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25 Surprisingly High-Protein Foods: Our Favorite No Meat Protein-Rich Recipes

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We all know people who feast on high-protein foods, throwing scoops of protein powder into smoothies, or going Paleo, Keto, Atkins or Dukan in the hopes of building, enriching and repairing tissue, bones, skin and blood. But, is it good for you? And what are protein-rich sources other than red meat and poultry? Fine Cooking has the answers.

When you think of high-protein foods, what comes to mind? Liver? Beef? Chicken? Check, check and check. But did you know you can also get protein from non-animal sources as well? We’ve compiled a list of some high-protein meals that contain ingredients you might not know supply good sources of protein such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, beans and some vegetables and fruits (we’re looking at you, guava).

A word about the amount of protein to aim for: There has been a lot of confusion of late, with some saying we are eating too much and others saying we are eating too little. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is  0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, but that is the minimum. To figure out your minimum, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. (You can also use this handy USDA calculator.) Factor in whether you exercise or are sedentary, as well as your age; the younger and more active you are, the more you should add onto your minimum protein requirements. At a recent Protein Summit, dietitians concluded that “taking in up to twice the RDA of protein is a safe and good range to aim for,” according to the Harvard Medical School’s Health Blog. To that end, we’ve got you covered. Get cooking!

  • Recipe

    Lemon Chia-Seed Pancakes

    (Chia seeds: 4 g protein per 2 Tbs.) A fun twist on the beloved pairing of lemon and poppy seed, these chia-flecked pancakes go well with a berry sauce or fresh berries and whipped cream, instead of traditional maple syrup. If you prefer thicker pancakes, reduce the water by 2 tablespoons.

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  • Recipe

    Crunchy Ranch Chickpeas

    (Chickpeas: 15 g protein per 1 cup) Satisfy your craving for chips and ranch dip with this healthy alternative. The roasted chickpeas don’t stay as crisp once cooled, so they’re best eaten warm.

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  • Recipe

    Shrimp and Edamame Fried Rice

    (Edamame: 18.5 g protein per 1 cup) Edamame gives this mellow-flavored version of the take-out favorite a nice pop of color, flavor, and texture.

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  • Recipe

    Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Crème Fraîche & Strawberries

    (Cottage cheese: 24 g protein per 1 cup) You’d expect the cheese to make the pancakes heavy, but the opposite is true. During cooking, the cheese and egg whites work together to make these light. You can use cottage cheese or ricotta.

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  • Recipe

    Curried Peas and Tofu

    (Tofu: 20 g protein per 1 cup) This fragrant, mildly spiced curry studded with soft cubes of tofu makes a satisfying vegetarian meal when wrapped in naan and served with rice, couscous, or quinoa.

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  • Recipe

    Mexican Black Bean Burgers

    (Black beans: 30 g protein per 1 cup) Scallions, garlic, and poblano, plus chile powder and cumin give these vegetarian burgers their punch. A little egg helps bind the mixture together (although they're still a bit fragile, so it’s better to sauté rather than grill them).

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  • Recipe

    Breakfast Quinoa

    (Quinoa: 8.14 g protein per 1 cup) Quinoa makes a soothing porridge, a perfect choice for a higher-protein breakfast. Top it with your favorite berries, nuts or fruit.

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  • Recipe

    Rice & Eggs with Peas & Herbs

    (Eggs: 6 g protein per 1 egg) This light dish is perfect for summer; if you want a heartier dish, add sautéed mushrooms.

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  • Recipe

    Kale Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

    (Kale: 3 g protein per 1 cup)The vinaigrette softens the raw kale leaves, so it’s essential to let this salad sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. The longer it sits, the more tender the kale will become.

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  • Recipe

    Crostini with White Bean Purée, Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

    (Sun-dried tomatoes: 6 g protein per 1 cup) Zesty, crunchy, meaty and succulent, this is the perfect snack, appetizer and even dinner!

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  • Recipe

    Beluga Lentils with Ruby Chard

    (Lentils: 18 g protein per 1 cup) One look at this stunning pilaf, and you can see why these elegant legumes are also called caviar lentils.

