients, antioxidants, and it’s a complete protein.

However, it should only be consumed on both targeted and cyclical keto-diets to keep your body in a ketogenic state.

If these keto variety diets aren’t for you, then it’s worth checking out a low-carb alternative like broccoli and cauliflower to get that rice-like consistency and versatility.


[1] Abugoch James LE. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.): composition, chemistry, nutritional, and functional properties.

[2] Chambial S., Dwivedi S., Shukla K. K., John P. J., Sharma P. (2013). Vitamin C in disease prevention and cure: an overview. Indian J. Clin. Biochem. 28 314–328. 10.1007/s12291-013-0375-3

[3] Vermeer C. Vitamin K: the effect on health beyond coagulation – an overview. Food & Nutrition Research. 2012;56:5329–5329. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.5329.