My Favorite Non-Meat Sources of Protein

Good morning!

A bunch of you guys have asked about my favorite non-meat sources of protein, so here’s a post devoted to some of my favorites. I know there are plenty more high protein vegetarian options out there, but these are my current go-tos. I’m still experimenting and discovering new ones, so please share your favorites and how you incorporate them into your diet. I love getting new ideas and know you guys do too!

What are the best sources of vegetarian protein?

Shelled edamame – I buy frozen bagged edamame. I like the pods for snacking, but the shelled stuff is such a great way to add quick protein to dishes. Each week, I take out about a cup or two and let it defrost in a glass container in the fridge. Then, I just grab some and add it to my meals. I’ll either eat it cold or heat it up. A couple of my favorite edamame recipes (and both make great snacks): Edamame Guacamole and Parmesan & Garlic-Roasted Edamame. Speaking of edamame, this Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine is a protein favorite! It’s certified organic, gluten-free, vegan, and have 20 grams per serving! I typically eat them solo with some butter, grated Parmesan and veggies, but the possibilities are endless!

Beans – Oh, how I love beans. All kinds. I’m recently on a white bean kick, but I’ll eat just about any variety. Similar to the edamame mentioned above, I’ll open a can each week and keep them in the fridge for easy access. My favorite bean recipes: Salt & Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas, Easy Cowboy BeansOne Pan Roasted  Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas (freezes really well), Light & Creamy Chickpea Salad, 5-Minute Vegetarian Stir Fry, and Artichoke Parmesan Pasta with Roasted Chickpeas.

Banza pasta – Yep, it gets its own category! 🙂 Banza is a high-protein and high-fiber pasta made from chickpeas. A lot of “alternative” pastas on the market have a weird taste and texture, but Banza is the closest to tradition pasta I’ve tried. Once cooked, it’s soft and chewy just like the real deal – even Quinn will eat it. In fact, it’s so darn delicious, it’s become a staple for a quick dinners in our house, including this Buffalo Blue Chicken Pasta and Meal Prep High-Protein Italian Pasta Bake.

Lentils – I’m also loving lentils lately, especially Instant Pot BBQ Lentils! Trader Joe’s also sells packages prepared lentils that are pretty good and perfect for a quickie meal.

Peas – One cup of peas has 8 grams of protein, so I’ll toss some frozen ones in salads, pasta, smoothies, tuna salad, casseroles… just about anything really!

Protein powder – My current favorites are vanilla Recovery from SFH. I typically drink the Recovery after a workout as well as mixed into protein balls or a smoothie. I love SFH products because they don’t have an artificial flavor and are made with high-quality ingredients. I also really like the OWYN vanilla protein powder and add it to my daily iced coffee everyday.

Soy milk – Soy milk is a great non-dairy milk alternative – mostly because I like the taste, but also because it has 7 grams of protein per serving!

favorite non-meat sources of protein

Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt is so satisfying and LOADED with protein. I typically eat my Greek yogurt with cereal as an afternoon snack or sweet treat at the end of the night with some fruit and/or chocolate chips. Lately, I’m digging bananas sautéed in coconut oil mixed into my yogurt. Mmm! You’ve gotta try it!

Nutritional yeast – Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast has 6 grams of protein, so it’s not a huge source in my diet, but it’s tasty and easy to add to many of my meals and snacks. I pretty much use it like I would grated Parmesan cheese.

Cheeeeeese – I am such a cheese lover and add it to everything. Basically, if a meal/snack is looking a little skimpy, I’ll throw some cheese on it for some extra satiety.

Nuts and nut butters – Duh. Nut butter is my life. Haha! Teddie Peanut Butter is my FAVORITE brand ever. It’s a little hard to find, so I typically buy it on Amazon. Here are some of my favorite nut butter recipes: The Best & Easiest Peanut Butter Protein Balls + More Recipes for Peanut Butter Lovers. I also really love Perfect Bars as a snack. Have you seen the Mini Perfect Bars? They’re perfect for when you just want a bite of something!

