6 Top Protein Sources for Vegetarians

by Rachna
protein vegetarian diet

This is a question my vegetarian and vegan friends ask constantly. This is a common fear that vegetarian diets need protein supplementation as they are devoid of meat. This fear is not accurate as per this PubMed article. I will share with you multiple sources of protein that you can incorporate on a daily basis on your diet.

Why Do You Need Protein in Your Diet?

Protein is needed for growth of children, to repair and form muscles, to maintain organs, for immunity and also for satiety at every meal. It is best o incorporate protein in some form in each meal.

On an average, you need about 0.8 – 1 gm. of protein per Kg. of bodyweight. So an adult of 60 Kgs. will need 60 gms. of protein approximately daily. Growing children and children undergoing growth spurts will need more. If you are an adult who works out regularly, you may need more protein in your diet to build muscle mass.

A good approach is to break that down to 3 meals in a day and accordingly incorporate about 20 gm. each meal (for a 60 kg. adult).

Here are some the top protein sources for vegetarian and vegan diets:

1. Dairy

protein vegetarian diet

Most vegetarians consume milk and its products. If you do drink milk, include curd in your diet, add paneer and cheese for a good protein add-on. I religiously add a bowl of curd to my meals.

2. Beans/Lentils

protein vegetarian diet

Lentils, pulses and beans are a rich source of protein. Black gram, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils are tasty as curries, in salads when boiled, as dips, as cutlets, made as dal and its preparations. Pulses like green gram, moth, lobia etc. are wonderful in curries and also in salads. You can up their nutrition by sprouting them.

When you are in a rush, just pair your sabzi and roti with a bowl of cooked pulses that could be a quick stir fry or salad of pulses. Or pair with a bowl of curd. Or of course a hearty bowl of thick dal. When I pack the tiffin for my children, I ensure that they get dal, roti and sabzi or a protein curry and rice or a similar combination. Check out the following protein rich recipes.

Try Vegan Sprouted Lentil Salad

Horsegram High Protein Dal Recipe

Horsegram Soup for Weight Loss

Vegan Millet Lentil Crepe

5 Lentil Dal

3. Nuts and Seeds

protein vegetarian diet

Seeds and nuts are a wonderful source of protein. You can pack a handful of nuts in your child’s tiffin or have it as a snack mid morning or evening.

Peanut butter is a good source of protein and good fats. Almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts along with seeds like sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, flax seeds are excellent in salads or as sprinkling on your food or in your curries. I sometimes powder them and add them to my atta dough.

Do remember that they are pretty high in fats so don’t binge eat them. They are also a great source of good cholesterol or HDL. The same stuff that gets better with exercise.

4. Soy products

Soy milk, soya bean nuggets, edamame and tofu are excellent sources of protein for vegan or even otherwise. I have these on a regular basis.

Some recipes that you can try:

High Protein Soya chunks curry recipe

Vegan Tandoori Tofu

5. Egg

Many vegetarians eat eggs. If you do, you have an excellent source of cheap protein that you can pair with almost anything to make a complete meal.

Or just have it scrambled, as an omlette or boiled. Each medium egg provides 6 gm. of protein.

Here are some recipes:

Tasty Egg Paratha Recipe

Shakshuka — Poached Eggs in a Spicy Sauce

Best Scrambled Eggs Recipe

6. Protein powder/Nutritional supplements

You can add protein powder to your smoothie or have as a post-workout drink especially when doing muscle training. Add fruit and nuts along with milk and protein and you have a power smoothie for after workout or for an on-the-go liquid breakfast.  

Spirulina is an algae that is very high in protein. You can incorporate that in your diet.Your muscles need protein within 45 minutes after the workout to repair themselves.

This the protein powder I use.

protein vegetarian diet

Whole grains and legumes are a good combination to get all amino acids needed. Hence whole grain rotis with a pulse curry is a good wholesome choice.

