Quinoa Amino Acid Profile: Is It Complete?


Of all the grains, quinoa has one of the highest protein contents, even if it’s still mostly carbohydrates.

As we’ll see below, quinoa is arguably a complete protein, depending on the definition you use.

Detailed Quinoa Protein Amino Acid Profile

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.

quinoa amino acid profile

(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
Alanine 4.6
Arginine 10.4
Aspartic Acid 9.3
Cysteine 1.3
Glutamic Acid 16.4
Glycine 7.6
Histidine* 3.1
Isoleucine* 4.2
Leucine* 7.3
Lysine* 6.1
Methionine* 2.7
Phenylalanine* 4.3
Proline 4.9
Serine 5
Threonine* 3.2
Tryptophan* 1
Tyrosine 3.6
Valine* 5

Is Quinoa a Complete Protein?

There are 2 things that determine whether a protein is “complete” or not, according to the WHObalance and amount.

Let’s start with balance, which looks at the relative amounts of each essential amino acid in quinoa:

Complete Protein (min %)
Quinoa (%)
Histidine 1.5 3.1
Isoleucine 3 4.2
Leucine 5.9 7.3
Lysine 4.5 6.1
1.6 4
3 7.9
Threonine 2.3 3.2
Valine 3.9 5

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
Histidine 650 127 5.1
Isoleucine 1300 157 8.3
Leucine 2535 261 9.7
Lysine 1950 239 8.2
975 159 6.1
1625 268 6.1
Threonine 975 131 7.4
Valine 1690 185 9.1

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. It is increasingly being used as a protein source ingredient (source)

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:

  • Beans
  • Seeds

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.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. I've spent over 6 years as a freelance nutrition writer and researcher. During this time, I've tested over 50 vegan protein powders, and over 100 other types of vegan supplements.

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