When swapping out meat and dairy from your diet, be sure to account for the protein you’re missing out on. It’s a misconception that a plant-based diet doesn’t provide enough protein. In fact, many plants contain high amounts of protein, including:
- soy products such as tempeh
- grains such as quinoa and buckwheat
- seeds such as hempseeds and chia seeds
- nuts such as almonds and cashews
- legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils
- vegetables such as kale, zucchini, and Portobello mushrooms
It also helps to know how much protein a serving holds.
Here are 25 of the best plant-based sources of protein, and how you can easily add them to your diet.
Edamame is an unprocessed soybean in the legume family. You can simply steam it and add a pinch of salt for a delicious snack. Or try this chile-garlic edamame seasoning that adds a spicy kick to this traditionally simple food. Another out-of-the-box option is this silky edamame soup by food blog Love & Olive Oil.
Protein per serving: 18 g per 1 cup cooked
Tempeh is a soy product some people feel have a similar texture to meat. Many vegan restaurants use it to replace meat in recipes. Give it a try with Veggie Belly’s curried tempeh grilled cheese sandwich with mango chutney. Or, stir up this comforting tempeh chili.
Protein per serving: 16 g per 3 oz.
Tofu is food famous for being a good source of protein, and it’s a tasty one that you can bake, fry, steam, or scramble, depending on the type. Get started on your breakfast with Vegan Yumminess’s tofu scramble. Looking to level up your dinner or lunch? Try this crispy baked tofu and broccoli bowl with blood orange soy sauce.
Protein per serving: 8-15 g per 3 oz.
Seitan, or wheat gluten, was invented more than a thousand years ago for Chinese Buddhist monks as a meat substitute. If you’re a fan of Chinese food, you may want to try these General Tso’s (Not) Chicken Bowls by Oh My Veggies. Another good recipe is this vegan Philly cheesesteak. People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity should avoid this food.
Protein per serving: 21 g per 1/3 cup cooked
Quinoa is an “ancient grain” from the Andes that has gone mainstream. Besides being vegan-friendly, it’s also gluten-free and an excellent source of protein. Try Stacey Homemaker’s tasty, easy pesto-spinach quinoa-stuffed tomatoes. Or recreate this yummy quinoa-carrot sesame salad by nutritionist and food blogger Meredith of pür body.
Protein per serving: 8 g per 1 cup cooked
Despite the name, buckwheat is actually a gluten-free grain related to rhubarb. And it contains a decent amount of protein too! Cook up these fresh pear and dried fig bran muffins for a tasty breakfast or snack. For lunch or dinner, make this spring soba noodle salad with fava beans.
Protein per serving: 6 g per 1 cup cooked
Oats are typically seen on the breakfast table, but really work with every meal. An easy and popular breakfast that suits to any flavor preference are overnight oats. For a savory evening or midday meal, try this mushroom ginger steel-cut oat congee (porridge). Adding almond milk instead of water to soak the oats will also increase help increase the protein.
Protein per serving: 5 g per 1/4 cup dry
Wild rice is an easy source of protein that can be added to almost any meal. For a quick and healthy lunch or dinner, try this wild rice power bowl. Or, if you love salad, try this pomegranate, kale, wild rice salad with walnuts and feta.
Protein per serving: 6.5 g per 1 cup cooked
Seeds and nuts
Hemp seeds are a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a really healthy choice. For breakfast or a snack, make this super seed trifecta granola. For lunch or dinner, opt for this speedy summer power salad.
Protein per serving: 10 g per 2 tbsp.
Like hemp seeds, chia seeds pack a big nutritional punch in terms of protein and omega-3s. If you’re a smoothie fan, you’ll want to try this strawberry chia seed smoothie. For a healthier version of pancakes, make these coconut chia seed protein pancakes.
Protein per serving: 4 g per 2 tbsp.
Peanuts and peanut butter
Peanuts and peanut butter are often thought of as “basic” foods. But if you get whole, unprocessed products, they’re actually rich in protein and other nutrients. Eat it as an easy, quick snack option or transform them into delicious meals. Whip up this yummy sweet potato-peanut bisque or try this peanut butter hummus.
