10 Vegetables That Pack More Protein Than Meat

The most common question vegans hear these days is “Where do you get your protein from?” That’s because the common misconception that protein is mainly found in meat . . .
This article will provide a list of protein-rich sources that are all plant-based. Before diving into the list of protein-rich veggies, let’s start by reviewing what proteins are and their role in our body.
Proteins are, after water, the most abundant substance in the entire body. Proteins are made of long chains of amino acids. Amino acids are crucial for every metabolic process in the body. There are 22 amino acids in total and all of them are important. Humans can produce 10 out of the 22 amino acids – the remaining 12 must be supplied through the food we consume.

Protein is a key molecule found in every single cell of the body.

Proteins are divided into two main groups: complete proteins and plant proteins. Being a huge part of all our body’s cells, proteins make sure everything functions optimally, and help with growth, maintenance, and repair of tissue. Proteins transport messages between cells, keep our immune system strong, regulate organ function, and so much more.
We have to consume two or three small portions of protein every day. As long as we provide our body with the recommended daily amount, our cells don’t mind if the proteins are complex or plant-based.
The daily recommended amount of protein is different for every body, and the amount depends largely on your lifestyle. The more active you are, the more protein your body requires. Generally it should be calculated in the following way:
0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
It’s important to note that this rule doesn’t apply to children. Children from ages 1 – 18 have different daily protein intake requirements:

  • 1-3 years: 15g
  • 4-6 years: 20g
  • 7-10 years: 28g
  • 11-14 years: 42g
  • 15-18 years: 55g


This list offers the top 10 protein-rich vegetable sources:


1. Black Beans

Protein content: 15g protein in 1 cup serving (cooked) = equivalent to 50g of pork loin or 80g of chicken meat from drumsticks (2 drumsticks)
Black beans are also packed with fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6 and lots of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemicals produced by plants. Plants use them to stay healthy and protect themselves from the damaging environment. Black beans also boast antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Substitute for: Replace shredded beef or chicken as the main ingredient in Cuban black bean soup or crunchy black bean tacos. You can also use black beans as the base for a veggie burger pattie.

2. Butter (Lima) Beans

Protein content: 14g protein in 1 cup serving (cooked) = equivalent to ½ cup of scrambled eggs
They’re called butter beans for a reason. Delicate in flavor, butter beans are great ingredient for many dishes with their starchy yet buttery texture. They’re an excellent source of minerals like: iron, copper, manganese, calcium and magnesium, in addition to having more potassium than other beans.
Substitute for:Butter beans are another popular substitute for meat in homemade vegetarian burgers. I also recommend butter bean soup, which is a delicious vegan-friendly option for soups that originally include meat in their recipes (think Italian wedding soup, for example).

3. Almonds / Almond Butter

Protein content: 12g protein in ¼ cup serving of almonds, or 1 tbsp of almond butter = equivalent to 1 cup of full fat milk
Almonds are rich in energy (574 calories per 100g) and contain nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Almond butter provides protein as well as calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Substitute for: Almond butter pairs well with certain fruits like apples, pears or bananas. You can add a spoonful to your smoothie or oatmeal, eat it on toast, or straight out of the jar.

4. Quinoa

Protein content: 8g for 1 cup serving (cooked) = equivalent of 1 slice of non-fat mozzarella cheese
Quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein and one of a few plants that contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin E and many crucial antioxidants. Quinoa also has a very low glycemic index, which is good for blood sugar control.
Substitute for: Quinoa is wonderful in soups or stews. You can also substitute quinoa for ground beef in a burger, BBQ sandwich, or sloppy Joes. Try making quinoa oats or a vegan quinoa ‘scramble’ for a healthy, protein-packed breakfast.

5. Buckwheat

Protein content: 6g per 1 cup serving (cooked) = equivalent of 1 large egg
Contrary to its name, buckwheat is actually a fruit seed and not in any way related to wheat. Energizing and nutritious buckwheat is widely available throughout the year and can be served as an alternative to carbs such as white rice. Buckwheat is a gluten-free power food and a great source of easily-digestible proteins.
With a low glycemic index and lots of nutrients, it’s a superfood that should be a regular ingredient on our plates. Buckwheat contains an impressive range of minerals including: manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and more.
Substitute for: Buckwheat is my favorite when it comes to breakfast. Buckwheat granola or pancakes made of buckwheat flour. I even use buckwheat as cereal, eating it cold (previously cooked) with oat or coconut milk.

