Here are 8 plant-based sources of protein to add to your diet, and how much protein each contains:
Beans & Legumes
Dried beans, split peas and lentils are nutritional powerhouses that pack a pretty significant protein punch—a half cup of most beans provides around seven grams of protein, which is the equivalent of about one ounce of meat. But, unlike meat, beans and legumes also dish out antioxidants as well as filling fiber, which can help you stay satisfied longer.
To reap the benefits of beans, add them to soups, chilis, tacos, quesadillas and salads.
Nuts & Nut Butters
Nuts aren’t just packed with healthy fats, they’ve got protein, too: Almonds boast seven grams per quarter cup, pistachios provide six grams, and both cashews and hazelnuts dish out five grams. And, peanuts, although technically a legume, contain the most protein: 9.5 grams per quarter cup.
Nuts are a perfectly portable snack that can be enjoyed on their own, or you can add them to oatmeal, yogurt, stir fries and salads. Nut butters make a great addition to toast, banana and apple slices, or carrot and celery sticks.
Edamame is an immature soybean that grows in an inedible pod. Edamame is tasty, versatile and highly nutritious, making it a great staple in your diet.
While nutrition analyses vary, one cup of shelled beans is estimated to contain a whopping 14 grams of protein—for just 180 calories. Edamame contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs but can’t produce on its own. It is also rich in folate, vitamin K and fiber.
Steamed, boiled or dried edamame makes a great snack on its own. The tasty little beans also make a great addition to salads and stir fries. Try pureeing them in a food processor then adding some of your favorite seasonings for a hummus-like dip for your favorite crackers and veggie sticks.
Yes, whole grains are packed with complex carbs and lots of filling fiber. But they’re also a part of the protein party—spelt, amaranth, quinoa, kamut, teff, sorghum range in protein content from eight to 11 grams per cup. Quinoa and amaranth are both considered complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine of the essential amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own.
Grains are extremely versatile. They can be added to soups, chilis, salads, tacos, quesadillas and stir-fries. Toss some quinoa in a bowl with some fresh watermelon chunks, feta cheese, cucumbers and mint for a delicious summer salad. Or, mix it with roasted butternut squash, dried cranberries, goat cheese, parsley and cinnamon for a tasty harvest salad.
Protein Bars & Shakes
It’s true that some protein bars and shakes are packed with processed ingredients you can’t pronounce. But if you can find some that include real ingredients, they can be a lifesaver during those busy days when grabbing-and-going is your only shot of eating.
Zing’s plant-based protein bars are a great option—they feature real ingredients and were created by Registered Dietitians to deliver adequate protein and many other nutrients. Check out all of their delicious options right here.
Seitan is a plant-based meat substitute made out of wheat gluten. It’s a popular pick among vegans and vegetarians because its extremely versatile—it comes in strips, crumbles, “meatballs” and slices.
In addition to being versatile, this meat alternative is also quite nutritious. Although the nutritional content varies depending on the specific recipe and composition, generally speaking, one cup contains 21 grams of protein plus important nutrients like selenium, iron, phosphorus, calcium and copper—all for just a little more than 100 calories. Seitan is delicious in sandwiches, stir fries, stews and more.
Tofu is made from soybean curds pressed together in a process quite similar to cheesemaking. Depending upon the brand, a 3.5 ounce serving provides anywhere from eight to 20 grams of protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids plus an array of nutrients including manganese, calcium, selenium, phosphorus, copper magnesium, iron and zinc. All of that nutrition for just 70 to 90 calories per serving makes tofu a great option for the health-conscious.
On its own, tofu doesn’t have much of a taste, but it absorbs sauces and marinades very well. Try it in stir-fries, soups and salads, or as the base for protein smoothies.
Typically made of fermented soybeans, wheat, or both, tempeh has a slightly nutty taste and a firm, yet chewy texture.
Tempeh is a great choice for plant-based eaters since it’s high in protein—one three-ounce serving contains 15 grams, and contains a whole host of nutrients, including iron, calcium, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. It’s also low in sodium.
On its own, Tempeh doesn’t have a very strong flavor, so its best to combine it with sauces or seasonings. Try it in a sandwich with your favorite condiments, or marinated in barbecue or buffalo sauce.