8 Delicious High Protein Vegetables

Most people don't think of vegetables as a major source of protein, but many vegetables are actually quite high in protein—high enough that they can add significantly to your daily protein needs.

Knowing which vegetables are packed with protein is especially key if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. It can be tricky to make sure you get enough protein on a meat-restricted diet. But even carnivores can benefit from adding high-protein vegetables to their diets, as these vegetables are very nutritious as well as high in protein.

Complete vs. Incomplete Proteins

A crucial factor to consider when sourcing your protein from vegetables is that most of them include incomplete rather than complete protein. This matters because whole proteins provide all of the nine essential amino acids the body needs. In addition to the essential amino acids, there are 11 more that the body can produce on its own, making a total of 20.

Soybeans and quinoa are two of the only vegetable sources of complete protein. Other vegetables still provide ample protein but you'll need to eat a wide variety of them to end up with a diet rich in all nine of the needed amino acids.

In addition to soybeans and quinoa, you likely already know that spinach, peanuts, and black beans are excellent plant-based protein sources. But there are many more vegetables to choose from that will boost your protein intake. We've compiled a comprehensive guide to eight of these top high-protein vegetables, including their nutritional benefits and how to use them in recipes.

1

Lentils

lentils on wooden spoons

 R. Tsubin / Getty Images

There's a reason lentils top this list of high-protein vegetables: Ounce for ounce, these tiny legumes contain more protein than virtually any other vegetable. Lentils are also packed with dietary fiber and micronutrients, such as folate, iron, thiamin, and phosphorus.

Lentils—whether they're in soups and stews, or used as an ingredient in salads and casseroles—contain 16 grams of protein per cup, which makes up a good portion of the protein you need each day.

Purchase lentils dried or in cans at the grocery store. If you use dried lentils, plan to soak them in the refrigerator for a few hours prior to cooking them.

There are so many delicious ways to use lentils that it's impossible to list them all. Try them in Indian lentil and potato stew, shredded Brussels sprouts and lentil salad with carrots, bell peppers, and olives, and kale and lentil stuffed sweet potatoes. You can also use ground lentils as a dip for crackers (like hummus). Consider this anti-inflammatory lemon-herb lentil dip recipe.

2

Edamame

Edamame

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Edamame (immature soybeans) are often served steamed as a side dish at Japanese restaurants, but that's not the only way to enjoy them. These versatile, simple-to-prepare beans, which grow in little green pods, are protein powerhouses. Edamame also includes fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin A, and iron.

Half a cup of shelled edamame (about the amount in a typical serving) gets you a whopping 9 grams of protein. That's around 20% of your total protein need for the day.

Dry roasted edamame contains even more protein per serving. It's often available in the snack food aisle near the nuts and sold in single-serving packs in a variety of different flavors. You can find plain edamame in the freezer section of your grocery store, either shelled or unshelled.

There are plenty of great ways to use edamame. Ginger glazed edamame is a cut above plain steamed edamame—although plain edamame is delicious, too. Try pasta with prosciutto, edamame, and carrots, or create a healthy, spicy edamame dip. Fresh edamame mixed with walnuts, olives, and garlic makes a great snack. Alternatively, you can roast your own edamame to eat as a healthy snack food.

3

Asparagus

Asparagus

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Asparagus, delicious green sprouts that are among the first vegetables to appear in farmer's markets each spring, contain a lot more protein than you'd expect, along with lots of other nutrients, such as riboflavin and vitamin K.

Just 10 spears of asparagus provides nearly 4 grams of protein. You might even find it hard to only eat 10 spears of asparagus, especially if it's fresh from the farm—they're that delicious!

The fresher the asparagus, the better it tastes. Look for it in the produce section of your favorite supermarket. Choose asparagus that's standing tall with no limpness in the stalk and no deterioration around the tips.

The simplest way to serve this versatile vegetable is roasted or grilled. For more complex flavor, try Asian-inspired roasted asparagus. If you're feeling more adventurous, stir-fried asparagus with bell peppers and cashew nuts makes a delicious vegetarian entree, and mozzarella chicken asparagus rolls create a quick, easy-to-cook meal with just seven ingredients (not to mention a hefty dose of protein, too).

4

Beets

Beets

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

It's easy to be intimidated by beets: They're bulbous, earthy roots that are difficult for some to envision as part of a meal, especially if you grew up eating the (sometimes) slimy canned variety. But once you get to know beets, you'll likely love how they add beautiful color and a terrific, sweet-tangy taste to your dishes. Beets are particularly delicious when roasted in the oven.

One cup of raw sliced beets contains 2.2 grams of protein. That's not a huge amount of protein, but it adds up when you combine beets with other high-protein vegetables to help meet your daily protein requirements.

What's more, beets contain only a tiny amount of fat (in the form of healthy polyunsaturated fat). Also, they are a good source of folate, manganese, potassium, and fiber.

You can buy beets either canned (which generally come sliced) or fresh. Be aware that many brands of canned beets contain added salt, so you may want to look specifically for no-salt-added varieties. Still, don't be intimidated by fresh beets. Peeling them is easy, especially after cooking. Look for firm purple or golden beets in the produce section.

Beets are delicious in salads, such as this roasted beet and feta salad, and in traditional Russian-style red beet borscht. You also can use them to make this beautiful red-purple beet hummus (which, of course, has plenty of added protein from the chickpeas, along with the beets). Also, you can experiment with juicing them. This easy beet, carrot, and apple juice is a great recipe to try.