Eggs – I’m not eating a ton of eggs nowadays because it makes my acne flare, but I used to eat them ALL of the time – usually, scrambled sometimes with spinach, nutritional yeast, feta, and ketchup (or some combination of those ingredients) or hard-boiled with salt + pepper as a snack.

Liquid egg whites – They’re such an easy way to add protein to meals. I used to like mixing them into oatmeal and rice dishes (kind of like fried rice).

Question of the Day

Your turn! What are some of your favorite non-meat sources of protein? 

This post was originally publish in March 2016 and updated February 21, 2019.

50 Comments

  1. TJs prepared lentils are awesome. I toss the package with a bag of their arugula and their bruschetta for a super easy salad. Sometimes I add mozzarella balls, tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumbers….anything you like!

  2. I’m a huge fan of nut butters, beans, and eggs as well! I have never tried liquid egg whites because the thought of eggs in a carton is just weird to me 😉 But I’ve been wanting to try more non-meat proteins lately and I really like the idea of adding them to oatmeal… Maybe I’ll have to pick up a carton at Target today!

  3. I love me some red lentils! Especially in soups and Indian dishes. There are some great slow cooker recipes out there for lentils, you should give that a try first, nothing is more satisfying then a dump meal.

  4. I used SFH too! Have you had problems with the coconut fuel mixing as well? I still get clumps even with my shaker bottle whisk!

  5. I love chickpeas, tempeh, tofu, peas and all kinds of beans! I stick pretty closely to a vegan diet so I actually think of eggs as falling into a “meat” category since came from a chicken. But I loved eggs when I used to eat them.

    So glad you are enjoying a more plant-based diet!

  6. I found canned lentils at the store (Wegmans) in the beans section. All lentils/beans taste the same to me, lol, so I’ll bet if you used lentils in a chili recipe or something it would be great!

  7. A quick healthy meal with Trader Joe’s prepared lentils: toss the lentils, fresh or frozen chopped spinach, and bite size roasted sweet potatoes into a pan and warm up together. Its a really easy and tasty combo.

  8. You have turned me to loving edamame – oh, so good! Another favorite non-meat protein of mine is ice cream…cause there’s milk in there somewhere!! Ok, kidding… kinda. My current fav has been plain yogurt – the stuff is a great substitute for everything and delicious with just fruit.

  9. The prepared lentils at TJs are great and so convenient. I’ve made a Greek-style salad with them for lunches at work: chopped romaine, lentils, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, olives, and feta. TJs also sells bags of farro, which contains a decent amount of protein, and it’s great with chickpeas, spinach, and your favorite cheese.

  10. I lovelovelove eggs, nuts & nut butter, Greek yogurt, and beans! I also recently got back into edamame, and I found Crunchamame by eda-zen. Sometimes I need some crunch and this is freeze-dried edamame, so there’s a ton of protein, but it’s crunchy 🙂 There are a bunch of tasty flavors and I’ve been loving it as a study snack!

  11. Great ideas! I carry little baggies of chocolate protein powder with me so that I can drop it in a bottle of water or container for a quick source of protein. I also love edamame, hard boiled eggs with salt & pepper, and almond butter with an apple. Looking forward to a nutritional yeast post!

  12. I LOVE cheese! I’ll add it anywhere I need some protein. During Lent, I try to stay away from beef/chicken/pork on Fridays, so I bump up my protein with seafood and lower fat cheeses like feta.

  13. Love this post! I eat a lot of veggie meals, and I’m always looking for new ways to increase my protein (my trainer pushes this, as well). My faves are nut butters and beans. I often make dishes that hubs can easily in add some grilled chicken. I also always have some TJ’s beefless beef in the freezer for a quick go-to. 1/3c has 9g of protein, and its great for tacos or salads!

