Many people believe that vegan diets don’t contain a sufficient amount of protein in order to be healthy, yet we are here to prove that isn’t the case! When you are aware of the many different foods that contain protein, you will soon realise that it is really simple to consume protein without the need for meat, fish or dairy.
Here are four different plant based protein sources, along with some inspiration for how to eat them, to help you make the transition towards eating more plant-based foods if you are interested in doing so!
Tofu is a popular plant-based food that is made of condensed soy milk. When buying tofu, you will find it in a variety of different firmness levels, from silken all the way up to extra firm. There is around 8g of protein per 100g of tofu, so it is a substantial source. The best bit about tofu is that it is so diverse! There are so many different things you can do, so having a block of tofu on hand means you will always be able to make a delicious meal.
Silken tofu is extremely soft and creamy, so works perfectly in desserts like mousses and cheesecakes, or in pasta sauces. Firm tofu can simply be cut into pieces and oven baked, or fried. For the best results, place the block of tofu between two tea towels and place a heavy object on top, like a steel baking tray. Leave for around an hour and this helps to remove any excess moisture. When cooking savoury dishes, tofu can be quite bland, but when you marinade it the flavour completely changes.
A really simple and delicious marinade is smoked paprika, chilli powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, soy sauce and agave syrup. Add ½ a teaspoon of all the powdered spices into a bowl, and one tablespoon of soy sauce and agave syrup. You might need to add one tablespoon of water just to make the marinade slightly thinner, so all of the tofu is coated. This is the perfect combination of sweet and sour! Leave to marinade for as long as possible in the fridge for the best results. Replace chicken with tofu in a szechuan noodle dish and you won’t regret it!
Chickpeas are another fantastic, delicious and diverse source of protein. With around 17g of protein in 100g of chickpeas, it is a quick and simple way to boost your protein intake for the day.
As with tofu, chickpeas can taste a bit bland on their own, yet with a few simple ingredients they can be completely transformed. Whether you soak your chickpeas at home or buy them in a tin, make sure that you never get rid of the soaking liquid. This is called aquafaba, and when it is whisked, it has similar properties to egg whites. This can be used in many different recipes in place of whipped egg whites, but it tastes especially good in meringues.
Now, onto the cooking ideas! For a simple snack, roast your chickpeas using the same marinade as the tofu. Place in the oven for 25 minutes at 200 degrees celsius for delicious crispy chickpeas. For the perfect side to any dish, place your chickpeas in a blender with lemon juice, garlic, tahini, olive oil, salt and pepper for the most delicious homemade hummus. Chickpeas also work really well in curries, so add them to your favourite curry sauce and heat through for 15 minutes for a delicious, high protein meal.
Chickpeas are extremely affordable and accessible, so keep a few tins in your kitchen cupboard for quick access to a great source of protein.
The ideal savoury ingredient for any dish are lentils. They are cheap, filling and contain 9g of protein per 100g. Once again, this item is so diverse, so you will never be stuck finding ways to use them, from lentil dal’s to soups and salads.
Red lentil Greek inspired salad is a beautiful dish that you will keep coming back to. You don’t need to soak lentils before cooking, so simply give your lentils a good rinse and cook in a pan with a ratio of one part lentils, three parts water. They will take around 25 minutes to cook, until they are tender but not mushy.
In the meantime, you can prepare the rest of the salad ingredients. Chop up cherry tomatoes, cucumber, a red pepper, spring onions and coriander. Add them to a bowl with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a teaspoon of cumin and give a good mix.
Once the lentils are tender, drain them and rinse well with cool water. Mix them in with the rest of the ingredients and adjust the seasoning to taste. This is such a delicious and simple salad that is easy to prepare in advance, so you can have a high protein meal waiting for you!
Seitan is a protein source made from vital wheat gluten, which very closely mimics the taste and texture of meat when dealt with properly. It is made by creating a dough with vital wheat flour, rinsing it really well to remove all of the starch and tying it into knots to create the texture of meat. It is then flavoured with many different herbs and spices to make it taste like meat, before boiling and frying!
It can be served with anything as you would usually serve meat. It could be made into breaded nuggets, eaten in sandwiches, put into curries or eaten with a roast. Amazingly, there is 75g of protein per 100g of seitan, making it an incredible source of protein that is much higher than any other meat. For people who like the taste and texture of meat, but want to cut down on their meat intake, seitan is a fantastic alternative.
These plant based protein sources are all extremely diverse, affordable, accessible and delicious when given a bit of care. When eating a vegan diet, it is always important to note that you need to monitor your intake of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals and speak to a doctor if you are ever concerned about potential deficiencies.
For example, you might need to take vitamin D3 supplements as many people following a vegan diet are deficient. However, when you know where to find your essential nutrients, a vegan diet works very well for many people. If you are considering cutting down your meat intake, these protein sources are a fantastic place to start!