Complete Proteins Vegetarians Should Add Into Their Diet

The word ‘protein’ originated from the Greek word ‘of primary importance’. Our body needs a large amount of protein to function efficiently. The role of protein, which is generally termed as the building block of the body, is crucial in developing, repairing and maintaining body tissue. There are 20 amino acids, nine of which our body cannot produce on its own. The 9 amino acids which are known as essential amino acid includes histidine, isoleucine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, threonine, and valine. Therefore,  it is a necessity to include them in our diet.

It is a common assumption that meat and animal products are the only source of protein. Thus, many are concerned that vegetarians and vegans might lack proteins in their diet. But that’s not true and we’re going to show which plant proteins vegetarians should consume to get sufficient protein.

Green Peas, Hummus & Pita

A cup of peas has the same amount of protein as a cup of milk, which makes green peas a recommended intake of protein for vegans or vegetarians. The protein in wheat is similar to rice although it is very low in lysine but the chickpeas in hummus make up for it since it is rich in lysine. Chickpeas have similar amino acids as other legumes so feel free to experiment with hummus made from other beans.In this recipe, you can combine green peas with hummus and a few other ingredients for a delicious twist on the Middle Eastern staple. This recipe serves 4.


1 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 tbsp chopped walnuts
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 rye crispbread crackers


  1. Combine peas, walnuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor; process until smooth
  2. Serve on crackers

Beans and rice

Beans and rice are great a combination to form a complete protein. There are 20 amino acids in a complete protein. Our body can only produce 11 of these and the rest must be obtained from food. They are referred to as essential amino acids. Lysine is the limiting amino acid in rice. Beans and other legumes also known as pulses are nutritional complements to rice and help complete its amino acid profile. Deficiency in any of these 10 proteins can cause deterioration of protein in your muscle and other tissues. Consume  brown rice instead of white has it contains more protein (1 cup of cooked white rice contains 4.25g of protein; 1 cup of brown rice contains 5g of protein) and has a lower GI, meaning that you’ll feel fuller for a longer period while 1 cup of various cooked beans has 15g of protein.

Try this recipe of Rice, bean, and kale with lemon-dill tahini, which is simple yet nutritious. It is made for 1.


1 can black beans
1 cup tahini or hummus
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 bunch kale, steamed
1 tsp vegan Parmesan (optional)


  1. Heat the black beans in a medium saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Mix the tahini, lemon juice, and dill together in a small container until the consistency resembles dressing.
  3. Layer the cooked brown rice, black beans, and steamed kale in a bowl and top with the tahini dressing. Sprinkle with vegan Parmesan and enjoy!

Tempeh (or other soy products)

The best-known soy product would have to be tofu and if protein is a concern, always choose the firmest as the harder the tofu, the higher the protein content. Tempeh, originating from Indonesia, on the other hand is a fermented soybean pressed into a compact cake. Similar to natto, it has multiple benefits such as being rich in probiotics, balances blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, controls harmful bacteria, muscle-building protein to enumerate a few. One cup of tempeh contains 31g of proteins. Another interesting research indicates that tempeh is as filling as meat-based protein.It is rich in phenylalanine. It would make a great snack as well. The next recipe for Vegetarian Tempeh Sheet Pan Nachos is sure to satisfy your Mexican food cravings and is great as a party snack or appetiser!


1 12-ounce bag corn tortilla chips
2 tbsp olive oil or oil of choice
1 block crumbled tempeh (use gluten-free if desired or substitute with black or pinto beans)
⅓ cup salsa
1 tbsp taco seasoning store bought or mix 1 teaspoon each cumin, coriander, and chili powder
1 tbsp lime juice
¾ cup 1 ear cooked corn kernels (substitute with thawed frozen corn)
½ cup chopped black olives
¼ cup finely diced red onion
5 ounces crumbled queso fresco optional, use nutritional yeast or nut cheese for vegan/dairy-free version
1 diced avocado
1 sliced jalapeño pepper

Toppings: chopped lettuce, cilantro, peach hatch chile hot sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 400º F and line a sheet pan with foil. Spread tortilla chips in a single layer on the baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh, salsa, seasoning, and lime, stir and cook until hot, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle cooked tempeh evenly over tortilla chips on the sheet pan. Add corn, black olives, red onion, queso fresco (if using), avocado and jalepeño, and place the sheet pan on the center rack of your oven. Bake 5-7 minutes, remove from the oven, and serve.

Sunflower seed

Sunflower seed, although small, can have many benefits such as its high level of protein content. Sunflower seed is developing as a bona fide superfood as it is not limited to being rich in protein, they also help bring down cholesterol level and magnesium. It contains selenium which also helps combat cancer in our system. It also has valine and methionine, other essential amino acids that our body needs.

The following recipe Sunflower Chive “Cheese” Cucumber Bites is suitable to served as a canapé during parties. This recipe serves 50 pieces.


4 large cucumbers
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp raw red onion, chopped
1 large handful fresh chives, about 1/2 cup chopped, reserve about 2-3 tbsp for sprinkling on top
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
½ cup water, or more as needed to get to the creamy consistency

Optional: the sprinkling of sumac on top


  1. Combine sunflower seeds and salt in a bowl of food processor. Process for 10-20 seconds until they form a fine powder. Add remaining ingredients and process again for 1-2 minutes, until super creamy. You will likely have to scrape down the sides once or twice. Set aside.
  2. If desired, peel cucumber lightly in alternating rows, to create a pretty striped effect on the outside. Slice into 1-1.5″ pieces and set aside.
  3. Spread a spoonful of “cheese” on top of each cucumber and place on plate or platter. Continue until done, sprinkle with chopped chives and sumac if desired, and enjoy!

