With the rise in popularity of ingredients like tempeh and chia seeds, getting your fill of protein on a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be a challenge. In fact, options are pretty limitless and flexible these days, and it’s important to know your options, what each of them offers, and how you can make the best use of them in your diet. So the next time you’re preparing a plant-based meal and are scratching your head over which protein to include, consult this handy guide on what to use when.
Beans: Beans are known to be magical, and it’s probably because they pack loads of protein — approx. 7-8 grams per 1/2 cup! In addition to hearty burritos, you can add them to soups, dips, salads, or make delish veggie burgers out of them.
Chia seeds: Despite their size, chia seeds dish up 4.7 grams of protein per ounce. Sprinkle them over oatmeals or blend into smoothies. If you’re looking for a dessert, you can even make chia pudding.
Chickpeas: Also known as garbanzo beans, these strapping little gems pack 39 grams of protein per cup. They’re also high in fiber, which makes them a smart snack or addition to meals. Chickpeas can be enjoyed whole in salads and curries, or blended up into homemade falafel and hummus.
Edamame: This bright green bean delivers 17 grams of protein per cup. The dish is simply a preparation of immature soybeans in the pod, and it’s so delish you can simply enjoy them boiled with a hit of salt.
Green Peas: Though green peas don’t pack as hefty of a protein punch as other plant-based options, they’re still worth considering. Including a little extra protein doesn’t hurt after all, and they’re perfect in soups, stir-fries, and chilis. Per cup, you’ll get approximately 8 grams of protein.
Hemp: Hempseed is up there in terms of protein count with soy and other beans or legumes and contains all 21 known amino acids, including the nine essentials. The seeds can be ground into a meal, sprouted, made into powder, or consumed raw.
Leafy Greens: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and collards are all fab sources of protein. Including them in your diet can increase your intake, but remember that legumes, seeds, and nuts have much higher amounts of protein. Incorporating both in one meal is ideal.
Non-Dairy Milk: Some non-dairy milks are considered to be a solid source of protein (soy milk with 7 grams per cup; hemp milk and oat milk with 5 grams per cup), however, other popular choices are not. Almond milk, cashew milk, and rice milk deliver little to no protein.
Nuts and Nut Butters: On top of being a great source of healthy fats and fiber, nuts are big on protein — but the list is extensive. Some of the most prominent high-protein nuts include peanuts, almonds, and pistachios. You can get creative and incorporate them into your meals, or simply toss back a handful as a healthy snack.
Tempeh: Tempeh has a hearty texture and, made from fermented soybeans, it gives you a whopping 31 grams of protein per cup. It’s terrific for tacos, rice bowls, and even sandwiches.
Tofu: Also referred to as bean curd, tofu is made from coagulated soy milk. It’s the most widely recognized sub-in for meat in vegetarian diets *and* it’s a complete protein — with 10 grams of it per half cup!
Seeds: Much like nuts, the list of beneficial seeds is quite lengthy. But the ones that are most gainful by the protein-to-calorie ratio are pumpkin and squash seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds.
Seitan: The texture of wheat gluten, or seitan, has been deemed the most meat-like and it offers 24 grams of protein per 3.5 oz. But, because of its low content of the essential amino acid lysine, it’s not a complete protein.
Quinoa: This grain packs all nine essential amino acids to nourish your bod. While offering 8 grams of protein per cup, quinoa pairs awesomely with pretty much anything, so you can easily add more of your fave proteins to it for a hearty protein-packed meal.
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