Is Quinoa High In Protein? (A Nutritionist Explains)

As a nutrition coach, I am often asked whether quinoa is a good source of protein, and if it can serve as a substitute for animal based proteins in a healthy diet.

Here’s my quick answer: 

Quinoa is primarily a carb source, not a protein source. However, it is considerably high in protein compared with other carb sources with more than 4 grams of protein per 100 gram serving.   

Even though quinoa has some protein, if you require a high protein intake, it won’t give you all the protein needed in your diet. 

Key Takeaways

  • When it comes to plant-based protein sources, any food that contains 4 grams of protein or more in a 100-gram serving is considered to be high protein. Other high protein plant-based foods include edamame, lentils, beans, and legumes.

  • If you are trying to eat a high-protein diet, you will have to include other plant and animal-based protein sources. Animal-based foods contain significantly more protein than quinoa and are also complete protein sources (contain all 9 essential amino acids).

  • Quinoa is a great food to include in your diet since it contains a high amount of carbohydrates to fuel an active lifestyle, fiber to help keep you full, and the essential amino acids necessary for muscle growth and recovery.

What’s Considered “High In Protein”?

Depending on a food’s classification, different protein contents will determine whether or not it’s high in protein.

For example, meats and fish can be considered high in protein when they have more than 15 grams per portion (100 grams). On the other hand, vegetables can be considered high in protein when they have more than 4 grams per serving (100 grams).

Carb sources don’t tend to have a lot of protein. On average, they contain one to three grams of protein.

For this reason, a carb with more than 4 grams of protein per serving (100 grams) would be considered high in protein. 

How Many Grams of Protein Are in a Serving of Quinoa?

How many grams of protein are in a serving of quinoa

In 100 grams of cooked quinoa, you get 4.4 grams of protein. It is considered a high-protein carb (unlike rice, which contains around 2.5 grams in a 100 gram serving) and has all nine essential amino acids your body needs. 

Amino acids are the molecules that make up protein. Your body can produce some amino acids, and these are considered non-essential. Others need to come from your diet and are considered essential amino acids. 

Animal proteins have all nine essential amino acids, but most plant-based proteins don’t.

However, quinoa is one of the few plant-based sources that has all the essential amino acids.

This is also one of the reasons why I consider quinoa to be better than brown rice for building muscle.

Protein in Quinoa Compared With Other Plant-Based Sources

The following table compares the nutritional information for some of the most common plant-based protein sources for 100 grams of each product. 

Food (100 g)CaloriesProtein (g)Carbs (g)Fiber (g)
Black beans944.821.14.1

According to the table, quinoa is not the highest plant-based protein option. While it is still considered a high-protein carb, others have higher amounts of protein. 

If you are trying to include more protein in your diet without consuming animal products, foods like lentils instead of lower-protein carbs like peas or black beans can make it easier to meet your protein requirements. 

On the other hand, if you are on a plant-based diet, you also need to be careful with your carb intake. Increasing your portion sizes to get more protein can also increase the amount of carbs you consume, and your body may not need a lot of carbs if you are not physically active.

If you want to include a high-protein food without adding too many carbs, you can opt for edamame since it has 11.9 grams of protein and only 8.9 grams of carbs (5 g of fiber) per 100 grams. 

Does Quinoa Have More Protein Than Meat?

No, quinoa does not have more protein than meat. Meat sources like chicken and lean ground beef have around 20 to 25 grams of protein per 100 g serving, while quinoa has 4.4 grams.

Here is a table to illustrate the amount of protein different types of meat have in comparison to the same measurement of cooked quinoa.

Product (per 100 grams)CaloriesProtein (g)
Chicken breast15531
Lean Ground turkey15029
Ham163 23
Lean ground beef 17620

Does Quinoa Have More Protein Than Fish and Seafood?

No, quinoa does not have more protein than fish and seafood. Fish and seafood have around 17 to 20 grams per serving, compared to the ~4 grams in quinoa. This means fish and seafood have up to five times more protein than quinoa. 

Here is a comparison table to better understand the relationship between the protein content of quinoa, fish, and seafood. 

Product (per 100 grams)Calories Protein (g)

Tips for Increasing Your Protein Intake When Eating Quinoa

Tips for increasing your protein intake when eating quinoa

If quinoa is a staple of your diet but you need to increase your protein intake further, follow these tips:

1. Add More High-Protein Sources

To boost your protein intake when eating quinoa, you can add some tofu. Tofu (made from the edamame bean) is another plant-based option that offers all the essential amino acids your body needs. 

If you don’t know how to cook tofu, here is a recipe to help you get started. 

You can also add some nuts to increase your protein intake. 

For example, one ounce of almonds gives you 6 grams of protein. Keep in mind that they are also high in calories and fats, so you need to be careful with the portion size. 

2. Mix Up Your Legumes and Plant-Based Foods

As you can see from the table comparing different legumes and plants, quinoa is the lowest in protein content.

So, if you want to boost your protein consumption, make sure to mix up your non-animal protein sources.

For example, if you want to consume one cup of carbs, have half a cup of quinoa and half a cup of chickpeas.

Since chickpeas are higher in protein (+4.5 grams), they can increase your protein intake while still providing you with essential amino acids. 

3. Have a Protein Shake

Finally, if you want to increase your protein intake while consuming quinoa, you can have a protein shake before or after a meal. 

If you are on a caloric deficit, include it before a meal to increase your fullness levels. This can help decrease your portion sizes, especially if you want to also watch your carb intake, without leaving you still hungry after you eat. 

On the other hand, if you are on a weight gain journey, have a protein shake after to ensure you can eat more of your macros and nutrients from whole-food sources first. 

Can Eating Quinoa Help You Lose Weight?

Yes, you can eat quinoa to help you lose weight. If you switch simple carbs like white rice to quinoa, it can give you more protein and fiber. Protein and fiber can increase your fullness levels, which is ideal for a caloric deficit. 

For example, 100 grams of rice contains 130 calories, 28 grams of carbs, 0.4 grams of fiber, and 2.7 grams of protein. 

On the other hand, 100 grams of quinoa contains 143 calories, 26 grams of carbs, 2.3 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.

While they have the same caloric content, the different macronutrient composition (protein, carbs, and fat) gives quinoa an advantage when you are on a weight loss journey. 

Protein and fiber take longer to digest in the stomach. This makes you feel fuller for longer. In the end, this leads to fewer snacking and smaller portions, creating a caloric deficit. 

However, quinoa is still high in calories, so you need to control the portion size to ensure you are within your calorie goals.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Quinoa a Good Source of Protein?

Compared to other carb sources like rice, quinoa is a good protein source. Quinoa has twice the amount of protein (4 g) than rice (2 g). However, there are other higher plant-based options with a higher protein quantity, such as edamame, which has 11 g per 100 g of product. 

Is Quinoa More Protein or Carb?

Quinoa is more carb than protein. It has 21.3 g of carbs and only 4.4 g of protein. With the plant-based options, you need to be careful when you want to achieve a certain amount of protein since it can also mean increasing your carb intake (and your calories). 


Krajcovicova-Kudlackova M, Babinska K, Valachovicova M. Health benefits and risks of plant proteins. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2005;106(6-7):231-4. PMID: 16201743.

About The Author


Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.