Many people are concerned about the protein intake of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Whether you are contemplating going veggie or have been vegan for a while, it can be a source of anxiety. However, many nutrition experts agree that a vegan diet can provide you with the nutrients you need to lead a perfectly healthy life. It may take a little planning, though.
Protein is necessary for building muscle strength, repairing injuries, and even aiding in weight loss. There are, fortunately, lots of high-protein vegan foods to help vegetarians get in enough of this essential macronutrient.
Here are some of the best options.
Looking for High-Quality Vegetarian Protein Sources
One of the main worries about vegan protein sources is the amino acid profile. It’s rare for a plant-based protein source to contain all nine essential amino acids, whereas meat sources tend to be complete proteins. As a result, vegans must implement a varied diet that incorporates a variety of protein sources.
High-protein vegetarian meals can be delicious, combining various flavors and textures that make them extra tasty.
Vegans tend to be aware of what they are consuming, so this should not be too difficult as long as you have no allergies. High-protein vegetarian meals are also often delicious, combining various flavors and textures that make them extra tasty. As a result, many vegetarians find it easy to consume multiple plant-based protein sources by making different meals.
If you are not into cooking, then vegan protein supplements are an option. The following guide covers food and ingredients in more detail, all of which are high in protein and perfect for making tasty meals.
Best Vegan Protein Sources
There are lots of plant foods that contain a high amount of protein per serving. Not every option is suitable for all diets, but most can be consumed by anyone. If you are interested in making high-protein vegan meals, check out the following seventeen options for plant-based protein.
Seitan is a popular protein source that is made from gluten. It’s possible to make it by washing the starch out of high-gluten dough until just the glutinous part remains. A serving of 3.5 oz (100g) contains about 25g of protein, making seitan the richest protein source on this list.
Alongside protein, seitan also contains other minerals like selenium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Vegans appreciate seitan protein because it can take on a texture somewhat similar to meat. You can cook it in many ways, including frying and grilling, making it a very versatile recipe option.
Since it is made using gluten, those with a sensitivity or with celiac disease should avoid it. Otherwise, this is an excellent protein source.
Tofu, Tempeh, and Edamame
All three of these ingredients come from soybeans, one of the complete proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids. This makes them a fantastic protein source for vegetarians, as long as you don’t have a soy allergy.
Edamame is a serving of immature soybeans. They are large and green and can be eaten in numerous ways. Alongside a reasonably high protein content, edamame beans contain vitamin K, folate, and fiber.
Tofu and tempeh are both made using fermented soybeans. The creation process makes them slightly different, though. Tofu is a flavorless option that takes on the taste of the ingredients it is prepared with, whereas tempeh is nutty. Both are very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Traditionally, tofu is eaten alongside meat and fish as an ingredient in its own right; it is not always suitable as a meat alternative due to its peculiar texture.
Tofu’s protein content is 10-19g per 3.5 oz – the same as tempeh and edamame.
Lentils are a type of pulse, high in protein alongside folate, manganese, and iron. There are different types of lentils, including dahl, red, puy, and more. The quantity of protein in lentils is fairly high, at 18g per cup of cooked lentils.
Furthermore, they contain a specific type of fiber that can promote a healthy gut. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for health, making lentils an excellent ingredient to eat regularly. They also contain complex carbohydrates, which are digested slowly and release energy over a more extended period of time. This is more beneficial than simple carbs like sugar, which can cause an energy spike.
They are an excellent ingredient for using as the base of a meal or in soups, stews, pies, and even salads and curries.
Most Varieties of Beans
Many beans contain high levels of protein. The list includes garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney, pinto, black, and more. All of these are types of legumes.
The protein in beans varies depending on the specific type, but there is roughly 15g of protein per cooked cup. Beans also possess a variety of other nutrients, including phosphorus, folate, fiber, iron, potassium, and more. Beans may be able to reduce fat, decrease cholesterol, and more – they’re a nutritional powerhouse.
Beans are also pretty versatile. They work great in chilis, salads and are considered a staple in cuisines like Mexican.
Those who are already vegan will likely have heard of nutritional yeast. It is a deactivated strain of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which has a yellow flaky appearance and a cheesy flavor. It’s popular for this reason; you can sprinkle it on top of mashed potatoes and pasta for a cheesy flavor that’s not otherwise possible in a vegan diet.
One ounce (28g) of nutritional yeast contains about 14g of protein, which is suitable for a topping ingredient. Fortified nutritional yeast may also have all the B vitamins (including B12), zinc, magnesium, copper, and manganese. This makes the protein in nutritional yeast an ideal source since vegetarians may lack vitamin B12.
That said, not all nutritional yeast is fortified, so make sure you check the label.
Spelt and Teff
Spelt and teff are ancient grains, similar to barley. Spelt is wheat, whereas teff is a type of annual grass. This makes the latter gluten-free, whereas the former contains gluten.
Both grains provide approximately 10-11g of protein per cooked cup. They are higher in protein than the other ancient grains as a result. They are versatile foods often used in Middle Eastern cuisine; for example, spelt is used in tabbouleh. It may also be used to replace rice in a risotto.
Spelt protein is ideal because it’s a source of other nutrients, including complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, zinc, and selenium.
Another source of complete plant-based protein is hemp seed. It comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, specifically from hemp. The seeds do not contain intoxicating cannabinoids or even CBD, but they are packed full of protein. One ounce (28g) of hempseed contains 10g of easily digestible plant-based protein.
