Protein-Packed Recipes to Cook for Dinner

As much as we all love the occasional mound of pasta, a dinner packed with protein is usually a better idea. This strategy keeps you feeling full and builds muscle, which are equally great for guys looking to lose or maintain weight. Meals typically get this star nutrient from ingredients like beans and meat, but there’s no reason you have to limit yourself to one source. These five recipes each feature multiple high-protein ingredients to give your dinner a boost. And it doesn’t hurt that each dish delivers a huge amount of flavor.

1. Skillet Salmon with Quinoa, Feta, and Arugula

salmon and quinoa

Salmon dinner | iStock.com

A favorite among vegetarians, quinoa is the rare plant food that boasts all nine essential amino acids. If that weren’t good enough, it’s also the perfect base for any of your favorite types of meat or fish for even more protein power. Try the method with this simple salmon and quinoa recipe from Serious Eats. A bit of salty feta and spicy arugula round out the meal. The best part about this dish? It can be on your table in 20 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 4 (6-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
  • Kosher salt and freshly bround black pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1½ cups baby arugula
  • 2 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions: Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. Season salmon with salt and pepper and cook, skin-side down, until skin is crisped, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove salmon from skillet, being careful not to tear skin or flesh and set aside.

In same pan, broil 2 cups water, season with a hefty pinch of salt, add quinoa and cook for 9 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low, stir in arugula, scallion, and feta. Arrange salmon on top, skin-side up, cover with lid, and cook until salmon is just cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve salmon and quinoa drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.

2. Mustard-Crusted Pork with Carrots and Lentils

breaded pork tenderloin

Pork loin | iStock.com

You don’t need to devote your entire evening to cooking in order to eat a gourmet meal. Epicurious uses quick-cooking pork tenderloin, canned lentils, and pre-cut carrots to make a great-tasting meal in a flash. Smearing a little bit of mustard on the pork helps a crispy bread coating stick and also adds an extra layer of flavor. If you crave an even bolder taste, try using ground up pretzels instead of the breadcrumbs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pre-cut carrot sticks
  • 5½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 (1¼-pound) pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
  • ¼ cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans lentils, rinsed and drained
  • ⅔ cup reduced sodium chicken broth

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange rack in the middle of the oven. Toss carrots with 2 tablespoon oil and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Arrange on a shallow baking pan and roast.

Pat pork dry and season with ½ teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to shimmer. Cook pork until browned all over, about 3 minutes total.

Transfer pork to a work surface and brush with 1 tablespoon mustard. Combine breadcrumbs and ½ teaspoon oil, then press onto pork to form a crust. Transfer to pan with carrots and continue to roast until carrots are browned and tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 140 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, about 15 to 22 minutes. Let pork rest for 5 minutes and cover carrots with foil to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil with garlic and thyme in a small saucepan until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lentils, broth, and remaining mustard. Cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Remove thyme sprigs and serve with pork and carrots.

3. Tilapia Tacos with Pineapple-Black Bean Salsa

Mango Fish Tacos

Fish tacos | iStock.com

Every Day with Rachael Ray’s fish tacos topped with a sweet and spicy salsa prove fantastic food doesn’t have to involve tons of ingredients or time. All you have to do is cook some pineapple and tilapia under the broiler, toss the fruit with a few other ingredients to make a salsa, then assemble the tacos. You can also add any of your other favorite toppings. Shredded cabbage, sour cream, and sliced radishes are some of our favorites.

This meal is also pretty nice for your budget. Tilapia is one of the most affordable fish you can buy while beans and tortillas come in at a rock-bottom prices. If you can’t find tilapia, try another type of mild, thin fish.

Ingredients:

  • 3 (½-inch-thick) pineapple slices
  • 4 (4- to 5-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
  • ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • ½ small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Directions: Preheat broiler. Arrange pineapple on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until lightly browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool, then chop into small pieces.

Season fish with salt and pepper, then rub with ½ tablespoon oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 teaspoon lime juice. Broil until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 8 to 10 minutes.

Toss chopped pineapple with beans, cilantro onion, jalapeño, remaining lime juice, and remaining oil. Season with salt. Flake fish with a fork and serve with tortillas and salsa.

4. Soba Noodles and Tofu with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Fried Noodles, Tofu

Soba noodles | iStock.com

Nothing is more frustrating for vegetarians than recipes that leave them starving an hour after eating. The Corner Kitchen’s peanutty noodles guarantee you’ll stay satisfied with plenty of protein from edamame, tofu, and peanut butter and a good dose of fiber from the veggies and soba. Meat lovers can feel free to use rotisserie chicken in place of the tofu. Any leftovers make a great lunch the next day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed with paper towels, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange marmalade
  • 2 heaping tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen, thawed edamame
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • ¼ cup sliced scallions

Directions: In a large nonstick skillet, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu and spread into a single layer. Season with salt and pepper, then cook without moving, until bottom is golden. Flip tofu and repeat process until browned all over. Remove tofu from pan and set aside.

Combine peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, water, sesame oil, marmalade, ginger, garlic, cayenne, and black pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding a splash or two of water to thin, if needed.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles, about 4 minutes. Drain.

Heat same skillet over medium heat and add tofu, soba, sauce, and veggies. Mix until coated and hot, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve noodles topped with scallions.

5. Lamb and White Beans with Rosemary

lamb with tomatoes and beans

Lamb chops | iStock.com

You’ll feel like you’re eating in a fine-dining restaurant when you whip up these lamb chops with herbed white beans from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. Thankfully, this meal doesn’t require professional kitchen experience to pull off. Just sear the lamb, then cook a simple bean stew seasoned with sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary.

If you can’t find lamb or don’t care for the flavor, try this recipe with pork chops. You can also use different varieties of beans, but keep in mind the textures can vary. Chickpeas, for example, are a bit drier and firmer than cannelini beans.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce, 1¼-inch-thick) lamb loin chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes

Directions: In a large skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium high. Season lamb with salt and pepper on both sides and cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove lamb and cover loosely with foil.

Add onion, garlic, rosemary, and crushed red pepper flakes to same skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion has softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and ½ cup water to skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook until slightly thickened, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Arrange lamb on top of beans, cover skillet with lid, and simmer until meat is medium rare, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve chops with beans and garnish with additional rosemary.

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