Top 12 High Protein Vegetables

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Wondering which vegetables have the most protein? Here’s a list of the top 12 high protein vegetables and how to easily incorporate them into your diet.

When you think about protein what do you think about it? Growing up, I always thought protein meant meat. We’d have a vegetable, a starch and protein at dinner, which usually meant chicken or steak or some kind of meat.

I now know that meat isn’t the only source of protein. Vegetables can be a wonderful source of protein as well! And contrary to popular belief, being vegetarian or vegan does not mean you’re likely to be protein deficient.

Whether you are vegetarian or vegan trying to up your protein intake or simply looking for healthy ways to add more protein to your diet, this post is for you! I’ve compiled a list of the top 12 high protein vegetables and included easy ways to add them to your diet.

Collage of four photos: roasted broccoli, spinach salad, guacamole and Mexican street corn salad.

Protein 101

Before we get into details about which vegetables are highest in protein, let’s cover the protein basics!

What is protein?

From a dietary stand point, protein is a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass, however proteins are also the building blocks of life and present in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue. Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential because the body cannot make them on its own.

What are the 9 essential amino acids?

Essential amino acids are ones that your body needs, but cannot make on its own so you must get them from the food you eat. They include isoleucine, leucine, valine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, threonine, histidine and lysine.

How much protein do I need a day?

This will really depend on your activity level and goals, but the recommended dietary allowance to prevent deficiency for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. (source) Try this easy protein calculator to see how much protein is recommended. On average people need between 40-60 grams of protein a day, but many sources will recommend higher amounts if your goal is to build muscle. Many personal trainers recommend 1 gram of protein per pound (2.2 grams per kg) of body weight.

Why do we need protein?

You need protein for a multitude of reasons, but ultimately it’s required to maintain our bodies. Protein is essential in the building of muscles, not just for bodybuilders, but for everyone. Protein also helps repair tissue, carry oxygen through the bloodstream, digest foods and regulate hormones. Getting adequate protein can also help you stay full longer.

How do I get my protein levels higher?

On way to increase your protein intake is to make it a priority at every meal and try to incorporate more high protein foods into your diet (such as high protein vegetables). You can also add a protein supplement like protein powder into your diet. I personally love using protein shakes or protein balls to keep my protein levels higher. See details about my favorite protein powders here.

What are high protein vegetables?

High protein vegetables are vegetables that provide a good amount of protein to your diet. This includes legumes (a class of vegetables) and more traditional vegetables like lima beans, green peas, spinach, sweet corn, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, asparagus, broccoli, kale, mushrooms and avocado.

Vegetable Sources of Protein

Of course when you think of plant-based protein you probably immediately think of beans (legumes) and soy products like tofu and tempeh. Those items are plant-based and have a good amount of protein but today I want to focus on the protein content in more traditional vegetables like broccoli, avocado and spinach. So let’s chat about the top 12!

Lima Beans

12 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked lima beans

Lima beans are a starchy vegetable that you may know by one of their other names including butter bean or double bean. A 1 cup serving of lima beans packs 12 grams of protein and also contains 97% of the suggested daily value of manganese, an antioxidant helpful in metabolic processes. You can easily serve them as a side (they’re delicious sautéd in butter), add them into soups or stews or make a creamy dip like my lima bean hummus!

Healthy Brunswick Stew

4.22 from 76 votes
This healthy Brunswick stew is just like the southern classic, but made with simple and wholesome ingredients – no ketchup or BBQ sauce needed!
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Three bowls of Brunswick stew. A bottle of hot sauce as well as a small bowl of fresh parsley are nearby for topping alongside two metal spoons.

Lima Bean Hummus

3.45 from 9 votes
A new twist on an old classic, this lima bean hummus is creamy, sweet and super easy to make!
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Bowl of lima bean hummus garnished with olive oil, pepper and basil and served with cucumbers, carrots and crackers.