Hemp seeds contain a full range of amino acids, alongside zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, and more.
Hemp seed protein has become popular in plant-based supplements since it is such an easily digestible protein. It also contains a full range of amino acids, alongside zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, and more.
The seeds are also full of healthy fats and fatty acids, which are essential for a range of physiological functions.
Green peas are surprisingly high in protein, with 9g per cooked cup. It’s slightly more than a cup of cow’s milk. Alongside that, they contain 25% of an adult’s recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, folate, manganese, and thiamine.
Green peas protein is excellent for this reason, which is why you will often see pea protein powder sold from supplement brands. Peas are also a very versatile ingredient that can be used in soups, salads, or as a side dish.
Spirulina has become a popular ingredient on account of its bright blue color. Food bloggers often add it to smoothie bowls and ‘nice cream’ (vegan banana ice cream) to turn their creations sky blue. It is actually a form of algae.
The spirulina protein content is relatively high, with 8g of complete protein per 2 tablespoons of powder. It also contains riboflavin, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. The pigment that contributes to spirulina’s blue color, phycocyanin, is also an antioxidant.
Some research studies on spirulina link it to a variety of health benefits, including assisting patients with the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
Amaranth and Quinoa
Amaranth and quinoa are known as pseudocereals because they are similar to ancient grains, but they do not come from grasses. They can still be ground into flours like grains.
The amount of protein in amaranth is approximately 8-9g per cooked cup. Both quinoa and amaranth are complete protein sources, which is particularly rare among grains. They are also both packed with other nutrients like complex carbs, iron, and fiber.
Quinoa is a great ingredient to base meals around, as it can be used in salads, wraps, as a base ingredient for meals, or even baked into protein-filled snacks.
Breads Made from Sprouted Grains
Ezekiel bread is a type of bread made using sprouted whole grains and legumes, such as spelt, barley, and wheat. It can also involve lentils or soybeans. Research indicates that sprouting increases the amino acid content of grains, including lysine, the limiting amino acid in plant-based sources. Sprouting may also boost the amounts of other nutrients.
Two slices of Ezekiel bread contain around 8g of protein, which is more than the average bread. Sprouted grains protein sources also contain more fiber, folate, and beta-carotene than regular bread.
Soy milk is a very popular cow’s milk alternative for vegetarians and vegans. While there are both fortified and unfortified versions, the former may provide better health benefits as it contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium.
Soy milk’s protein content is about 7g per cup (240ml), which is about the same as cow’s milk.
It’s worth noting that some brands may add sweetener or sugar to soy milk, so opt for an unsweetened product to keep it healthy.
Oat and Oatmeal
Oats are very easy to add to any diet in the form of porridge, oat pancakes, or even veggie burgers. One cup of dried oats contains about 12g of protein, making it an excellent source of protein early in the morning if using it for breakfast.
Oats are an excellent source of protein early in the morning if using them for breakfast.
The protein in oatmeal is accompanied by magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and folate. It is not a complete source of protein, but oats do contain more protein than other grains.
Wild rice is loaded with protein compared to other forms of rice. It contains roughly 1.5x the amount of other varieties. The protein in wild rice can reach 7g per one cooked cup. Wild rice may also possess fiber, manganese, phosphorus, copper, and various B vitamins.
It also has a high amount of bran, which contains fiber and minerals. However, bran can also contain arsenic if grown in polluted areas, so be sure to thoroughly wash and cook wild rice before eating it.
Chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica plant, native to Central America. Chia seeds contain 6g of protein per 1.25 ounces (35g), which is quite a lot for a lightweight seed. You can sprinkle them on bagels and smoothies to add a crunch, but they also absorb water and turn into a gel, which is why they are used in chia puddings.
Alongside the protein, chia seeds are packed with calcium, selenium, iron, and magnesium, as well as healthy fats in the form of omega-3s. Chia seeds may also have antioxidant properties.
Nuts, Nut Butters, and Other Seeds
Nuts are a common source of plant-based protein, and they are perfect for snacking on. However, nut butters are also high in protein and can be used as sandwich spreads, in baking, and more.
The protein in nuts can reach 5-7g per ounce (28g), depending on the type of nut in question. They may also contain fiber and healthy fat, as well as vitamin E and a variety of other nutrients.
Try to find raw nut products that have not been roasted or blanched, as doing so can affect the nutrient profile. Plus, it’s best to avoid palm oil and added sugars as much as possible. Where possible, natural nut butters are always best.
Protein-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain protein, but some more so than others. It’s unlikely that you will get a lot of protein from fruit and veg, but some varieties are worth having in your diet for a variety of reasons.
High-protein fruits include:
These contain about 2-4g of protein per cup. Conversely, vegetables are a little higher in protein and may contain 4-5g per cooked cup. High-protein vegetables include:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
Final Thoughts on High-Protein Vegan Foods
Vegetarians and vegans rarely have a problem getting enough protein. However, some individuals may desire to increase their protein intake for a variety of reasons. Doing so is made easy by the wealth of vegan supplements available and the vast availability of high-protein foods.
There are lots of ways to make high-protein vegetarian meals that taste amazing and provide you with enough nutrients. Hopefully, this list provided some inspiration for tasty, high-protein vegan meals in the future.