I’ve eaten meat my entire life. I enjoy it, and it’s played an important role in helping me reach my health and fitness goals.

But, I think like most people, in the back of my mind I’ve always felt uncomfortable about where my meat comes from. We all know about those horrific slaughterhouse abuse videos, but we choose not to watch them because we’d rather not deal with the consequences of examining how they make us feel.

Recently, however, I picked up a copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. It’s a fantastic book in which Foer sets out to find the answers to questions about where meat comes from, and ultimately decide whether he should feed meat to his newborn son.

There are a lot of books that discuss the ethics of consuming animal products (The Omnivore’s Dilemma being another popular one), but what I particularly liked about Eating Animals was that Foer lets vegetarians, vegans, animal rights activists, meat-eaters and factory farmers all have their say. You get both sides of the story, so to speak.

Personally, I don’t agree with all of the conclusions Foer arrives at, but he does present a number of powerful arguments in favour of eating less – or no – meat:

It’s the last point that really divides people. Nobody can tell you how to feel about it. You either feel good about eating meat, or you don’t. But objectively, there are good reasons for all of us to eat less meat, especially when it’s factory farmed.

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Reading Eating Animals reminded me of our stay on a WWOOF lifestyle farm in New Zealand. Our hosts kept a small number of cows that they raised for beef. They told us that a single cow gave them enough meat to feed them both for an entire year. And yet – despite having an almost unlimited supply of the highest-quality meat available – they chose to eat meat only every other day.

Whether or not regular consumption of meat is healthy is hotly contested, but our hosts wanted to steer on the side of caution. Over-consumption of meat has been correlated (correlation does not mean causation) with certain health risks, including an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and overall increased risk of mortality.

In contrast, plant-based diets high in fiber and proteins like beans and lentils have been linked to lower mortality risk and improved diet quality. And while this didn’t matter to our hosts, plant-based diets are cheaper than those revolving around high-quality meat.

Although there are a lot of great things about vegetarian and vegan diets, their major shortcoming is that they are often low in protein. This is an issue because protein plays a very important role in overall health, building muscle and losing fat:

Not all vegetarian and vegan diets have to be low in protein, however. In fact, there are numerous high-protein meat-free foods out there. And when compared to factory farmed meat, they are almost always much healthier.

Top 10 High-Protein Vegetarian Foods

high protein vegetarian foods

One thing to note is that not all plant-based proteins are ‘complete’. In order to be considered ‘complete’, a protein must contain all nine of the essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own.

That doesn’t mean that incomplete proteins are useless – far from it. You only need a sufficient amount of each essential amino acid every day.

Consuming a variety of protein sources – as opposed to just one – will ensure that you get all of the essential amino acids. That said, most dieticians agree that plant-based diets contain such a wide variety of amino acid profiles that vegans are virtually guaranteed to get all of their amino acids with very little effort.

With that out of the way, here are 10 of the top high-protein vegetarian foods (based on availability, the USDA Nutrient Database and raw, uncooked ingredients):

1. Quinoa (14g of protein per 100g)

Unlike most grains, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a complete protein. It also provides plenty of fiber, iron and magnesium. It’s a great substitute for rice and is versatile enough to make things like muffins, fritters and cookies.

2. Buckwheat/Soba (13g of protein per 100g)

Buckwheat is, in fact, not a type of wheat at all, but a relative of rhubarb (making it gluten free). It’s a complete protein that may help lower cholesterol and treat diabetes, and is also the main ingredient in soba noodles.

3. Eggs (13g of protein per 100g)

I know eggs are a little bit controversial as they are still an animal product, and are therefore not vegan. But I’ve included them because they are vegetarian, and are associated with numerous health benefits.

4. Tempeh (18g of protein per 100g)

With its nutty flavour and firm texture, tempeh – made from fermented soybeans that have been pressed into blocks – works well in a variety of dishes. It is a complete protein.

5. Lentils (23g of protein per 100g)

Lentils are high in protein (although it’s incomplete) and other essential nutrients, including folate, iron, potassium, and a slew of antioxidants. The iron may help fight off anemia, which is more common among vegans and vegetarians.

6. Tofu (8-15g of protein per 100g)

Tofu is made from soybeans and is rich in iron and calcium. It’s also a complete protein. Opt for the firmest tofu available – the harder the tofu, the higher the protein content.

