9 Inexpensive Plant Proteins Everyone Should Know
Protein is popular. And for good reason. Protein serves as the building block for growth and muscle development, helps you feel full, speeds up recovery after exercise or injury, and enables key processes throughout the body, including digestion, energy production and immunity.
When we consider protein-packed foods, we often think of meat and dairy, or more processed protein-fortified food products, like shakes, energy bars, and yes, even cookies. But these aren’t the only options. There are hundreds of plant-based foods loaded with protein, and many of these foods come with the added benefit of containing little to no saturated fat and no cholesterol, and are high in fiber.
They’re also better for your wallet, and given the rising costs of animal products like beef, chicken, pork, and lamb, it’s useful to know some plant-based proteins that you can buy for a bargain. We measured the protein content of these ingredients based on a 3.5 ounce serving and used pricing information from Walmart.com (keep in mind that prices may vary based on brand). For reference, 3.5 ounces of raw ground beef (about a palm size) contains 26 grams of protein and costs $3.99 per pound, or 25 cents per ounce, according to a national report from the USDA.
This Monday, check out our guide to inexpensive plant-based proteins. While going through the list, consider how you can recreate your favorite recipes using only plant-based proteins. Maybe they’ll taste even better than the original?
Peanut Butter: 25 grams of protein – $0.70
Eat it for breakfast, smear it on celery, add it to smoothies, or put a scoop in chili. The options for peanut butter are endless. When shopping for peanut butter, look for brands that don’t use added sugars or oils. A typical serving of peanut butter is around 2 tablespoons and contains 8 grams of protein. Cost: 20 cents per ounce.
Lentils: 23 grams of protein – $0.35 (dried)
You can purchase lentils dried or canned, but whichever option you choose, know that lentils are one of the most nutritious foods that money can buy. They are also really easy to cook. You can used them as a substitute for taco meat or as the foundation of warming stews. Cost: 10 cents per ounce (dried) or 1 serving: (cooked, ½ cup): 12 cents and 9 grams of protein.
Split Peas: 23 grams of protein – $0.28 (dried)
Another good soup starter, split peas are an excellent source of protein. You can go with green or yellow depending on your preference. Cost: 8 cents per ounce (dried) or 1 serving: (cooked, ½ cup): 9 cents and 8 grams of protein.
Black Beans: 13 grams of protein – $0.18 (canned)
Turn them into burgers, soups, meatballs, or brownies, the options are endless when it comes to black beans, which is why they need a permanent place in your pantry. They’re also one of the cheapest varieties of plant-based protein. Cost: 5 cents per ounce (canned) or 1 serving: (canned, ½ cup) 28 cents and 8 grams of protein.
Tofu: 11 grams of protein – $0.56
When used properly, you can transform tofu into all your favorite comfort foods, from Buffalo wings to Jamaican jerk tacos. Just remember to press out as much moisture as possible. Cost: 16 cents per ounce.
Edamame: 11 grams of protein – $0.53 (frozen)
Edamame beans are whole, immature soy beans. They can be purchased frozen (shelled or unshelled) or dried. Cost: 15 cents per ounce (frozen, in shell) or 1 serving: (frozen, ½ cup): 39 cents and 9 grams of protein.
Ezekiel Bread: 11 grams of protein – $0.77
Ezekiel bread is made from whole sprouted wheat, barley, spelt, millet, soybeans, and lentils. It is different from most other mass-produced breads because it contains no added sugar, and is made from sprouted whole grains legumes. A slice with peanut butter or smashed avocado is a great breakfast option. One slice contains 4 grams of protein. Cost: 22 cents per ounce.
Chickpeas: 8 grams of protein – $0.28 (canned)
You can add them to salads and pastas, roast them into crunchy snacks, or blend them into a creamy hummus or dip. The chickpea is incredibly flexible and forgiving, so don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and get experimental. Cost: 8 cents per ounce (canned).
Whole Wheat Pasta: 6 grams of protein – $0.28 (dried)
Using whole wheat pasta as the base of your meal is an easy way to sneak more protein and fiber. Add in some vegan “meatballs” and you have a complete and inexpensive plant-based meal. Cost: 8 cents per ounce (dried) or 1 serving: (cooked, 1 cup): 16 cents and 7 grams of protein.
Want to get more bang for your buck? Click here for a list of inexpensive plant-based ingredients that won’t go bad. When posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.