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  • Recipe

    Greek Yogurt Parfaits with Slow-Cooked Apricot Preserves and Toasted Pistachios

    (Greek yogurt: 17 g protein per 1 cup) These beautiful treats are delicious for breakfast, a snack, or dessert (for the latter, use vanilla yogurt). If you’ve been intimidated to make your own preserves, this super-easy recipe is the perfect place to start. It requires very little active time and, since apricots have such thin skins, there’s no need to peel the fruit.

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  • Recipe

    Barley & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

    (Barley: 23 g protein per 1 cup) I like the flavor and texture of frozen black-eyed peas, but you can also use canned (rinse them well and don’t cook them). Be sure to buy pearled barley, which has been hulled and polished. Barley that isn’t pearled never really softens when cooked.

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  • Recipe

    Cream Cheese & Guava Swirl Ice Cream

    (Cream cheese: 5 g protein per 3 oz.; guava: 1.5 g protein per fruit) Guava and cream cheese is a classic Cuban combination. Guava’s pear-strawberry personality pairs so well with the tangy cheese that it’s easy to see why. Here, the cream cheese is used to make a rich ice cream that gets swirled with guava purée for a dessert few can resist.

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  • Recipe

    Artichoke Torta

    (Artichoke: 4.2 g protein per 1 artichoke) I like to use small, tender artichokes, about the size of a golfball. If these aren’t available, use larger artichokes, paring them down to their bottoms, removing the choke with the sharp edge of a spoon, and cutting them into pieces before cooking them. If you’re in a hurry, use frozen artichoke hearts.

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  • Recipe

    Rustic Bean & Farro Soup

    (Farro: 24 g protein per 1 cup) The farro can get soft if it sits in the soup overnight, so I cook it separately and add it only to the amount of soup I’m serving.

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  • Recipe

    Cilantro-Pepita Hummus

    (Pepitas: 12 g protein per 1 cup) This fluffy dip has a creamy, nutty flavor unlike anything you’ll find in a grocery store. Serve with pita, cucumbers, peppers, or carrots.

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  • Recipe

    Green Olive & Almond Tapenade

    (Almonds: 20 g protein per 1 cup) For best results, make the recipe in the following amount, making additional batches if you want larger quantities. It will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

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  • Recipe

    Peanut Butter and Banana “Quesadillas”

    (Peanut butter: 16 g protein per 1/4 cup) This quick and hearty meal is what Elvis would have eaten for breakfast if he had lived south of the border. It’s a great way to use up leftover corn tortillas, if you have any on hand. You can also use small flour tortillas, if you like.

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  • Recipe

    Buckwheat Waffles

    (Buckwheat 28 g protein per 3 1/2 oz.) Buckwheat and whole wheat flours give these waffles a nutty flavor. These waffles add bacon for a savory note, but you can omit it for a vegetarian version.

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  • Recipe

    Bulgur Salad with Herbs, Apricots, and Pistachios

    (Pistachios: 25 g protein per 1 cup) Reminiscent of tabouli, this salad makes a great side dish for just about anything grilled. Try it with grilled halloumi cheese.

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  • Recipe

    Buttery Black-Eyed Pea Stew with Fried Corn Cakes

    (Black-eyed peas: 4.3 g protein per 1 cup) A creamy, vegetable-rich stew with a crunchy corn cake—what could be a better match? We call these sorts of dishes complicated simplicity. They’re also the essence of what we believe dinner-party main-course fare should be, the flavors thickly layered but softened a bit and very smooth.

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  • Recipe

    Brussels Sprout and Mushroom Sauté

    (Brussels sprouts: 3 g protein per 1 cup) Shredding Brussels sprouts is a great way to get their robust flavor in a quick-cooking side dish. You can often find packages of shredded sprouts at the supermarket; if not, the slicing disc on your food processor can make quick work of the task.

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  • Recipe

    Grilled Portobello & Goat Cheese Sandwiches

    (Goat cheese: 18 g protein per 3 oz.) This panini-style sandwich pairs the earthy flavor of the portobellos with the mild, tangy goat cheese and salty, robust green-olive pesto.

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  • Recipe

    Greek Spinach & Feta Pie (Spanakopita) Recipe

    (Feta: 21 g protein per 1 cup) Spanakopita can also be made with other greens, such as dandelion or chard, in place of spinach. You can use 1 lb. frozen chopped spinach instead of fresh.

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