In fact, many plant-based protein sources are comparable to meat in protein content. The next time you want to make a meatless meal, try one of the delicious high-protein vegetarian dinner recipes below, straight from top chefs and dietitians. You won't be disappointed.
High-protein vegetarian dinner recipes created by chefs and dietitians
1. Sweet potato and pumpkin soup with peanuts
This soup is a go-to for Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition. "This recipe is one of my favorites; the combination of the sweet potato and pumpkin are almost sweet and savory," she says. "It's a great source of antioxidants, fiber, and plant based protein." 12 grams of protein per serving, at that.
3 cups vegetable broth
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped tomato
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 small pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
Baby sage leaves
1. In a large Dutch oven, bring 1 cup of broth to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Add the celery, tomato, and bell pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened.
3. Add the sweet potato, pumpkin, bay leaf, paprika, and the remaining 2 cups of broth. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the sweet potato and pumpkin are soft.
4. Add peanuts and cook for 5 minutes, or until the peanuts become less crunchy. Discard the bay leaf.
5. Transfer to a heat-safe blender, and pulse until the soup has a batter-like consistency.
6. Serve and enjoy.
2. High protein vegan white bean dinner salad
There are so many reasons why Serena Poon, certified nutritionist and celebrity chef, loves this salad. "It's so versatile (you can use just about any white bean—garbanzo, navy, cannellini), it only takes about 10 minutes to make, and it's full of protein and fiber," she says. "For this particular recipe, I used Kalamata olives and cilantro, but you can use any variety of olive and any fresh herbs that you have available. It's such an accessible recipe because you can swap out a few ingredients while still getting in plenty of plant-based protein and having a satisfying flavor profile."
3¾ cups white beans, soaked and cooked OR 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (drained well and rinsed)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 red onion (minced)
½ cup fresh parsley (chopped) OR fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large tomatoes (diced)
¼ cup Kalamata olives (chopped)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Himalayan Pink Salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1. Over low heat, combine beans, garlic, onion, and half of the parsley (or cilantro) in olive oil. Heat for 60 to 90 seconds, or until fragrant. (You don't want to actually cook the ingredients—you just want to warm enough bring out the essence and flavors.)
2. Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
3. Add the tomatoes, olives, vinegar, lemon juice, the remaining parsley/cilantro and gently toss to combine well. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve your white bean salad warm, as it is, or you can also chill before serving.
3. Vegetarian chopped salad recipe with hard-boiled eggs
This quick and easy salad is loaded with protein. "I love this recipe because it features lots of filling veggies, plus protein from hard boiled eggs," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian in Stamford, CT. "Each large egg boasts six grams of high-quality protein. In fact, eggs make it easy to follow a plant-based diet because they pair well with vegetables, which are foods Americans often don't eat enough. The salad also features chickpeas for additional protein."
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1.5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 romaine hearts
4.5 ounces butterhead lettuce
1/3 bunch of parsley (about 4 stems), de-stemmed
1 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1.5 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 seedless cucumber, chopped
½ red onion, chopped
½ shallot, chopped
½ cup pitted green olives, sliced
½ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
4 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, sliced
8 large eggs, hardboiled and halved
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan (optional)
1. For the dressing: Place oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk until well combined; set aside.
2. For the salad: In a large mixing bowl, place romaine hearts, lettuce, and parsley leaves. Use a vegetable chopper or kitchen scissors to chop greens.
3. Place a bed of greens in each of four bowls or plates. Top with chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber pieces, onion pieces, shallot pieces, olives, peppers, and eggs.
4. Season with pepper, as desired; drizzle with salad dressing.
5. Top with Parmesan, if desired.
4. Vegetarian Dal
Chef Palak Patel's isn't just flavorful—it's also filled with plant-based protein thanks to the two different types of lentils it contains.
