Health & Wellness

Best Protein-Packed Vegetarian Foods + Recipes [Chef Guide]

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“But where do you get your protein?” This is the likely most common question a vegetarian receives. The biggest misconception about being a vegetarian or eating meatless meals is that you can’t get enough protein in your diet. This is a huge myth, and there are many protein-packed foods you have likely overlooked.

Before we dive into the best protein-packed vegetarian foods, let’s first understand why protein is important.

Why is Protein Important?

Protein makes up one of three macronutrients (along with fats and carbohydrates) that your body uses for energy.

Protein is an essential component of every cell in your body and has various roles. Protein helps:

  • Build and repair tissues
  • Maintain strong hair and nails
  • Make enzymes and hormones
  • Build strong bones and muscles
  • Maintain healthy skin and blood

Unlike carbohydrates and fats that are stored in your body for energy use anytime, your body doesn’t store protein. You must consume protein daily to keep your body functioning properly.

But before you start stressing about your protein intake, it’s important to understand how much protein you actually need.

Related: The 13 Best Meal Delivery Services To Unlock Your Home Cook


How Much Protein Do I Need?

This is such a hot topic. Many people get hyped up about protein and actually consume more than necessary. This can be harming over time.

Consistently consuming too much protein can cause:

  • Digestion issues
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea

The suggested protein you consume is based on your age, height, weight, and activity level (including strength or muscle mass goals).

Use the Protein Calculator to determine the estimated number of grams of protein you should consume each day. You are unique, so use this as a general guide.

A common suggestion across various sources, including the FDA’s Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for protein is to consume 1.2 – 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This is the same as .54 – .72 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.


What are Protein-Rich Vegetarian Foods?

Now that you have a better idea of the amount of protein you need each day, what foods should you look to in hitting your total? Here are some great vegetarian protein sources:


  • Eggs (6 grams of protein per egg)
  • Tofu (10 grams of protein per ½ cup)
  • Tempeh (16 grams of protein per ½ cup)


  • Quinoa (9 grams of protein per cup)
  • Oats (12 grams of protein per cup)
  • Wild Rice (7 grams of protein per cup, cooked)
  • Nutritional Yeast (2 grams of protein per Tbsp)

Beans + Seeds:

  • Lentils (18 grams of protein per cup)
  • Kidney, Black, and Pinto Beans (15 grams of protein per cup)
  • Chickpeas or Garbanzo Beans (15 grams of protein per cup)
  • Hemp Seeds (5 grams of protein per Tbsp)
  • Nuts and Nut Butters (3-4 grams of protein per Tbsp)


  • Edamame (18 grams of protein per cup)
  • Brussel Sprouts (5 grams of protein per cup)
  • Potato (5 grams of protein per 1 medium potato)
  • Broccoli (4 grams of protein per cup)
  • Asparagus (4 grams of protein per cup)
  • Avocado (4 grams of protein per avocado)
  • Spinach (2 grams of protein per cup, fresh)

Protein-Packed Vegetarian Recipes

Are you starting to do the math regarding the foods above and how much protein you are consuming each day?

While the above is not an exhaustive list of vegetarian foods that contain protein, it will hopefully motivate you to try out some new recipes!

Here are five simple and flexible recipes that pack in at least 20 grams of protein each! You can use the following recipes as a solid base, but tweak ingredients as you desire.

Greek Buddha Bowl

This recipe makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains approximately 27 grams of protein.


  • 1.5 cup of cooked quinoa (~½ cup uncooked)
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • hummus
  • juice from half lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a bowl or plate, add 2 cups spinach.

2. Add quinoa, chickpeas, tomato, cucumber, 2 tablespoons parsley and avocado.

3. Top with 2 tablespoons of hummus, 1 tablespoon hemp seeds and the juice of one lemon wedge.

4. Season with salt and pepper.

Southwest Buddha Bowl

This recipe makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains approximately 27 grams of protein.


  • 3 cups of dark leafy greens of choice (spinach and kale pack the most nutrients!)
  • 1.5 cup cooked quinoa (~½ cup uncooked)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ an avocado
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1/2 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp salsa
  • 1 Tbsp whole milk plain Greek yogurt
  • 4-5 crushed corn tortilla chips

1. Place the greens in a bowl and top with the beans, corn, bell pepper and pumpkin seeds.

2. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, stir together the salsa and yogurt.

3. Drizzle dressing over the salad and garnish with crushed tortilla chips.

Honey + Ginger Tofu Stir Fry

This recipe makes 3 servings.

Each serving contains approximately 22 grams of protein.


  • 1 ½ cups uncooked wild rice
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 14 ounces extra-firm tofu
  • 2 cups chopped asparagus
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into large chunks
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3 green onions, minced


  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp honey (more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

1. Add all of the sauce ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.

2. Cook the farro or rice according to package

3. Cut the tofu into slices and press with a paper towel to remove moisture. Wait a few minutes and do it again. Once moisture is removed, cut the tofu slices into petite cubes.

4. Heat the oil in a skillet with medium heat. When the oil is shiny, add tofu and 1/4 cup of the stir fry sauce (this can get messy, have a cover nearby to avoid a mess).

5. Fry the tofu in your pan until golden brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

6. Return the pan to the heat and add the veggies with 1/2 cup stir-fry sauce.

7. Toss until veggies are bright, cooked yet still crisp.

8. Arrange the veggies and tofu over the top of your cooked farro or rice and cover with more sauce. Top with the green onions.

PB Banana Overnight Oats

This recipe makes 1 serving and contains approximately 28 grams of protein.


  • ½ cup of rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp of peanut butter
  • 4 tsp of chia seeds
  • 2 tsp of honey, maple syrup, or agave
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein
  • 1 banana, sliced

1. Combine all ingredients in a container that can be sealed (we recommend mason jars!).

2. Stir well.

3. Chill overnight (or for at least 4 hours).

4. Enjoy warm or fresh from the fridge in the morning!

Banana Berry Smoothie

This recipe makes 1 serving and contains approximately 22 grams of protein.

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1/4 cup blueberries, frozen
  • 1 scoop of vanilla or chocolate protein
  • 1 Tbsp powdered PB
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp cacao nibs (garnish on top)
    Note: if you use fresh blueberries and/or banana, you may want to add ice!

Blend and enjoy!

As you can see, eating well-rounded meals can provide plenty of protein for your body’s needs! There are lots of “fake meat” options out there to try as well, but hopefully, you now know that you don’t need meat to hit your protein goals.

All the above recipes and more can be found in the Thrive Guide.

You might also be interested in: What Vegetables Are Keto-Friendly? [Insight From Dietitians, Physicians and Nutritionists]


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