It’s not just about animal protein anymore. Culinary schools train emerging chefs to cook with alternative sources of protein. Restaurants offer these proteins on their menus. Find out how beans and lentils, tofu, tempeh, and seitan can be used to pack that protein punch while pleasing your palate.
Lentils and beans. These legumes, and others like chickpeas, black beans, and pinto beans, are great sources of protein. They also provide ample amounts of fiber and they’re gentle on the wallet. They can easily be the star of an entrée dish or an appetizer. They can be pureed for soups and sauces. Cooked or raw, they add texture to any dish. Just know that they’re also carbohydrate-rich.
Tofu. This Asian staple has been around for 2,000 years and with good reason. It’s highly versatile and absorbs other flavors easily, making it easy to cook with. It comes in hard and soft varieties. It can be used raw in salads or it can be steamed, baked, even fried.
Tempeh. This high-protein meat alternative is made from fermented soy beans. It has a nutty flavor but can be rather bland. You’ll want to marinade it before cooking. It’s been widely used in Indonesia and Thailand.
Seitan. This vegetable protein offers 20 to 30 grams of protein in just a four-ounce portion. It’s actually made from wheat and its texture resembles wheat. Use in recipes just as you would meat. Its versatility will meet the challenge.
Other high-protein sources you may not know have protein
- Soy. Low in fact, soy offers health benefits that could include lowering risk of heart disease and other conditions.
- Nuts. Raw, roasted, or ground, almonds and other nuts give a high-protein crunch to your dishes without adding extra carbohydrates.
- Yogurt. Nutritionists often recommend yogurt as a pre-workout snack exactly because it offers a combination of protein and carbohydrate. It also comes these days in a dizzying array of varieties. Buy it plain, Greek or regular, and add your own fruit or other toppings. Use it for sauces and dressings, too, and to top off that baked potato instead of butter and sour cream.
- Cheese. With so many varieties to choose from, you can easily mix protein-rich cheese with soups, salads, sandwiches. Beware, however, of the fat content. Goat cheese, feta cheese, and bleu cheese are good choices, because a little goes a long way.
- Quinoa. High in protein and iron, this grain has gained popularity in the past few years. It offers a nutty flavor and plenty of texture to fill you up.
- Broccoli. Among vegetables, broccoli is one of the best choices for protein.