Quinoa and Amaranth

Quinoa and amaranth are rich in amino acids, containing 18 out of the 20 needed. They lack asparagine and glutamic acid which are non-essential amino acids that can be produced by our body. Therefore, quinoa and amaranth are considered to be sources of complete protein. Follow these simple Peruvian Quinoa Porridge with Amaranth to add the protein that you need in your diet. This recipe serves 2.


½ cup amaranth, rinsed
½ cup black quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
½ cup almond milk
2 tbsp maple syrup (or honey, if not vegan)

For toppings:
almond milk
maple syrup 
pomegranate seeds
pistachio kernels


  1. In a small saucepan, add the amaranth, black quinoa, and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until most of the water has been absorbed.
  2. Stir in the almond milk and maple syrup. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the porridge is creamy and the grains are cooked through about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The porridge will thicken slightly as it cools.
  3. Serve in a bowl, and top with almond milk, maple syrup, pomegranate seeds and pistachio kernels.


Buckwheat is not wheat but a type of rhubarb. One of the most well-known food made from buckwheat is a Japanese noodle called Soba, whereby it is made by grinding the seeds into the flour before being processed into noodles. In France, buckwheat is made into crepes. It is rich in amino acids lysine and arginine. Another special benefit of Buckwheat is it is gluten free, which makes it suitable for people with gluten intolerance.

Try this recipe below to add some crunch and protein into your breakfast bowl!




1½ cups soaked buckwheat
3 cups quinoa puffs
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
25-30 drops vanilla stevia
1 heaping tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with ¼ cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Bake soaked buckwheat for about 20 mins on a parchment lined baking sheet (to dry out a bit) unless you didn’t soak yours. Combine buckwheat, quinoa puffs, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  2. Make chia mixture, mix in stevia and coconut oil.
  3. Mix into dry mixture.
  4. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 mins, stirring around periodically to prevent burning. Makes enough granola for 4 bowls of cereal.

Pumpkin Seeds

Many vegetarian proteins such as soy, can cause problems for those who have food allergy and thus, pumpkin seed protein is a perfect alternative for those with soy allergies. Pumpkin seeds are a healthy source of fat, fibre, and protein. These tasty seeds contain 12g of protein per cup and they can be added into  cookies, muffin, bars and other baked goods.

Pumpkin seeds are proven to help relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition where the prostate gland enlarges and can cause problems with urination. Studies indicate that it also reduce symptoms of an overactive bladder. Since pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, it is also proven to increase sperm quality and also help protect human sperm from damage caused by chemotherapy and autoimmune diseases. So men, you might want to get your pumpkin seed on!

Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw, roasted – salted or unsalted. You can add them into your cereal, smoothies or greek yoghurt and fruit.   The next recipe shows how you can incorporate pumpkin seed in your savoury dish. This Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nut recipe can be done with any combination of nuts and seeds, which makes it a healthier snack option or yet another cereal topping.


1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
¼ cup shelled raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
⅓ cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Toss almonds, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, maple syrup, oil, rosemary, red pepper flakes, paprika, and salt in a medium bowl to evenly coat nuts.
  3. Transfer nuts onto a rimmed baking sheet or a large cast-iron pan and roast, tossing occasionally, until nuts are toasted and maple syrup caramelises (approximately 20–25 minutes).

Transfer to a sheet of parchment and spread out in an even layer, breaking up to prevent clusters from forming. Let cool.

Do Ahead: Nuts can be candied 2 days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Chia Seeds

23 percent of the calories in chia seeds come from protein. Two ounces of chia seeds is equivalent to 8 grams of protein. Chia seed is also a good source of calcium, having 3 to 6 times more calcium content per serving than milk. Chia seeds are also rich in alpha lipoic acid (ALA), which is an Omega-3 fatty acid. It reduced the growth of cancer cells in both cervical and breast cancer. When mixed with water, it can replace egg for vegan cooking.


2 cups spinach
1½ cups water
1 orange (peeled)
1 cup strawberries
1 cup blueberries (frozen)
2 tbsp chia seeds


  1. Place spinach, water, and chia seeds in blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend again. Enjoy!


Young soybeans that are harvested before they harden or ripen are called edamame, and a cup (155 grams) of cooked edamame provides around 18.5 grams of protein. Unlike other plant-proteins, they contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs. Try this Super-Green Edamame Salad as it is both healthy and delicious for your whole family!


2 12-ounce packages frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 15-ounce can pink beans or pinto beans, rinsed
1 medium yellow bell pepper, finely diced
½ cup chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
2 cups packed baby spinach
1 ripe avocado
⅓ cup apple juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
17 Fl Oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper


  1. Combine edamame, pink beans (or pinto beans), bell pepper and chives into a large bowl.
  2. Combine spinach, avocado, apple juice, oil, lemon juice, tamari (or soy sauce), salt and pepper in a blender. Pureé until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the dressing to the bean mixture and stir to coat. Garnish with more chives, if desired. Serve at room temperature or cold.


These recipes are not just for vegans but also for those who want to add plant-based protein in their diet. Reach your protein goal by trying these recipes at home!




Photo Credits: Flickr, PETA, the gratefulgazer, Huffington post, one green post, freevegan eating, bon apetit, simple green, eat well, organic authority

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