Green Peas

8 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked peas

Pea protein has been on the rise in popularity as a source of protein as it is used in many plant-based protein powders, but green peas (fresh, frozen, canned or dried) are a great way to add protein to dishes like stir-fries, soups and salads. Try one of these recipes with peas!

Vegan Split Pea Soup

4.88 from 8 votes
This vegan split pea soup is made with tender split peas and fresh vegetables and is the perfect cozy recipe for chilly days. It's healthy, hearty, packed with flavor and comes together quickly!
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An overhead photo of a bowl of vegan split pea soup.

Carrot and Zucchini Pappardelle with Pesto and Peas

4.67 from 3 votes
This dish is light, flavorful, and beautiful to look at. Instead of the usual zucchini “noodles,” I use a vegetable peeler to create wide, thin strips of zucchini that resemble “papardelle” pasta. Pesto and steamed peas are the perfect way to dress it all up. This is a light, summery entree, so feel free to serve it with something substantial, such as grilled tofu or a hearty salad.
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A plate of carrot and zucchini noodle pappardelle with pesto with a fork.

Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad

4.5 from 20 votes
A Mediterranean diet inspired vegan pesto pasta salad that is loaded with veggies and tossed in a dairy-free walnut pesto sauce. The perfect dish to bring to summer parties and cookouts! 
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Pesto pasta with tomatoes, peas, and basil in a white bowl, surrounded by tomatoes and arugala.
Plated spinach salad topped with avocado, goat cheese, cranberries, walnuts, onion and a drizzle of creamy balsamic dressing.

Spinach

6 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked spinach

Spinach is an easy way to protein to your diet and I use it in a ton. You can add it to smoothies, use it as a base for salads, stir it into soups and/or simply sauté it as a side dish. I often eat spinach raw, which contains just about 1 gram of protein per 1 cup serving, but because spinach shrinks down quite a bit when cooked, a 1 cup serving of cooked spinach has 6 grams of protein! Try some of these spinach recipes to up your intake!

Spinach Blueberry Salad

4.25 from 4 votes
This spinach blueberry salad is loaded with veggies, fresh blueberries, chickpeas, raisins and roasted sunflower seeds all topped with a creamy blueberry tahini dressing.
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An overhead photo looking down at a bowl of spinach blueberry salad.

Green Detox Smoothie

4.58 from 19 votes
This refreshing green detox smoothie is packed with hydrating fruit and veggies including fresh mint, apple, lemon, baby spinach and a whole heart of romaine. It's detoxifying and will truly help you glow from the inside out! 
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A glass containing green detox smoothie topped with a sprig of fresh mint and a striped straw.

Sweet Corn

5 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked corn

Corn may seem like an unlikely addition because it’s often thought of as a starchy veggie, but it’s worth mentioning. Despite mostly being composed of carbohydrates, corn packs in plenty of protein… 5 grams in a 1 cup serving. It’s also a great source of potassium, minerals and several B vitamins. Add more corn to your diet with these delicious corn recipes! You can add it to salads, soups, serve alone as a side or even in desserts.

Easy Corn Salsa

5 from 1 vote
This easy corn salsa tastes like Chipotle's corn salsa and comes together in a flash using a bag of frozen sweet yellow corn. It's delicious served as a snack with tortilla chips or as a topping on your favorite Mexican dish.
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Easy corn salsa served in a blue bowl with crispy tortilla chips scattered around the bowl.

Mexican Street Corn Salad

4.34 from 108 votes
An easy lightened-up Mexican street corn salad that can be made with fresh or frozen corn. This salad is creamy, delicious and perfect for summer cookouts.
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Bird's eye view photo of a bowl of Mexican Street Corn Salad topped with lime and fresh cilantro. Bowl is resting on a striped napkin and next to a gold spoon and bowl of cheese.

Artichokes

5 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked artichokes

Besides having 5 grams of protein for a 1 cup serving, artichokes boast impressive health benefits including lowering blood sugar levels, improving digestion and overall heart and liver health. It’s important to note that you can eat both the leaves and the heart of artichokes! Personally, I love adding artichoke hearts to salads! Try any of these delicious artichoke recipes.

