Nutritious Quinoa Protein Bowl
4 from 35 votes

This nutritious vegan quinoa protein bowl packs more than twenty grams of plant protein! Ready in under thirty minutes, it’s as nutrient dense as it is filling and flavorful.

An overhead image of a round white bowl, which has been filled with a golden-hued mixture of quinoa, edamame, and butternut squash.

I’m so excited to share this hearty quinoa protein bowl with you.

But first, a little back story. Recently, when I shared my new recipe for hemp hummus, my reader Hannah made a good observation:

“It sort of annoys me that so much of the media touts hummus as a high protein ‘food,’ when it really has only 2 grams per 2 T serving, but this? This is this is the real deal.”

It’s true! There’s a lot of mixed information in media about the best vegan protein sources.

It can be difficult to know what a quality plant-based protein is, or to figure out what an appropriate portion size might be.

Most of all, many eaters, even those who are nutrition savvy, wonder how much protein they ought to be getting in the first place.

How much protein do we really need?

You’ve probably heard of an RDA, or a recommended dietary allowance.

RDAs are issued by the the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. They’re levels of intake that are estimated to be sufficient for “nearly all (that’s 97-98%) healthy people.”

There are specific RDAs for iron, calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and other key nutrients.

The AI for protein among adults is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, per day. This recommendation applies to adults nineteen and older.

What does that mean in the real world? Well, if you think in pounds, rather than kilograms (which many Americans do), some conversion is needed.

One kilogram is about 2.2 pounds. If 0.8 grams of protein is suggested per kilogram, that translates to 0.36 grams of protein per pound, per day.

However, we know that plant protein is a little harder to digest than animal protein. So many vegan dietitians recommend intake closer to 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram body weight, per day.

This converts to 0.41 grams per pound. For a 170 pound woman, this would be about 70 grams of protein daily.

Meeting protein needs on a vegan diet

In my years practicing as a vegan dietitian, I’ve seen much more mainstream awareness and acceptance of plant-based diets as being adequate and even beneficial.

I’m asked much less often than I used to be, “do vegans get enough protein?”

Even so, protein is an important nutrient. Deficiency is exceedingly rare in the context of a calorically adequate diet, but it’s possible for a person to get less than is optimal.

That’s especially true for folks who have higher protein needs than the average person, including older adults, those recovering from surgery, burns, or injury, or some athletes.

Within my private practice, I’ve worked with new and longtime vegan clients who aren’t getting adequate protein for their bodies.

Insufficient protein intake might show up as fatigue, low immunity, slow wound repair, or difficulty maintaining muscle mass.

Increasing protein intake in these cases doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s just a matter of giving some thought to meal planning, focusing on protein-rich foods, and enjoying recipes that deliver on protein often.

This quinoa protein bowl is a really good one—and for the record, it delivers about 24 grams of protein per serving.

Sources of protein for vegans

So, given this recommendation, what are the best high-protein foods for vegans?

I consider any food with about ten or more grams of protein per serving to be a high-protein vegan food. Fifteen or twenty grams per serving is even better, but ten is impactful.

Here are some of the plant-based protein sources that I commonly recommend to my clients:

As you can see, there are plenty of options. But this list isn’t comprehensive.

Many other vegan foods have some protein, including vegetables, grains, and nuts. If you eat a generous enough portion of any of these foods, you’ll get a decent amount of protein.

For more about different protein-containing ingredients and how to combine them in meals, I highly recommend reading through this post on protein-rich combinations of plant foods.

Consider protein density and portion size

Some foods require a large serving to amount to ten grams of protein or more. Large serving sizes of these foods may or may not be appropriate, depending on a person’s unique health needs.

Take nuts, for example.

A typical serving of almonds is about 1 ounce (24-28 nuts). That ounce contains six grams of protein, along with around 160 calories and about fourteen grams of fat. You’d need about an ounce and a half to amount to ten grams of protein.

This could be appropriate energy density for some people. But others might want to seek out protein sources that offer more protein with less energy density.

It would take about four cups of broccoli to equal ten grams of protein. Four cups of broccoli (or other vegetables) is a lot of fiber—more than some people can comfortably digest.

I like tofu, tempeh, seitan, edamame, quinoa, and hemp seeds because they offer good amounts of protein within reasonable portion sizes.

