Curious about what list of plant-based proteins to reach for on a plant-forward diet? Use this list to get started!
I’ve been a plant-based eater for more than half of my life. And often, people ask me how I get my protein. Well, it’s not as complicated as it may seem.
These days, lots and lots of plant proteins exist, from whole-food options like edamame and hemp seeds to plant-based hamburgers.
The best part? Many plant proteins are often pretty darn cheap and provide you with other essential nutrients, too. I’m going to be talking about my go-to list of plant-based proteins.
What is a plant-based diet?
Before we get into that list of plant-based proteins, let’s chat about why plant-based eating is so “in” right now, as well as exactly what it entails.
These days, more and more eaters are swapping their turkey burgers for veggie alternatives, opting to extend Meatless Monday throughout the week and making plants the spotlight of most meals.
This is music to the ears of a plant-forward dietitian like me! But what exactly is plant-based eating? Plant-based eating can mean that you eat vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian.
Choosing a vegan diet means that you cut out all forms of animal products, including eggs, dairy, and even honey.
If you opt for a vegetarian diet, you may include eggs and dairy.
And if you go for a flexitarian diet, this simply means that you may include all foods but that you prioritize including plant foods.
Thinking about following a plant-forward diet? Then you’ll want to know all about the best protein for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. This list of plant-based proteins will help you get started.
List of plant-based proteins
Now that you’ve said goodbye to meat for a night (or just a meal!), load your plate with plant-based protein foods.
Aside from boasting good-for-you nutrients, these best protein for vegetarians also score big in the storage department, as most can be tucked away in the freezer and pantry.
In fact, many of these are my go-tos that I always keep on hand for an easy, nutritious, plant-based meal! Let’s take a look at the foods that top the list of plant-based proteins.
1. Nuts and seeds
Hooray for healthy fats. You won’t find many saturated fats in nuts and seeds. I love snacking on these and adding them to a smoothie bowl or salad. A quarter cup of pistachios boasts 6 grams of protein!
This wheat gluten protein is high in protein, providing 16 grams of protein per 3 ounces. It’s delish in a stir fry––and is a great addition to your list of plant-based proteins.
These are beans, lentils, and chickpeas. They’re a must when you’re creating a go-to list of plant-based proteins. I love ‘em in a bowl with rice or veggies. 1 cup of chickpeas has 15 grams of protein.
This plant protein meat substitute comes from fermented, nutritious fungus. Many forms of mycoprotein exist, including meatless grounds—1 cup of which contains 15 grams of protein.
Yup, the green stuff boasts protein—you get 2 grams per ounce. Add spirulina to a smoothie for a pop of color! It’s a great food to add to your list of plant-based proteins.
Soy is a complete plant protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids. When thinking about soy products, go for tofu, edamame, and tempeh!
You get 7 grams per 3 ounces. This means they’re a good source of protein. I love baked tofu!
This all-plant protein grain has 8 grams of protein per 1 cup of cooked grains. It’s a great plant food, and I love adding it to a salad!
These green veggies boast protein—8 grams per cup! I like to mix ‘em with brown rice. It’s a fab addition to your list of plant-based proteins.
9. Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is one of my favorite ingredients! It has a cheese-like flavor and is packed with 2 to 3 grams of protein, plus minerals like iron.
Sometimes, nutritional yeast is fortified with B vitamins, such as vitamin B12. It’s a great way for plant-based eaters to add additional protein to meals and snacks.
“Tahini is my favorite pantry staple,” says Leanne Ray, MS, RDN, nutrition blogger at Leanne Ray Nutrition. “It’s incredibly versatile and really elevates an otherwise simple dish to something that feels gourmet and interesting.”
“Nutritionally, tahini contains protein, fiber, heart-healthy fat ,and plant-based iron. Use it to make a quick sauce for drizzling over grain bowls, add it to your favorite fruit smoothies, or swirl it into oatmeal and baked goods.”
How to eat a plant-based diet
As intimidating as it sounds, kickstarting a plant-based diet isn’t actually that complicated.
And it’s a great way to start learning how to eat more fruits, veggies, and legumes before going full-fledged vegetarian or vegan if your contemplating trying those eating styles.
To help you get started, check out my step-by-step guide to following a plant-based diet. Remember, baby steps are still steps forward! If you need more inspo, take a look at my mix-and-match plant-based meal plans.
And when it comes to high-protein breakfasts, definitely skip the cinnamon bun! Instead, dig into these registered dietitian breakfast favorites:
And you might be wondering just how healthy plant-based eating is in the first place. Maybe just maybe it feels like all your friends signed onto plant-based eating. Still on the fence yourself? Studies show vegetarians tend to lead healthy lifestyles.
When it comes to choosing from a gigantic list of plant-based proteins, you can go in many directions.
Choose foods that are unexpected sources of plant-based protein, such as nutritional yeast or spirulina. Or go for more traditional plant proteins like tofu or tempeh.
- Leanne Ray, MS, RDN, nutrition blogger at Leanne Ray Nutrition
I’d love to hear from you! Which item on this list of plant-based proteins will you try next?
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