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9 Plant-Based Foods with More Protein Than an Egg – EatingWell

6 minutes, 14 seconds Read

Eggs are undoubtedly a hallmark protein source. They make an easy addition to many dishes and are a versatile ingredient in cooking. Each large egg provides 6 grams of protein, according to the USDA, making it a good way to include more protein in your diet.

But if you are looking for other sources of protein—particularly those that are plant-based—you have a lot of great options. What’s more, eating more plant-based proteins is a worthy goal. After all, the benefits of a plant-based diet are numerous, including reducing your risk of diabetes, lowering inflammation and decreasing your cancer risk.

To help you on this journey, we’ve put together a list of our top nine plant-based foods that pack more protein than an egg. In addition to protein, they also have fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals that deliver some great health benefits. Read on to learn which ones made our list.

1. Seitan  

Seitan, also known as vital wheat gluten, claims our top spot as a plant-based food that has more protein than an egg, providing 17 grams of protein for every 2-ounce serving, according to the USDA.

This filling and chewy plant-based protein is traditionally made by kneading wheat-flour dough and washing off the starch. You can also use the gluten flour to make Homemade Seitan with your choice of herbs, spices, seasonings or broth.

What is great about making your own is that you can shape the seitan to your liking. Shred seitan into strips or crumbles and add them to this Crispy Seitan Stir-Fry or tacos, curries and salads. Or cut the seitan into pieces resembling steaks, nuggets or chicken-like pieces. Try this Seitan Steak.

2. Tempeh 

If you are a fan of tofu but would like to try something different, opt for tempeh, a firmer and nuttier food made from naturally fermented soybeans. Like tofu, tempeh is a complete plant-based protein with all the essential amino acids, offering 17 grams of protein per half-cup serving, per the USDA.

Boost the protein in salads, bowls, stir-fries and tacos with tempeh, or thread tempeh pieces on a stick for grilled skewers. This Tempeh “Chicken” Salad and Sesame-Honey Tempeh & Quinoa Bowl are both delicious ways to enjoy the protein.

3. Lentils

Lentils are tiny, round legumes that come in an array of colors—red, yellow, black, brown and green. Don’t underestimate their nutritional benefits based on their small size. Lentils are a filling plant-based protein, with18 grams of protein per cooked cup, according to the USDA.

Lentils are also full of fiber, and they’re a low-glycemic-index food, according to a review in Legume Science, which could help promote optimal blood sugar control. Regularly eating foods rich in fiber, such as lentils, could also promote digestive regularity, heart health and overall health, according to a 2023 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

Learn how to cook lentils perfectly every time for hearty soups, stews, cold salads and more.

4. Hemp Hearts 

Hemp hearts, aka hulled hemp seeds, are seeds from the nonmedicinal hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L. (hemp plants contain less than 0.3% of the psychoactive compound THC).

You may be surprised to know that these tiny cream- and green-colored specks are protein-packed, as 3 tablespoons contain 9 grams of protein, per the USDA. Not only that, hemp hearts are an excellent source of magnesium, essential for immune, muscle and nerve health, and they are a rich source of zinc, which is important for wound healing and blood clotting.

Add hemp hearts to your culinary creations for extra nuttiness and texture—a prime example is our Peanut Butter & Hemp Banana, an easy three-ingredient banana snack. You can also sprinkle hemp hearts on yogurt or oatmeal, add them to smoothies, toss them in salads and mix them into energy bites

5. Edamame

Edamame are the green baby soybeans you see in the frozen aisle of grocery stores. Sold in pods or shelled, edamame are an excellent plant-based protein option, offering close to 10 grams of protein per half-cup serving, according to the USDA.

What also makes edamame unique among the various plant-based protein options is their potential ability to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, according to a 2019 meta-analysis of 46 controlled trials on soy protein published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Edamame are incredibly versatile. Enjoy them in a variety of recipes: add them to this Egyptian Edamame Stew, a noodle dish, stir-fries or the Slow-Cooker Edamame-Rice Bowl with Cherries & Pecans. Use edamame to make Edamame Hummus or steam them and add a dash of salt for a snack.

6. Green Peas

 Green peas are indeed one of the top contenders for plant-based protein sources, offering more than 8 grams of protein per 1-cup serving, according to the USDA. A cup of peas also provides 9 grams of fiber, which promotes satiety, digestive and heart health.

Versatile green peas pair well with various ingredients in soups, casseroles, pasta and rice dishes—learn what types of delicious and filling dishes you can make with a bag of frozen green peas

7. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seed kernels are abundant in protein (7 grams per ¼ cup shelled, notes the USDA), healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber. That nutrient combo keeps you full longer.

The kernels alone are ideal for snacking, but they also lend themselves well to savory and sweet dishes. Sprinkle a heaping spoonful or two of the kernels to make your own Super-Seed Snack Bars or add to salads like our Broccoli Salad with Bacon. You can also sprinkle the seeds atop yogurt and oatmeal for nuttiness and an extra crunch.

8. Lima Beans 

Lima beans are another excellent protein alternative to eggs, offering 7 grams of protein per half-cup of cooked beans. Like other types of legumes, lima beans are full of fiber to promote fullness and keep your blood sugar levels in check.

Shockingly, raw lima beans can be deadly, but cooking the raw beans for at least 10 minutes eliminates this risk.

Enjoy the cooked beans as a side dish or add them to toasts, like our Braised Cabbage & Lima Beans over Toast, or salads, like our Orange-Mint Freekeh Salad with Lima Beans. Cooked lima beans also add a layer of flavor and texture to pasta, stews, curries, dips and spreads.

9. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a rich protein source, packed with 5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons, notes the USDA. They also provide fiber, calcium and iron, plus alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. ALA may help support heart health, according to 2021 research published in Nutrition and Health. In that study, people with diabetes who consumed about 1.5 ounces of chia seeds (3 tablespoons) daily for 12 weeks experienced a decrease in systolic blood pressure compared to a control group.

Enjoy chia seeds in pudding, smoothies and parfaits, and add them to top off your favorite oatmeal, salads and bowls. Try them in Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars or Lemon-Blueberry Cheesecake Pudding.

Bottom Line

When you’re looking to add more plant-based sources of protein to your diet, you have many great options, from edamame to sunflower kernels, tempeh to chia seeds. One note: Tempeh and edamame are the only complete proteins in the list, meaning they have all the essential amino acids that the body cannot make on their own.

Since not all plant-based foods on this list are complete proteins, it’s important to eat a variety of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds every day in order to get the essential amino acids your body needs. That’s especially true if you follow a vegetarian or a vegan-based meal pattern.

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