Building a high-protein vegan meal

Because most of us think in terms of food, not abstract numbers, I think it’s best to talk about protein by homing in on high-protein vegan recipes.

For instance, my protein-packed, three bean salad packs in 15 grams of protein per serving.

Similarly, a portion of my hemp hummus with two slices of Ezekiel toast would yield almost 19 grams. And a single cup of my hemp milk would contribute 9 grams of protein to a smoothie.

Here are some of my other favorite, high-protein vegan recipes:

If you’re hungry for more, there are plenty of plant-based recipes to browse through on my vegan protein Pinterest board and my cookbook Power Plates also has plenty of ideas!

If none of those options appeal, give this quinoa protein bowl recipe a try.

An overhead image of a shallow white ceramic bowl, which is used as a vessel for a colorful quinoa protein bowl. The bowl contains quinoa, squash, and edamame.

Ingredients for a nutritious quinoa protein bowl

This recipe came together as a recipe for the same client I made my hemp hummus recipe for.

I loved it at first bite: the creamy texture, the many nutrient-dense ingredients, and the savory sauce.

I also love that it featured so many protein rich ingredients in a single place. Here’s what’s in the bowl.


All of my vegan lunch bowls, and most of my bowl recipes generally, feature a whole grain base.

The base here is quinoa, which is a particularly good choice for a recipe that emphasizes protein!

With nearly 8 grams of protein per serving, quinoa is definitely a protein-rich grain (technically, it’s a pseudograin, or grain-liked seed!).


Edamame are whole, young soy beans with a green hue. Just like tofu, tempeh, and other soy foods, edamame are rich in protein, essential fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash is one of my favorite types of squash to cook with. It’s texture—hearty but not too heavy—is just so versatile.

Butternut squash isn’t a big contributor to the protein in this recipe, but it definitely adds texture, flavor, and good nutrition.

The squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, fiber, and Vitamin C.


All hail kale! Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens, and it’s also relatively rich in protein, with 2-3 grams in each cup of chopped leaves.

An image of shelled hemp seeds, resting on a white surface.

Shelled hemp seeds

Shelled hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, are mightily nutritious. Three tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds supplies ten grams of protein, along with Omega-3 fatty acids that are associated with cardiac and neurological health.

While cashew nuts are my go-to for blending into sauces and plant-based cream, hemp seeds can also contribute creamy consistency to recipes.

For these quinoa protein bowls, the hemp seeds, along with nutritional yeast and unsweetened soy milk, create a very protein-rich, creamy blended sauce base.

Nutritional yeast

Speaking of, nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast that has a distinctively savory flavor. It happens to be quite rich in protein, along with B-Vitamins.

I use nutritional yeast to make vegan parmesan cheese, as a topping for pasta, and to add a textured and savory component to salads. It adds protein and savoriness to the sauce for these bowls.

How to make a quinoa protein bowl

This bowl can easily be a fast, convenient weekday dinner. Here are the steps for making it.

Step 1: Cook the quinoa

I recommend simmering quinoa for 13-15 minutes, with a ratio of grain to water that’s about 1 : 1.75.

Toward the end of simmering your quinoa, you’ll add frozen edamame and kale to the pot. That way, the legumes and greens cook along with the grains.

An overhead image of a silver pot, which is filled with quinoa, kale, and edamame.
Adding chopped kale and edamame directly to the pot with your partially-simmered quinoa allows you to cook multiple ingredients together—a big time saver!

Step 2: Cook the squash

You can either steam or microwave the squash till tender. To steam, bring a few inches of water to a boil in a medium pot. Fit the pot with a steamer attachment and fill it with your cubed squash. Steam the squash for 15 minutes, or until tender.

To microwave the squash, place the squash into a large, microwave-safe bowl with a few tablespoons of water. Cover the bowl tightly with a silicone lid or a microwave-safe plate that covers the bowl entirely.

Microwave for 6 minutes, or until the squash pieces are tender, then drain the squash.

Step 3: Make the sauce

The sauce for this quinoa protein bowl is a light, yet creamy mixture of unsweetened, non-dairy milk, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, mustard, turmeric, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

If it sounds a bit random (and possibly even a little odd) that’s because it is. But it’s delicious, I promise!

You can blend the sauce in a regular or portable/mini blender.

Step 4: Combine all ingredients with the blended sauce

Finally, you’ll transfer the cooked squash to the pot with your quinoa, kale, and edamame.

