Is Quinoa Keto Friendly?

Is quinoa keto? Find out if this healthy food selection aids your ketogenic diet to success. Learn all about quinoa and the keto way of eating in this article.

A bowl of quinoa

Is quinoa keto ideal? It is a question many followers of the ketogenic diet ask. The ketogenic diet is one that is mindful of consuming low amounts of carbohydrates and more fats to convert for use as energy for the body. This conversion process is called ketosis. But first, let us relearn what this little round and brown colored food type are. What is quinoa? 

Quinoa is a seed that looks like a type of rice mistaken as one, but quinoa is actually from the seed family. It grows from a leafy plant that reaches three to nine feet tall. Quinoa is not a type of cereal grain. It is a gluten-free seed that many health-conscious individuals diet on as a grain substitute. However, there are components in quinoa that are similar to gluten, which causes a spike in the blood sugar. It hinders ketosis from occurring. While quinoa is high in protein and easily makes the stomach full, health experts argue that it is not ideal for a strict ketogenic diet. Learn more about quinoa, the ketogenic diet, and the best alternatives for quinoa in this article.

Is Quinoa Keto: Breaking Down the Seed

Quinoa originated in the countries Peru and Bolivia and is now a favorite for many health-minded individuals around the world. It tastes good, whether warmed up or added as the main ingredient in desserts such as pudding. It is very healthy because it is packed with all the amino acids. Quinoa is also highly fibrous, contains folate, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium. 

There are about 120 kinds of quinoa grown today so you can get as creative as you want in the kitchen. In health aisles, you will usually see red, black to white-colored quinoa seeds and are a cooking favorite in many vegetarian salads. You may also make a base of good old quinoa, which you can mix with black beans, broccoli, and much more. They are also great with absorption when they’re cooked.

When quinoa is cooked, one cup of quinoa keto is already 222 calories. Roughly, that is about 40 grams of carbohydrates and 34 grams net carb. It has a good amount of protein at 8 grams, 4 grams of fat, and 5 grams of fiber. Quite a carby.

Quinoa has 4:1 carb to protein ratio

There are keto diet types you can go far. Look for the one that suits you most.

  1. Standard Keto Diet (SKD) = 20 – 50 grams of net carbs daily
  2. Targeted Keto Diet (TKD) = 25 – 50 grams or less net carbs daily; ideal for highly physical individuals or athletes (consume 20 minutes to an hour before or after exercise)
  3. Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD) – carbohydrate cycling (eating low carbohydrates for several days then a few days of higher carbohydrates)

Ketogenic Diet Must-Eats

Now you know that unfortunately, quinoa is not ideal to pair with the keto diet, below is a guide of ketogenic foods to include in your daily intake and the food groups or beverages that are unallowed. Be mindful and update your grocery list.

Protein Daily

  • Shellfish (lobster, crab, shrimp)
  • Fatty fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon)
  • Poultry (dark meat parts)
  • Organ meat (tripe, liver)
  • Full-fat dairy (yogurt, butter, milk)
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Bison
  • Lamb

Occasional Protein 

  • Poultry (the white meat parts)
  • Low-fat dairy (butter, milk, yogurt)
  • Bacon
  • Eggs (pasture-raised)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Whey protein powder

Prohibited Protein

  • Breaded meat
  • Cold cuts (hotdogs, turkey, ham)
  • Cured meats (pepperoni, salami)

Vegetables Daily

  • Asparagus
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli rabe
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Leafy greens (kale, arugula, lettuce, spinach, collard greens)
  • Mushrooms
  • Sprouts (bean sprouts, alfalfa)
  • Squash (yellow summer squash, zucchini)

Occasional Vegetables

  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Jicama
  • Onions

Prohibited Vegetables

  • Artichoke
  • Beets
  • Corn
  • Ginger
  • Leek
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash (pumpkin, butternut)

Healthy Fats Daily

  • Avocadoes
  • Avocado oil
  • Brain octane oil
  • Cocoa butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Fish oil
  • Flax seeds
  • Full-fat dairy (cream, butter, yogurt)
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • MCT oil
  • Olive oil
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts

Healthy Fats Occasionally 

  • Brazil nuts
  • Nut butter (pecans, almonds, hazelnut)
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Prohibited Healthy Fats

  • Canola oil
  • Cashews
  • Margarine
  • Sunflower oil


*Pick organic and low carbohydrate fruit

Occasional Fruits 

  • Avocadoes
  • Blackberries
  • Coconut meat
  • Honeydew
  • Lemon juice
  • Olives (green or black olives)
  • Kiwi
  • Lime juice
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Tomato

Prohibited Fruits

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Dried fruits
  • Grapes
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Watermelon

Occasional Grains and Legumes

  • Black soybeans
  • Edamame
  • White kidney beans

Prohibited Grains and Legumes

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Corn
  • Farro
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Navy beans
  • Oats
  • Peanuts
  • Peas
  • Pinto beans
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat
  • Rice (e.g. brown, white, wild)
  • Rye

Herbs, Spices, Condiments Daily

  • Basil 
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Full-fat mayonnaise
  • Paprika
  • Pepper
  • Parsley
  • Ranch
  • Rosemary
  • Salt
  • Thyme

Occasional Herbs, Spices, Condiments 

  • Garlic powder
  • Ginger
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano
  • Turmeric

Beverages Daily

  • Bone broth
  • Full-fat milk
  • Herbal tea
  • Water

Occasional Beverages 

  • Almond milk
  • Coffee
  • Low-fat milk
  • Seltzer

Prohibited Beverages

  • Alcohol
  • Fruit juice
  • Soda

Miscellaneous Food Choices


  • Dark chocolate (70% or higher)
  • Fat bombs


  • Sugary alcohol (e.g. mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol)

If you are looking for other quinoa substitutes that make for tasty meals, shredding or grating broccoli, cauliflower or daikon radish are hearty and healthy options. Broccoli contains more protein than other vegetables and comes with a good deal of potassium, vitamin C, and K, iron, and fiber. Also, cauliflower is a vegetarian favorite and is found to lower heart disease risk, fight inflammation, help reduce weight, promote excellent eye and skin health, and balance the hormones in your system. 

Quinoa has a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio That is a lot, and quinoa is not sounding like a great choice for those hoping to achieve a healthy keto diet for the long term. So is quinoa keto? No, but there are several other delicious and healthy food substitutes you can have in your ketogenic diet so have at it!

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