Considering a vegan or vegetarian diet, but wondering how you’ll get adequate protein? It’s not as hard as you might think. There are actually plenty of high-protein vegan foods and high-protein vegetarian foods that can fuel your body and keep things interesting from a culinary standpoint. Contrary to what some people think, not all vegan and vegetarian protein sources taste like sawdust!
Let’s take a look at 10 of the best high-protein foods for vegans and vegetarians, and ways to incorporate them into your overall nutrition plan.
Topping the list of high-protein foods for vegans and vegetarians is the lovely lentil. One cup of cooked lentils has an impressive 18g of protein and nearly 30g of fiber. Plus, lentils are high in iron, folate, and antioxidants. Hearty lentil soup and spicy dahl are two of the most common uses for this little legume, but don’t hesitate to try lentils as the base ingredient for a tasty, protein-rich chilled salad.
With 8g of complete protein per cooked cup, it’s no wonder that quinoa is often considered a superfood. It’s one of the few grains that holds complete protein status; additionally, it is high in magnesium, antioxidants, and fiber and is naturally gluten free.
Try cooked quinoa cold in summertime salads, warm in vegetable soups, as a base for bowl-style meals, and even as a replacement for pasta.
3. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter delivers 8g of delicious protein per two tablespoons. Like other nut butters, it’s also high in fiber and healthy fat. You can use peanut butter on sandwiches, as a dip for cut veggies and fruit, or as an addition to your protein shake. Just be sure to choose a natural version that skips the added sugar found in many commercial nut butter brands.
With about 10g of protein per cup, tofu is an obvious protein source for vegans and vegetarians alike. Tofu is not too exciting on its own, but it readily absorbs the flavors of whatever herbs, spices, sauces and other ingredients it’s cooked with, making it a versatile protein source. Try tofu in stir frys, curries, sandwiches, wraps, soups, and burgers—along with the protein, you’ll get plenty of iron and calcium, too.
With around 15g of protein per cooked cup, it’s no wonder that chickpeas are a favorite protein source for many vegans and vegetarians. One of the most popular ways to enjoy chickpeas is ground into hummus, which is then spread on sandwiches or used as a dip for vegetables, crackers, chips, or pita bread. Whole chickpeas are an excellent addition to salads, soups, and stews. They’re also quite tasty—and have a satisfying crunch—when roasted and served as a snack.
All you big salad lovers, rejoice! Spinach packs a punch when it comes to protein, containing 5-7g per cup. Whether you eat it raw or cooked, this dark leafy green also supplies plenty of fiber, iron, vitamins, and minerals. In addition to trying spinach raw in salads and wraps, toss it into just about any dish you cook: scrambles, omelets, quiches, soups, stews, pasta sauces, and stir frys.
7. Chia Seeds
This tiny seed is no nutritional weakling. Rather, chia is considered a superfood, with 5g of complete protein per two tablespoons, plus vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants aplenty. It’s easy to add chia to your daily diet—just mix a few tablespoons of seeds into your next protein shake, smoothie, oatmeal, yogurt, or acai bowl.
Looking for a protein rich food for vegetarians? It’s hard to beat a basic egg. One large egg offers 6g of protein. If you’re concerned about cholesterol, stick with the egg white only and you’ll still get about 3.6g of protein. Eggs are another extremely versatile food and taste great either in the starring role (hard boiled, scrambled, fried, or in omelets and frittatas) or as an addition to numerous recipes.
9. Nutritional yeast
The secret to vegan macaroni and “cheese,” nutritional yeast is commonly used as a cheese substitute for the dairy averse. It’s delicious in tofu scrambles, or as a tasty and nutritious flavoring atop popcorn. Just two tablespoons of nutritional yeast yields 8g of protein. When fortified, it’s also a source of zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese and B vitamins.
10. Non-Dairy & Plant-Based Protein Supplements
Non-dairy and plant-based protein supplements—such as egg white, soy, pea, and rice proteins—work well for anyone with a dairy allergy or intolerance. Egg white and soy are complete proteins, while pea and rice proteins are incomplete, but can be combined to provide all nine essential amino acids. Aside from using protein powders to make protein shakes, these supplements can be stirred into yogurt or oatmeal for an added boost at breakfast. (Consult each supplement’s nutritional label for protein volume per serving.)
Remember—plenty of high-protein foods for vegans and vegetarians work great as protein shake ingredients. Besides the obvious plant-based protein powders, you can easily mix chia seeds and any type of nut butter in your favorite BlenderBottle® shaker cup. Want a few recipes to get you started? Try our Nutty Monkey Protein Shake (sub almond or soy milk to make it vegan) or our Peanut Butter Apple Protein Shake, using your favorite plant-based protein powder.