Meal Prep Salad – Mediterranean Farro Salad

This Mediterranean farro salad can be meal prepped two ways: in a mason jar or a meal prep container. It’s the perfect vegetarian meal prep salad recipe with a mix of chickpeas, farro, artichoke hearts, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. 
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Sardine Breakfast Salad

4 from 2 votes
A quick and easy protein-packed paleo breakfast with sardines, artichokes and eggs, baked and served over fresh arugula.
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Arugula with artichoke, sardines, and over easy eggs in a white bowl on a wicker mat.
Brussels sprouts and red onion on a baking stone before roasting.

Brussels Sprouts

4 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts used to get a bad rap, but I love them! And like many of the vegetables on this list, brussels sprouts are a great source of minerals, vitamins and yes, protein! They’re an incredible source of vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting and bone health and vitamin C which is essential for immune systems, tissue repair and iron absorption. You can enjoy them raw and shaved in salads or cook them a variety of methods like roasted, broiled, sautéed or air-fried! I have a variety of brussels sprouts recipes that you can make to add more to your diet.

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

3.91 from 54 votes
This kale and Brussels sprout salad is filled with shredded kale and sprouts, cranberries, marinated onions, almonds and pecorino cheese. It’s sure to be a family favorite!
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Kale and brussels sprout salad in a bowl with serving spoons.

Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts

4.41 from 5 votes
These air fryer brussels sprouts are crispy, flavorful and absolutely addicting! They're the perfect healthy side dish for any occasion and can be whipped up in under 15 minutes.
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A bowl containing air fried brussels sprouts. A serving spoon rests in the bowl.

Sweet Potatoes

4 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked sweet potatoes

If you’ve been a part of the EBF community for long enough, you know I love sweet potatoes – they’re so versatile! I use them in dips, baked goods, oatmeal, soups, salads… you name it, I’ve probably added sweet potatoes to it! Besides having 4 grams of protein per serving, they boast 769% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A which is critical for gut and immune health! Here are some sweet potato recipes to get you inspired.

Perfect Baked Sweet Potato

3.75 from 4 votes
Here’s how to make the perfect baked sweet potato every time! With crisp skin and a warm and soft center, baked sweet potatoes a delicious side dish served savory or sweet.
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Three baked sweet potatoes on a plate topped with butter, salt and pepper.

Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries

4 from 14 votes
Air fryer sweet potato fries are crispier than baked sweet potatoes fries and much healthier than deep-fried ones! Plus, they cook up in 10 minutes.
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Overhead shot of a plate with fries, there is a ramekin of salt in focus.

Asparagus

4 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked asparagus

Asparagus is a low-calorie vegetable chock full of nutrients! A 1 cup serving offers 4 grams of protein and is a great source of vitamin K, folate and antioxidants. I love asparagus because it signals the start of spring (although it’s usually available year-round in grocery stores.) I love to roast asparagus but you can also grill or steam it. Make one of my asparagus recipes for dinner to reap the benefits!

Air Fryer Asparagus

5 from 3 votes
Make air fryer asparagus in under 10 minutes with this simple recipe! The end result is crisp and tender asparagus that makes for a perfect healthy side dish with just about any entree.
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A plate with asparagus and lemon wedges topped with cheese and red pepper flakes.

Asparagus Salad with Lemon and Feta

4 from 22 votes
Tender blanched asparagus spears combined with red onion and parsley in a light lemon feta dressing.
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Asparagus feta salad in a large bowl with a gold spoon and lemon slices on top.
cropped-air-fryer-broccoli-overhead-lemon-slices.jpg

Broccoli

4 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable known for being high in fiber, iron, potassium and vitamins C and K. Steaming broccoli ensures you get the most nutrition out of the veggie, but you can also eat it raw or cook it in a variety of ways! Try some of my favorite broccoli recipes here on EBF.

