10 vegan recipes that make use of the healthiest, protein-packed vegan foods.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD 1 / 11
If you’re looking to hop on the vegan bandwagon, don’t fret. There are plenty of deliciously healthy protein-rich recipes that you can whip up. Going vegan means that you will cut out of your diet animal products including meat, chicken, eggs, dairy, fish, and even honey. Instead, your diet will focus on the following food groups: vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and fats. Having a more limited diet means that you need to make conscious decisions about what you eat to ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to build and maintain muscle and keep healthy.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you do choose to go vegan:
• Variety Matters: Make sure to include a wide variety of food groups at each meal. • Choose plant-based proteins including quinoa, nut butters, and tofu. These protein-filled foods also contain branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) which help promote protein synthesis in muscles and reduce exercise-induced muscle damage. • Include omega-3 fats such as olive oil, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
There are several nutrients that vegans have trouble getting enough of. These include calcium, vitamin D, iron, and zinc. Here are vegan sources of each:
• Calcium: leafy greens (like kale and spinach), calcium fortified juice, almonds, and fortified milk alternatives. • Vitamin D: daily exposure to sunlight – see your doctor as a supplement may be needed for long term vegans. • Iron: leafy green vegetables (like kale and spinach), fortified oatmeal, tofu, and beans. • Zinc: beans, lentils, peas, whole grains, and nuts.
Here are 10 healthy vegan recipes that contain a wide variety of important nutrients, including protein, to help build and maintain healthy muscles.
1 cup (250 grams) brown or black lentils 1 large onion, chopped 1 large carrot, chopped 3 cloves garlic 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon tomato paste 4-5 cups water 3 bay leaves 2 tablespoons dried oregano Salt and pepper, to taste Splash of red wine vinegar (optional)
1. In a pot, heat up the olive oil. 2. Sauté the onion, garlic, and carrot until the onion lose its color. 3. Pour in the lentils and tomato paste and stir. 4. Add the water and stir in the oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper. 5. Bring the mixture to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and let it cook for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Check the pot regularly to see if you need to add more water. 6. When the lentils are done, spoon the mixture into bowls. 7. Top with a splash of red wine vinegar (optional) and enjoy!
Nutrition Information (per serving, without optional vinegar)
The best way to stay healthy is to be prepared. Instead of grabbing for frozen veggie burgers, stock your pantry with staple ingredients like canned beans, dried farro, oats, olive oil, and walnuts. Make sure to pick up a few fresh items like mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, avocados, herbs, and whole grain buns. Make a batch or two and freeze half for the following week.
Skill level: Beginner Serves: 10 Start to Finish: 1 hour, 34 minutes, plus refrigeration time Prep: 30 minutes Cook: 1 hour, 4 minutes
¾ cup uncooked farro 3 cups water 1 teaspoon reduced sodium vegetable broth base One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, no salt added, rinsed and drained (liquid reserved), or 1¾ cups cooked 1 medium onion, finely diced 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms 1 cup grated carrots (2 medium) ¼ cup chopped walnuts ¼ cup chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives 1/3 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats ½ cup whole grain bread crumbs 1 teaspoon low-sodium herbal seasoning blend ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ¼ teaspoon turmeric Pinch of sea salt, optional 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 10 1½-ounce whole grain buns 10 lettuce leaves 3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 20 slices 2 avocados, sliced into 20 slices
1. Place the farro in a pot with the water and broth base. Stir well, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cook for 35 to 40 minutes, and drain any leftover liquid.
2. Place the cannellini beans in a mixing bowl and mash slightly with a potato masher, until thick and lumpy. Mix in the cooked farro, onions, mushrooms, carrots, walnuts, oregano, chives, oats, bread crumbs, herbal seasoning, black pepper, turmeric, and sea salt, if desired. Combine the ingredients using clean hands, then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved bean liquid to make a thick yet moistened mixture that sticks together. Chill for about 1 hour.
3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Form patties out of ½ cup of the bean mixture with your hands, mashing the ingredients together so that they do not crumble. Carefully place 3 to 4 patties at a time into the hot oil and cook for 6 minutes on each side, turning carefully. Repeat, adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet with each batch of patties, until all the patties are done.
4. Serve each patty with 1 bun, 1 lettuce leaf, 2 tomato slices, and 2 avocado slices.
Chefs note: If you don’t want to serve all of the burgers at once, prepare and cook them according to the directions and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a skillet and serve as directed.
