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Best Sources of Plant-Based Protein (Plus 3 Recipes)

Britney has her B.A. in Environmental Management and Sustainability, and Cassie has her certification in plant-based nutrition.

Can You Get All of Your Protein From Plants?

There is a lot of controversy over protein intake and a plant-based lifestyle. We cannot count the number of times we have been asked, "But where do you get your protein?" What many people do not realize is that plants contain every ounce of protein that human beings need in order to thrive.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. As humans, we are able to produce nine of the 20 amino acids, so those other 11 must be supplied by what we eat! As long are you are eating a wide variety of plant foods, as well as enough total calories throughout the day, you will more than likely reach your protein intake goal.

Keep in mind that there is a distinction between complete versus incomplete protein sources. A complete protein source contains all nine essential amino acids while an incomplete protein source is missing one or more of these nine amino acids.

Complete Protein Sources

  • Quinoa
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Buckwheat
  • Rice and beans
  • Soybeans
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Spirulina

We cannot stress the importance of keeping your food choices diverse. Mix up your meals and snacks to include fruits, veggies, whole grains, lentils, etc. If all you are consuming are plain salads every single day, then, unfortunately, you are probably not meeting your protein needs. This is a huge mistake made by many who first transition to a plant-based lifestyle.

If you are first beginning the transition, make it easy on yourself by first thinking about an easy protein-based swap. For example, maybe switch out the meat in your stir-fry for some savory seasoned tofu, or the beef in your tacos for some tasty lentils. Both of these options are still packed with protein, as well as some extra fiber and iron.

Here we have compiled a list of some of three protein-rich plant-based dishes. We make sure to keep these dishes on a steady rotation in our household to ensure that we are always consuming a sufficient amount of protein!

Plant-Based Tofu Bowl

Plant-Based Tofu Bowl

Plant-Based Protein Tofu Bowl

One of our all-time favorite dishes is our tofu Buddha bowl. It is super easy to make and has very limited ingredients. These bowls stay good in the fridge for about one week, so they are awesome to meal prep and make in big batches! Feel free to add any additional vegetables of your choice. Sometimes we even switch out the quinoa base for brown rice.

Protein: This meal could easily supply you with 20g or more.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of water
  • coconut oil spray
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large cucumber, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 radishes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 package extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • 1 tbs onion powder
  • 1 tbs Italian seasoning
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • "Everything but the Bagel" seasoning from Trader Joe's, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your baking sheet by spraying with an oil of your choice (we use coconut oil).
  2. Unwrap tofu and crumble into 1-inch pieces. Spread evenly onto your baking sheet. Note: It is ok to have pieces that vary in size.
  3. Place tofu in oven for about 20 minutes, or until edges become golden in color. Baking time may vary depending on how many packages of tofu you are using. Be sure to toss the tofu around about halfway through so that they cook evenly.
  4. While your tofu is baking in the oven, prepare your quinoa by rinsing it under cold water until the water runs clear.
  5. Next, spray your Instant Pot with coconut oil to prevent your quinoa from sticking. Add your water and quinoa to the pot. Stir.
  6. Close the lid and make sure your steam valve is in the "sealed" position. Select "manual" and cook for 1 minute on high pressure.
  7. "Naturally release" the pressure for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, "quick release" remaining pressure. Fluff with a fork.
  8. A few minutes before you remove your tofu from the oven, prepare your fry pan by adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heating it on medium heat.
  9. Once the oil is heated, place baked tofu into your frypan and toss to coat tofu evenly with oil. This frying process typically takes about 15 minutes on medium heat, or until tofu is crisped to your liking. The crispier you like it, the longer this will take.
  10. Season tofu VERY generously with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. You may need to do this multiple times throughout the process depending on how flavorful you want it.
  11. As your tofu is frying, chop up a medium-sized white onion and add it to your fry pan about 5 minutes in. Stir occasionally until cooked to your desired firmness.

How to Assemble the Bowl

  1. Chop up your cucumber, pepper, radishes, tomato, and avocado.
  2. Add your cooked quinoa as the base to your bowl.
  3. Top with cooked tofu, chopped vegetable, and sliced avocado.
  4. Sprinkle with "Everything but the Bagel Seasoning" to complete!

Please feel free to view our full article about how to make crispy tofu.

Plant-Based Lentil Stew

Plant-Based Lentil Stew

Plant-Based Protein Lentil Stew

This lentil stew is not only packed with protein, fiber, and polyphenols, but it is also sure to keep you warm during these cold winter months! We prefer to make this recipe in the Instant Pot, as lentils take roughly 20 minutes to cook on the stove. This is a quick, one-pot recipe. If you have ever tried the lentil soup from Bertucci's, that is what we were trying to replicate. It is pretty darn close!

Protein: One big bowl of the stew contains almost 20g.

Servings: 5 large servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs water (for sauteing)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup red potato, diced
  • 2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Begin by selecting the "saute" function and add water to your Instant Pot.
  2. Saute your onions, garlic, carrots, and celery until they become slightly softened.
  3. Add potatoes, lentils, vegetable broth, and spices. Stir.
  4. Close the lid of your Instant Pot and set your timer for 7 minutes on "manual" mode.
  5. Allow the pressure to release naturally for about 7 minutes, and then "quick release" the remaining pressure.
  6. Taste test and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Plant-Based Chili

Plant-Based Chili

Plant-Based Protein Chili

This is one of our quickest meals to make; it usually takes only about 15 minutes. This is a perfect dish to bring to pot lucks or a family cookout. You can never go wrong with a chili! We even top it off with some vegan shredded cheese. Dave's Killer Bread Powerseed is also a great option to dip in this chili. With 5g of protein per slice (and if you are like us and dip more than one piece), then you are getting a very healthy dose of protein with this meal.

Protein: 20-25g (chili plus powerseed bread)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs water (for sauteing)
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cans black beans, not drained or rinsed
  • 2 cans kidney beans, not drained or rinsed
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cans whole kernel corn, not drained or rinsed
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • vegan shredded cheese (optional topping)
  • dollop Forager's CashewGurt (optional topping)

Instructions

  1. Water saute onion, celery, and garlic until softened in a large stockpot.
  2. Add in all 5 cans of black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas. Stir to combine.
  3. Add tomato paste, corn, and spices.
  4. Let cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  5. Top off with optionally shredded cheese and Forager's CashewGurt!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Britney Bernard and Cassie Midura