Top Vegetarian Protein Sources
If you're eating a vegetarian or vegan diet or just trying to eat less meat and more plants, vegetarian protein sources make it easy to get your protein fill. 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 g of protein. However, the amount you need may vary depending on your activity level, age and more.
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 g 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.
Lentils, 9 g 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, but a half-cup of cooked lentils also gives you 8 grams of fiber. Fiber is good for your heart, helps keep you full and can keep your weight in check.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds, 3 g of protein per 1 tablespoon
Recipe to Try: Berry Chia Pudding
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. Learn more about what makes chia seeds so good for you.
Quinoa, 8 g of protein per cup (cooked)
Recipe to Try: Vegan Superfood Grain 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 g of protein per 1/2 cup
Recipe to Try: Cottage Cheese with Raspberry Honey
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 g of protein per 1 tablespoon
Recipe to Try: Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana Smoothie
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.
Beans (chickpeas, black beans, etc.), 9 g 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. Plus, beans are a plant-based source of iron.
Edamame, 5 g 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. They are a great alternative to tofu, adding crunch to salads, stir fries and grain bowls.
9. Green Peas
Green peas, 8 g of protein per cup
Recipe to Try: Pea Soup
Most don't think of peas as a protein source, but they are. Green peas are filling and delicious—enjoy them in soups, salads and as a side dish.
10. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter, 7 g 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.
Almonds, 6 g of protein per ounce
Recipe to Try: Everything-Seasoned Almonds
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.
Eggs, 6 g of protein per large egg
Recipe to Try: Pesto Scrambled Eggs
Eggs are more than just a breakfast food. They once had a bad reputation for being high in cholesterol but eating cholesterol naturally present in foods doesn't raise your cholesterol. Don't just eat the whites, though. The yolks are also nutrient-rich, delivering healthy fats and naturally-occurring vitamin D.