These are the best protein sources for vegetarians to easily get plant-based protein in their diet, including our favorite high protein meals recipes!
It’s the question every plant-based eater has heard at some point. “If you’re vegetarian, where do you get your protein?” And it’s kind of like…what? Plant-based protein is everywhere and it can be so delicious!
Protein Quality vs Quantity
Oh hi, Sarah here, a degreed nutritionist popping in to get food nerdy with you for a sec. When thinking about protein, it’s important to remember two things: amount and quality.
But you also need to think about protein quality. Protein is made up of amino acids, and there are nine essential amino acids that we need to get from our diet. Most meat products are complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. Plants, on the other hand, are often incomplete proteins. This simply means that you need to eat a variety of plant protein sources to ensure your body gets all the amino acids it needs!
Here are a few plant-based protein combos that when eaten together make a complete protein source (we call these complementary proteins!):
- Rice + Beans (like Spanish Rice)
- Wheat + Nuts (like PB&J)
- Wheat + Legumes (like hummus and pita)
- Legumes + Corn (like Chickpea Corn Salad)
Protein Sources for Vegetarians
Here are 7 of my favorite vegetarian protein sources and how to use them in everyday cooking. I hope this inspires you to try out some new ingredients!
1. Tofu and Tempeh
- Almond Crusted Tofu Nuggets – 21g per serving
- Tofu Scrambled “Eggs” – 26g per serving
- Tofu Mocha Frappuccino – 6g per serving
- Tempeh Taco Meat – 14g per cup
2. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is different from regular yogurt in that a lot of the liquid whey is drained out, making for a more protein-rich yogurt, by volume. Greek yogurt contains 23 grams protein in 1 cup.
- How to Make Greek Yogurt – 23g per cup
- Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Dressing – 11g per serving
- Key Lime Pie Smoothie – 13g per serving
Plenty of protein and fiber are only part of the reason why I love legumes …they’re just so tasty and versatile! Legumes include beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Most legumes contain about 15 grams protein in 1 cooked cup.
- Roasted Chickpea Gyros – 12g per serving
- 20 Minute Taco Soup – 15g per serving
- Chickpea Tikka Masala – 15g per serving
4. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is complete protein is a deactivated strain of yeast that tastes a lot more appealing than it sounds. It’s deliciously cheesy, savory, and eggy. Nutritional yeast contains 9 grams protein in 2 tablespoons.
- Cafe Yumm Inspired Sauce – 10g per serving
- Vegan Nachos with BBQ “Pulled Pork” – 16g per serving
- Eggless French Toast – 3g per servin
Quinoa is another complete protein that can take the place of less protein-rich grains, like rice and couscous. It contains 8 grams protein in 1 cooked cup.
- Overnight Quinoa Breakfast Porridge – 12g per serving
- Enchilada Quinoa Stuffed Peppers – 19g per serving
- Quinoa Kale Salad – 7g per serving
Wouldn’t be a roundup of vegetarian protein sources without the humble egg! The color of the egg shell has nothing to do with nutritional content, but being pasture-raised will make for more nutrient-rich eggs. There are 6 grams of protein in 1 large egg.
- Kimchi Bibimbap – 17g per serving
- Savory Oatmeal with Poached Egg and Avocado – 18g per serving
- Egg Instant Ramen Hack – 14g per serving
7. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are easy to work into your diet via smoothies or yogurts (and high in healthy fats too)! They contain 4 grams protein in 2 tablespoons.
- Tropical Chia Parfait – 3g per serving
- Strawberry Chia Oat Bites – 3g per serving
- No Pectin Berry Chia Jam – 0.5g per 1 Tbsp
These are some of my favorite protein sources for vegetarians in everyday in everyday cooking, but there are many more not included here! Some other popular vegetarian ingredients high in protein include: seitan, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), freekah, farro, flax seeds, rice, and nuts/nut butters.