It is actually easier than you might think to get a good dose of protein when keeping a vegetarian or vegan diet. Dishes that include tofu, tempeh, seitan, or another meat substitute are packed with protein, as are recipes featuring beans, nuts, and certain grains like barley and quinoa. And, the best part is, they can be delicious and satisfying enough for even the meat-eaters in the family.
Meat Substitute Dishes
Although meatless products used to get a bad rap for being tasteless, cooks have learned over the past several years to infuse the tofu, tempeh, and seitan with lots of flavors, and prepare them in a variety of ways, often changing their texture and appearance. For example, spicy seitan "Buffalo wings" (16.4 g protein, vegan) first seasons the seitan and then fries it in a bit of oil before coating with the hot sauce mixture. Please the young ones with a platter of kid-friendly tofu "nuggets" (17 g protein, vegan); since they're dipped in a flavorful soy milk mixture, coated in panko breadcrumbs, and then pan-fried, no one may realize they're not eating chicken! Especially if you serve with favorite dipping sauces.
Orange glazed tempeh with brown rice (17 g protein, vegan) will remind you of Chinese takeout with its combination of orange juice, soy sauce, and ginger. The tempeh is browned and then cooked along with the other ingredients until the sauce is nice and thick. If you like spicy, try a tofu and vegetable stir-fry with peanut sauce (20 g protein, vegan); the crispy tofu, bell peppers, snow peas, and mushrooms are just perfect in the flavorful sauce.
For many years we've known that beans are a good source of protein. And since there are so many varieties, adding them to recipes will make interesting dishes with great texture and flavor. Beans have always been a part of Mexican and South American cuisine, so it's no wonder a black bean enchilada casserole (33 g protein) is a delicious meal the whole family will love. The beans are cooked along with salsa, onions, peppers, garlic, and cumin and then layered with tortillas and cheese. Power up the protein in your pasta with a three bean pasta with spinach (17 g protein, vegan); chickpeas, navy beans, and red kidney beans are cooked along with aromatics, herbs, and tomatoes, combined with cooked pasta, and tossed in a creamy non-dairy spinach sauce. For a whopping 42 grams of protein per serving, try a vegetarian black bean and corn chili, rich in flavor and texture, topped with crispy tortilla strips, shredded cheese, sour cream, and scallions. And for a bit of Indian flair, serve a curried rice and lentils (13 grams protein, vegan), a simple dish made in the crockpot.
It's been hard to ignore the recent quinoa craze; this once "health-food-store-staple" is now found on every grocery store shelf and several restaurant menus. And for good reason—it is versatile, easy to cook, and high in protein, as is barley, another healthy grain. For quintessential comfort food that is part of a vegan diet, put together a quinoa "macaroni and cheese" casserole, complete with buttered breadcrumbs. For something a little lighter, try a barley stuffed squash (13 g protein) which can be made vegan by using olive oil or butter substitute. A crockpot barley casserole (10 g protein, vegan) is easy to make and satisfying to eat, combining tomato, herbs, peppers, and mushrooms.
Lasagna and Pizza Dishes
Oftentimes, pasta and pizza lack in the protein department (while delivering a hefty dose of carbohydrates). But with a few creative ingredient additions, Italian favorites can become a healthy meal that helps meet your daily protein requirement. Boasting 19 grams of protein, whole wheat vegetarian lasagne is a tasty combination of spinach, cheeses, and pasta sauce, all layered between sheets of whole wheat noodles. Tofu turns up the protein volume in a crockpot spinach tofu lasagna (25 g protein, vegan) as it replaces the typical lasagna cheeses. For a cheese-free (vegan or otherwise) lasagna, a vegan low-fat eggplant lasagna (15 g protein) is a good bet and a good choice when looking for something lighter.
To add some protein to your pizza, consider a creamy spinach breakfast pizza (24 grams protein); although "breakfast" is in the name, there's no reason you can't have this delicious pizza topped with an egg for dinner. And if a "meat-topped" pizza is more your thing, vegetarian sausage pizza pairs both pizza sauce and pesto to make a flavorful pie.