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup diced yellow onion
2 cups vegetables (carrots, sweet potato, spinach)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of one half a lemon
4 cups of water
Kosher salt to taste
Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
1. Heat oil over medium-high heat, add cumin seeds until they sputter in oil. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and saute for 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes, then add spices, red lentils, carrots, sweet potatoes, and water. Season with salt. Cover the lid and simmer on low approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and add lemon juice, spinach, and cilantro.
5. One-pot vegan shepherd's pie
Between the brown lentils and veggies of all kinds, this protein-packed dish from Patel is both healthy and delicious.
2 cups brown lentils
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, small diced
1 sweet potato, diced
1 cup cauliflower
1 cup mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Paprika, cumin powder, garlic powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper cracked, as needed
Kosher salt to taste
Mashed potatoes ingredients:
4 large russet potatoes
1/2 cup Oatly milk
4 tablespoon vegan butter
1 cup vegan parmesan, optional
1. Heat pot over medium heat and add oil with mushrooms, onions, carrots, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes until just tender around 10 minutes. Season with salt, stir in crushed garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes.
2. Add sprigs of thyme and spices with tomato paste and cook until the oil begins to separate. Add vegetable broth.
3. Mix in the lentils and cook for 30 minutes until the liquid evaporates.
4. Add peas and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Season as needed.
5. Place peeled and cut potatoes into cold water in a saucepan along with salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are cooked through. Drain.
6. While the potatoes are warm, oat milk, butter, and cheese. Season well with salt.
7. Spoon potatoes over meat mixture and score the top with a fork to allow the potatoes to get crispy.
8. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown.
6. Vegetarian cauliflower fried rice
This fried rice from chef Dale Talde is so good that you'll forget you're eating a mixture of riced cauliflower and broccoli instead of grains. The three eggs also give it a boost of protein.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 eggs scrambled
2 cloves of garlic smashed and minced
1 medium onion small diced
2 tablespoons ginger minced
3 Thai chilis, minced
3 cups of cauliflower + broccoli rice mix
4 large shiitake mushrooms small dice
6 pcs Brussels sprouts shaved thin
1/2 cup Kimchi sliced thin
1 nori or seaweed to taste
1/2 cup tamari
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1. Create the sauce by combining the tamari, rice vinegar, and sesame oil in a small bowl
2. Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and set aside
3. Add a neutral oil to a hot, cast iron pan
4. Add the scrambled eggs to the pan, remove, and set aside once they’re cooked
5. Add more oil, then add the garlic, onion, ginger, thai chilis, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, and kimchi to the pan to sear
6. After a minute, add the cauliflower + broccoli rice
7. After the vegetables start to sear, add the scrambled egg and the sauce. Mix until combined.
8. Use your third egg to make a sunny side up egg to top your fried rice
9. Plate the rice and add the egg on top
10. Top the whole dish with seaweed flakes to taste, and enjoy!
7. Vegetarian bolognese
Tanya Zuckerbrot of F-Factor created this veggie-packed bolognese that gets its traditional meaty texture from plants.
12 oz shiitake or Cremini mushrooms (stem removed)
2 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup dry red wine
3 cups riced cauliflower
2 Tbl. Tomato paste
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup almond milk
1 lb whole wheat pasta (rigatoni, ziti)
2 oz. grated Parmesan plus more for garnish
Fresh basil to garnish
1. Pulse mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl.
2. Heat 1 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat.
3. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook until onions are golden brown. Add garlic stirring occasionally until softened.
4. Add red wine and cook until all the alcohol has evaporated.
5. Add cauliflower and cook until softened (approximately 5 min).
6. Add tomato paste and cook until slightly darkened.
7. Add crushed tomato, oregano, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
8. Uncover sauce, add almond milk and stir to combine.
9. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water stirring occasionally until al dente.
10. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to a pot with sauce and stir to combine.
