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Three High-Protein Vegan Dishes: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Freelance writer from the northeast coast of England with a fondness for vegan food and punk rock.

Barley risotto with peas and broccoli

Barley risotto with peas and broccoli

Vegans and the Protein Myth

I’d wager that majority of vegans have been asked this eternal question: Where do you get your protein from?

It is of course a myth that a vegan diet is protein-deficient, there being many excellent sources of protein available in the world of plants. Long-term vegans of over 30 years or more, such as Moby (since 1987) and Brian Adams (since 1989), show no signs of deficiency.

As for me, I get more than enough protein each day without actually monitoring my intake. To demonstrate this, here’s a rundown of a typical day’s food, and how much protein it contains. Figures are from information on the packaging or Googling, for example, how much protein in ½ a cup of uncooked brown rice?

A high protein start to the day

A high protein start to the day

Breakfast: Oats

Virtually every morning I have oats—either as porridge or as overnight oats—always served with berries, seeds and nuts. To me, oats have been synonymous with strength ever since as a small boy I studied the muscular shot-putting athlete in a kilt on the box of Scott’s Porage Oats (notice their way of spelling). I have ¼ cup of dried oats per morning, which brings me in over 6 grams, but I always add a tablespoon each of milled flax seed and whole chia seeds, which add about another 4 grams.

There are another 8 grams of protein in one cup of soya milk, and a handful of walnut pieces (¼ cup) will add about 4 grams. A sprinkling of sunflower seeds to finish will put another 7 grams into the mix.

All told, that’s a high-protein breakfast, coming in at around 26 grams, well over a third of my daily protein requirement.

Protein-rich legumes: lentils and chickpeas

Protein-rich legumes: lentils and chickpeas

Lunch: Red Lentil Soup With Hummus Wrap

Lunch is a double whammy for my protein intake, in the form of legumes. Red lentils in a soup, and chickpeas via hummus in a wrap or a pitta. A standard bowl of lentil soup contains 14 grams of protein. I tend to have bigger than standard portions, but I’ll stick at 14 grams. I use about ¾ of a tub of store-bought hummus - about 150 grams, 12 of which are protein. But it doesn’t end there. Another 7 grams of protein are to be had in the wholemeal pitta bread, which makes lunch a 33 grams of protein affair. So I'm already at 59 grams of protein, and there’s still one meal to go.

Dinner: Chilli With Veggie Mince

I could have cheated and looked for a really high-protein meal to finish off with, but there was no need to do that because protein is in such plentiful supply. So I’ll go with what I’m having tonight, chilli made with veggie mince, served with brown rice and a wholemeal tortilla. The mince itself is derived from soya, so is packed with protein: a helpful 17 grams in a 100 grams serving. Then there might be about half a cup of kidney beans in my bowl of cooked chilli, which adds 7 grams of protein.

These days I mainly eat brown rice, which bags me a further 3 grams per ½ cup of uncooked rice. Finally, as with the pitta above, the wholemeal tortilla comes in at 5.5 grams of protein, according to the packaging. A total of 32.5 grams of protein for the evening meal. That’s 95.5 grams of protein for the day.

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Barley risotto with peas and broccoli as part of a filling meal

Barley risotto with peas and broccoli as part of a filling meal

Recipe 1: Barley Risotto With Peas and Broccoli

Pearl barley is a seriously underrated grain in my opinion. Aside from being delicious and versatile, it is also a nutritional powerhouse that packs 12 grams of protein per hundred. In this creamy risotto recipe, an added protein boost comes from peas, with 5 grams per 100, and, to a lesser extent, broccoli, which has 2.8 grams.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ head of broccoli broken into small florets
  • ½ cup peas frozen, canned or fresh
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup unsweetened plant milk
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion.
  2. Add the garlic, broccoli and peas and saute 1 minute more.
  3. Add the barley and stir so that everything is coated.
  4. Add the wine and simmer 1 minute.
  5. Pour in the stock, and add the nutritional yeast.
  6. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. If the risotto is drying out before the barley is cooked, stir in small amounts of stock or milk to thin it.
  8. When the barley is tender, adjust seasoning.
  9. Allow the rissotto to rest for 2 minutes, then serve with a good grinding of black pepper.
Rice and peas with vegan burger in peanut lime saue and sweet potato wedges

Rice and peas with vegan burger in peanut lime saue and sweet potato wedges

Recipe 2: Rice and Peas

When a local shop started selling small 165 millilitre cans of coconut milk, which are an ideal size for a pan of curry or this recipe, we used to buy them up six at a time. Rice and peas became a staple in our household, it being easy to prepare, extremely tasty and packed with protein.

Some recipes for this dish call for obscure spices, but even this basic version, made with everyday pantry items, really livens up a supper dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium red or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion and peppers until soft.
  2. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more.
  3. Stir in the rice, sugar, thyme and optional chilli flakes.
  4. Add the vegetable stock, and bring to a boil.
  5. Turn down the heat, and simmer the rice gently, stirring occasionally.
  6. After 10 minutes, when the rice has absorbed a lot of the stock, stir in the coconut milk.
  7. Simmer until the rice is tender, adding more stock if needed.
  8. Adjust salt and pepper, and serve.
Spicy roasted chickpeas

Spicy roasted chickpeas

Recipe 3: Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Less a meal, more a snack, I first tried these when I visited a friend in Jarrow, with the intention of watching the film Blue Velvet on VHS video. He’d soaked and cooked a huge batch of chickpeas, which meant they weren’t ready until the closing credits were rolling. These crisp up better when there’s only one layer, but the ones I had that night were still very tasty, and by then I was ready for them.

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F / 200°C, and prepare a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Pat the chickpeas dry using a clean tea towel or paper kitchen towel.
  3. In a bowl, mix the oil, smoked paprika, coriander, cumin and salt.
  4. Add the chickpeas to the bowl and move them around until they are all coated (there is no better tool than your fingers for this task).
  5. Spread the chickpeas on the baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes, giving them a shake halfway through, and watching they don’t burn towards the end of cooking.
  6. Allow the chickpeas to cool, and they will crisp up a little more.

High-Protein Playlist

The photo accompanying this song is, to say the least, grim. But that is what fans of Lack of Knowledge, and I count myself among their number, had come to expect. The band’s second release, an EP on Crass Records, is titled Grey, and the fold out sleeve contains a collection of monochrome photos as bleak and dreary as this one. Then they released their debut album, the pessimistic Sirens are Back.

But these records were came out in the early 1980s; Thatcher's Britain, with high unemployment and Cold War misery on the news every day. Life itself was bordering on grim.

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