21 High-Protein Vegetarian Foods and Meals for a Balanced Plant-Based Diet

As more people are choosing to adopt vegetarian diets for ethical, health, or environmental reasons, the concern about getting enough protein from plant-based sources arises.

Protein is an essential nutrient for building and repairing muscles as well as the formation of enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other vital tissues in the body.

Fortunately, there are plenty of high-protein vegetarian foods and meals that can meet the daily protein needs of vegetarians and vegans alike.

Here are some of the top high-protein vegetarian foods:

Lentils: Lentils are nutrient-loaded legume that contains about 18 grams of protein per cup. They are also high in fiber, iron, and folate, making them a great addition to soups, stews, salads, and spreads.

Chickpeas: Chickpeas, sometimes referred to as garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of protein providing around 15 grams per cup. They are also rich in fiber, manganese, and folate, and can be used in a variety of dishes such as hummus, falafel, and curries.

Quinoa: Quinoa are a popular rice substitute that also happens to be a complete protein source. A complete protein means it contains all the essential amino acids the body needs to function properly. One cup of cooked quinoa provides about 8 grams of protein, as well as iron, magnesium, and a good amount of fiber.

Tofu: Tofu is made from soybeans and provides about 10 grams of protein per half-cup. It is also a versatile ingredient that can be used in stir-fries, soups, sandwiches, salads, and burger patties.

Tempeh: Tempeh is another soy-based product that provides around 15 grams of protein per half-cup. It’s also rich in probiotics, which are beneficial for digestion and overall gut health. It can be used in sandwiches, wraps, stir-fries, and more.

Edamame: Edamame is a type of immature soybean that provides about 8 grams of protein per half-cup. It is also an excellent source of fiber, folate, and vitamin K. It can be enjoyed as a snack or added to salads, stir-fries, and soups.

Seitan: Seitan is a protein-rich food made from wheat gluten and typically has about 25 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces. It is also low in fat and high in iron and is commonly used as a meat substitute in various dishes.

Paneer: Paneer is a type of freshly prepared cheese that is made by combining an acidic ingredient like lemon juice with buffalo milk or cow milk. It is extremely rich in protein providing a whopping 18 grams of protein per a 100-gram serving as well as around 20 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbs. This nutritional profile makes it the perfect food for both a vegetarian diet and a keto diet. Paneer is also very rich in calcium.

Beans: Beans such as pinto, kidney, baked, black and fava are all high in protein as well as several vitamins and minerals such as folate, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. They are also very rich in fiber. One cup (170 grams) of beans provides around 15 grams of protein.

Dairy Milk: Dairy has become highly controversial in recent times due to the various studies linking it to inflammatory disorders, however, a type of dairy known as A2 dairy appears to be less inflammatory due to the fact that it does not contain the same protein as regular store-bought milk which is generally A1 dairy. One cup of whole A2 milk provides around 8 grams of protein along with a wide-range of vitamins and minerals such as calcium and Vitamin A.

High-protein vegetarian meals:

Lentil soup: Lentil soup is a nutritious and delicious meal that is ridiculously easy to make. Simply sauté some onions, garlic, and carrots in a pot, add some lentils, vegetable broth, and your favorite spices and salt, and let it simmer until the lentils are tender. To enhance the absorption of nutrients, you can add some black pepper and ginger.

Chickpea curry: Chickpea curry is a flavorful and satisfying meal that can be made in under 30 minutes. Simply sauté some onions, garlic, and ginger in a pan, add some chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and coconut milk, and let it simmer until the sauce thickens. Chickpeas can sometimes cause gas, therefore, you can use fennel seeds, cumin and ginger to prevent this.

Quinoa salad: Quinoa salad is a highly nutritious and filling meal that can be highly customized to your liking and needs. Cook some quinoa, add some chopped vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and drizzle with your favorite dressing. You can also use Quinoa as a rice substitute if you wish to make a stir-fry or some time of fried rice.

Tofu stir-fry: Tofu stir-fry is a quick and fairly simple meal that can be made with your favorite vegetables and sauce. Simply stir-fry some tofu and vegetables in a pan, add your sauce, and serve with rice or noodles. If you’re trying to go low-carb, try out Konjac noodles.

Tempeh sandwich: Tempeh sandwich is a delicious and protein-packed meal that can be made with whole-grain bread, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and whatever condiments you like. Tempeh can also be baked as small bites.

Milk & Nuts: A cup of hot A2 milk (mixed with honey if you want it sweet) can be consumed with a serving of almonds.

Edamame noodle bowl: Edamame noodle bowl is a nutritious and flavorful meal that can be made with edamame noodles, vegetables, and your favorite sauce.

Seitan stir-fry: Seitan stir-fry is a protein-rich and very filling meal that can be made with vegetables and your preferred sauce. Simply stir-fry some seitan and vegetables in a pan, add your sauce, and serve with rice or noodles. Again, if you’re going low-carb, try out Konjac noodles.

Indian High-Protein Meals

Indian restaurants tend to have several high-protein vegetarian options such as:

Paneer Tikka Masala: This is a spicy Indian dish that is made with several savory spices and a plateful of paneer.

Palak Paneer: Also an Indian dish, but less spicy and prepared with paneer and spinach.

Chana Masala: This is a curry that is prepared with chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, herbs, and a variety of spices.

Many Indian restaurants serve a wide-range of vegetarian meals which include high-protein ingredients like paneer, chickpeas, beans, peas, lentils, mushrooms and dairy

These are just a few examples of high-protein vegetarian meals, but there are actually a wide-range of options.. With a little creativity and an occasional visit to an Indian restaurant, vegetarians, and vegans can enjoy a balanced and satisfying diet that meets their protein needs.

Getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet is not as complicated as it may seem with the right food choices and meal planning. By incorporating these high-protein vegetarian foods and meals into your diet, you can certainly meet your daily protein needs while being able to remain as plant-based as possible with a bit of A2 dairy here and there.

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by Dr. Nishal R.
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