Be Knowledge-a-bull: 19 Vegetarian Protein Sources

4 Apr

“But…where do you get your protein?”

This question seems to be the omnivore’s dilemma and the bane of the vegetarian’s existence. I have heard this question countless times, but my answers never quite satisfy the asker. Meat is such a prevalent source of protein that other protein sources appear foreign. It’s important to note that meat is a rich protein source, but it is not the only source. Protein is an essential nutrient that promotes cell growth and repair. All life needs protein to survive and grow, so all food sources will contain a certain amount of protein.

There are dozens of vegetarian and vegan sources that are comparable to meat, and experimenting with vegetarian and vegan proteins at least once a week can be extremely beneficial. Plant-based proteins are often nutrient dense, so you gain a greater amount of nutrients for fewer calories and saturated fat.  Explore the list below and enjoy a meatless, high-protein meal:

Meat Alternatives

Meat alternatives are plant-based and offer a wide variety of textures and tastes in meatless dishes. Check out the descriptions below, and discover which meat alternative is right for your recipes.

 Tofu


10 grams per ½ cup

Tofu is a versatile vegan protein because it comes in many varieties and takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with. Smooth silken tofu is commonly used to add vegan protein to smoothies and desserts. Most restaurant tofu dishes use extra-firm tofu.. It takes some cooking trial and error, but tofu is a great alternative in stir-fry’s, scrambles and soups.

3 Tasty Tofu Recipes:

Tofu Stir Fry

Scrambled Tofu Breakfast Burrito

Vegetarian Goat Cheese Tacos


 

Tempeh


15 grams per ½ cup

Another soy protein, tempeh is firmer than tofu and has a slightly nutty taste. It is easier to cook with and is popularly used as burger and chicken substitutes.

3 Terrific Tempeh Recipes:

Balsamic-Maple Glazed Tempeh

TLT Sandwich

Tempeh “Chicken” Salad


 

Quorn


13 grams per ½ cup

Quorn is produced as both a cooking ingredient and a range of ready meals. It is a highly processed form of mycoprotein, which is a derivative of the fungi family. It is a great soy-free alternative, however, it is not vegan because it often contains egg protein. Quorn can be delicious, but the products are processed and high in sodium. Enjoy in moderation!

Check out their products and recipes here.


 

Grains

Quinoa


8 grams per cup

This versatile grain is a health food celebrity right now. It’s packed with fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese, and it contains all nine essential amino acids. Use it as a rice substitute, add it to salads, make veggie burgers and more!

3 Quick Quinoa Recipes:

Quinoa Fried Rice

Quinoa Feta Burgers

Warm Kale Quinoa Salad


 

Oats


5 grams per cup cooked

5 grams per ½ cup raw

Don’t get this breakfast super-food confused with your typical instant variety. Rolled oats are rich in protein and their high fiber content improves digestion, metabolism, and cholesterol levels.

3 Outstanding Oat Recipes:

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Oat Smoothies

Oatmeal Squares


 

Beans & Legumes

 

Another well-known vegetarian delight, beans are a super source of protein. Diverse and delicious, most beans are low-calorie, low-cholesterol, high-fiber and nutrient dense. Create a complex protein source by designing recipes that combine them with a whole grain. Not all beans are created equal, so check out these varieties with the highest protein content:

Black beans


12 grams per cup

32 grams per can

Probably the most well-known bean, these tiny black beans are packed with protein, fiber, folate, iron and magnesium. They also contain a wide range of antioxidants and flavonoids that may aid in cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Enjoy these versatile beans in burritos, burgers, soups and more!

3 Brilliant Black Bean Recipes:

BBQ Black Bean Pizza

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burgers

Black Bean Soup


 

Cannellini Beans


15 grams per cup

25 grams per can

Cannellini is just another name for the white kidney bean. They offer fewer nutrients than the red variety, but are much lower in calories. Cannellini beans are a softer bean, so they pairs well in salads and dressings.

3 Crazy-Good Cannellini Bean Recipes:

Everything White Bean Hummus

Chocolate Bean Butter

Tuscan Salad


 

Chickpeas


16 grams per cup

28 grams per 16-ounce can

These simple and buttery beans are full of manganese and iron, which are important in energy production. They are also are a great way to add iron, fiber and protein to your diet.

3 Choice Chickpea Recipes:

Homemade Garlic Hummus

Baked Chickpea Burgers

Chickpea Curry


 

Edamame


17 grams per 1 cup

These boiled soybeans look like giant peas in a pod, but they are actually the perfect snack to add to your diet. Grab a handful of this low-calorie legume, and boost your fiber, protein, iron and magnesium consumption.

3 Enjoyable Edamame Recipes:

How To Cook Edamame

Spicy Roasted Edamame

Citrus Salt Edamame


 

Lentils


9 grams per ½ cup

Lentils are the cheapest and easiest way to get protein. A bag of lentils costs around one dollar, are super easy to cook, and will last you a very long time. Did I mention they have more protein than beef gram-for-gram, and contain three times more dietary fiber than bran? You should probably go out and buy some lentils right now.

3 Legendary Lentil Recipes:

Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

Quinoa Lentil Salad

Maple Lentil “Sausage”


 

Peanut Butter


8 grams per 2 tablespoons

This popular protein source is easy to incorporate protein and fiber into any diet. Combine the protein with some whole grain bread for a complete protein source, containing all your essential amino acids. Peanut butter is high in calories, fat and sugar, so look for a brand without added sugar, salt or oil.  