5

Potatoes

potatoes on barbecue grill

 Andrei Puzakov / EyeEm / Getty Images

Many people think they should avoid potatoes because they're high in carbohydrates. But potatoes also contain a significant amount of protein that actually helps to balance out those carbs. Potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C and heart-healthy potassium.

Just one medium-sized potato gives you over 3 grams of protein. So, if you eat a large stuffed potato or serving of mashed or sauteed potatoes, you'll get plenty of protein.

You'll find potatoes throughout the grocery store, from canned to ready-to-eat mashed, but the best way to buy potatoes is fresh. Look for Russet potatoes, red potatoes, white potatoes, and even purple potatoes, which are a gorgeous color and actually contain much more protein than regular potatoes—some have 6 grams of protein per purple spud.

Oven-roasted potatoes are about as easy a recipe as you can find, but there are so many other great ways to prepare potatoes. This crispy Hasselback potato with simple guacamole recipe is a healthier way to answer a craving for fries, and an anti-inflammatory kale and potato hash with fried egg and tomato will provide you with a whopping 18 grams of protein. (Kale is another high-protein vegetable.)

6

Broccoli

Broccoli

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Broccoli is a nutritious addition to any diet, and while you're probably familiar with broccoli's various nutritional benefits (those green stalks are bursting with critical vitamins and nutrients), you might not be aware that it's also a relatively high-protein vegetable.

One cup of raw broccoli contains nearly 2 grams of protein and only 24 calories, and 1 cup of steamed broccoli contains nearly twice that amount at almost 4 grams.

While 4 grams is only a fraction of the protein you need each day, don't discount it, since there are so many other health benefits of eating broccoli, which contains practically no fat and is high in fiber. Plus, research has shown that a diet high in broccoli may help to reduce your risk of certain cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.

Look for firm, bright green broccoli in the produce section, or purchase frozen broccoli florets. There are so many ways to use broccoli that it's impossible to list them all. Use it in an Asian broccoli stir-fry (a quick vegetable dish with 4 grams of protein per serving), or alternatively, this healthy (and gluten-free) Chinese-style beef and broccoli. Also, consider trying broccoli and cheese stuffed baked potatoes. Those two high-protein vegetables, plus a bit of low-fat cheese, give this dish 6 grams of protein per serving.

7

Bok Choy

bok choy

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Bok choy is a close relative of broccoli and cabbage, but it has a lighter taste that some people prefer. It's found most often in Chinese and other Asian cuisines, so you may have eaten bok choy without even realizing it as part of a stir-fry.

Like broccoli, bok choy is extremely nutritious, with plenty of fiber, vitamin C, folate, calcium, vitamin B-6, and beta carotene in every stalk. Plus, bok choy contains a significant amount of protein: 1 cup of cooked bok choy has over 2.5 grams of protein.

As with broccoli, you can't meet all your daily protein needs with bok choy. But this leafy green vegetable adds a protein boost to any dish, with practically no calories or fat.

You can find fresh bok choy in most larger supermarkets, especially those that feature extensive produce sections. Look for tight stalks with fresh, unwilted tops. You'll find that the entire stalk (minus the very bottom) is edible, either raw in salads or cooked.

There are plenty of healthy and easy ways to prepare bok choy. Use bok choy in any dish that might feature broccoli or other green vegetables, such as bok choy and oyster mushroom stir-fry or ginger chicken with baby bok choy, a protein powerhouse with 25 grams per serving. It's also a popular addition to a raw food diet, where it can be an easy way to add in a little extra protein.

8

Green Peas

Peas

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Green peas are tiny, but peas pack a significant amount of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C, thiamin, and folate. They're also one of the most versatile vegetables around.

Since green peas are a legume, they're also pretty high in protein. One-half cup of raw green peas contains about 2 grams of protein and over 4 grams of dietary fiber. If you make a habit of adding peas to any vegetable dish, those nutrients will add up fast.

Although it's possible to purchase fresh peas at farmer's markets and in the grocery store (peas grow quickly and are one of the first vegetables available in late spring), most people buy frozen peas, which are easy to store and defrost quickly.

Green peas can add protein and nutrition to almost any dish. For example, try this easy lemon-mint pea dip made with Greek yogurt. You also can use them in salads, like in this spring vegetable quinoa salad (with 10 grams of protein per serving). Finally, peas can add color and protein to main dishes, such as creamy spring vegetable risotto.

A Word From Verywell

There are plenty of high-protein vegetables that can help you meet your daily protein requirements, regardless of whether you follow a plant-based diet or if you eat meat. If you're looking for more options, kale, sprouts, artichokes, chickpeas, corn, and pumpkin seeds are also good protein sources. Ideally, mix and match vegetables and experiment with salads, stir-fries, and other dishes to add variety (and extra protein) to your diet.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Edamame, cooked. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2020.

  3. Asparagus, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  4. Beets, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2020.

  5. Potato, NFS. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April, 2020.

  6. Broccoli, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published December 16, 2019.

  7. American Institute for Cancer Research. AICR Food Facts: Foods That Fight Cancer: Broccoli & Cruciferous Vegetables. Updated December 10, 2019.

  8. Cabbage, chinese (pak-choi), cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  9. Peas, green, raw. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

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