Nutrition Information (per 1 patty, bun, and lettuce leaf, and 2 tomato and avocado slices each)
Tempeh has a nutty, earthy flavor and dense texture. It is made from soybeans that have been fermented and then compressed. Many brands package tempeh together with other grains like rice and barley, and add seasoning and flavorings from seeds like sesame and flax.
Tempeh contains energy-boosting B-vitamins and minerals vegans need like iron and calcium. If you’ve never tried cooking tempeh, I promise—it’s much easier than you think.
4 small sweet potatoes, diced in ½-inch cubes 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled 1 tablespoons coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil 1 clove garlic, minced ½ teaspoon cumin 4 handfuls of chopped, stemmed kale 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced 3 scallions, sliced 1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast Salt and black pepper to taste 1 avocado, diced 1 lime, sliced
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and boil until mostly tender, about 10 minutes. 2. Toss together crumbled tempeh and adobo sauce, set aside. 3. Heat 1 tablespoons oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add potatoes. Cook without moving for a few minutes, then flip with a spatula. Continue to cook, flipping with a spatula every few minutes or so, until browned and tender. Stir in garlic and cumin and cook an additional 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Add kale. Cook 2 minutes until mostly wilted. Add tomatoes and scallions. Cook another 2 minutes until tender. Stir in black beans, reserved marinated tempeh and cook until warmed through, about 1-2 minutes. 4. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in nutrition yeast and avocado. Serve with lime slices if desired.
Hemp has many good-for-you nutrients including omega-3 fats, which help decrease inflammation for fatigued muscles and it can also help increase blood flow to muscles. Other nutrients found in hemp include fiber, iron, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium.
2 cups green lentils, cooked (about ¾ cup dry green lentils) 2 tablespoons olive oil ½ medium yellow onion, diced ½ cup carrots, diced ½ cup celery, diced 8 ounce button mushrooms, sliced 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari, if gluten free) 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (use Annie’s Natural brand, if vegan or vegetarian) 1¼ teaspoon thyme 1 cup of old fashioned oats, divided ½ cup almond meal
For the glaze:
½ cup organic ketchup 1 tablespoon brown sugar (I used a little less) 1 teaspoon whole grain dijon mustard 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cover a baking sheet in parchment paper or foil. In a small bowl, mix together the glaze ingredients and set aside. 2. In a large pan, drizzle olive oil and sauté diced onion over medium high heat until tender. Add in carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add in the sliced mushrooms and sauté until all the vegetables are tender (5-10 minutes), then remove from heat. 3. Pour the cooked vegetables into a food processor with 1¼ cups of the cooked lentils, ½ cup oats, tomato paste, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and salt and pepper. Process for just a few seconds until the ingredients are combined, but not completely pureed. You want them to still have a chunky texture. Pour the contents into a large mixing bowl, then add in the rest of the lentils, oats, and almonds meal. Stir the ingredients together until they are completely combined and are sticking together well. If the dough is crumbly, add a tablespoon or two of water. 4. Use your hands to form the contents into a large ball, then place the ball onto the covered baking sheet. Form the ball into a loaf shape (mine was about 8-10 inches long and 4-5 inches wide). Cover the loaf with half of the ketchup glaze, then bake for 30 minutes. Pull the loaf out of the over and covered with the remainder of the glaze, then bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. The loaf is done when a form comes out clean. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing, otherwise it will not cut clean.
When you combine edamame with protein-packed quinoa, this salad gives you 15 grams of muscle building protein per serving. Wrap leftovers in a whole grain or high protein wrap and pack for lunch at work the next day.
½ red bell pepper, core, seeded and finely chopped 1 celery stalk, finely chopped 2 cups baby spinach, finely chopped 10 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped ½ small red onion, finely chopped 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 cups cooked quinoa 1 small can chickpeas 1½ cups shelled edamame beans Salt and pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and serve cold.
Beans are a nutrition superfood which contain fiber, protein, and a ton of health benefits. The soluble fiber found in beans has been shown to help lower your risk of colon cancer, help lower cholesterol, and create a healthy digestive system.
If you choose to use canned beans (a great time saver), select no-sodium-added varieties or rinse the beans before using. Studies have found that rinsing beans helps lower the sodium by up to 40 percent.
½ teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon chili powder 1½ tablespoons olive oil 1 yellow onion, chopped (~1 ½ cups) 1 bell pepper, chopped (any color) 1 jalapeno, deveined and deseeded, chopped 1 cup tomatoes, chopped 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed 1 15 oz can white cannelloni beans, rinsed 1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes ½ cup corn, fresh or frozen and thawed Red chili flakes, to taste
1. Over medium-high heat in a large, dry pan toast spices (cumin and chili powder) for 1 minute to release their oils and aroma. Then coat the pan with olive oil and sauté onion, about 5 minutes, until it’s nearly translucent. Then add peppers and tomatoes, sautéing for another 3 minutes. 2. Add can of tomatoes, corn, jalapeno, and beans. Break up the tomatoes into large chunks and combine. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until flavors meld. 3. Serve warm over salad or rice, top with avocado.
Tofu is easy to cook and takes on the flavor of whatever it is mixed with. In this recipe, small cubes of tofu are marinated in a homemade sweet and sour sauce and then cooked in a skillet with a variety of delicious vegetables. The results are a simple, nutrient-packed weeknight dinner.
For the sweet and sour sauce 2 tablespoons soy sauce 4 tablespoons rice wine (or water for a non-alcoholic dish) 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 1 tablespoon sugar 4 tablespoons tomato paste 4 tablespoons water
For the tofu and vegetables:
1/2 head small broccoli, cut into bite size florets 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 pack tofu (385 grams), cut into squares 1/2 small onion, sliced 4-6 shiitake mushroom, sliced 2-3 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon minced ginger
1. Mix all the ingredients for sweet and sour sauce in a bowl, set aside. 2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add broccoli and boil until cooked through. Drain well and place in a plate. 3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet at medium high heat. When oil is warm, carefully place tofu into skillet. Grill the tofu until the bottom side turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip tofu with a spatula and grill the other side to the same doneness. Transfer tofu to a plate and set aside. 4. Add a tablespoon of oil into the same skillet and heat on medium high heat. Add onion and stir several times. Add mushroom and stir fry till onion turns golden and mushroom is fully cooked. Lightly season with salt and mix well. Transfer the cooked onion and mushroom to a plate and set aside. 5. In the same skillet, add the rest of the oil, garlic and ginger. Cook at medium heat and stir until fragrant. Add the sweet and sour sauce and simmer until the sauce is getting thick, for 1 to 2 minutes, while stirring continuously. Add the cooked tofu and mix well with the sauce. Cook until the sauce has reduced to the desired thickness and stop heat. 6. In a large bowl, add broccoli, onion and mushroom. Pour the tofu and all the sauce on top. Serve with steamed rice or noodles.
Also known as garbanzo beans, one cup canned contains 286 calories, 11 grams fiber, and 12 grams of protein. It also contains over 50-percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin B-6 and good amounts of iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
Serve with a crusty piece of whole grain bread and a green salad for a well-balanced vegan meal.
Skill level: Beginner
Start to Finish: 40 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 (14oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, rinsed
1 (4oz) can diced chilies
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups vegetable stock
1. Place the onion, carrots and celery in a large pot and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes.
2. Add water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time to keep the veggies from sticking to the pan.
3. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and chilies and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add cumin and chili powder, stir and cook for an additional minute before adding the stock.
5. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
Farro is an ancient whole grain that has a nutty flavor and pleasant chewy texture. One cup cooked contains 220 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 47 grams carbohydrates, and 8 grams of protein. It’s also brimming with vitamins A and E, iron, and magnesium.
Don’t be afraid of unknown grains. Most grains are cooked the same way, combined with water or stock and cooked on the stovetop.
1/2 cup farro 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds 1 cup peeled, seeded diced apple 2 cups tuscan kale, finely chopped 2 scallions
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced 1 orange, zested 3 tablespoons fresh juice from the orange 1 tablespoon rice wine or white wine vinegar 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 teaspoons dijon mustard Salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add farro, reduce heat to medium and cook for 25-30 minutes, until tender. Drain farro through a mesh sieve and set aside to cool. 2. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the garlic, zest, orange juice, vinegar, oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. 3. In a large bowl combine the pomegranate seeds, apple, kale, scallions and farro. Toss to combine. Add 3 tablespoons of the dressing to the salad and toss. If the salad still seems a little dry, add an additional tablespoon of dressing at a time -- tossing and tasting along the way. (Dressing yields ½ cup).
Nutrition Information (per serving, using ¼ cup of the dressing)