3 Perfect Peanut Butter Recipes:

African Peanut Stew

Peanut Butter Bursts

Thai Peanut Sauce


 

Peanuts


19 grams per ½ cup

Like peanut butter, peanuts are high in fat and added sodium and sugars. Luckily peanuts have a low glycemic index, which means they help control blood sugar levels. Enjoy unsalted and unsweetened peanuts in moderation. 

3 Phenomenal Peanut Recipes:

Sweet Potato, Coconut, & Peanut Soup

Peanut Chaat

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter


 

Red Kidney beans


15 grams per cup

25 grams per can

Red kidney beans offer more vitamin E, folate, potassium, calcium and iron than white kidney beans. They are higher in calories, but their thick skin makes them perfect for vegetarian chili and stew recipes.

3 Remarkable Red Kidney Bean Recipes:

Red Kidney Bean Curry

Vegetarian Chili

Red Bean & Portobello Ragout


Nuts & Seeds

 

Nuts and seeds may seem unhealthy because of their high fat and calorie content, but they are actually packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Their high fat content is composed of healthy fats that lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Grab a handful of these crunchy snacks and up your protein and nutrient intake!

Almonds


6 grams per ounce (22 almonds)

This nutty super-food is popular for more than its high protein content. Almonds are packed with calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. Not to mention, their high dietary fiber content promotes digestive health and keeps you feeling fuller longer. 

3 Awesome Almond Recipes:

Cocoa Dusted Almonds

Flourless Honey-Almond Cake

Almond Sauce


 

Sunflower Seeds


6 grams per ounce (2 tablespoons)

These tasty seeds are not only a great source of protein, they also contain a good amount of vitamin E, magnesium and selenium, which all help protect cells against damage. They are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which play a crucial role in brain function and growth. Enjoy unsalted and unflavored seeds as a snack or on salads. 

3 Simple Sunflower Seed Recipes:

Sunflower Oat Bars

Sunflower Seed Butter

Banana Sunflower Cookies


 

Vegetables

 

Who knew vegetables could have so much protein? Increase your protein and nutrient intake by including these high-protein vegetables into your daily meals.

Broccoli


4 grams per cup cooked

Who knew broccoli had so much protein? This cruciferous vegetable is also a good source of vitamin C, calcium and dietary fiber. Enjoy this tasty veggie in a variety of ways while also promoting bone, digestive and heart health. 

3 Brilliant Broccoli Recipes:

White Pizza with Broccoli & Mushrooms

Caramelized Broccoli with Garlic

Veggie “Beef” with Broccoli


 

Steamed Spinach


5 g per cup

It’s no wonder Popeye got such super strength after eating a can of spinach! Increase your protein, iron, vitamins A, and vitamin K intakes by sneaking this leafy green into daily recipes.

3 Super Spinach Recipes:

Spinach Pesto

Parmesan Spinach Cakes

Spinach Salad with Warm Feta Dressing


Non-Vegan

 

If you are not vegan, there are a ton of other meatless animal-sourced proteins. Keep your products cruelty-free by buying pasture-raised eggs and dairy.

Egg


6 grams per egg

If you’re not vegan, eggs are an egg-cellent complete protein source. One egg a day will up your B vitamin and omega-3 fatty acid intakes without raising your cholesterol. B vitamins are essential to your metabolism, memory, and brain function. Unless you have high cholesterol, don’t skip out on the nutrient-dense yolk!

3 Excellent Egg Recipes:

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Pizza

Microwavable Poached Eggs

Shakshuka (eggs in a spicy tomato sauce)


 

Greek Yogurt


26 grams per cup

18 grams per container

Greek tops other yogurt varieties because it contains double the amount of protein with less sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates. Avoid flavored and sweetened varieties by adding your own toppings and sweeteners, and cut out fat by opting for low or no-fat options. Enjoy in baking because it doesn’t curdle when heated.

3 Great Greek Yogurt Recipes:

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

Grab and Go Parfaits

Healthier Mac and Cheese


Find these vegetarian proteins and more on our campus by clicking here.

 

Have more vegetarian protein ideas? Let us know in the comments!

4 Responses to “Be Knowledge-a-bull: 19 Vegetarian Protein Sources”

  1. Paige Kenzie April 6, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    My second blog post was on vegan protein sources! It’s amazing how far the protein myth has gone. P.S. be careful about “Quorn”! There’s entire websites dedicated to talking about the experiences in which they got sick after eating it, and it’s full of processed ingredients.

    Like

    • WellnessUSF April 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

      I just checked out your post, and it’s awesome! I will link to your blog on our post!

      I also have read a lot about the Quorn products and the allergic reactions some people have to them. However, it’s common in grocery stores, so I wanted to inform people about what it actually is.

      Like

      • Paige Kenzie April 7, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

        Aw, thanks! I’m a USF student who just transferred here two semesters ago. I’ve been a vegan for almost 3 years and a vegetarian since I was pretty little. Let me know you’d ever like a guest blogger, or if you’d like to guest post on Vegan Mermaid!

        Like

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  1. Try This Chickpea & Lentil Curry! | Be Well USF - April 7, 2014

    […] you checked out my post on vegetarian proteins, you’ll know that chickpeas, lentils and quinoa are rich protein sources. This recipe is a […]

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