When you think protein, you likely think meat. Whether you’re looking to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle or you simply want more veggies in your day, you don’t have to sacrifice protein. As proof, we rounded up 21 high protein vegetables and included our favorite recipes that show off the best of each veggie.
Since we can’t get enough of the produce section at the store, we expanded our list beyond what’s strictly classified as a vegetable. The additions are so versatile and delicious, we think you’ll forgive us!
The 21 Vegetables Highest in Protein (ranked by protein per cup)
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, which is why it’s showing up in everything from salad to the chip aisle at the grocery store. Kale already has a bit of protein in it. Where it really shines is in nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K. One cup of kale has 700% of your daily value of vitamin K. Plus, it’s simple to combine kale with vegetables high in protein.
This grab-and-go high protein blueberry kale smoothie makes for a great start to the day. You should also consider this quinoa and kale protein power salad. It’s perfect for an easy weeknight meal or prep ahead for lunches.
Protein: .6 grams per cup (raw)
This veggie certainly isn’t the highest protein vegetable on our list, but spinach is one of the most perfect vegetables for meal prep. To bump up with protein factor, you can try a spinach, kiwi, and chia seed smoothie or check out this protein-packed spinach salad. Baby spinach leaves also saute quickly and easily, making the perfect bed of greens for your favorite chicken, beef, pork, or even lamb dish.
Protein: ~1 gram per cup (raw)
Eggplant helps with weight loss and blood sugar control in part due to its high fiber content. It also contains some protein that can easily be amplified by combining it with other vegetables high in protein.
The serving options for eggplant are endless. You can grill it, bake it, roast it, stuff it, and you can even mash it into a dip. Baba Ganoush is an eggplant-based dip that is delicious with other high protein vegetables or pita bread. You can also try out a healthy eggplant parmesan if you want this veggie to star in a meal.
Protein: ~1 gram per cup (cubed)
18. Bok choy
Also known as Chinese cabbage, bok choy is a vegetable Popeye would also love. Known for promoting strength and bone health, bok choy has vitamin K, manganese, iron, and calcium. It also has some protein in it.
Stir fried baby bok choy is excellent on its own. Add other vegetables high in protein and fiber to make your dish even healthier. You can also try this version with cashews to up the protein even more.
Protein: 1 gram per cup (shredded)
Not only is cauliflower one of the most popular rice substitutes around, this veggie plays nicely with just about any meal — lunch or dinner. A cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is very high in fiber and vitamin B. Rice it, saute it, mash it, roast it, the preparation options are endless.
Serve it up as a side like these cauliflower mashed potatoes or make it a meal with this General Tso’s cauliflower. It’s also a fantastic low-calorie substitute for high-calorie foods, and this cauliflower crust stromboli is the perfect showcase.
Protein: 1 gram per cup (chopped)
Pumpkin is a type of squash, but we thought it was worth separating out on the list simply because there’s so much you can do with it. In addition to using pumpkin as an ingredient in your cooking, pumpkin seeds are also nutritional powerhouses, thanks to their fatty acids and antioxidants.
If your mind immediately started conjuring up images of pies and lattes, you should also know that pumpkin works well in side dishes and even in main courses. There’s baked pumpkin with garlic and sage to round out a Sunday dinner or a pork, poblano, and pumpkin stew that’s the perfect cold-weather comfort food.
Protein: 1.2 grams per cup (cubed)
Think of rapini as broccoli’s sophisticated cousin. Also called broccoli rabe, rapini has cancer-fighting properties. It’s also worth noting that because rapini cooks down so much, a single serving actually has over 3 grams of protein when prepared.
Protein: 1.27 gram per cup (raw)
There are so many varieties of squash, from summer favorites like zucchini to fall standouts like butternut squash. Because summer squash has a higher water content, it has fewer calories but still maintains many of the health benefits. Squash is high in fiber, folate, and potassium. It’s also very versatile.
Protein: 1.4 grams per cup (sliced zucchini)
If vegetables high in protein and fiber are just what the doctor ordered, then the doctor ordered okra! Okra is considered a superfood. It contains a gel-like substance called mucilage that’s used to thicken sauces, and it has another benefit as well. Researchers believe the mucilage binds with cholesterol when you digest the veggie, helping your body remove cholesterol.
