Five Sources of Plant Protein for Everyday Cooking

Looking for sources of plant protein? Whether you’re a meat lover wanting to try a few plant-based meals or you’re vegetarian or vegan, I’ve got some great whole food sources of plant protein for you.

Here’s a chart with five key sources of plant protein and specific examples of each. The key is to mix and match and have as much variety every day as you can. This way, you’ll get all the protein you need, and you’ll reap the other benefits plants offer like higher fibre and lower saturated fats. Not to mention you’ll have amazing, colorful and delicious meals on your plate, like this black bean and quinoa salad.

close up of quinoa salad
Black beans, corn and quinoa offer plant-based proteins in this delicious, colourful salad. The optional cheese offers yet another source of protein.

Go ahead, click and print this page for easy reference.

sources of plant protein

It’s important to note that not all sources of plant protein are equal. The protein structure, including the amino acids, in vegetables and whole grains are less than those found in pulses, nuts, seeds and soy. The key to getting all the essential elements we need from plant proteins is to choose a variety of plant-based protein sources every day. For example a dinner featuring whole grains, dark green leafy veggies and pulses will provide a variety of the elements we need from protein. If you think of some traditional food patterns, eg. rice and beans, you see that we’ve been combining plant proteins for eons!

As you’ll read down below – the good news is, you don’t need to get all the variety in one meal – you can spread it over the course of a day.

And remember, no one is saying eat all plant based proteins. The recommendation is to eat a VARIETY. So if you enjoy dairy, meat, poultry or fish – go ahead and mix them in too. That’s what we do at our house – plenty of variety.

Here I am on CTV Morning Live talking about the five sources of plant protein.

getty on tv with sources of plant protein

Will I Get Enough Protein from Plant Sources Alone?

You might be wondering if you can really get enough protein and the right mix of amino acids from eating just whole food plant-based proteins. YES!

Do you need to weigh, count and consult charts to make sure you’re getting enough of each type of plant protein? NO!

Trust that eating a variety of fresh whole plant based foods every day will provide all the protein you need. All the credible, well respected food experts and food guides agree.

“People are very concerned about protein, but it’s a nonissue, it’s in grains, it’s in vegetables, it’s everywhere. It will find you. If you are getting enough calories, then you are getting enough protein” says Marion Nestle, author and professor emeritus of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Like many Registered Dietitians and credible, well respected food experts, she adds, “varying food intake and eating enough food takes care of amino acid balance.  Vegans, who consume no animal products at all, do not lack for protein.”

The key my friends is eating a variety of foods – mix and match throughout the entire day.

In the olden days, we used to worry about the right combination of rice and beans to ensure we got complete protein (all 9 essential amino acids) in one meal. Now we know that’s not necessary. The body will sort and collect amino acids all day long. So if you have nuts at breakfast, grains at lunch and beans at supper you are good to go.

Of course, if you have health concerns or are an elite athlete, see a specialist or Registered Dietitian to ensure all your nutritional needs are being met.

Here are some of my favorite recipes that use these various plant protein sources.

You may notice I don’t have any tofu or tempeh recipes listed yet. In my journey to more plant based meals, I started with ingredients, textures and flavors that didn’t intimidate me or turn off my family. That meant I didn’t jump right in with tofu or tempeh. I’ve been using it for over a year and will be sharing my tips and recipes soon though.

Main Dishes

Vegetarian Tacos using TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)

Tofu Shepherd’s Pie

Beet and Bean Soup – Vegetarian/Vegan Borscht

Butternut Squash Chili

Cauliflower Chickpea Curry

Very Quick Butter Chickpeas

Red Thai Curry with Edamame and Cashews

Salads & Grain Bowls

Pomegranate Whole Grain Salad with Edamame

Orange and Wheat Salad

Classic Three Bean Salad

Whole Grain Kale & Butternut Salad

Zesty Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Southwestern Bean and Pepper Salad

Lime, Corn and Cilantro Quinoa

Broccoli and Edamame Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing

Apple and Walnut Couscous Salad

Saskatoon Wheatberry Salad

Whole Grain Salad with Chickpeas and Feta

Thai Power Bowl

Mediterranean Tomato, Cucumber and Chickpea Pasta Salad

Dips & Appetizers

Vegetable Summer Rolls with Cashews and Dipping Sauce

Black Bean Burger Patties (Freeze Ahead)

Black Bean and Corn Stuffed Avocados

Snacks

Apple & Kale Dairy Free Smoothie

Avocado Chocolate Dip

Chia Seed Crackers

Hummus

Guacamole

Crunchy Oat and Honey Granola Bars (Nut Free)

Chocolate Energy Bites (Nut Free)

Chocolate Almond Energy Balls

Oven Roasted Chickpeas

Those are my favorite plant based recipes – what are yours?

I’d love to hear about your favorite dishes and your thoughts on eating more plant based meals. Leave a comment or tag me on social media with your recipes. I’m on instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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