Pour the creamy sauce over everything, and then bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. At first it’s going to seem as though the mixture is too liquidy, but I promise, that liquid will get absorbed.

The final quinoa protein bowl will have a nice, creamy and cohesive, texture.

Meal prep & storage

I love making this bowl as part of my weekly vegan meal prep! It’s easy, incredibly nutrient-dense, and very yummy—in other words, everything that I want a make-ahead recipe to be.

An angled image of a nutritious quinoa, kale, edamame and winter squash mixture with creamy sauce. It rests in a shallow white ceramic bowl.
The quinoa protein bowl can be an especially nutritious option for your vegan meal prep dinners or lunches.

Here are steps in the recipe that you can do in advance:

  • Steaming the squash
  • Blending the sauce
  • Cooking the quinoa, kale, and edamame

Any of those steps can happen up to two full days ahead of assembling the bowls.

Once fully prepared, the quinoa protein bowls can be stored in airtight containers in the fridge for up to five days.

An overhead image of a round white bowl, which has been filled with a golden-hued mixture of quinoa, edamame, and butternut squash.
4 from 35 votes

Quinoa Protein Bowl

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 2 servings


For the bowls

  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa (90g)
  • 1 scant cup water
  • Dash salt
  • 2 cups stemmed and finely chopped kale (30g)
  • 1/2 cup frozen, shelled edamame
  • 2 cups kabocha, butternut, or other winter squash, seeded and chopped (240g; substitute sweet potato)

For the sauce

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk (substitute oat, almond, or cashew)
  • 2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds (20g; substitute 2 tablespoons / 15g raw cashews)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (15g)
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Rinse the quinoa through a fine sieve, then add it to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook the quinoa for 10 minutes. Add the frozen edamame and the kale to the pot and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat and set aside.
  • In the meantime, steam or microwave the squash till cooked through (about 5 minutes on high in the microwave, or 10 minutes of steaming). This can be done up to 1-3 days in advance.
  • To make the sauce, place the milk, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, mustard, turmeric, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a high speed blender and blend till smooth and creamy.
  • Add the squash to the cooked quinoa, edamame, and kale. Pour in the sauce. Bring the pot back to a simmer and cook for about 3 more minutes. Taste the mixture and add extra salt, pepper, lemon, and nutritional yeast as desired. Serve.

An overhead image of a round white bowl, which has been filled with a golden-hued mixture of quinoa, edamame, and butternut squash.

Hope you’ll find this recipe to be tasty, nourishing, and practical!


This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Visit my privacy policy to learn more.

Categories: Vegan Bowls
Method: Stovetop
Ingredients: Butternut Squash, Kale, Quinoa
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, No Oil, Tree Nut Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: 30 Minute or Less, Meal Prep

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4 from 35 votes (28 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    My husband and I loved the recipe. It was easy and quick to make. I used tempeh vs. edamame.

  2. 1 star
    I made this recipe tonight exactly as described. I’m sorry but it was pretty bad. I think the base is good but the sauce was awful.

  3. 5 stars
    What a nourishing, vibrant little grain bowl! I added some other veg and some pumpkin seeds, and rather than kale just did arugula with each serving. I always love your recipes, Gena. So homey, simple, and good.

  4. 5 stars
    This was so easy and yummy, thanks! I used frozen brown rice and quinoa and pre-chopped butternut squash. Love the easy weeknight meal genre!

  5. 5 stars
    I roasted the sweet potato and cooked the quinoa in my rice cooker. Then I added the rest of the ingredients and the sauce and selected sautee. It turned out amazing. I love the sauce and the texture that the edamame give it. Oh, I also doubled it to feed the whole family. 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    I did find this recipe to be tasty, nourishing and practical! And, such a nutrient-dense bowl! I used about 2/3 of the sauce, as my mixture seemed moist enough. And I added an extra squeeze of lemon juice and pinch of salt. Really satisfying. Thank you! And I enjoyed the discussion of protein sources. Thank you for posting this on instagram. I would not have otherwise come across this recipe (I tend to refer to your most recent recipes as well as Power Plates).

  7. I just like the valuable information you provide to your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly.
    I’m slightly sure I will be told lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the following!

  8. I recently learned that quinoa is a seed, and this is why has so much proteins! No wonder when I eat my wife’s sprouted Quinoa-chocolate raw granola is so fulfilling, energetic and easy to digest!


