Looking for how to eat enough plant based protein? Here’s how to make filling, protein-packed meatless meals.
Eating protein is key for staying satiated and full. But how can you add protein to plant based meals? Alex and I have been eating mostly vegetarian and vegan meals for years. And we’ve run into the problem at restaurants where we’ll order a vegetarian or vegan entree. It will be absolutely beautiful, but have no plant based protein. Sadly, we’ll be hungry just hours later!
Best plant based protein foods
What are these plant based proteins? Here’s how to get protein into vegan and vegetarian recipes:
- Legumes: Try lentils (red, green, brown, French), split peas, black-eyed peas, and beans (black, garbanzo / chickpeas, lima, navy, pinto, white, and kidney)
- Whole grains: Try quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat, amaranth, millet, and brown and wild rice
- Nuts and seeds: Try almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
- Soy: Soy based products like tofu and tempeh are rich in plant based protein; stick to 2 to 4 servings per week.
- Veggies: Some vegetables have protein, but in much lower amounts than the foods above. Some higher protein veggies are corn, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes.
When you’re eating lots of protein from plants, it’s important to get a wide variety of protein sources. The point isn’t just to eat a can of black beans every day! Per the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, make sure to mix up your sources so no “essential” components of protein are missing.
If you eat a vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs, those foods are rich in protein as well, so you can keep these in mind to combine with the plant based proteins. Alex and I eat vegetarian recipes (and some seafood), so we mix all of these protein sources together in our recipes.
Note: Dairy, eggs, and seafood have the Vitamin B12, which is important for avoiding anemia and does not occur naturally in plants. If you eat a fully vegan or plant based diet, you may need to add a supplement (specifically vitamin B12) to make sure you receive all the nutrients required. Consult your doctor for more.
Related: What’s a Vegan vs Vegetarian Diet?
Plant based protein recipes
Now that you’ve learned about the best plant based protein: want to see it in practice? All of our plant based recipes are designed to feature enough protein to keep you full throughout the day. Here are recipes that show that plant based protein in action!
Legumes include lentils, beans, peas, edamame, and peanuts, which go far to make recipes filling. (They technically include soy protein, but that's a separate section below.) There are many delicious ways to work these foods into your diet.
Recipes with Legumes
Best Damn Lentil Soup or Instant Pot Lentil Soup
Vegan Chickpea Curry
Quick Coconut Lentil Curry
Instant Pot Tacos with Smoky Lentils
Easy Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Moroccan Stew with Chickpeas
BBQ Bean Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
Quinoa Vegan Chili, 3-Bean Healthy Chili Recipe or Instant Pot Chili
Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
15 Best Lentil Recipes
10 Top Vegan Lentil Recipes
Recipes with Whole Grains
Loaded Quinoa Tacos
Instant Pot Wild Rice Soup Recipe
Tropical Mango Quinoa Bowls
Cozy Farro & Brussels Sprouts Soup
How to Cook Brown Rice...The Fast Way
Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice
Adding a handful of nuts or seeds to a meal does wonders to make it filling! Or add a dollop of peanut butter to your morning oatmeal (we do it every morning!). Here are some of our favorite recipes featuring these nutritious plant based protein bombs.
Recipes with Nuts & Seeds
Raw Falafel Buddha Bowls
Sweet Potatoes with Thai Peanut Butter Sauce
Vegan Sweet Potato Soup with Harissa
Mexican Sweet Potatoes with Creamy Cilantro Sauce
Vegan Corn Chowder (thickened with Cashew Cream)
DIY Instant Oatmeal
Stuffed Acorn Squash with Pecans
Superfood Pecan Energy Bars
Cinnamon Pecan Muesli Recipe
Foods like tofu and tempeh are actually incredibly tasty! According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Nutrition, soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week. It's likely to provide health benefits—especially when eaten as an alternative to red and processed meat! Here are the most delicious to ways to do it.
Recipes with Soy Protein
Best Teriyaki Stir Fry with Tempeh
Easy Marinated Tofu
Spring Roll Noodle Bowl
BBQ Soy Curls (with Vegan BBQ Sauce)
Easy Vegan Korean Ramen
Tofu Scramble with Black Beans
Tofu Tacos with Chipotle Sauce
Thai Salad with Peanut Sauce Dressing
Looking to incorporate recipes like these into your everyday life? Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think about where to start. Here are a few meal plans that can show you what it looks like on a daily basis:
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.