High-Protein Vegetarian Indian Foods and Recipes

Abundant in vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other protein-rich ingredients, vegetarian Indian food can be a great option if you're trying to avoid meat but still want a healthy, satiating meal.

Vegetarian Indian recipes like chana masala with chickpeas can be healthy, satiating and protein-packed. Credit: Stocksy/Cameron Whitman

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In fact, a 2009 study published in Diabetes Care reports that people following vegetarian diets generally weigh less than non-vegetarians. Here's a list of protein-rich foods for vegetarians commonly used in Indian cuisine — plus some flavorful, healthy Indian vegetarian recipes to get you started.

Read more: 7 Ayurvedic Practices That Seem Strange but Really Work

1. Legumes

Legumes are common ingredients in Indian vegetarian recipes (often listed with a name containing "dal" or "matar"). They're not only packed with fiber, iron, phosphorous, potassium and B vitamins, they're also rich in protein. Some common legumes found in vegetarian Indian dishes include:

  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Green peas
  • White peas
  • Soybeans
  • Kidney beans
  • Black-eyed beans
  • Mung beans
  • Adzuki beans
  • Peanuts

Chana masala is a flavorful North Indian curry made with tomatoes, onions, spices and chickpeas. Paired with rice, it's a great source of complete protein for vegetarians.

Protein content: 1/2 cup of cooked lentils provides almost 9 grams of protein and 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas contains about 7 grams of protein

Paneer is a delicious, meat-free way to get more protein in your diet. Credit: Paul_Brighton/iStock/GettyImages

2. Dairy

Many dairy foods in a protein-rich diet are commonly incorporated into vegetarian Indian dishes. Calcium-fortified non-dairy substitutes, such as soy milk and soy yogurt, are also excellent sources of protein. You can expect to see these ingredients in popular Indian dishes:

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Paneer
  • Chhena
  • Gulab jamun
  • Kheer
  • Ghee

Raita is a popular Indian condiment made with yogurt, cucumber, and spices like coriander, cumin and curry. And paneer, a fresh cheese common in Indian cuisine, can be cooked into a delicious sauce or gravy, often with tomatoes, onions, garlic, spinach and spices.

Protein content: one cup of milk or soy milk provides about 8 grams of protein, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt contains about 13 grams of protein and paneer contains about 7 grams of protein per ounce

Read more: 10 Ways to Eat Healthy at Indian Restaurants

3. Tofu and Soybeans

If you want a dairy-free alternative to paneer, consider tofu — also known as bean curd — which is a plant-based complete protein that makes an excellent addition to vegetarian Indian dishes.

Tofu is also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 fats, which makes it heart-healthier than high-fat meats containing saturated fat. Many dishes also feature soybeans (edamame), which also contain lots of protein and healthy fats.

Protein content: 1/2 cup of firm tofu contains about 10 grams of protein

4. Nuts and Seeds

Various types of nuts and seeds are excellent sources of plant-based protein. In addition to being protein-rich, nuts are also excellent sources of heart-healthy fats, dietary fiber and vitamin E. The most common nuts in vegetarian Indian foods are:

  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds

If you're worried about keeping your blood pressure in check, choose unsalted nuts.

Protein content: one ounce of almonds, or about 23 whole almonds, provides about 6 grams of protein, while a 1-ounce portion of cashews contains just over 4 grams of protein

5. Grains

Though not as high in protein as some of the other foods on this list, grains do contain some protein. And what's more, when combined with other vegetarian proteins like lentils, they create complete proteins, meaning they provide all essential amino acids that our bodies can't produce on their own. Some examples include:

  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Wheat germ
  • Brown rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Sorghum

Protein content: one cup of barley contains 3.5 grams of protein and 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa contains 4 grams of protein

6. Vegetables

Though it ranks lowest in protein, there is still some protein in certain vegetables. And in many vegetarian Indian dishes, veggies are the star. That's because they're relatively inexpensive compared to meats and are nutrient-dense, meaning that they have a high concentration of vitamins and minerals and a lower calorie count. A few veggies you may find in an Indian dish include:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Mustard greens
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms

Protein content: one cup of Brussels sprouts contains 3 grams of protein and one cup of cauliflower contains 2 grams of protein

Get adventurous with these protein-rich Indian food recipes. Credit: Milkos/iStock/GettyImages

14 Protein-Rich Indian Food Recipes

Ready to put this list of high-protein vegetarian Indian ingredients to good use? Throw on an apron, whip out your pots and pans and get ready to take your taste buds on a culinary journey.

Read more: 8 Curry Bowl Recipes That Will Warm Your Soul

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