6. Soybean

Protein content: 18g per 1 cup serving (cooked) = equivalent to a 75g portion of salmon or 180g of cottage cheese
Soybeans provide nearly as many essential amino acids as animal proteins do. They are available as fresh beans, called edamame. The yellow beans are the mature soybeans. If you have an option, always try to choose organic soy. Apart from being a source of protein, soybeans also provide us with a good dose of B-vitamins.
Substitute for: Soy is one of the most mainstream meat substitutes. Soy chunks are ideal when you need to prepare aromatic curry and want to swap chicken pieces for a veggie option. Soy has a very mild flavor which is why it’s a great substitute in a variety of dishes, from asian stir fries, to BBQ, and even as a vegan substitute for scrambled eggs.

7. Organic Tempeh

Protein content: 20g of protein in 100g of tempeh = equivalent to 30g of protein in 100g of a chicken breast
Tempeh is a rich source of complete protein. It is made by fermenting cooked soybeans and shaping it into a dense cake that can be sliced and pan-fried like tofu. Tempeh contains more fiber and protein than tofu, and because it’s been fermented, it’s easier to digest.
Substitute for: Tempeh is an excellent meat substitute, due to its dense consistency. Take sweet and sour chicken, BBQ sandwich, or chicken nuggets for example – all can be replicated with vegan- and vegetarian-friendly tempeh. It looks and tastes incredible.

8. Hemp Seed

Protein content: 31g of protein per 100g serving = equivalent of 85g of lean beef (1 serving)
Hemp seed is an absolute winner when it comes to plant-based protein. It contains all 22 known amino acids. This includes 9 essential aminos that our body cannot produce on it’s own and must take from dietary sources. It also boasts an excellent 3:1 balance of omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp seeds are also high in magnesium, a mineral that helps with relaxation, blood sugar control and blood pressure.
Substitute for: Hemp seeds work well with breakfast porridge or granola. My favorite way of adding hemp seeds into my daily diet is combining them with smoothies and homemade juices.

9. Hummus

Protein content: 8g of protein per 100g serving = equivalent of 1 cup of skimmed milk or 3 spoonfuls of minced beef
This lovely, simple dip offers a good dose of proteins and heart-friendly fats. Hummus is also a great source of dietary fiber and is a low-glycemic index food. Hummus is surprisingly one of the easiest dishes you can make. All you need is a small food processor, a can of chickpeas, a garlic clove, extra virgin olive oil, tahini, lemon juice and salt. Blend all ingredients in the processor and your homemade dip is ready to enjoy!
Substitute for: Hummus is ideal when you want to swap a traditional meat paté for vegan option. It’s also a great addition to a vegetable sandwich to replace the meat, cheese, and calorie-packed spreads or dressings.

10. Jackfruit

Protein content: 3g per 1 cup serving which is equivalent to approximately ⅓ cup of skim milk
While it’s the lowest on the list in terms of protein, jackfruit is gaining popularity as a meat substitute for a variety of dishes. It’s one of the largest tree-borne fruits on earth (a single fruit can weigh up to 100 pounds!) and is related to the fig tree family. Young jackfruit actually looks like meat and offers high levels potassium, calcium and iron. It has a very mild flavor that’s easy to spice and cook with, making it a vegan favorite.
Substitute for: Jackfruit is all the rage for vegan tacos, nachos, pulled ‘pork’ sandwiches, Tex-Mex, curry, and Asian dishes.
Swapping meat for plant-based protein is not only healthier for us overall, but is also an easy way to save the animals and stop supporting the mass production of meat and the animal cruelty that goes along with it. Whether you’re a vegan, a vegetarian, or a meat eater looking for more health-conscious dining options, these plant-based protein substitutes are a great way to add diversity and nutrients to your daily meals.

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Joanna Ruminska

Joanna is a nutritionist in Devon, UK and believes that food is our medicine. She has an NFCE diploma in nutrition and is currently working towards her Nutritional Therapist Level 5 Professional Diploma. Joanna is a mum of two beautiful girls and also runs her own catering business, Ayaka - Bio providing healthier option for party food for children.

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