Is quinoa pasta gluten-free?

Quinoa has become an increasingly popular gluten-free grain alternative in recent years. As more people adopt gluten-free diets or look to incorporate more plant-based foods into their meals, quinoa pasta has emerged as an appetizing pasta alternative for those avoiding gluten. But an important question remains – is quinoa pasta actually gluten-free?

What is quinoa?

Quinoa is a seed that comes from the quinoa plant, which is native to the Andes Mountains of South America. It’s often referred to as a “supergrain” because it contains more protein than most other grains. Here are some key facts about quinoa:

  • Quinoa is naturally gluten-free. It does not contain the proteins glutenin and gliadin, which are responsible for forming gluten in grains like wheat, barley and rye.
  • In addition to being high in protein, quinoa contains fiber, antioxidants, and various vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium and zinc.
  • The quinoa plant is related to leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. But the edible part of the plant is its seed, which is what quinoa is comprised of.
  • There are over 120 varieties of quinoa, but the most common are white, red and black quinoa.

So in its whole food form, quinoa is a naturally gluten-free grain. But that doesn’t necessarily mean products made from quinoa, like pasta, are guaranteed to be gluten-free as well.

How is quinoa pasta made?

Quinoa pasta is typically made by combining quinoa flour with water and/or egg to form the pasta dough. This dough is then extruded through dies to create the pasta shape.

Some key things to know about the quinoa pasta production process:

  • Quinoa flour is made by grinding quinoa seeds into a fine powder. It’s simply quinoa in flour form.
  • Some quinoa pasta contains only quinoa flour and water. But many varieties also include egg as a binding ingredient in the dough.
  • Quinoa pasta can be produced in facilities that also process wheat pasta. Some risk of cross-contamination may exist.
  • The extrusion process to make quinoa pasta is similar to traditional wheat pasta production.

So while quinoa itself is gluten-free, cross-contamination could occur during processing, transportation or packaging if precautions are not taken to prevent it. This means care must be taken by the manufacturer to ensure no gluten gets into the quinoa pasta.

Is quinoa pasta certified gluten-free?

For a product to be considered gluten-free, it must meet certain standards and regulations:

  • In the United States, food labeled “gluten-free” must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten according to the FDA.
  • Products made in a facility that processes wheat must implement proper sanitation and batch testing to qualify as gluten-free.
  • Many quinoa pasta brands choose to get gluten-free certification from organizations like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).

So while quinoa alone is gluten-free, quinoa pasta is not automatically guaranteed to be so without proper processing controls and certification. Consumers need to check that the brand has been certified gluten-free if it’s important for their diet.

Here is a table summarizing some popular quinoa pasta brands and whether they are certified gluten-free:

Brand Certified Gluten-Free
Ancient Harvest Yes
Barilla Yes
Bionaturae Yes
Trader Joe’s No

As you can see, some major brands have obtained gluten-free certification for their quinoa pastas, but not all. It’s important to verify before purchasing if this is a priority.

Should celiacs eat quinoa pasta?

For those with celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity, caution is recommended when consuming quinoa pasta, even if it’s labeled as gluten-free. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • There can be a risk of cross-contamination during processing and manufacturing, even with good protocols in place.
  • Traces of gluten may still be present depending on the sensitivity of the celiac.
  • Consuming it could lead to unpleasant symptoms or setback their health if celiac.
  • Proper basinette when cooking at home is crucial – should use fresh water, colander, etc.

Those with celiac may want to take extra steps to verify the pasta choice, like contacting the manufacturer to understand their protocols. Working with a dietitian knowledgeable in celiac disease can also help determine appropriate food choices, including whether trying quinoa pasta is recommended.

Tips for cooking gluten-free quinoa pasta

If you’ve checked that your chosen quinoa pasta brand is gluten-free, here are some useful tips for preparing and cooking it at home:

  • Always cook quinoa pasta separately from wheat pasta, using separate pots/strainers.
  • Boil in fresh water – don’t use water that’s had wheat pasta cooked in it.
  • Don’t salt the water until it reaches a boil, as this can prevent the water from boiling properly.
  • Stir frequently while cooking to prevent sticking.
  • Quinoa pasta typically cooks faster than wheat pasta, in just 2-4 minutes.
  • Rinse thoroughly with fresh water once cooked to prevent sticking.
  • Avoid overcooking quinoa pasta, as it can become gummy. Remove from heat as soon as tender.

Taking these steps helps reduce any risk of cross-contamination from your kitchen tools and equipment. Enjoy your quinoa pasta!