Protein per serving: 7 g per 1/4 cup nuts or 2 tbsp. butter
Almonds contain one of the highest amounts of protein of any nut. This almond-honey power bar is a great on-the-go snack or breakfast. For lunch or dinner, try these lentil and almond burgers. You can also eat almond butter by the spoonful for a quick, protein-packed snack.
Protein per serving: 6 g per 1/4 cup
Like almonds and peanuts, cashews are high in protein and other healthy nutrients. We love this rich raw carrot cake with vegan cashew “cream cheese” frosting. Or make this cashew ricotta cheese to replace regular cow’s milk ricotta in your favorite recipes.
Protein per serving: 5 g per 1/4 cup
Lentils are an inexpensive and healthy plant food that can be used in all types of recipes. Try this quick, tasty, and hearty recipe for lentil dal with hearty greens, a classic Indian meal. Another tasty treat to try is Chowhound’s easy lentil soup.
Protein per serving: 18 g per 1 cup cooked
Black beans are inexpensive, healthy, and easy to cook with. Try this great kale and black bean taco recipe (more on kale, later!). If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to bake these decadent black bean brownies.
Protein per serving: 7.6 g per 1/2 cup cooked
Lima beans contain protein and other nutrients essential for good health, such as leucine. Bake lima beans with tomatoes and peppers with this great recipe from the NY Times. Another heart-warming dish is their giant lima bean ragout (or soup).
Protein per serving: 7.3 g per 1/2 cup cooked
Protein per serving: 6 g per 1/2 cup cooked
Quorn or mycoprotein
Mycoprotein is a fungal protein that is fermented and used as a meat substitute. It’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol, but it’s also considered a processed food. You’ll be able to find these products at a local health-food store or online. For a spicy dish, make this Quorn Thai curry. On the less-spicy side, try pesto veggies and Quorn.
Protein per serving: 13 g per 1/2 cup cooked
Spirulina is a type of algae that has a distinct taste and texture. It’s used in many dietary supplements because it’s high in arginine, iron, calcium, potassium, and protein. Add this powder to your smoothies or recreate these crème chocolate truffles.
Protein per serving: 4 g per tbsp.
Kale is known as a nutrition powerhouse. Not only does it have protein but it’s also rich in fiber, iron, vitamin K, and more. Add more kale into your diet with this easy garlic kale. For something more unusual, also try these baked kale chips.
Protein per serving: 2.47 g per 1 cup cooked
Zucchini is a vegetable you can easily find in many grocery stores. It’s also really versatile and works as a great alternative ingredient to wheat pasta. Get a spiraler and try this low-carb zucchini pasta. Zucchini fritters are another great zucchini dish.
Protein per serving: 2.05 g per 1 cup sliced
Ever wondered what crunchier, crispier broccoli would taste like? Broccoli rabe is your answer. This nutritious vegetable can be used in its entirety, from the leaves to the stem. Try this simple sautéed broccoli rabe, which complements almost any meal, or this linguine with broccoli rabe-walnut pesto.
Protein per serving: 3.26 g per 1 cup cooked
Portobello mushrooms have long been used to replace meat in many vegetarian dishes. Cook it right and they can even have a similar texture to meat. On the simple side, try grilled Portobello mushrooms. For something with a little kick, try these spicy Asian Portobello mushrooms.
Protein per serving: 3.97 g per 1 cup cooked
Hubbard squash can grow up to 50 pounds, which means there’s plenty to cook with! One good way to use Hubbard squash is to cook it into this winter squash pecan bread.
Protein per serving: 5.08 g per 1 cup cooked
Collard greens are a Southern food staple, and they just so happen to be quite healthy. Here’s a recipe for classic Southern-style collard greens. Or try these spiced-up “creamed” collard greens with peanut butter and chile.
Protein per serving: 5.15 g per 1 cup cooked
Incorporating a plant-based diet into your life can be beneficial if you do it right. The right way is swapping out animal protein and products with a variety of whole, unprocessed foods, such as:
- fresh fruits
- whole grains
- seeds and nuts
The wrong way involves eating few fruits and vegetables, and lots of processed or refined carbs that provide little nutritional value. It’s crucial for people switching to a plant-based diet to continue getting enough protein. Protein helps with weight management, muscle repair and building, healthy hair and skin, and more.
So enjoy the recipes above and share your own in the comments below!