There are many different varieties of beans—black, white, pinto, heirloom, etc.—but one thing they all have in common is their high amounts of protein. Two cups of kidney beans, for example, contain about 26 grams (almost the same as a Big Mac, which has 25 grams). They truly are the magical fruit.
Also known as garbanzo beans, these legumes can be tossed into salads, fried and salted as a crispy snack, or pureed into a hummus. They contain 7.3 grams of protein in just half a cup and are also high in fiber and low in calories. You can make a meal with some whole-wheat flatbread, some veggies, and some homemade hummus. Just toss a can of chickpeas in the blender with some herbs and some tahini or walnut oil and you're good to go.
Not crazy about meat substitutes? Get your servings of soy the way it appears in nature: Straight from the soybean, still in the pod. Boiled edamame, which contains 8.4 grams of protein per half cup, can be served hot or cold and sprinkled with salt. Try it as a snack, an appetizer before dinner, or added to salads or pastas (minus the shell.)
Foods in the legume family are good sources of vegetarian protein, and peas are no exception: One cup contains 7.9 grams—about the same as a cup of milk. (For the record, women should get about 46 grams of protein per day, and men need about 56.) If you don't like peas as a side dish, try blending them into a pesto. I blend frozen peas, toasted pine nuts, fresh mint, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese and serve over linguini.
Because hemp seeds are one of the best sources of vegetarian and vegan protein, they’re a popular source for plant-based protein powders. Hemp protein powders are just as versatile as the seeds are in their purest form–they can substitute 25 percent of flour in baked good recipes.
And when consuming hemp seeds, you can either dry toast them, eat them raw or even bake them into muffins. All you need is a few tablespoons. (10 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons)
With lentils, you can make rice dishes, veggie burgers, casseroles and more. One cup cooked delivers a whopping 18 grams of protein!
A mere 1 cup of soy or almond milk can pack about 7-9 grams of protein. Eat with some fortified cereal and you’ve got a totally vegan-friendly breakfast. They can be great additions to any diet; just watch out for lots of added sugar and flavors. (Plain soy milk, for example, contains about 100 calories per cup—comparable to skim milk's 80 calories—but the flavored varieties can contain much more.)
Nuts and Nut Butter
All nuts contain both healthy fats and protein, making them a valuable part of a plant-based diet. However, because they are high in calories - cashews, almonds, pistachios for example, all contain 160 calories and 5 to 6 grams of protein per oz., choose varieties that are raw or dry roasted. Nut butters such as peanut or almond butter are also a good way to get protein. Look for brands with few ingredients as possible. Skip the ones with hydrogenated oils and added sugars.
Most grains contain a small amount of protein, but quinoa—technically a seed—is unique in that it contains more than 8 grams per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, but cannot produce on its own. Quinoa is versatile and delicious and can be added to soup or vegetarian chili during winter months, served with brown sugar and fruit as a hot breakfast cereal, or tossed with vegetables and a vinaigrette to make a refreshing summer salad.
Pack a sandwich with vegan sprouted-grain bread and you’ll get about 10 grams of protein in the bread alone.
Tempeh and Tofu
Foods made from soybeans are some of the highest vegetarian sources of protein: Tempeh and tofu, for example, contain about 15 and 20 grams per half cup, respectively. That’s more than 5 eggs or a regular hamburger patty.
Leafy Greens and Vegetables:
Vegetables don't have nearly as much protein as legumes and nuts, however some do contain significant amounts—along with lots of antioxidants and heart-healthy fiber. Eating a lot of vegetables—and a wide variety of different types of vegetables—it will certainly add up to a good amount of amino acids. Two cups of raw spinach, for example, contain 2.1 grams of protein, and one cup of chopped broccoli contains 8.1 grams. One cup of cooked spinach has about 7 grams of protein. The same serving of French beans has about 13 grams. Two cups of cooked kale 5 grams.
These seeds—yes, from the same plant that's used to make Chia Pet products—are an easy way to add protein (4.7 grams per ounce, about two tablespoons) and fiber to almost any recipe: Chia seeds can be sprinkled over salads, stirred into yogurt or oatmeal, blended into smoothies, or they can take center stage: They plump up and take on a gelatinous texture when soaked in a liquid, forming a rich and creamy pudding-like treat.
Sesame, Sunflower and Poppy Seeds
Don't discount the other seeds in your pantry, either; the more familiar varieties are also high in protein and healthy fats. (Per volume, sunflower seed kernels contain the most protein—7.3 grams per quarter cup—followed by sesame seeds and poppy seeds at 5.4 grams each.)
Another meat substitute popular with vegetarians, seitan is made from wheat gluten, seasoned with salt and savory flavors and loaded with protein—36 grams per half cup, more than either tofu or tempeh. It looks like duck meat and tastes like chicken, and can be used in any recipe that calls for poultry.
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Did you know you can get protein from chocolate? Unsweetened cocoa powder—the type used in baking or making hot chocolate from scratch—contains about 1 gram of protein per tablespoon. The powder is bitter all by itself, however, so most recipes call for lots of sugar and fat (usually butter or other dairy), as well. Stick with nonfat (or almond milk) and choose calorie-free sweeteners for a healthy, low calorie hot cocoa, or add it to air-popped popcorn (along with sugar, allspice, and cayenne pepper) for a sweet and spicy whole-grain treat.