11. Add Parmesan cheese to pot and stir.
12. Divide pasta among six bowls and top with more parmesan cheese and basil. Serve.
8. Vegetarian Italian meatball soup
Who says meatballs need to be made from meat? This version from nutritionist Kelly LeVeque uses flaxseed meal and other plant-based ingredients to give you the same great taste and texture.
For the meatballs:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium shallot (minced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooked + cooled lentils (cooked in vegetable stock)
1 1/2 tablespoon dried Italian seasonings
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
5-6 tablespoons vegan parmesan cheese (plus more for coating)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of almond flour
1. In a frying pan, sauté garlic and shallots in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Pulse lentils, 1 tsp olive oil, sautéed garlic and shallot, Italian seasonings, flax meal, parsley and tomato paste.
2. Roll into balls and dust with almond flour. Sauté balls in a frying pan until golden brown, 6-8 mins.
3. Add sauce and heat over meatballs.
For the soup:
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup 1/4 inch diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups vegetable broth
2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 rosemary sprig
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 zucchinis, zoodled
Pink himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat over to 400F
2. To prepare the soup, in a dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and saute until tender and fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes.
3. Add the broth, tomatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, basil, and parsley. Cover, bring to a simmer over medium-high, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary. Add the meatballs and zoodles, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, until the meatballs and zoodles are heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
9. Vegetarian beef bourguignon
Cookbook author Lukas Volger made a vegetarian version of beef bourguignon using beets. Combined with plenty of mushrooms, carrots, lentils, and other ingredients, you have yourself a protein-filled dinner.
¼ ounce dried porcini mushrooms (8 grams)
2 medium beets (8 ounces), peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces button or crimini mushrooms, quartered, or another variety—cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
½ medium onion, finely diced
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup dry red wine
½ teaspoon vegetable bullion (such as Better than Bullion) or ½ vegetable bullion cube, dissolved in a few teaspoons hot water
¼ cup black or dark green lentils, rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper
Minced parsley for garnish
1. In a tall measuring cup, cover the porcini mushrooms with about 2 cups boiling water. Let stand until tender, about 10 minutes. Pick out the mushrooms and coarsely chop them. Reserve the soaking liquid.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the beets, 3/4 cups water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, until tender.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fresh mushrooms, spreading them out in a single layer, and cook, stirring the pan just once or twice, until the mushrooms are tender and seared a bit. Remove from the heat.
4. In a Dutch oven, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, then add the celery, carrot, onion, bay leaves, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Note: You can pulse the celery, carrots, and onion together in a food processor until uniformly ground—this saves a bit of prep time, and the finer texture of the vegetables helps thicken the sauce a bit. Cook for about 5 minutes, until beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and fry for about a minute. Then add the flour, stirring to coat, followed by the lentils, porcini mushrooms, wine, bullion, and 1 ½ cups of the reserved porcini liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 18 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
5. Fold in the seared mushrooms and beets (along with any liquid at the bottom of the saucepan). Taste for salt. Simmer for a few minutes to heat thoroughly, then serve hot, over rice, polenta, mashed potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley.
10. Lentil and walnut tacos
Patel's lentil and walnut tacos are a must-try. Aside from being loaded with protein, they're also all sorts of flavorful. In fact, you won't even miss the meat... not a bit.
For the taco "meat":
1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1 cup cooked brown lentils
1 8oz package cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup cauliflower rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chipotle powder or chili powder
⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon lime juice
Salt as needed
8 corn tortillas, heated
1 avocado, sliced
Cilantro for garnish
1. Heat a pot over medium heat, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook until water is evaporated. Season with salt.
2. Add cauliflower and cover with a lid for 7-10 minutes until tender. Season with soy sauce and salt as needed.
3. Add walnuts and lentils, mix well. Season with cumin, garlic powder, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, and oregano. Squeeze lime juice to taste.
4. To assemble tacos, warm tortillas, and add a spoonful of mixture in the middle. Top with avocado, cilantro, jalapeno, cabbage, and mayo.
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