  9. Where are you finding a high protein Quinoa? I went to Whole Foods,Trader Joe’s and some health food stores. I didn’t find any Quinoa with protein over 6 grams.

  10. I made this tonight. Doubled the recipe for leftovers and subbed yams for squash. Really good, and easy. Thanks!

  11. Very great list on protein sources. Quinoa is my favorite protein for non animal. I wonder what is the most protein packed vegan food by gram?

  12. This is delicious! I had it for dinner last night with broccoli, spinach and sweet potatoes for the edamame, kale and squash. I love hemp and am trying to use it more because I hear it helps reduce inflammation. I get some nagging soreness in my knee after I run (had an mri – nothing of concern) and I’m testing to see if the hemp will help. Thanks for the great recipe!

  13. thanks for this delicious recipe! i’m inhaling it as we speak. i subbed marinated fresh zucchini for the edamame and i used red quinoa which i hadn’t made in awhile and it is all so good! now i’m going upstairs for a second helping. 🙂

  14. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks, Gena! My appetite seems to have grown in the last few weeks, possibly from the hectic schedule with all of the remodeling. I’ve been trying to make my meals a bit more protein-dense and loved hearing your thoughts on the topic. I’m currently kitchen-less, but will be looking forward to trying out this recipe soon! Thanks, love!

  15. Wonderful post and comments! I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on this topic. As it is something I struggle with. Currently I have added eggs back in my diet, mainly because trying to eat a candida friendly left me with little choices. I do eat hemp, brown rice, chia, etc for protein. And was eating quiona and legumes for protein, but so many people kept telling me I should not be eating those when on a candida diet. So I am cutting down on them, so needed something else to eat. I feel like every time I try something, someone tells me I should not be doing that or eating. So frustrating. I am trying to listen to my body, but it is hard to take into account what others say.

    Anyways got me rethinking everything.

    • If I may be honest, I really think you need to stop listening to the interwebs — blogs, bloggers, commenters, and so on. You should remember that a lot of people out there are fully of really bad advice, or advice that worked for them, but is unlikely to work for YOU. It’s always a hazardous thing to ask for advice or share your own health decisions online, because you’ll be deluged with everybody’s two cents — and lots of those cents aren’t worth much at all.

      Are you sure candida is the problem at this point? It seems as though you’ve been doing candida maintenance or cleanses for a long time. Maybe something to discuss over breakfast 🙂

  16. Great quinoa recipe! And with a kale salad on the side it makes for a really healthy meal. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Great points on protein. I amazes me that many of the non-vegans who ask me about protein, have no idea how much they’re getting or should be getting. The quinoa bowl looks wonderful, I can’t wait to try it … after I restock on quinoa. 🙂 Thanks!

  18. I love anything that involves the nutritional yeast/ miso paste combo – this looks yumazing and I will be making it soon!

  19. Gena, thank you for this post! There is so much conflicting information out there on this topic, and it’s one I struggle with having grown up with skewed perceptions of humans’ protein needs.(I grew up in southern KS and for most of my life, I didn’t think it was a meal if it didn’t include animal protein!) Now, being newly vegan, I’ve been paying more attention to how many grams I’m taking in and can tell the difference when I neglect my persnal protein needs. I learned this the hard way after a solid week of dragging my tired body around and struggling through runs that should have been eeeeasy for me. Just one small tweak and I was back up and running! (I’ll admit it – pun intended.) I guess we each just have to do what feels right to us, but I think your advice is solid and appreciate your thoughts on good vegan protein sources!

  20. I noticed you didn’t mention peanuts, which have more protein than other nuts (probably because they’rea actually a legume?) I just wanted to put in a good word for my beloved peanut butter, but I agree that nuts and seeds are best as part of a diet full of whole grains, beans, and all the other delicious protein sources you mentioned.

  21. This is a great post and recipe, Gena. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    Just a couple questions: If you don’t want to obsess over counting grams of protein or doing all the math, what would be some physical symptoms of not getting enough protein? Fatigue maybe?
    When would you start considering yourself an athlete that needs higher protein intakes? I don’t run competitively, but I do put in about 20 miles on the treadmill every week, in addition to yoga, walking, zumba, and sometimes a little light weight lifting. I guess I never considered myself an athlete because I don’t race and exercise just because it makes me feel good, but I’m wondering at what level of physical activity you need to start bumping up your protein intake. Thanks for all your advice!!

