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The 8 Best Vegetarian Protein Sources If You’re Trying To Eat Less Meat

Tempeh - protein source

When it comes to vegetarian protein sources, there’s more to love than just tofu and chickpeas (though they are top contenders). From seitan and hulled hemp hearts, to tempeh and chickpeas, there’s a world of flavors and textures waiting to liven up your next meal. And some, you might discover, pack even more protein and other vitamins than your most turbo-boosted protein shake could deliver. Ahead, discover a plant-based protein source that has more than 70 grams of protein per 100 gram-serving, a vegetarian protein that’s related to the Cannabis plant, and more.

Seitan - Protein source

Seitan

Tofu gets all the attention in the world of plant-based proteins, but seitan actually outperforms tofu in terms of protein content. Seitan, also known as cooked wheat gluten, is created by kneading wheat flour into a dough, and then rinsing it until it’s rid of all the starch. You might be thinking, is seitan just bread by a different name? Surprisingly, no, it’s not a wheat product and it’s actually low in carbs. It does have gluten though, as its name would imply, so if you have any kind of gluten intolerance or celiac disease, you should stay far away from seitan. 

I personally love the chewy, “meaty” texture of seitan, and adore how well it goes with different sauces, spices, and textures. It’s also possible to easily grill or pan fry seitan without having it crumble into tiny bits, which is perfect for when I’m craving something with a crisp. 

Protein content: 75 grams per 100 gram-serving

Tofu - protein source

Tofu

Tofu is made by coagulating (aka, curdling) soy milk, making the curds separate from the whey. The cuds are then pressed into the tofu molds that we eventually slice up into cubes and happily consume. Like other soybean products, such as tempeh and edamame, tofu is high in protein and very affordable in most places. Tofu specifically absorbs sauces and goes well with just about anything; any rice or noodle dish that calls for meat, can often just be enjoyed with tofu. 

If you’ve ever been to a hot pot restaurant (curiously, the breadth of tofu always seems to be on full display there), then you probably know just how many different varieties of tofu there are — tofu goes way beyond “firm” and “soft” categories. There are tofu sheets and juicy tofu, there’s fermented tofu and tofu sticks. There’s even tofu pudding! I could go on and on. 

Protein content: 8 grams per 100-gram serving

What could go better with tofu than a bowl of plant-based noodles? Try immi!

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Lentils - protein source

Lentils

There are so many reasons to love lentils. Let me count the ways: They’re an excellent source of protein, packing up to 18 grams of protein per cup. They’re unexpectedly bursting with savory flavor that goes well with almost any carb. And they’re nutrient-dense, brimming with B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and lots of plant-based fiber. The fiber is probably what makes you feel so full after a lentils-centric meal. 

While lentils can be found across western and eastern cuisines, it figures in a big way in south Asian cuisine, including in Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi dishes. My personal favorite way of inhaling large quantities of lentils? A masala daal, which easily comes together with spices, tomatoes, onions, and herbs. Of course, there are a ton of other ways you can cook up a daal (lentil), proving the versatility of this tasty pulse. 

Protein content: 9 grams per 100-gram serving

Chickpeas - protein source

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a star in the world of legumes. They’re packed with protein (15 grams per cup) and fiber and relatively low-fat. They’re not low-carb, so maybe they’re not appropriate for a keto diet, but they’re pretty low on the glycemic index, meaning they won’t make your blood sugar shoot up and will keep you full for a while. 

Personally, I love chickpeas because they make it easy to have a plant-based diet on a budget. If you have a can of chickpeas, you can easily make a salad, a tasty roasted snack, or pop them in curries or soup for a delicious warm meal. 

Chickpeas’ one downfall? They’re nutty and tasty that you might not be able to help yourself from downing an entire can and suffering the bloating consequences after. 

Protein content: 19 grams per 100-gram serving

Tempeh - protein source

Tempeh

Another byproduct of soybeans, tempeh is essentially a soybean “cake” produced by dehulling soaked soy beans and then letting them ferment. The beans are then pressed into a solid, patty-like shape and either baked, steamed, or sauteed. When it comes to taste, tempeh is closer to meat than tofu due to its dense and firm texture. It’s even better when it’s marinated or pan-fried and added to a tasty curry! 

Tempeh has its origins in Indonesian cuisine and has been enjoyed since before the 1800s. And it’s easy to see why: Nutritionally speaking, tempeh has more protein than tofu and is packed with probiotics, making it great for gut health. 

Protein content: 19 grams per 100-gram serving

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

This humble little green seed packs a punch. In roasted and salted form, it adds crunch to salads and soups and a kick of fiber (11.9 grams per cup). It’s used extensively in Mexican cooking in moles and delicious dips. What’s more, they’re known for being excellent sources of vitamin E, magnesium, protein, and healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids.

Pumpkin seed protein is also used as a powdered protein, and it’s produced by cold-pressing and grinding the seeds. If you’re a gym rat, you might already be using it in your daily protein shakes. And if you’re a regular consumer of immi, then you’re definitely eating it, since pumpkin seed protein is the top ingredient in our noodles. 

Is there anything you can’t do, pumpkin seed?

Protein content: 19 grams per 100 gram-serving

Edamame - protein source

Edamame

Everyone’s favorite appetizer is also a superb source of protein. It’s got 14 grams of protein per cup (which is basically how much you might consume in a single serving), is a better-than-average source of fiber, and is rich in vitamins and minerals. 

And by the way, there are other ways of enjoying edamame besides simply boil and salt them. Edamame beans work great in salads and bowls, in curries, and stir-fries. Don’t make the extremely rookie mistake of eating the shell, though — or worse, trying to eat a raw edamame beans. Unlike the shell (which won’t actually hurt you if you eat it, it’ll just be an unpleasant eating experience), raw edamame beans are actually toxic and might have some serious consequences if ingested.

Protein content: 11 grams per 100-gram serving

Edamame + immi noodles = A match made in food heaven

Variety Pack

Variety is the spice of life. Get all three flavors including Spicy Beef, Black Garlic Chicken, and Tom Yum Shrimp. You’ll be covered for all occasions. immi Variety Pack

Slurp Now
immi Variety Pack
Hulled hemp hearts seeds - Vegetarian protein source

Hulled Hemp Hearts

I know that’s a mouthful, but hulled hemp hearts are one of the most underrated protein sources out there. They’re the raw, inner parts of hemp seeds, which in turn are the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp seeds or hearts don’t actually produce any of the effects of cannabis, but they do come from the same species. 

As for taste, hulled hemp hearts are nutty in taste, and slightly soft and chewy in texture. Because of their mild flavor, they’ll go great in just about anything, including smoothies, salads, nut butters, and any baking project. They’ll run up a bigger bill than other seeds, but they offer a high return on your investment, as they’re filled with more than 9 grams of protein for just three tablespoons of the stuff.

Protein content: 31.6 grams per 100-gram serving