7. Beans and Rice (5-10g of protein per 100g)

Beans and rice are both nutritious yet inexpensive foods that, when combined, form a complete protein. The average amount of protein in 1 cup of eight different beans – white, adzuki, pinto, kidney, black, navy, garbanzo and lima – is 15 grams

8. Nuts and Seeds (15-21g of protein per 100g)

Special mentions go to almonds, walnuts, cashews, hemp and chia. Nuts and seeds are packed with nutrients valuable to heart health and immunity, such as fiber, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. The only catch is that they are very high in calories.

9. Seitan/Wheat Gluten (75g of protein per 100g)

Gluten is demonized by a lot of people these days, but with the obvious exceptions of celiac-sufferers and the gluten intolerant, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Seitan is made by mixing gluten (the protein in wheat) with herbs and spices, hydrating it with water or stock, and simmering it in broth. It is not a complete protein.

10. Mycoprotein/Quorn (11g of protein per 100g)

Originally developed to combat global food shortages, mycoprotein is sold under the brand name Quorn and is made by growing a certain kind of fungus in vats and turning it into meat substitutes that are packed with complete protein. However, since it’s usually bound together with free range egg whites, Quorn is not technically vegan-friendly.

Your Go-To High-Protein Vegetarian Recipes

You’ve got your foods; now it’s just a question of actually eating them.

To make it as effortless as possible for you to get these foods into your diet, I tracked down 19 of the most delicious high-protein meat-free recipes from the world’s top food bloggers. They were kind enough to let me share them with you here.

I should say that not all of these recipes are vegan-friendly. Some of them, while meat-free, contain other animal products like eggs and yogurt. In most cases, you can simply leave out those ingredients and you’ll still have a delicious, high-protein, vegan meal.

1. Ginger Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad with Mint, Chili and Lime

gluten free recipes

Photograph courtesy of Emma from My Darling Lemon Thyme.

On its own quinoa isn’t the most exciting food in the world. It’s actually quite bland. But this recipe, with flavoursome roasted vegetables, a ton of herbs and a bright dressing is a surefire way to liven things up and boost your protein intake.

Click here to get the full recipe.

2. Quinoa Breakfast Bowl w/ Eggs, Avocado, Tofu Puffs & Miso Mustard Dressing

high protein vegetarian meals

Photograph courtesy of Stephanie from I am a Food Blog.

There are so many good things happening in this bowl. The quinoa, tofu and egg come together for a hefty dose of protein, and that’s to say nothing of the avocado and seaweed. As Steph from I am a Food Blog puts it, “Super protein-full and super delicious.”

Click here to get the full recipe.

3. Simple Poached Egg and Avocado Toast

high protein vegetarian recipe

Photograph courtesy of Lindsay & Bjork from Pinch of Yum.

I eat eggs and avocado almost every day for breakfast or lunch (although mine never look this good). They’re two of the most nutritious foods out there, taste amazing, and there are countless ways of serving them. This recipe from Pinch of Yum is a classic.

Click here to get the full recipe.

4. Genius Chickpea Tofu Salad

high protein foods

This recipe and photograph comes from Sarah of My New Roots.

Soy is a great source of complete protein for vegans and vegetarians, but it doesn’t ‘agree’ with everyone. Unlike regular tofu (which is made from soy) this is made from chickpeas instead (also called Burmese or Shan tofu), making it a genius alternative.

Click here to get the full recipe.

5. Harissa Roasted Roots with Crispy Chickpeas and Herby Millet Pilaf

vegan meals

Photograph courtesy of Jodi from Happy Hearted Kitchen.

Not quite your traditional holiday fare, but still perfect for the winter months. Millet is fairly similar to cous cous or quinoa, so if you like either of those, you’ll probably like millet as well. It’s packed with protein and is cheap and easy to cook with.

Click here to get the full recipe.

6. Swiss Chard & Quinoa Cakes with Yogurt

vegetarian recipes

Photograph courtesy of Cynthia from Two Red Bowls.

As far as vegetarian alternatives to burgers go, these quinoa cakes are some of the best. They’re high in protein, and are jam-packed with vitamins and minerals. If Swiss chard’s not your thing, you could try making them with kale instead.

Click here to get the full recipe.

7. Garlic Pepper Soba with Chili-Roasted Tofu


Photograph courtesy of Laura from The First Mess.

Made from buckwheat, soba noodles are a great source of protein in addition to the tofu in this dish. If you follow a gluten-free diet, be sure to check the label to make sure the brand of soba you choose doesn’t contain wheat ingredients.

Click here to get the full recipe.

8. Spaghetti Squash with Chickpeas and Kale

high protein vegan foods

Photograph courtesy of Jack & Jeanine from Love and Lemons.