    • Angela,

      I think that qualifies as an athletic lifestyle, but it’s not quite the same as training for a marathon or doing a competative sport (with 3-5+ hours of training, sometimes, on a given day). For someone like you, I’d say that you certainly shouldn’t dip much below 50 grams on a regular basis (remember, it’s always OK to have an exceptional day or two here and there) but that you might not need to be in the same higher ranges recommended for professional athletes (80+ grams). So the take home message is: be mindful, but don’t obsess simply because you’re active.

      As for symptoms, protein deficiency per se is actually very rare–practically nonexistent, except in third world countries where food is scarce–but some sign that you may not be getting enough could be fatigue, muscle wasting, and hair loss. Careful, though, because these symptoms could also be related to many other conditions; they’re not at all conclusively linked to protein.


      • Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! I did a quick estimate and it looks like I’m getting about 40 grams a day. Yikes! Glad you brought this up 🙂

      • I’m a vegan in medical school and I just wanted to say that I had recently had one of my nutrition classes dedicated to protein. I would disagree that it is ALWAYS OK to have an exceptional day here and there: our bodies are mostly made of protein (skin, enzymes, muscles, etc) and when we are lacking an amino acid, protein synthesis stops or our existing muscles are broken down in order to acquire the missing amino acid. If we do have a “low” protein day, we really risk having muscle breakdown. I really think that protein should be kept to a good level every single day. On that note, that’s why complete proteins are important so that protein synthesis doesn’t halt because one amino acid is missing.

        Also, vegans/vegetarians tend to require a bit more protein than meat eaters just because plant proteins aren’t always accessible given the digestive enzymes we have. Without getting into too much detail, some people’s body doesn’t absorb plant proteins as well as animal derived proteins, so it is best to shoot a little higher than the recommended protein guides just to make sure that we never had a “low” day (as mentioned above). It really comes down to the Biochemistry of the body and how well equipped some people’s bodies to digest protein.

        • Thanks for your thoughts, Becca! I went over this in my biochem class, too, and agree that it’s not wise to take too much liberty with protein intake. I do believe that most people’s systems can recover from an exception here and there, as long as it’s never chronic and an overall understanding of the importance of protein is had — which is part of why I wrote this post, in spite of some negative twitter feedback about what an alarmist I am 😉

          Hooray for fellow meds/pre-meds!

  22. Hi friends:

    I love the recipe, thanks for the post, I look forward to enjoying many more recipes.

    A hug!

  23. Wow Gena, this couldn’t have been a more spot- on and timely post! I totally agree with everything you noted on. Vegans have a tremendous array of protein options- if not as much as carnivores. Before becoming vegetarian, I had NO idea about the numerous protein options for vegans. Who knew nutritional yeast, chia seeds, dark leafy greens, hemp and much more could be such nutritional powerhouses? Plus, when we’re eating them, we’re also getting in the numerous other benefits that the food provides, other than protein, such as fiber, omega 3s, and many other vitamins and minerals. Such a bonus for us veggies, huh? 🙂

    I hate when people say commercial hummus is “a good protein source”! All the more reason to make my own 🙂

  24. Can you explain your rationale behind not wanting to get so much fat with protein? Because it fill you up and you can’t get enough protein? Or that fat is just bad in too high quantities. I am feeling confused.

    • The idea is that in order to fulfill all protein needs with nuts or seeds, you’d also have to consume a very large amount of fat. Now, I’m not a huge believer in “metabolic typing,” but I do think that people respond differently to different ratios of macronutrients in their diets. Some people–some raw friends of mine among them–can do really nicely with a very high amount of fat in their diets. But I’m generally of the belief that too much fat, like too much anything, isn’t great. I’ve seen some people struggle to meet protein needs exclusively with nuts and seeds, and between that and other raw staples (avocados, etc) the fat count on a given day can easily be in the 80-120 gram range.100+ grams is a significant amount of fat (depending, of course, on gender, caloric intake as a whole, height, weight, activity level) and could easily cause many people to gain weight.

      In addition, I tend to see most people do best with a balance of macros (fat, complex carbs, protein). It can vary wildly, but I see very few people thrive on a diet where one of the macros (be it protein or fat or carbs) is extremely high. Hence my feeling that too high quantities of anything isn’t great–even if the food sources are very healthy! 100+ grams of fat daily may too much for some men and women, even if it comes from good sources, just the way a ton of carbs isn’t great for some people, even if it comes from healthy whole grains.

