The Best Vegetarian Protein Sources

The average American gets more than enough protein in their diet, but this isn’t always true for people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Fortunately, you don’t have to eat meat or dairy to get enough protein in your diet. There are enough vegetarian protein sources to satisfy the needs of both vegetarians and vegans. All it takes is a little planning. The next time you’re preparing a vegetarian meal, add some of these non-meat protein sources to the dinner table.


Members of the legume family include beans and lentils, two inexpensive and versatile sources of vegetarian protein. One cup of lentils has 18 grams of protein, while a cup of cooked pinto beans has almost 16 grams. Compare this to 22 grams of protein in a 3 ounce serving of ground beef. Plus, beans have other health benefits that beef doesn’t have. They’re low in fat, high in fiber and are a good source of compounds such as isoflavones, saponins, and protease-inhibitors that may lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Here’s another surprise. Small red beans rank higher on the antioxidant scale than blueberries, an antioxidant super fruit.

Beans and lentils are an incomplete source of protein, meaning they don’t have all of the essential amino acids your body needs for good health. Turn them into a complete protein by eating them with a whole grain food such as quinoa or brown rice.

Tofu and Other Soybeans Products

Soy-based products are popular as a vegetarian protein source and for good reason. Each 4 ounce serving of tofu has 9 grams of protein. But tofu isn’t the only soy food that’s vegetarian-friendly. Tempeh, a fermented form of soy, is more digestible than tofu and less likely to cause gas and bloating. Some people prefer tempeh over tofu because it has more of a meat-like taste and texture than tofu, which is tasteless. On the other hand, tofu takes on the taste of whatever sauce you put it in.
Look for soy meat substitutes in the frozen section of your grocery store to satisfy your protein requirements. Choose from the ever-expanding selection of soy sausages, bacon, and veggie burgers. If you like to cook, try one of the many tofu and tempeh recipes available in vegetarian cookbooks.


Seitan is often called “wheat meat” because it’s made from wheat gluten. This lesser-known meat alternative originated from China where it was developed as a meat substitute for Buddhists. Nowadays you can find it used as a meat substitute in some Asian restaurants. Like tofu, it’s essentially flavorless, but it has a meat-like, chewy texture that makes it a good addition to stir-fries and “beef” stroganoff. It has almost 30 grams of protein per 4-ounce serving and is a better source of protein than tofu.

Whole Grains

Some whole grains are a good source of protein, and they become a complete protein when you eat them with beans or lentils. Quinoa ranks high as a vegetarian protein source, because it contains all the essential amino acids the body needs, making it a naturally complete source of protein. One cup of quinoa has almost 18 grams of protein and is a good source of fiber, magnesium, and iron. Quinoa makes a tasty breakfast cereal and can be used as a replacement for rice. You can also use it to make burgers, fritters or add it to soups.

Other Vegetarian Protein Sources

Most people don’t think of vegetables as being a good source of protein. Don’t be so sure. Artichokes have 6 grams of protein per one-cup serving, and asparagus and corn have 5 grams per serving. Veggies have lots of other health benefits as well.

Don’t forget about nuts and seeds. A quarter-cup of almonds or peanuts has almost 9 grams of protein, while pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds have 8 grams. Try a handful of nuts or a spoonful of natural peanut butter for a heart-healthy, protein-rich snack.

Enjoy These Vegetarian Sources of Protein

Who says you have to eat meat to get your protein? Enjoy these veggie protein sources, and you’ll never miss the meat.


World’s Healthiest Foods website.
Self Nutrition data.


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