Also pay attention to your vitamin deficit. Meats are a good source of Vitamin B12. If you don’t consume much dairy and greens, you may be low on calcium. Ensure that you take a good multivitamin or foods fortified with vitamins and minerals.

protein vegetarian diet

All it requires is a bit of planning, and having wholesome meals daily is achievable. You can have adequate protein in your diet even if you are a vegetarian.

Just make a chart of all the protein foods that you can eat and how much protein they have and voila you can plan excellent well-balanced meals. There are many apps that you can use that can help you calculate the nutritional information of your foods.

Do share any ideas you have of adding protein to your vegetarian diet. 

Disclaimer: I am a certified nutritionist. This information is meant as a guideline and not a substitute for medical advise. The above post may contain affiliate links. Do check my Disclosure Policy for more details.

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Esha Mookerjee-Dutta -

Very informative post, Rachna. Like you, my bowl of curd is a must, every day. Loved your handy tips for incorporating veg sources of protein since we mostly rely on non-veg sources in my household. The chart you mentioned is a great idea.

Damyanti Biswas -

Fab tips, all of them. Other than soy, which I avoid due to its environmental impact, I incorporate almost every one of these.

Rajlakshmi -

Just the thing I needed. Since I gave up meat (except fish) last year, I have increased by vegetable and lentil intake. It does need a lot of planning though ?

Shalzmojo -

Very well written post with some awesome research thats been included here. I especailly loved the pics – very creative!!
Though I am a non vegetarian, I veer towards more of veggie stuff and taken parituclar note of some of the stuff here!!
Loved the tip about adding powdered nuts to the atta!!!

Soumya Prasad -

I cannot thank you enough for this post, Rachna.

My husband is a pure vegetarian who doesn’t even eat eggs and I’m always worried about his protein intake. He hates curd too, so it makes it more difficult for me. He cannot stand soya chunks either. Trust me, a vegetarian and a fussy eater is not a combo you want to have around ?

I incorporate a lot of lentils and nuts in our diet. I’m not a fan of paneer so I don’t cook it often at home. A bowl of curd is a must for me everyday along with thin buttermilk after lunch. But I worry about the man’s protein intake day in and day out. I must try out this Spirulina powder soon. Maybe add it to soups or smoothies.

This post motivates me to make a chart. Since I only cook veg food at home, it would help me keep note of his protein intake as I eat meat and fish pretty often at work or when ever we eat out.

writershilpa -

That was such an informative post, Rachna! It’s a mystery to most vegetarians about how to include more proteins i n their diets!
Thank you so much, dearie!

Shalzzz -

This is so informative and important! P and I are hard core non-vegetarians but there are days when we crave for vegetarian food! Ha, unusual! So, we have one week dedicated solely for vegetarian food and this post really helps in my meal planning. I so love it. Bookmarking! 🙂
Something’s Cooking

Vasantha Vivek -

Very informative and useful post. Loved all your pictures. I need a cup of curd everyday. Soy chunks is also my favorite but not for my hubby.

Rachna -

Thanks so much, Vasantha.

Obsessivemom -

That’s such a useful piece Rachna. Pulses are a compulsory part of our diet as is milk. It’s good to be conscious of what we are eating and whether we’re balancing out all the nutrients.

Rachna -

Thanks a lot, Tulika. Despite being non-vegetarians, we are predominantly veggies on most days, hence I know the struggle to incorporate enough protein in our diets.

Shailaja V -

Always a point to keep in mind: Vegetarian protein intake. I really need to work on incorporating more sources into the daily diet. Bookmarked this ages ago and re-reading today. Good resource, Rachna.

Rachna -

Thanks, Shailaja. Glad you found it useful. 🙂

the bespectacled mother -

I am a vegetarian who realized it a couple of months ago that I was not having enough protein in my diet. I used to have dals occasionally and relied only on vegetables and curd. I am now more conscious about including protein in my meals. This post is highly informative and hence I am sharing it on my FB page.

Rachna -

Glad to help, Anamika. Thanks for the share as well. Since you workout, you need to be even more conscious of the protein intake.


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