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

Most of the quinoa you’ve eaten or that you find in stores is white quinoa. But did you know that there are other varieties as well?

In fact, there are several others aside from white. Two of the most notable being black and red.

Let’s look at the difference in nutritional value, flavor, cooking procedures and more.

Nutritional values

Before we look into some of the more subjective qualities (such as taste and suitability for recipes) let’s look at the nutritional info for all 3 varieties.

Having looked around the web for various labels, we’ve managed to find the following:


Of the three white appears to have the most calories (392) and the least carbs (63.9) per 100g.

It also offers the most protein at 16.2g per 100g.

All of this combined will likely make it a popular choice for any fitness enthusiasts, looking to maximize protein and minimize carbs.


Black quinoa appears to have the lowest calorie count (356) and the highest fat count (7.1) per 100g.

Black also boasts the most fibre, offering an impressive 7g as opposed to either 3.5 or 4.9.


Red appears to offer the least. It’s relatively high in calories but low in both fibre and protein.

Having said that, it is highest in carbohydrate content, potentially offering the best energy-kick to those looking for a boost.

White Quinoa

Of all three quinoa color varieties, white quinoa is the most common.

This is the quinoa that most people know about as it is commonly found in grocery stores, frozen meals, and even in many restaurants. 

Of all the quinoa varieties, white quinoa boasts the lightest flavor.

When added as an ingredient in recipes, its light flavor means it will not overpower any other ingredients.

Rather, it will simply add a nutty texture and flavor while soaking up the flavor of the seasonings.

It’s lighter and fluffier than the other varieties once cooked. It also cooks quicker and is less crunchy than the other varieties. 

White quinoa is, in fact, a bit more tan in color than white. Therefore, it is sometimes called tan quinoa, golden quinoa, yellow quinoa, ivory quinoa, blonde quinoa, or simply quinoa (since it’s the most common variety). 

Red Quinoa

Compared to the common white quinoa variety, red quinoa has a heavier texture to it. As such it holds up well when cooked alone or when added to cold salads and recipes.

It also retains its red coloring after cooking, which makes it a great option if you’re looking to add some color to your dishes. 

As far as flavor goes, red quinoa is commonly described as having a “nutty” or “earthy” flavor to it. It has an overall richer taste and a slightly chewier texture compared to white quinoa. 

One of the great benefits of red quinoa is it’s high concentration of lysine, which is an important amino acid, aiding in the formation and repair of brain cells. 

Black Quinoa

Of all the varieties of quinoa available, black quinoa is the least common due to the fact that it is produced in lower quantities in South America, where quinoa originates.

While it has a similar texture to white and red quinoa varieties, it tends to have an earthier flavor with a slightly sweeter taste than the others. 

It holds its color just as well as red quinoa, making it a great ingredient to add to any recipe. You can try using black quinoa in salads, soups, stews, or as a side dish. 

One major distinction of black quinoa is that it is the only variety that contains lithium, which is known to be effective as a medication for mania, mood swings, depression, blood disorders, and eating disorders. 

In closing

As you can see, there are only slight differences between white, red, and black quinoa varieties, and most of the differences are found in the texture and taste.

However, no matter which quinoa variety you choose, you’ll still receive a great range of nutrients and health benefits that this superfood has become famously known for. 

written by Peter Manley