Protein: 1.9 gram per cup (raw)
Broccoli has a reputation as being a bit dull. Thankfully, it can actually be one of the tastiest high protein vegetables around. After you master an oven-roasted recipe, don’t be afraid to try out a dish like this broccoli salad. It’s paleo, dairy-free, gluten-free, and totally delicious thanks to the crips broccoli, smoky bacon, tangy cranberries, and crunch sunflower seeds.
Protein: 2.6 grams per cup (chopped)
Like squash, there are so many different options when it comes to mushrooms. These fungi are delicious, especially if you know how to prepare them. They are perfectly paired with juicy steaks, and they’re also often used with other vegetables high in protein in kabobs.
Protein: 2.2 grams per cup (sliced)
A lot of people think potatoes aren’t good for you. Not only do potatoes have protein in them, they also have fiber, potassium, and iron. Potato skins are particularly nutrient rich, which makes red potatoes a great choice thanks to their thin, tender skin.
Let your potatoes shine in this simple garlic roasted potato recipe or see how potatoes are the perfect addition to this pesto zoodles with roasted broccoli and crispy potatoes dish.
Protein: 2.8 gram per cup (raw – diced red)
Fine, avocado is actually a fruit just like its hotly-debated produce section neighbor — the tomato. Classify it however you want, avocado needs to be a main ingredient in your meal planning.
Avocado is delicious on its own or drizzled with hot sauce. But if you want to make an actual meal try out this blueberry avocado smoothie for breakfast or this mandarin orange chicken salad stuffed avocado for a light lunch or dinner.
Protein: 2.9 grams per cup (raw)
Is there anything better than asparagus hot off the grill? This parmesan baked asparagus recipe might be. Asparagus can also hold its own in salads, like this tasty mozzarella, cherry tomato, and asparagus salad. It pairs well with just about any meat dish, too!
Protein: 2.95 grams per cup (raw)
7. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation. They’re actually delicious! You can shred them in a salad or you can saute or roast them.
This recipe promises to deliver the best Brussels sprouts of your life. The high heat caramelizes the veggies to create a crispy outer layer in this garlic & parmesan recipe. Test out this shaved Brussels sprouts salad with apples and cranberries to see how versatile this veggie is.
Protein: 2.97 grams per cup (raw)
If you really want to get technical, an artichoke is a type of thistle. When you are meal planning, you want to look for vegetables that are high in fiber and protein. Artichokes fit the bill. They are also full of folate and vitamin C, making them one of the most antioxidant-rich vegetables around.
When you’re ready to work with artichokes, make sure you have a good pair of kitchen scissors. Artichokes can be sharp. They are thistles after all! These roasted artichokes with garlic butter will become a fast favorite. You can also cut down your time in the kitchen by using recipes that call for frozen artichoke hearts. This simple lemon artichoke recipe is Whole30 compliant, plus it’s gluten free and vegan.
Protein: 3 grams per cup (sliced)
Maize, otherwise known as corn, is technically a cereal grain. But it hangs out with the veggies in the grocery store, and it’s too good to leave off this list.
If you think the only way to eat corn is corn on the cob, you’re missing out. This high-protein black bean and corn salad comes together in minutes, and we love this rainbow-hued garden-fresh corn salad as an easy meal prep lunch.
Protein: 4.7 grams per cup (raw)
There’s so much more to peas than their carrot counterpart. Peas are actually the perfect addition to many recipes. Plus, if you can get your hands on some sugar snap peas, you want to do anything other than eat them raw.
This sauteed green peas recipe will complement almost any meal that you make. Surprise everyone at the dinner table with this southern pea salad. It’s lightened up with Greek yogurt, so no worries if you make extra to eat for lunch the next day!
Protein: 7.8 gram per cup (raw)
3. Lima beans
Also known as butter beans, lima beans are full of protein. They are also said to promote brain health, thanks to manganese. Plus, they’re packed with folate — a single serving makes up more than 10% of the suggested daily value.
Protein: 12.4 gram per cup (frozen)
Lentils technically aren’t a vegetable. These legumes are fantastic rice alternatives, and they play well with veggies and just about any other food. Lentils are also protein powerhouses, which is why they star in so many vegetarian dishes. Whether it’s a lemony lentil soup or saucy Moroccan
Protein: 17.9 grams per cup (raw)
Edamame is so much more than a side dish to accompany your favorite meal. They cook us well in stir frys and make excellent salad toppings. Plus, edamame has a rich, almost buttery flavor that has a lot of people swapping popcorn for edamame at snack time.
Protein: 18.5 grams per cup (frozen)