There’s a good reason more and more Americans are moving toward a plant-based diet. Simply put, it’s far healthier, as long as it’s well-balanced. Still, many hesitate to reach for meat-free meals for fear they won’t feel full or satisfied the way they do after eating chicken, beef, or seafood. But plant-based proteins can provide you with adequate protein for fewer calories and saturated fat than animal proteins, explains Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., C.D.E., author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies.
Plant-based proteins offer additional health benefits, and they can satisfy you just as well, too. One study published in the Nutrition Journal found pea protein to be more effective in reducing hunger than whey protein, which comes from cow’s milk. Although you don’t have to eat plant-based all the time, incorporating meat-free high-protein meals into your weekly diet regimen can go a long way for your health. To help you get started on meal prepping, we asked top registered dietitians to share their favorite vegetarian high-protein recipes.
Vegetarian High-Protein Recipes
Tomato and White Bean Naan Pizza
As a vegetarian herself, Amy Gorin, R.D.N. in Jersey City, New Jersey, has trouble finding lunch dishes that pack enough of a protein punch to satisfy her until dinner. But her recipe for naan pizza is one of many ideal vegetarian high-protein recipes she whips up. “I swap out some of the more common pizza toppings, such as pepperoni or crumbled beef, for white kidney beans, garlic, and tomatoes—of course including the standard mozzarella and Parmesan,” she says. “You get 16 grams of protein in each serving.”
- 1 cup canned white kidney beans (no salt added), rinsed
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 piece naan bread
- 2 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 1 plum tomato, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons grated Parmesan
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon torn fresh sage
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a bowl, combine beans, olive oil, and garlic.
- Reserve a third of the mixture. Set aside.
- Mash remaining mixture with a fork and spread on top of naan.
- Top with mozzarella, tomato slices, and the remainder of bean mixture.
- Add red pepper flakes, Parmesan, and sage.
- Bake 12-15 minutes.
Vegetable “Fried” Rice with Almond-Teriyaki Sauce
Another one of Gorin’s go-to vegetarian high-protein recipes is this vegetable “fried” rice recipe that calls for just a little bit of cooking spray instead of deep-frying in canola oil, which is what happens with most takeout fried rice recipes. It also includes a myriad of protein-packed vegetables, nuts, and grains. “This dish is so easy to make and features protein from eggs, almonds, and almond butter,” she says. “You get 15 grams of protein per serving.”
- 2 cups pre-cooked brown rice
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 10-ounce package frozen green beans
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium teriyaki sauce
- ¼ cup almond butter
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Cooking oil spray
- 4 eggs
- Cook rice and heat green beans according to package directions.
- In a large nonstick pan, sauté onion pieces in a thin layer of water.
- When the onions become translucent, add almonds and teriyaki sauce.
- Add minimal water as needed. When liquid begins to absorb, mix in green beans and almond butter.
- Add rice to pan, mixing in garlic and cayenne pepper.
- Spray a medium nonstick pan with cooking oil spray, and fry eggs.
- Divide vegetable-and-rice mixture into four bowls, topping each bowl with a fried egg.
Five-Minute Slow Cooker Chili
This cold-weather staple is most often meat-based, using ground beef as the main protein along with beans. But the beans alone provide more than your fair share of protein, so you can swap out the beef for colorful veggies. You can also add other beans aside from the typical kidney, such as black and cannellini. Palinski-Wade places all of these ingredients in the slow cooker for an easy, protein-rich, and fiber-filled dish that’s low in calories but will keep you full for hours.
- 1 can black beans, drained (15.5 ounces)
- 1 can kidney beans, drained (15.5 ounces)
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained (15.5 ounces)
- 1 cup fresh salsa
- 1 can corn, drained (10 ounces)
- 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (10 ounces)
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 1 can chili peppers, drained (4.5 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add ingredients to slow cooker, and cook on low for 4 hours.
- Top with shredded cheese and sour cream if desired.
Mixed Green Salad with Tofu
If you’re inclined to munch on a salad for lunch, you’re probably thinking you need a meat topping to keep you full for at least a few hours. But, you can use tofu instead. “Tofu is definitely a high-protein option, along with chickpeas (or another legume of choice),” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., who has a private practice in NYC. “You can add as many low-calorie veggies for added fiber and fullness and top with some crushed almond for healthy fat and a little more protein.”
- ½ cup marinated tofu
- 1 cup mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano)
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- 3 cups Kale or Romaine lettuce
- 1 cucumber
- ¼ sliced red onion
- 1 tablespoon chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons dressing of your choice
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add dressing and continue mixing.
Brown Rice Buddha Bowl
Brown rice alone is an excellent source of magnesium, which promotes heart health. But it also aids in digestion because it contains 88 percent of the recommended daily dose of manganese. Adding quinoa to your vegetarian high-protein recipes packs a serious protein punch because each cup contains eight grams of the stuff. “Along with the black beans, edamame (soybeans), and iron-rich sautéed spinach, you have yourself an energy-boosting lunch you’ll want to have on repeat,” Gans says.
- ¼ cup brown rice
- ¼ cup quinoa
- 1 cup spinach
- ¼ cup black beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup edamame
- ¼ cup green peas
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Fill a bowl with the cooked brown rice and quinoa.
- Top with the rest of the ingredients.
- Add a dressing or marinade if you desire.
These vegetarian high-protein recipes are a perfect addition to weekly meals even if you regularly eat meat. If you’re looking for more recipe ideas, try these gut-friendly mushroom recipes or go for something sweet with these dietitian-approved desserts.