Almost every vegetarian I have ever met loves pasta. While Jeanine admits “spaghetti squash is not pasta and it never will be”, this high-protein, veggie-packed recipe makes a great alternative when you’re in the mood for something a little healthier.

Click here to get the full recipe.

9. Mango Salsa Black Beans and Red Coconut Rice

high protein vegan food

Photograph courtesy of Katie from Produce on Parade.

For vegans and vegetarians, beans and rice are a classic combination. Together, they offer a good dose of protein and all the essential amino acids. The only problem is that they don’t taste of much. This recipe is guaranteed to spice things up.

Click here to get the full recipe.

10. Black Bean Tempeh Tacos

high protein vegan recipes

Photograph courtesy of Kaitlin from The Garden Grazer.

This is the one that you feed to your carnivorous friends who don’t believe that you can get enough protein as a vegan or vegetarian. Tempeh and beans replace the meat, but it can be personalized with the toppings you and your friends already love.

Click here to get the full recipe.

11. Chewy Superfood Hemp Protein Bars

high-protein vegan desert

Photograph courtesy of McKel from Nutrition Stripped.

Whoever said satisfying your sweet-tooth has to be unhealthy? These protein bars make the perfect snack or dessert, and are jam-packed with nutrient-dense ingredients like hemp hearts, chia, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and mulberries.

Click here to get the full recipe.

12. Squash Salad with Lentils, Pomegranate and Roasted Garlic Cashew Cream

high protein vegetarian foodsThis recipe and photograph comes from Jodi of What’s Cooking Good Looking.

If you’re ready to kick your salads up a notch, this is the recipe you need. It’s packed with veggies and protein, keeping you full for longer than your run-of-the-mill salad.

Click here to get the full recipe.

13. Apple Cinnamon Protein Pancakes

vegan recipes

Photograph courtesy of Amanda from Pickles & Honey.

Need something sweeter for breakfast? Unlike regular pancakes, these vegan-friendly versions are chock-full of protein, getting your day off to a good start.

Click here to get the full recipe.

14. Mexican Sweet Potato Hash with Black Beans and Spinach

vegetarian healthy food

Photograph courtesy of Phoebe from Feed Me Phoebe.

This is a cheap dish that only takes half an hour to whip up. It contains plenty of veg, protein and one of my personal favourite foods – sweet potato!

Click here to get the full recipe.

15. Yogurt Breakfast Bowl with Toasted Coconut, Walnuts, Blueberries and Chia

high protein vegetarian meals

Photograph courtesy of Brittany from Eating Bird Food.

This one can be put together in a couple of ways. As above, or thrown together in a container to keep with you while you’re on the go. Just make sure you set aside some time to toast the walnuts and coconut for extra flavour and crunch.

Click here to get the full recipe.

16. Chunky Lentil and Vegetable Soup

high protein vegan recipes

Photograph courtesy of Beth from Budget Bytes.

There’s a lot of great things about this recipe: the ‘meatiness’ of the chunky ingredients, the high protein content, the fact that it’s jam-packed with a variety of vegetables, but perhaps best of all it comes in at only $0.52 a serving!

Click here to get the full recipe.

17. Fried Eggs with Bulgur and Spinach

vegetarian recipes

Photograph courtesy of Sonja & Alex from A Couple Cooks.

Bulgur is incredibly versatile in dishes and cooks in about the same amount of time as pasta. With 8 grams of fiber per cup, it beats out quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat, and corn in that category. It also contains 17g of protein in each cup.

Click here to get the full recipe.

18. Quinoa Chili

high protein vegetarian diet

Photograph courtesy of Jaclyn from Cooking Classy.

Every good vegetarian needs to have a bean chili recipe on hand. This one from Cooking Classy contains kidney beans, black beans and quinoa, giving it a high-protein punch.

Click here to get the full recipe.

19. Puy Lentils with Cannellini Beans and Garlicky Leeks

high protein vegan meals

Photograph courtesy of Becca from Amuse Your Bouche.

If you’re in a rush and need a protein fix, then this is you go-to recipe. It takes only 15 minutes to cook and tastes as good as it looks.

Click here to get the full recipe.

Over to You…

There’s no doubt about it: getting enough protein without eating meat is possible.

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, including these recipes and foods in your diet will boost your protein intake, helping you burn fat and build muscle.

And if you’re a meat-eater, you can cut back while keeping your health and fitness goals on track by including more plant-based sources of protein in your diet.


Which of these recipes are you planning on trying first?

Do you have a personal favourite high-protein recipe?

Let me know in the comments!