The Best Plant-Based Proteins

A registered dietitian shares which vegetarian foods offer the biggest nutritional punch.

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Plant Power

When you think of good sources of protein, chances are you don't think of plant-based foods first and foremost. But these 11 vegan, high-protein foods show the nutritional power of plants.


The health benefits of tofu are extensive. With a complete package of protein building blocks (a.k.a. amino acids), soy is a powerhouse for plant-fired protein. Roast seasoned extra-firm tofu for a main course or blend creamy silken tofu into a dessert or smoothie bowl.


Once a health food store outcast, quinoa is now a mainstream superfood. These tiny seeds pack in a full panel of amino acids and are easy to add raw or cooked to everything from soups to salads and overnight oats. Get 8 grams of fiber and 20% of your daily recommended fiber in just one 1 cup of cooked quinoa.

Soy Milk

If you’re looking for the closest protein option to cow’s milk in a non-dairy alternative, soy is the way to go. Soy milk boasts 7 grams of protein per serving; the same portion of cow’s milk contains 8 grams. It’s also fortified with vitamin D and calcium, making it a smart dairy-free option for cereal, smoothies and baked goods.


Pulses like lentils are edible seeds teeming with nutrients. With double the protein content of quinoa, use lentils in soups and hot or cold salads. Lentils can also be a replacement for some or all of the meat in recipes for burgers, chili and tacos.

Chia Seeds

Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain an impressive 6 grams of protein, plus an ample dose of omege-3 fatty acids. Team up chia seeds with yogurt, almond milk and fruit in a batch of creamy chia pudding.


Snacking on high-protein nuts like almonds is a satisfying way to curb an afternoon energy slump. Mix up the texture by using sliced or slivered almonds, or by grinding them into a fine powder for a gluten-free flour replacement.

Black Beans

The star ingredient for dips, salsa and chili stacks up to be one of the most protein-packed types of beans. Sauté with olive oil, garlic and cooked brown rice for a scrumptious side dish.


This hearty soy-based patty can take the place of meat in sandwiches, tacos and pasta dishes. It’s a fermented food that can benefit digestive health, and it contains 5 grams of protein per ounce; an equal amount of cooked chicken breast contains 7 grams.

Pumpkin Seeds

Use these tasty seeds in baked goods, trail mix and granola. Each ounce contains 7 grams of protein.

Peanut Butter

Finger-licking-good peanut butter can make a salad dressing creamy and a dessert extra decadent. Not only is peanut butter filled with healthy fats, it also has 8 grams of protein in a 2-tablespoon serving.

Nutritional Yeast

A quarter cup of this umami-flavored powder has a surprising 8 grams of protein and is the only plant-based source of vitamin B12. Affectionately referred to as "nooch", nutritional yeast is the star ingredient in recipes for vegan cheese. It can add a nutty and "cheesy" element to vegan sauces like in this recipe for Vegan Lemon Fettuccine Alfredo.

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