  14. I am so glad that you did this post! With this pregnancy I have really hated the thought of most meats and have been trying really hard to find alternative sources of protein that sound good to me. I recently purchased soy milk because dairy is very hard on my stomach and I hope I like the taste!

  15. My favorite non-meat sources of protein are definitely eggs and nut butters for sure. I eat eggs on the daily and sometimes probably have an egg addiction. It is a problem (but I am okay with it). I also love almond butter and especially on a banana or a spoonful in the morning. Protein powder is great too in a shake if I am feeling that I did not get enough protein that day. I am currently trying to limit the amount of meat I eat, so this information is definitely helpful!

  16. Love this post!! I too love the prepared lentils from TJ’s! I honestly was not a fan of them after making a soup with lentils that was terribly bland. But one day they were sampling the prepared lentils, bruschetta sauce, with feta cheese and I was hooked! I love the idea of adding sweet potatoes!

  17. I love eggs and greek yogurt!! I put greek yogurt into smoothies, use it in place of sour cream all the time, and love it plain with some fruit and chocolate chips for dessert. Are you concerned about soy milk with the reports that it could be disrupting our hormones and the prevalence of GMO soy?

    1. If you do a little more research into who funded some of those soy studies, you’ll see why I’m not worried! I also buy organic soy milk, so it’s not made with GMO soy beans.

  18. Had to make the protein peanut butter balls as soon as I got home from work. Delicious! I didn’t have but a few drops of honey left so I tossed each ball in powdered sugar. Pretty, Yummy, and a kind of heathy snack/dessert. thanks

  19. Hi Tina! I am looking for a good plant based protein powder that doesn’t have Hemp in it, the info on Amazon doesn’t show the ingredients.. does it have hemp in there?

  20. I found picking not obvious alternatives of common ingredientes, or adding small extras to my regular meals making the difference in protein intake during the day, i.e:
    – 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa = 4g protein and 19.7g carbohydrates while the same volume of cooked brown rice = 2.5 g protein and 22.4g carbohydrates. Why not using quinoa in lunch salad then?
    – When using white flour in any recipe it is easy to replace part of it with chickpea alternative: 1 cup (125g) of all-purpose flour = 13g protein and 95g carbohydrates while 1 cup (92g) chickpea flour = 27g protein and 53g carbs.
    Beside that addition of 2 tbsp of chia seeds into fruit cocktail or salad provides another 6.6g of protein and my absolute no1 – spirulina! Each tablespoon of this dried seaweed in my smoothie delivers 4g protein extra!

  21. Tempeh is where it’s at! So versatile and less processed than tofu and its fermented so double bonus. Another favorite right now is Beyond Meat’s feisty taco crumble with no crazy fillers and no soy. Super yummy in taco salads mixed with veggies and as a burrito mix.

  22. I’m a huge nutritional yeast, bean, and nut butter fan (I eat each of those at least once per day). I make a big batch of lentils once a month and freeze them in ½ cup serving portions – then I can just defrost and eat (cheaper than buying prepared!) I also love tempeh!

  23. Don’t forget about some whole grains! Amaranth and Quinoa are both considered complete proteins, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. Quinoa is great anywhere you would normally use rice, and amaranth can be mixed into dough or batters for muffins and breads to bump up the protein.

  24. When I am on my own for a night, I take Trader Joes Healthy 8 veggie mix and saute that in olive oil and gralic. Once it’s cooked where I decide it looks good I add their pre cooked lentils and whatever kind of sauce I feel like adding. It’s easy and versitle!

    For the seasoning/sauce I’ve tired all kind of stuff! Basalmic vinegar, curry sauce, stir fry sauce, Frank’s… what I have that looks good!

  25. Cottage cheese!! A half-cup serving contains 15 grams of protein. When I’m craving something sweet, I add a little vanilla extract and stevia (or other sweetener) to a scoop of cottage cheese. It tastes like vanilla ice cream!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *