Protein is an essential component of everyone’s diet, and generally people do not have problems reaching their daily needs since so many foods provide the necessary nutrient. According to WebMD, women need around 46 grams of protein per day (although this number is higher if they are pregnant or breastfeeding — then it is 71 grams), and men about 56 grams. Meat goes a long way in helping people reach those figures, but what if you take that out of the equation? As vegetarians and dietitians alike can tell you, not much.
It is still incredibly easy to pack protein into any meal — even without protein powders and supplements. You don’t necessarily need soy and tofu either if you don’t want to add it. Instead, there are a whole host of other ingredients that step up to the protein plate and deliver. To prove it, we’ve got seven recipes bursting with flavor and protein that will keep you fueled and full all day long.
1. Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes
Whoever said pancakes can’t be healthy never saw Gourmet‘s recipe for whole-wheat and oatmeal pancakes. You’ll get four servings of pancakes, each with 13 grams of protein. Serve them with fresh fruit, if desired.
- 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk, divided
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
Directions: Soak oats in 3/4 cup buttermilk 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Stir egg, butter, brown sugar, remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, and oat mixture into dry ingredients until just combined.
Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot and lightly brush with oil. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden-brown, about 1 minute. Flip with a spatula and cook other side, about 1 minute more. (Lightly oil griddle between batches.)
2. Quinoa Egg Muffins
But when you’re running out the door, a pancake for breakfast just won’t do. In that case, make a batch of Slender Kitchen‘s quinoa egg muffins ahead of time, and have a high protein breakfast or snack ready whenever you are. The muffins will keep your diet on track, too — per two muffins a serving, you’ll find 15.4 grams of protein and only 185 calories. The recipe makes 6 muffins.
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup diced veggies (zucchini, pepper, broccoli, your choice)
- 1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 4 egg whites
- Salt and pepper
- Optional: Dash of hot sauce
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk the egg and egg whites together. Then combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Line your muffin tin with six liners and spray with cooking spray. Divide the mixture evenly among the six muffins. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.
3. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Veggie Burgers
There is so much to love about Cookie + Kate‘s black bean veggie burger recipe. First, it uses black beans — an excellent source of protein. Next, it can suit almost any diet because it is vegan, and can easily be made gluten-free. Lastly, it is totally adaptable to your tastes, and so good you won’t even miss the meat. It makes 8 patties.
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (smaller potatoes cook faster)
- 1/3 cup millet
- 1 cup old fashioned oats (use certified gluten-free oats if you are avoiding gluten)
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups cooked black beans)
- 1/2 small red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon chipotle powder or smoked hot paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional, to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- High quality vegetable oil for cooking burgers (or coconut oil, if you don’t mind the coconut taste, as olive oil may burn)
- 8 whole-wheat hamburger buns (optional)
- Your favorite burger fixings (avocado or guacamole, tomato or pico de gallo, lettuce, sprouts, ketchup, hot sauce, mustard, pickles, cheese, etc)
Directions: To roast the sweet potatoes, slice the sweet potatoes down the center lengthwise. Place the sweet potatoes cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until they yield to a gentle squeeze, 30 to 40 minutes or longer. Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skin (it should pull off easily) and roughly chop the insides. Set aside to cool completely.
Cook the millet in a small saucepan, bringing 1 cup of water to boil. Stir in the millet, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender (about 25 minutes). Drain off any remaining liquid and set aside to cool. Grind the oats using a food processor or blender to grind the oats until the flakes are broken up, but not as fine as flour.
Mix the burgers: In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the cooled sweet potatoes and millet, black beans, onion, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, chipotle or paprika, cayenne (optional, add to taste for spicier burgers), and salt. Use a potato masher, big mixing spoon, or the paddle attachment of your mixer to mix really well. It’s okay if the black beans get smashed in the process. Mix in the oats, sprinkling the ground oats over the mixture and mix well with a big spoon until the mixture holds together when you shape a portion into a patty. If possible, cover and refrigerate the mixture for best results (the patties will hold together better during cooking if they are chilled first.)
Shape the burgers: Use a measuring cup to measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture. Gently shape it into a patty about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Use your hands to gently flatten the burgers and smooth out any jagged edges. Repeat the process for each patty; you should end up with 8. If you would like to toast your hamburger buns, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
To panfry the burgers, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, place several burgers in the pan, leaving enough room to flip them. Cook each patty until browned and heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet for each pan of burgers you fry. Toast the buns (optional): Place the buns on a baking sheet, cut sides up, and bake until lightly toasted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Red Lentil Marinara Sauce
With all the heartiness of a meat sauce but without the meat is the lentil marinara sauce from Kitchen Treaty. It has about 10 grams of per serving, and you’ll get even more protein from the pasta you pair it with. One serving of farfalle pasta, for example, has 11 grams of protein on its own.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole fire-roasted tomatoes (plain whole tomatoes will work fine too)
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
Directions: Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, green peppers, and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, for one more minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable broth, wine, lentils, and honey. Stir to incorporate.
Heat until the mixture comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer sauce for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Stir in parsley. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve as desired. Keeps refrigerated in an airtight container for 3-4 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
5. Roasted Honey Cinnamon Chickpeas
Looking for a snack to take to work? Roast a batch of these chickpeas from Fit Sugar and you’ll beat afternoon hunger cravings and get part of your daily dose of protein too. Each serving is just under 150 calories and has 6.2 grams of protein.
- 1 (15-ounce) can organic garbanzo beans
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat silicone mat. Drain and rinse the chickpeas in a colander. Place them on a towel to dry off. Spread chickpeas on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until crispy. Test one and if it’s still soft, bake for longer. While the chickpeas are still hot, toss them in a bowl with the oil, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Enjoy as is or for a caramelized effect, place them back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. Store leftover chickpeas in an airtight container.
6. Vegetable Fried Rice
Quick and easy, Eating Well‘s vegetable fried rice has about 14 grams of protein per 1 cup serving, and it yields about two servings. The recipe can also use up any leftover rice you have laying about by substituting it for the instant brown rice.
- 1 cup instant brown rice
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 6 ounces asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 bunch)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 4 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Hot red pepper sauce, to taste
Directions: Combine rice and broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes. Spread the rice out on a large plate and let stand for 5 minutes. While the rice is cooling, coat a large nonstick wok or skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Pour in eggs and cook, stirring gently, until just set, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl.
Heat canola oil in the pan over medium-high; add asparagus and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add bell pepper, scallions, garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked rice, soy sauce, and vinegar to the pan; cook until the liquid is absorbed, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Fold in the cooked eggs. Remove from the heat; stir in sesame oil and hot sauce.
7. Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie
At night, when your sweet tooth is calling your name, give it a protein-packed response with a mega-sized smoothie from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It has 28 grams of protein with no packets of protein powder in sight.
- 1 large banana, peeled, sliced, and frozen
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 ounces Chobani 0 percent Greek Yogurt (or 2 percent, flavored or unflavored)
- 3/4 cup skim milk (or your favorite kind of nondairy or dairy milk)
- 1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup, or agave
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter (any kind you like)
Directions: Put all of the ingredients into the blender, in the order listed, and blend on high until thick and smooth. Start with only 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, blend, and then add 1 more for a stronger chocolate taste. You may need to stop and stir/scrape down the sides of the blender a few times. Drizzle glass with 1 teaspoon of chocolate syrup (optional) and enjoy.