Vegetarian Sources of Protein

Posted on Friday, August 7th, 2009
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

Proteins are made from small “building blocks” called amino acids. There are 8 essential amino acids which must be obtained from the diet. Animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs, contain all 8 essential amino acids in one food. That makes them a “complete protein.” Plant foods don’t contain all 8 essential amino acids in one food, but with complementary combining, a complete protein can be formed. Complements can be eaten over the course of the day. It is not “required” that they are eaten at the same meal. The following are combinations that result in a complete protein.

Note: Legumes are dried beans and peas such as kidney, garbanzo, pinto, navy, soy, and black beans, as well as lentils and split peas.


Rice and Beans Millet and Tofu

Corn Tortillas and Black Beans Barley-Bean Soup

Pasta and Kidney Beans Bread and Baked Beans

Rice and Lentil Curry Crackers and Split Pea Soup

Flour Tortillas and Pinto Beans Wheat-Soy Bread

Brown Rice and Tempeh Rice and Bean Casserole

Corn and Beans Cornbread and Black-Eyed Peas



Humus (blended sesame tahini and garbanzo beans)

Sunflower seeds mixed into bean chili

Sesame seeds on any bean dish

Dry roasted soybean and seed snack mix

Chopped nut/tofu vegiburgers

Seed/Nut Tempeh

Nuts with any bean dish


Macaroni and Cheese Rice and Cheese Casserole

Cereal and Milk Milk and Toast

Cheese and Crackers Ravioli, Manicotti, Pizza

Rice Pudding Yogurt and Oats

Flour Tortillas with Cheese Cottage Cheese and Wheat Germ

Note: Dairy foods are complete proteins by themselves. However, they contain extra Lysine, which is the amino acid that grains are low in. By eating grains and dairy products together, there is enough Lysine to complement the grain.

Angela Pifer, MSN, CN Seattle Nutritionist Enjoy the day to day support, structure and accountability that will finally help you meet your health goals! New! Online Wellness Programs!

Categories: Vegetarian

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