Where is Quinoa in the Grocery Store [and why should you care?]

If you haven’t tried quinoa yet, you’ve probably heard of it.  Where is quinoa in the grocery store?  The short answer is that it is usually in the same aisle as rice, couscous and other grains.  Often it can be found in the “health” food aisle with other all-natural foods.  Read on to find out more about the benefits of this amazing food!

What is Quinoa?

Because quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is often found in the rice aisle, you might assume it is a grain.  However, quinoa is actually a seed.  People do generally use it as a grain when cooking, so it is often called a pseudograin or pseudocereal grain.  Because it is a seed and not a grain, it is naturally gluten-free and can be used in place of grains for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Quinoa is one of a group of grains and pseudograins called ancient grains that have remained mostly unchanged for thousands of years.  Originally from the Andes region of South America, quinoa has been cultivated by the native people there for over 8000 years (1).  It grows easily under many conditions and so can be a beneficial crop in many areas of the world where malnutrition is an issue.  

Where is Quinoa in the Grocery Store?

While in the past, only a so-called health food store would carry quinoa, it has become so popular in recent years that you can now buy quinoa in most chain supermarkets.  You will likely find quinoa in the rice aisle, pasta aisle, cereal aisle or another grains section of the grocery store.  It may also be in a gluten-free aisle, or with specialty diet foods.  Some gourmet food or natural food stores might have it in bulk bins.  If you do buy quinoa in bulk quantities, your best option is to store it in an airtight container to maintain freshness. 

You might also find a pre-cooked quinoa meal in the prepared foods section or the frozen foods section of the grocery store.  

Types of Quinoa

There are many different varieties of quinoa.  Some of the most popular are described here.


White quinoa is the most common type of quinoa you will find at the grocery store.  It cooks the quickest and has the mildest taste.  White quinoa is the fluffiest when cooked and often works well as a breakfast bowl or as a stuffing for wraps or veggies.  It can be a good substitute for white rice.


Red quinoa has a slightly nuttier taste than white.  Cooks often like the look of the red quinoa when mixed in or served with other foods.  Since it is usually chewier than white quinoa, It holds up well in salads.  You can find other colorful versions of quinoa like purple and orange for variety.


Black quinoa takes the longest to cook and has a much stronger flavor and crunchier texture.  Similar to red quinoa, it holds its shape well so is good as a salad base.


Can’t decide which color is most appealing or tastes the best to you?  Often you can find tri-color or rainbow quinoa which combines the look and taste of all three varieties.

Quinoa Flakes

Similar to oatmeal in appearance, these flakes are pressed quinoa.  

How to Prepare Quinoa 

Quinoa is a versatile product that can be prepared in many different ways.  At breakfast, cook it with milk and add fruit and cinnamon.  For lunch and dinner, quinoa can replace brown rice as a side dish, or be added to salads, soups, or stew.  The fluffy texture and nutty flavor combine well with many different ingredients and seasonings.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa has amazing nutritional value, with lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.  In fact, quinoa is one of the rare plant foods that is a complete protein (meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce on its own).  


According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of cooked quinoa has the following nutrients:

Nutrients in 1 cup of cooked quinoa
Protein8 g
Carbohydrates39 g
Fat3.5 g
Fiber5 g
Vitamin E1.2 mg
Vitamin B60.23 mg
Folate 77.7 mcg
Iron2.8 mg
Zinc2 mg
Magnesium118 mg
Potassium318 mg

Weight Management/Heart Disease

With 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein per cup, quinoa may help you feel full longer and so may help with weight management.  One study found that adults eating biscuits made with quinoa flour for 4 weeks had small but positive changes in cholesterol, weight and body mass index (BMI).  These types of changes may also decrease risk of heart disease (2).

Metabolic Syndrome

A study of overweight and obese adults found that those eating about ¼ cup of quinoa per day had a significant decrease in their triglyceride levels.  They also had a decreased risk of Metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions including among other things high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar.  Metabolic syndrome raises your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other health problems (3).  

Celiac Disease

People diagnosed with celiac disease have to avoid gluten, which is a protein found in most grains.  Because quinoa is a gluten-free grain, it can be a good substitute for wheat, rye and other grains.  It also provides many of the nutrients that people often lack when they need to eliminate gluten-containing foods from their diet, such as fiber, folate, iron, zinc and magnesium (4).


Plant-based diets are more friendly to the planet.  Because quinoa is so high in protein, it can lower your dependence on animal proteins and help move you toward a more sustainable eating pattern.  


Now that you know where to find quinoa in the grocery store, make sure to add some of this magnificent pseudograin to your menu!  It provides many nutrients that are important to women over 40, and works well in healthful eating patterns such as the DASH or Mediterranean diet.  Happy eating!!

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