The Best Foods for Vegetarian and Vegan Protein

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Gotta get those essential amino acids.

Protein has always been one of the most consistent concerns for vegetarians and vegans. It is accepted, after all, that the easiest source of protein is animal products. Plant proteins are quite plentiful, but the thing you might not know is that plant proteins aren’t quite complete. Some plant proteins are missing certain amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; no amino acids, no proteins. This is why animal products give more protein; they have amino acids in abundance. However, don’t despair; there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan foods you can eat that’ll give you the amino acids you need. Here are a few highlights.


The grand daddy of ancient grains, quinoa is sort of like naturally occurring cereal. Unlike most stuff you’d find in the cereal aisle, though, quinoa is chock full of nutrients: magnesium, iron, fiber, and of course, amino acid-packed protein.

Chia Seeds

Ch-ch-ch-chia! These little guys won’t give your potted plant an afro, but they do have some very interesting properties. Chia seeds, when mixed with water, mesh together into gel. In this state, you can use them to make things like pudding! If you’re not into pudding, though, they’re perfectly fine to eat raw. Either way, two tablespoons of chia seeds will get you a good four grams of protein.

Rice and Beans

A winning combination dating back centuries, rice and beans, separately, don’t exactly provide a balanced serving. Together, though, they perfectly cover each other’s missing nutrients, giving you all the protein your heart desires (which beans are good for, if you hadn’t heard). The combo is quite high in fiber as well, and goes great with roasted veggies.

Pita and Hummus

Mmm, mmm, that’s some good dipping. Like rice and beans, pita bread and hummus perfectly cover each other’s shortcomings. This combo will give you plenty of protein, but if you’d like some more, add some whole chickpeas. Since hummus is made of chickpeas, the addition will mesh perfectly.

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

The old-school childhood favorite. If you’re not really into the fancier grain scene, a peanut butter sandwich with whole wheat bread and organic peanut butter will do you just fine. Just remember to check the nutrition block; some brands put additives in their food you don’t really need. You want simple whole grain bread (made without milk if you’re vegan), and peanut butter with the least number of ingredients possible.