      Naturally, whatever works, works. And “a ton” can only be defined in the context of a person’s height and weight, activity level, and metabolism, so it’s hard to talk in broad strokes. But if I had to speak in cautious and generalized tones, I’d say the best tactic is to choose both fatty and non-fatty protein sources, to keep things in balance.

      Hope this alleviates any confusion!


      • Respectfully, I’d add that while consuming “healthy” fat, you not only consuming a relatively large number of calories, but also obtaining “unhealthy” fat as well – most nuts, seeds, etc. contain some saturated fat as well. Nutrition experts, including most proponents of vegan diets, suggest that we moderate our intake of saturated fat as it is linked, most notably, to coronary disease.

  25. Oh Gena, this looks fantastic! So creamy and savoury and filling! I’m obsessed with dijon and nutritional yeast at the moment, but would have to sub the hemp for something else… perhaps sunflower seeds? I’ve had the remnants of a bag of quinoa in the pantry for weeks, and keep forgetting to use it up. Perhaps I should put a reminder in my phone so that I remember to make this this week 😛

  26. Recipe looks AMAZING. This got me thinking; I’d really like to pay closer attention to my protein intake–just for a while to get an idea of whether or not I’m getting the recommended amount. I know there are plenty of vegan sources of protein, but I’d like to be a little more conscious about it in my own diet. I think that way I’ll become more aware of exactly where my protein is coming from instead of just guessing that I’m probably getting enough… Great info!! 🙂

  27. Looks so good – I am making this when I get a chance – can’t wait 🙂

  28. I’ve so missed your blog! This recipe looks delicious…I need to find time to go back and read over some of your past posts. You’re always full of information. 🙂

  29. Gena, This looks INCREDIBLE. The moment I’m finished with this candida cleanse I’m on, I am making this ASAP. Thank you! 🙂

  30. Quinoa is a staple in my kitchen! I’ve found so many ways to eat it, for every meal, too. Thanks for the new recipe.

  31. Someone may have mentioned this already, but the super cool thing about quinoa is that it is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids. It’s the only grain that can tout that claim. So, it’s not necessarily high in protein, but it’s a great source for vegans to ensure we get all of the necessary components. 🙂

  32. Wow Gena!! Thank you so much for addressing this, I was not expecting that at all. This recipe looks delicious 🙂 I feel so stupid for writing “this is” twice though. So embarrassing!! I love how you combine so many protein sources at once.

  33. um, yum. Love this bowl. Love the yellow color – I’m on board with anything Dijon infused. yum Gena!

  34. to be honest, i wasn’t even aware of what the suggested protein per day was for women but i will say this…i have noticed that i feel best when i’m in the 40-50g range and last night ended up feeling quite ill (i noticed that i’d had nearly 85-90g protein in the form of a hemp shake, eggs and a huge serving of chicken at a restaurant last night). i woke up super thirsty this morning and it was kinda hard to digest…lesson learned! our bodies are pretty smart!

  35. Great, balanced view on the topic! I think people don’t realize that most vegetables contain some protein, too (a baked potato has 7 go of protein, whereas a cup of sweet potato has 4 grams). Your salad looks AMAZING! I love, love edamame and of course quinoa is always a staple. Can’t wait to try this! 😀

    PS I think you meant “2 tablespoons of almond butter has 16-18 GRAMS fat and 4-8 GRAMS of protein,” right? 😉

  36. The quinoa protein bowl is such a “Gena Recipe”…hemp seeds, nooch, miso, just has your name written all over it and looks wonderfu1!

    Protein…oh that. Well, I used to worry about “getting enough” but that was ages ago and in the past 5 years, don’t think much about it. My body does best with minimal to no protein powders, I consume edamame or tofu or tempeh regularly, nooch, and nuts/nut butters, too. That does the trick for me along with everything else but I also happen to know after years of personal ‘research’ that my body doesnt have a ridic high protein requirement.

    Carbs and fat are more important to my body than protein but I know some ppl do best on higher protein and lower carbs, for example. It took years of tweaking and self discovery to figure this out so for me, I am good but when ever people write to me asking for a number in grams, I dont know what to say b/c everyone’s bodies and activity levels and needs are soooo varied.

