Since I cut meat from my diet over a year ago, I had to find other ways to supplement my protein intake. There are so clever ways to do so that are so tasty, you might way to try them even if you’re not vegetarian or vegan!

Here is my top 5 favorite plant-based sources of protein:

1. The Classic: Tofu

Now, now, I know what you’re going to say:  Yuck! It’s gross, bland and chewy!

I confess it, I used to think that way myself.  The trick is to add as much flavor as you can, because admittedly, it is quite bland on its own. But, one does not simply season tofu and hope for the best.

There are a couple tricks to make it delicious. Sauces and marinades are your friend and you can use pretty much any flavors you like. But first, if you want it to soak in flavors, you have to squeeze the water out of it or else it won’t absorb your yummy marinade. How do you do it?  Simple: wrap your block of tofu in a clean dishcloth and put something heavy on it. I personally like to place a wooden cutting board on the tofu and a small pot filled with water on top for extra weight. It doesn’t take long. 10-15 minutes is enough but you can leave it longer if you want. No harm done.

Another trick that can help if you don’t like the texture is to freeze it.  Yes, you can freeze tofu. It helps drain water out of it when it thaws. It also affects the texture and many people prefer it after it’s been frozen and thawed.  I always have a few blocks of tofu in my freezer.

The last trick I did from the beginning and still do now is I cut tofu in small cubes or thin slices.  I was never a fan of biting into big chunks of tofu. The texture is more prominent than when it’s small cubes or slices, plus, it’s easier to integrate in your recipes if it’s in small cubes or even grated.

Also remember that tofu now comes in a variety of flavors!  There’s herbs, ginger, veggies, sea weed, jalapeno and lots more. Feel free to explore!

2. Dirt Cheap: Beans and Legumes

When people say that plant-based diets are cheap, it has a lot to do with beans and legumes. They are easily accessible in cans or if you have a little more time, you can buy them and cook them yourself, and cost next to nothing. As a bonus, they can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling.

I really like black beans and add them to most of my meals be it a salad, a burger, pasta, casserole, etc. I also loooove hummus!  Lentils can be used in some recipes to replace ground meat so they’re worth exploring with (for example in a meatloaf or shepherd’s pie). They are smaller than most beans and blend easily with other ingredients.

I also recently started exploring with beans in desserts. Not so typical in our Western diets but in Asia, beans are regularly used in desserts and actually quite yummy!

3. Protein Powder: Sprinkle It Everywhere

Do you bake cupcakes or cookies?  Do you like pancakes?  What about smoothies?  Do you eat burgers and pizzas?

You can add very nutritious vegan or vegetarian protein powders to all of these recipes and many more!  You can find protein powders with fruity flavors or a vanilla or chocolate flavor for your deserts and smoothies but don’t forget to look for more neutral flavors for burgers and such.

Here’s a great articles with recipes and 41 Sneaky Ways to Add Protein Powder Into Every Meal.

My goal when adding protein powder isn’t necessarily to use a whole scoop every time because I find it doesn’t always work to add such a large amount in some recipes. I figured adding a 5- or 10-gram bonus of protein is worth it.

4. Seitan: It’s All About The Texture

Seitan is another meat substitute but unlike tofu and TVP (see below), it’s made from wheat protein.  The texture is also more similar to meat than tofu is and is used a lot in Asian cuisine.  Seitan also comes in many different flavors and is very easy to use as a meat substitute. Sometimes, it’s shaped like a sausage, sometimes it’s in a cube, sometimes, it’s wrapped in plastic. You can fry it in a pan, grill it, slice it thinly to replace cold cuts, use it in skewers, etc. It’s extremely versatile!

5. Textured Vegetable Protein: Vegans’ and Vegetarians’ Best Kept Secret!

I had seriously NEVER heard of texture vegetable protein (often referred to as TVP) before switching my diet. Yet, it’s a staple in virtually every vegan’s or vegetarian’s diet.

So what it is? TVP comes from soybeans through a process in which the protein itself is extracted for the beans. What’s left is protein- and fiber-dense flakes that are low in calories, carbs and fat.  To eat it, TVP needs to be rehydrated and because it’s pretty neutral in terms of flavor, you can add whatever liquid you’d like to give it an interesting flavor. You can add water but I highly recommend using broth, tomato juice, a mix of soy sauce and water, cumin-seasoned water, etc.  Once hydrated, it looks a lot like ground meat.  It can be added in a spaghetti sauce instead of meat, or in enchiladas or burritos, or shepherd’s pie, or even soups.

Once you get over the fact that it looks a little bit like fish food, you’ll realize it’s a great ingredient to have on hands for all kinds of recipes. Even if you don’t want to cut meat altogether, it can be added to replace some of it.  Did I also mention TVP is very cheap (I get mine for less than $2 for 100 grams which leads a good amount of meat substitute when hydrated)?


Have you ever tried any of these foods?  Which one is your favorite?  What’s your favorite recipe with plant-based protein?

This post currently has 15 responses.

  • Sarah L

    I like using TVP in soups and stews when I take them to a potluck where some people are vegetarians.

  • ellen beck

    I have not tried these but have used soy for added protein. hen my husband was going through radiation, there wasnt a whole lot he could eat comfortably. I was pushing protein to help him heal. He literally lived off of milkshakes laced with lots of soy protein powder. It kept his weight up and the Drs were amazed how well he did.

  • Peggy Nunn

    I have not heard of TVP but will look it up. I love tofu. It just takes the flavor of whatever I am cooking.

  • Lauryn R

    Well these are definitely some interesting ingredients and ways to boost your protein intake! My mom used to eat tofu when I was a kid, and surprisingly I didn’t mind eating it with her. I have never had Seitan though, I am not sure if I would like it but I would give it a try. I am a meat lover so it may not be a favorite. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing all of these!

  • Debbie Welchert

    I have never tried any of these things and probably never will. But I love learning about how to become a vegetarian. Who knows maybe someday I will give it a try.

  • Darcy Koch

    I am sure I would not eat any of these suggestions for protein. I do, however, eat peanut butter and nuts. I frequently drin a protein drink also. I need all the energy I can get.


    Sounds like a great way to eat

  • Julie Waldron

    This is a great post. I’ve never heard of Seitan. Beans are my go-to, they’re so easy to find.

  • gloria patterson

    I tried tofu once and hated it! BUT I did not know any of this stuff about getting the water out, freezing it. Going to try it again

  • John Smith

    I think there are “tofu presses” one can use to press the stuff so that it’s not just a damp wet mass.

  • Katie Miller

    Great way to up my protein. I want to try flavoring tofu for my next smoothie.

  • Tamra Phelps

    I love most beans. And as for tofu…you’re right, it has no taste, lol. But, I guess you could say that about things like rice or grits. It tastes like the other flavors you put in it.

  • Alice F

    Beans and Tofu are wonderful replacements for traditional protein. Grilled Tofu is a fav in my house and especially when seasoned with olive oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper.

  • Alice F

    Beans and Tofu are wonderful replacements for traditional protein. Grilled Tofu is a fav in my house and especially when seasoned with olive oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper.

  • Helga

    We grew up eating tofu and its amazingly versatile in cooking. TVP is another staple for vegetarians that can be used in a myriad of ways. Great list!

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