Top Vegetarian Protein Sources

By: Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D.

If you're following a vegetarian diet, try these meatless and plant-based options to get your protein.

vegetarian protein infographic

These vegetarian protein sources make it easy to get your protein fill if you're eating a vegetarian or vegan diet or just trying to eat less meat and more plants. Protein is a key nutrient for growing and maintaining muscles and keeping your skin and hair strong and healthy. It also helps keep you full.

Even though people wonder where vegetarians get their protein, it isn't hard to meet the required amount on a vegetarian diet. According to the Dietary Guidelines, women need 46 grams of protein and men need 56 grams of protein (but this does vary depending on your activity level, age and more). Learn exactly how much protein you need to eat every day.

Yes, the list of vegetarian proteins extends way beyond tofu (which clocks in at about 9 grams per 3-ounce serving, for the record). Take a look at some of these high-protein vegetarian foods to add to your diet.

Related: High-Protein Vegetarian Recipes

1. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt, 23 grams of protein per cup.

Recipe to Try: Homemade Plain Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is delicious added to smoothies, layered with fruit and granola as a parfait and used as a sour cream substitute on tacos or in dips. It also delivers calcium and gut-healthy probiotics. Choose plain yogurt over flavored varieties to save added sugar.

Slow-Cooker Creamy Lentil Soup Freezer Pack

2. Lentils

Lentils, 9 grams of protein per 1/2 cup (cooked)

Recipe to Try: Slow-Cooker Creamy Lentil Soup Freezer Pack

Lentils are a protein powerhouse stuffed into a tiny package. Not only do they deliver vegan protein, a 1/2 cup of cooked lentils gives you 8 grams of fiber. Fiber is good for your heart, helps keep you full and can keep your weight in check.

Read more: The Secret High-Protein Vegan Ingredient You Should Be Putting in Your Smoothie

3. Chia seeds

Chia seeds, 3 grams of protein per 1 tablespoon

Recipe to try: Coconut-Blueberry Green Smoothie

Like hemp, chia seeds are nutrient dense. They deliver protein, fiber and omega-3s. You can blend them into smoothies, make chia-seed jam for toast and bake with them.

Vegan Superfood Buddha Bowls

4. Quinoa

Quinoa, 8 grams of protein per cup (cooked)

Recipe to try: Vegan Superfood Buddha Bowls

Quinoa is unique among plant proteins because it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein (something most plant-based proteins aren't). One cup of cooked quinoa also has 5 grams of fiber. Quinoa is rich in magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, iron, thiamine and folate. And as an added bonus for those with celiac disease or any gluten sensitivity, quinoa is gluten-free.

5. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese, 14 grams of protein per 1/2 cup

Recipe to Try: Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip

Cottage cheese is having a comeback (and it's good for you!). Cottage cheese is a little higher in sodium than Greek yogurt, so keep that in mind if you're watching your salt intake. It works well as a savory dip or try it sweetened up with fruit.

6. Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds, 4 grams of protein per 1 tablespoon

Recipe to Try: Green-Tea Peach Smoothie Bowl

In addition to being a good source of protein, hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are delicious sprinkled on smoothies and smoothie bowls or oatmeal.

Black Bean Tacos

7. Beans (chickpeas, black beans, etc.)

Beans (chickpeas, black beans, etc.), 8 grams of protein per 1/2 cup (cooked)

Recipe to Try: Black Bean Tacos

Like lentils, beans deliver fiber, a nutrient most of us don't get enough of. They're also an inexpensive and easy way to add protein to dips, tacos, salads and soups.

8. Edamame

Edamame, 5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup (shelled)

Recipe to try: Super-Green Edamame Salad

Edamame are green soybeans. You'll find them on most sushi restaurant menus and in the freezer section at most grocery stores. You can buy them in the shell or shelled. Buy shelled to thaw and add protein to salads, stir fries and grain bowls.

9. Green Peas

Green peas, 8 grams of protein per cup

Recipe to try: Brown Butter Pea Amandine

Most of don't think of peas as a protein source, but they are. Green peas are delicious as a side dish, or added to soups or salads.

10. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter, 7 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons

Recipe to try: Sweet Potato-Peanut Bisque

Peanut butter, and peanuts, are full of fiber, protein and fat. That winning combination of nutrition helps keep you full. Try peanut butter on toast, blended into smoothies or make a peanut sauce for savory dishes.

Charred Broccoli with Almonds & Cherries

11. Almonds

Almonds, 6 grams of protein per ounce

Recipe to try: Charred Broccoli with Almonds & Cherries

Like peanuts, almonds have the super-filling trifecta of fat, fiber and protein. They're a great vegetarian option to keep hunger at bay. Try them as almond butter, grab a handful for a snack or sprinkle them on salads for a protein boost.

12. Eggs

Eggs, 6 grams of protein per large egg

Recipe to try: Avocado Toast with Egg, Cheddar & Kimchi

Eggs are more than just a breakfast food. They once had a bad reputation for being high in cholesterol but eating cholesterol doesn't raise your cholesterol. Don't just eat the whites, though. The yolks are also nutrient rich, delivering protein, vitamins and antioxidants.

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