Health benefits of quinoa pasta

Transitioning from traditional wheat pasta to gluten-free quinoa pasta comes with some excellent health advantages:

  • Higher protein: Quinoa pasta packs nearly double the protein of wheat pasta. One serving can provide 10-15 grams of plant-based protein.
  • More nutrients: In addition to protein, quinoa pasta offers more fiber, antioxidants, iron, magnesium and zinc compared to refined wheat pasta.
  • Lower glycemic index: With a glycemic index around 53, quinoa pasta has a lower blood sugar impact than regular pasta.
  • Gluten-free: Quinoa pasta avoids gluten, making it safe for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
  • Plant-based: Made from seeds rather than grains, quinoa pasta is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.

Quinoa pasta is free of cholesterol and low in fat as well, making it a nutritious choice. Just be sure to keep portion sizes reasonable and watch out for high glycemic index add-ins like sweet sauces.

Nutritional comparison

Here is a nutritional comparison of 1 cup of cooked quinoa pasta vs. traditional wheat pasta:

Nutrient Quinoa Pasta Wheat Pasta
Calories 174 158
Protein 8g 5g
Carbs 30g 31g
Fiber 4g 3g
Fat 2g 1g

As shown, quinoa pasta packs extra protein, fiber and healthy fats compared to traditional wheat pasta for a similar calorie count.

Types of quinoa pasta

There are many shapes and varieties of quinoa pasta available beyond just elbow macaroni. Here are some of the more common types:

  • Spaghetti: A classic pasta shape that works well in dishes like quinoa bolognese or pesto.
  • Fusilli: Spiral shaped pasta good for thicker sauces.
  • Penne: Hollow, cylinder shaped pasta ideal for baked dishes or salads.
  • Rotini: Spiral shaped pasta similar to fusilli, nice with quinoa pesto dishes.
  • Lasagna sheets: For making gluten-free lasagna in layers.
  • Macaroni: The classic elbow shaped pasta, excellent in vegan quinoa mac and cheese.

The size, shape and texture of quinoa pasta is quite similar to traditional wheat pastas. Different shapes can be substituted in most recipes calling for regular pasta.

Tips for baking with quinoa flour

In addition to pasta, quinoa flour is growing in popularity as an ingredient in gluten-free baking recipes. Here are some tips for success when baking with quinoa flour:

  • Look for super-fine quinoa flour, which behaves more like all-purpose flour in baking.
  • Sift the quinoa flour before using to prevent clumping.
  • Combine with other gluten-free flours like brown rice flour to improve texture.
  • Allow baked goods made with quinoa flour to cool completely before slicing.
  • Adjust liquid in recipes as quinoa flour absorbs more than wheat flour.
  • Add binders like xanthan gum to help mimic gluten’s effects.
  • Fold in beaten egg whites at the end of mixing to lighten texture.

While not quite as light and fluffy, baked goods using quinoa flour can have great flavor and hold together well with proper adjustments. Have fun experimenting!

Common questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about quinoa pasta:

Is quinoa pasta more expensive than regular pasta?

Yes, quinoa pasta does tend to cost more than traditional dried pasta made from refined wheat. Quinoa is typically priced higher than wheat flour, and additional processing is required to ensure the pasta is gluten-free. Expect to pay approximately 25-75% more for quinoa pasta.

How is the texture different?

Quinoa pasta has a firm, springy texture when cooked al dente, rather than the soft texture of wheat pasta. It can become gummy if overcooked, so follow recommended cook times. Some types contain added rice flour or maize flour to improve the texture.

Does quinoa pasta taste different from wheat pasta?

Quinoa pasta has a light, mildly nutty flavor from the quinoa that is much more pronounced compared to relatively bland wheat pasta. Many people enjoy this flavor, but those who are unfamiliar with quinoa may need to adjust.

What are good sauce pairings?

The nutty quinoa flavor pairs well with creamy or herbaceous sauces like pesto, vodka sauce, mushroom sauces, dairy-free alfredo, etc. Tomato-based sauces are classic, but go lighter on savory, garlic-heavy sauces to let the quinoa flavor shine.

How long does quinoa pasta last compared to regular pasta?

Uncooked quinoa pasta keeps for 1-2 years in an airtight container, similar to wheat pasta. Cooked quinoa pasta can be refrigerated 3-5 days – slightly less than wheat pasta due to higher protein content. Frozen cooked quinoa pasta keeps for 2-3 months.


Quinoa pasta can make an excellent gluten-free alternative to traditional wheat-based pasta, providing more protein, nutrients, and a pleasantly nutty flavor. However, it’s important to verify that any quinoa pasta you purchase is certified gluten-free to avoid cross-contamination. Caution is also warranted for those with celiac disease, who may still react to traces of gluten. Preparing quinoa pasta separately from wheat pasta and using proper cooking techniques helps reduce risk as well. With so many shapes and varieties available, it’s easy to enjoy safe, healthy quinoa pasta as part of a gluten-free lifestyle.

Leave a Comment