Three Quinoa Varieties

There are 100+ varieties of quinoa, but only three quinoa varieties are sold commercially in most markets – red, black and gold (which is the most common). Each color has distinct characteristics which make it unique.

Let’s look at each one more closely – starting with the most rare variety:

Black Quinoa

Black quinoa is the most difficult variety to find in the market because it cannot be produced in large quantities and only grows in harsh environments; but worth the search if you can find it.

Image by joannawnuk
Image by joannawnuk

The rare black color has an exotic appeal. It is crisper than the gold – as is the red, but even more so; and it has a sweet, subtle flavor.

The exotic color and firm texture is a fine choice to be served with citrus and other fruits. Just imagine an Asian pear salad served with black quinoa. Not only is the combination of flavors amazing, the black and white coloring of the dish will dazzle the eyes.

It is almost impossible to overcook this hardy variety. It does not cook down into mush and holds up well with long baking times. When cooked it is less fluffy and maintains a crisp, grainy, almost nutty texture in any dish.

The exotic black quinoa is exquisite in a dish with many layers of flavor and textures.

Red Quinoa

This variety has the “WOW” factor because of its color and slightly crunchier texture. The flavor is sharper than the more common, gold variety, even a little bitter for some palates, but very tasty. Because of these characteristics, red quinoa is a delightful, colorful choice for many dishes.

  • Try serving it with fresh fruit and brightly-colored vegetables to make a dish that will be the star of any meal.
  • Because of the slightly bitter taste, it goes extremely well with more mildly-flavored foods like avocados and butternut squash.
  • It is a delicious complement to the rich creamy cheeses.
  • It is a great substitute for ground or finely chopped nuts as a salad topping.

Finally, red quinoa is higher in protein and calories than the gold variety. Plus, it contains three grams more fiber per serving.

Gold Quinoa

Image by joannawnuk
Image by joannawnuk

The gold or cream-colored quinoa is the most common variety and can be found in most grocery stores. It also has the most “typical quinoa” taste. It is the point-of-reference against which all other forms of quinoa are compared.

It is fluffier, lighter, and creamier than the other varieties and keeps its cream color when cooked. Because of its light texture, it mixes well with a wide variety of foods and incorporates easily into baked goods.

Gold quinoa can be served hot as part of main or side dishes (an excellent choice as a substitute for rice or couscous in many dishes) – or served cold in salads. It often becomes a favorite as a breakfast cereal because it mixes well with milk or cream (a good replacement for hot oatmeal).

Regardless of the variety you choose, you will be serving dishes that are filled with a complete protein, vitamins and minerals.

Try it soon – you may find a new family favorite that you will want to serve often.