Eating more plant-based is a great way to improve your health. However, if you consume primarily vegan and vegetarian foods, or are considering adding more of them to your regular diet, it’s important to pay attention to the quality and quantity of nutrients in the food you eat.
A common concern about plant-based diets is that they may be lacking sufficient protein. However, many studies have confirmed a well-balanced vegan or vegetarian diet can provide your body with all of the essential nutrients it needs to thrive (1).
Not all proteins were created equal. Planning your meals and snacks accordingly to make sure getting adequate protein is important, especially if you follow a regular exercise routine.
Keep reading to learn some of the best sources of plant-based protein so you can keep your body fueled and ready to perform at its best!
Good Sources of Plant-Based Protein
Seitan is mock meat made from gluten, the main protein in wheat. Its meat-like texture and high protein content make it a highly popular plant-based protein choice for many vegans and vegetarians. You can find seitan at many health food stores, and it has plenty of versatility in the kitchen. Seitan can be pan-fried, sautéed, and even grilled for a tasty protein-packed addition to any meal.
Protein: 75g protein per 100g
Tofu is made from soybean bean curd. Soybeans are considered a complete protein meaning they supply the body with all of the essential amino acids it needs to thrive, making them a great choice for plant-based eaters to fuel. Tofu doesn’t have much taste to it but can easily be marinated or cooked in a variety of ways, making it a great option for stir-frys, soups, burgers, and more!
Protein: 8g protein per 100g
Similar to tofu, tempeh is made with soybeans and high in protein. Unlike tofu, tempeh has a classic nutty flavor that is a delightful addition to many classic favorite dishes. Tempeh can be used in curries, soups, tacos, stir-frys, and much more. Get creative – you’d be amazed at the delicious dishes you can create with this ingredient.
Protein: 19g protein per 100g
Edamame is a mature soybean that has a fresh, slightly sweet flavor. These beans are high in protein, and can be enjoyed on their own, as a delicious side dish, or a yummy addition to soups, salads, and stir-frys.
Protein: 11g protein per ½ Cup
Lentils are a great source of protein, as well as rich in fiber promoting good gut health. Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse filled with minerals like manganese, folate, and iron, and are packed with antioxidants. Lentils are incredibly versatile and work well in soups and stews, fresh salads, and even as a snack dip.
Protein: 18g protein per 1 Cup
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are legumes with high protein content and are a great source of complex carbs. They’re a great addition to soups and curries or can even be used as an ingredient in baking. Give this Mediterranean Couscous recipe a try, which includes yummy seasoned and baked crispy chickpeas.
Protein: 10g protein per 1 Cup
Beans, like chickpeas, are a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates and fiber. Some beans have higher protein content than others. In general, kidney, black, and pinto beans as well as some others are high in protein. They vary in protein intake, so be sure to check the nutritional info for the specific bean you’re adding to your meal for a better picture of how much protein you’re eating.
Protein: 7.5 - 15g protein per ½ Cup
8. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is usually sold as a powder or in flakes; it’s plant-based but cheesy in taste. Its cheesy taste makes it a great addition to savory dishes mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, or as a tasty flavoring for popcorn! Its high protein content makes it a great ingredient for those who are plant-based, and many fortified versions are high in B12 as well.
Protein: 8g protein per 2 Tbsp
9. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds contain high volumes of protein in a small serving size. These small seeds are great for sprinkling on morning oats, smoothie bowls, or avocado toast for a boost of protein and healthy fats.
Protein: 9.5g protein per 3 Tbsp
10. Green Peas
You know those little green peas your mom used to make you eat growing up? Well, turns out green peas are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Green peas are also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper. You’ll often find pea protein as an additive to vegan protein powders. They’re more than just a side – these little powerhouses are a great addition to soups, or on top of pasta or ravioli. They pair well with asparagus, basil, and other seasonal spring flavors!
Protein: 8g protein per 1 Cup
Quinoa is a popular side that can easily be worked into salads and side dishes and is a great source of protein, carbs, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and more. Try our Power Quinoa Salad. It's a great source of protein carbs, manganese, phosphorus, and more.
Protein: 8.5g protein per 1 Cup, cooked
12. Sprouted Grain Bread
Bread made from sprouted grains has a higher protein profile in comparison to other bread. For just 2 slices of bread, you’ll get 8g of protein, paired with the healthy nutrient-dense ingredients inside a sandwich, and you have a well-balanced meal!
Protein: 4g protein per 1 slice of bread on average
Soymilk is a great alternative to cow’s milk that has 8g of protein per cup and is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Add this milk on to your cereals, smoothies, baking recipes, or just drink it straight!
Protein: 8g protein per 1 Cup
Oats are a delicious way to get your fiber for the day, but did you know they have a great amount of plant-based protein as well? Add to homemade granola bars, or just make a classic bowl of warm oatmeal!
Protein: 6g protein per 1 Cup, cooked
15. Wild Rice
Have you ever tried wild rice? It’s absolutely delicious! Better yet, it isn’t stripped of its bran so it’s higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white rice. It also contains a good amount of protein, especially when paired with beans, it makes for an easy nutritious meal.
Protein: 7g protein per 1 Cup, cooked
16. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds contain a good amount of protein at 5g for just 2 tablespoons. These small seeds also contain Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and iron. They’re delicious when blended into smoothies, whipped into a chia seed pudding, or can be used as a replacement for eggs in baking when mixed with 1-part chia seed to 2-parts water.
Protein: 5g protein per 2 Tbsp (1 oz)
17. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts, seeds, and their butters can be a tasty treat, filled with protein and healthy fats. When choosing nut butter, it’s important to check the added ingredients like sugars or fats which can easily make a snack like this that seems healthy, unhealthy.
Protein: 2-8g protein per 1 oz handful
18. Fruits & Veggies
Did you know fruits and veggies contain small amounts of protein? It’s not much, but when added to a meal containing other sources of protein, every bit helps! Vegetables generally have a higher protein content than fruit. Some veggies with a higher protein content include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Fruits higher in protein include blackberries, nectarines, bananas, and guava.
Protein: 1-4g protein per Cup
I hope the list above provides a reference point for good sources of protein for plant-based eaters. With a well-balanced diet, it’s not hard to reach your desired protein intake, but it may take more mindfulness at first, especially if you’re just getting started with eating more plant based. If you’re interested in eating more plant-based and want to be sure you’re getting enough protein, tracking your macros can be a great method for doing so.