Broccoli Noodle Stir Fry

5 from 1 vote
This broccoli noodle stir-fry uses the entire head of broccoli – stems and florets! Just spiralize the stalks to create broccoli noodles and use them as a base for this low-calorie  meal.
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Healthy, broccoli noodle stir fry in a skillet with broccoli, carrots, peppers and teriyaki shrimp.

Vegan Broccoli Salad

4.55 from 11 votes
Vegan broccoli salad with a rich and creamy cashew dressing instead of mayo. This salad is crunchy, sweet and absolutely delicious, perfect for summer parties.
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Overhead close up of vegan broccoli salad in a white bowl.

Kale

3.5 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked kale

You may have heard before that kale is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on Earth and it’s true! Kale is chock full of vitamins A, B, C and K as well as manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium and more. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids which are essential to the structure of every cell wall in your body. Add kale to soups, use it as a base in salads, serve it as a side or as chips – there are so many ways to incorporate kale recipes into your diet!

Garlicky Kale Salad

4.6 from 59 votes
This garlicky kale salad is the best kale salad ever and so easy to whip up. The zesty tahini dressing is absolutely delicious and makes this recipe taste JUST like the Whole Foods garlicky kale. 
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White bowl with garlicky kale salad and who silver serving spoons.

Baked Kale Chips

4.31 from 13 votes
Craving chips? Try these crispy baked kale chips instead! They’re the perfect healthy snack option when you’re craving something salty and crunchy.
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Kale chips baked on a tray.
Sautéed mushrooms and onions in a pan.

Mushrooms

3 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked mushrooms

White mushrooms are the most popular mushroom available and are a great source of protein as well as other nutrients. They’re also a popular non-animal source of vitamin D2 which is necessary for your body to absorb calcium. With their mild flavor you can easily add mushrooms to many of your favorite dishes! Try adding them to your diet with these mushroom recipes.

One Pot Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

4.79 from 57 votes
Healthy, protein-packed vegan mushroom stroganoff made with savory mushrooms, lentil pasta and a creamy coconut milk sauce.
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A skillet of healthy, protein-packed vegan mushroom stroganoff made with savory mushrooms, lentil pasta and a creamy coconut milk sauce.

Mushroom Kale Quinoa Risotto

Make risotto healthy and easy with this creamy quinoa risotto. Loaded with protein and veggies this “risotto” is dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free and utterly delicious!
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Mushroom Kale Quinoa Risotto on a plate.

Avocado

4 grams of protein per 1 medium avocado

We all know avocados are a great source of healthy fats and fiber, but they also add a little protein to your meals! Avocados are easy to add to your diet, from guacamole and to avocado ice cream. Take a look at these avocado recipes to inspire you.

Avocado Ice Cream

3.9 from 73 votes
This avocado ice cream is so creamy, made with only six ingredients and doesn't require an ice cream maker! It’s also vegan and gluten-free!
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Bowl of avocado ice cream garnished with fresh mint.

Guacamole

5 from 2 votes
The best guacamole recipe made with avocado, grape tomatoes, garlic, red onion, jalapeño, fresh lime juice and cilantro. It comes together quickly and is the perfect appetizer with chips or topping for tacos, burritos and so much more.
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An overhead view of a serving bowl of guacamole.

I used the USDA FoodData Central to calculate these protein amounts.

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    1 comment
    1. Karen Ganley
      June 14, 2022 AT 9:17 am

      Thank you SO much for all you do in our food world! I have not yet made a recipe I have not loved! My husband grew up with food he didn’t care for and ended up a non color food guy. All recipes I make from EBF as he says “ is an explosion of flavors!” Your recipes have changed his food world! He looks forward to trying new recipes! Lol “ what are we having tonight?” He says lol I love to cook! He loves to eat! Prefect match. Anyway, I want to thank you for adding healthy food richness to our home. I have a huge binder of all of your recipes. And I use them all! I need a new binder 😂😂
      Thank you Brittany and all who work with you! ♥️
      Karen

Parchment paper lined with protein balls.

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