The following graph shows a typical quinoa amino acid profile. The essential amino acids are marked with a small asterisk next to their names.
This chart was generated using our amino acid profile comparison tool.
(Data Source, 2)
It might be easier to read in table form. Essential amino acids are again marked with an asterisk (*).
|% of total amino acids|
Table of Contents
Is Quinoa a Complete Protein?
There are 2 things that determine whether a protein is “complete” or not, according to the WHO: balance and amount.
Let’s start with balance, which looks at the relative amounts of each essential amino acid in quinoa:
Complete Protein (min %)
Quinoa passes this test with flying colors, it has a very balanced essential amino acid profile.
The second part we need to look at is amount. In other words, if you could only eat quinoa, could you get enough of each amino acid in a day.
|Needed per day (mg for 65 kg adult)||In 100g of Cooked Quinoa (mg)||
100g servings needed
This is the point where there’s some subjectivity in what a “complete protein” actually is.
In 970 grams of cooked quinoa, you’d get enough of each amino acid (for a 65 kg adult).
If you really had to, you could eat that amount and survive no problem.
Based on that, you could argue that quinoa is a complete protein.
That being said, you’re not going to see bodybuilders switching all their protein intake to quinoa.
Quinoa has a significant amount of all essential amino acids, and you could technically get enough of all of them. However, the overall level of quinoa is still relatively low and it would take many servings to hit your RDA of all essential amino acids.
Overall Summary of Quinoa Protein’s Amino Acid Profile
Quinoa is one of the best plant protein sources there is, as far as protein quality goes.
Most importantly, there is a significant amount of all essential amino acids.
It’s profile is well balanced, with a very similar amino acid profile to brown rice.
In terms of overall nutrition, you might find this couscous vs quinoa comparison interesting.
What to Pair With Quinoa
While it’s not necessary, you might want to find other plant-based protein sources that complement quinoa’s amino acids.
In other words, foods that have a relatively high amount of leucine and valine.
For a full list of options, see my post on the best vegan sources of leucine, and the best plant-based sources of valine. What you’ll see is that certain types of foods show up on both lists:
Pretty much all legumes have a solid amount of protein overall, including leucine and valine. The only essential amino acid beans lack is methionine, which quinoa has a relatively high amount, so they pair well together.