If you love pasta but need to follow a gluten-free or wheat-free diet, quinoa pairs well with many pasta toppings. The seed of a plant related to spinach and beets, this small round grain swells to about four times it size when cooked. It has a nutty flavor and a soft, somewhat crunchy texture. Quinoa is highly nutritious — it provides protein as well as calcium, iron and several other minerals.

Substitute quinoa directly for couscous or orzo, which are pastas that are similar in size and shape to quinoa.

Compare quinoa to the particular pasta for which you plan to substitute. Because of its size and texture, quinoa will provide a better approximation of smaller pastas without holes or ridges.

Look at the sauce or topping you want to serve with the quinoa. Because quinoa is similar in texture to delicate pasta types, it works better with lighter sauces such as marinara and pesto, or a vegetable topping with no sauce. Creamy or chunky sauces may not mix as well with quinoa, but you can experiment to find out what combinations you prefer.


  • If you’ve never used quinoa before, imagine how your sauce would pair with rice because quinoa has a similar texture.