    Great discussion topic 🙂

  37. Hi Gena, here’s my latest foray into animal vs. plant protein:

    I’m seeing a new naturopath m.d. who recommended I add some animal protein to my diet.
    My philosophy on food in the past year has been a little more about experimentation and openness within the confines of plant-based foods. I’ve had lots of fun with spirulina, multi-colored sweet potatoes, nut butters (definitely allergic to almonds), and found collards to be my favorite food ever. So it was with this attitude that I thought: “ok, if you add animal protein and are honest about how it makes you feel then you will know once and for all what feels better for you- instead of relying on a 2 year-old memory to compare to”.

    For whatever reason since becoming mostly raw vegan I really can’t witness with all five senses, and not be disgusted (DEATH), the act of cooking flesh. That being said, as a vegan, I always missed a warm hard boiled egg. A less sense-aggressive cooking method.

    So when my new m.d. recommended I try animal protein to see how it would make me feel I was adamant that I would not be eating meat-meat and had this concession to source eggs from a local organic farm that were born from pastured and loved chickens (with a view of the ocean, I’m told- eggs as rent money?)…
    A carton of tiny peewee eggs came with my CSA box and I set a few on the stove to boil. I peeled the shell with a little heart flutter. Took a bite. It was delicious. How anyone can toss away the yoke is beyond me. ANYWAY.
    In order to complete the experiment, I incorporated eggs in my diet for two weeks.

    On this third week, I aver that a vegan diet is the diet for me. I will end my brief experiment in ovo-vegetarianism and return to a plant-based diet.
    I share this because there are so many “returned to animals because veganism was killing me” stories. My story is: veganism and egg-ism felt pretty much the same to me- only my digestion was slowed by the animal protein (not in a painful way) just in a this-isn’t-efficient way…and also, I gained a few unneeded lbs.

    Who knows what happened to my cholesterol.
    I’m excited to be re-born as a vegan and experiment with protein within the world that’s felt right to me.

    • Thanks SO much for sharing your story! It’s important for new vegans to hear, because ex-vegans tend to be a very aggressive and vocal crowd. I’ve seen a lot of vegans pressured by NDs (and sometimes by MDs) into eggs and fish; sometimes there is a change (positive or negative), but more often than not there’s no change, or only placebo effects. And doctors often have a hard time articulating what exactly the protein will do, or why it’s being suggested.

      Anyway, that may not describe what happened to you accurately at all, but I wanted to run with the theme 🙂

      • As a mostly vegan non-vegan, I find your egg experiment fascinating. I have had similar experiences with eggs and other animal products when I have tried to incorporate them into my diet. It seems I’ve lost my ability to digest them. It makes me suspicious of the experiences of so many outspoken former vegans (that bliss on digging into a can of tuna after so many years of veganism). My experience trying to eat eggs, or meat, was very different, and I was never even vegan. I was eating yogurt daily, but hadn’t eaten meat in 8 years. I began to crave it (I do think protein cravings are completely real, and legitimate, and I happen to think animal protein is more assimilable than grain protein), but when I did give in, it wasn’t bliss that I experienced but unbelievable stomach pain. Every time I’ve given in to a craving for meat, or eggs, same results. And what I’ve learned is that my HCL levels are so low, that I simply can’t digest flesh anymore. So it’s weird for me to read accounts of vegans who go back to eating meat with no problems and no enzyme supplementation … because my experience trying to go back was very different. Now I don’t eat meat for ethical reasons, but this was all before I knew about factory farming. I also avoid dairy (with rare exceptions). However, I still crave protein from time to time. I can’t eat grains, but I can eat legumes, and I do, regularly. I also make protein shakes fairly regularly, add hemp to whatever I can. I don’t mind the fats in nuts and seeds, but sometimes I want food that is both grounding and energizing minus the heaviness. I don’t think I could do the high-raw thing without supplements, I really don’t.

        • I am deficient in HCL myself (discovered it after being diagnosed with gallbladder problems and trying different approaches to diet for a while) and I echo the weirdness of reading accounts of vegan who go back to animal protein with no enzyme supplementation or anything. So odd to me.

  38. I am SO glad Hannah mentioned that 2g of protein per 2tbsp – I have always thought the exact same thing!

  39. This is a great post, Gena. The recipe looks great, of course, but I do like the perspective you offer on protein.

    As I grow on my vegan journey I find I’m getting a little less uptight about “what about the protein.” I know I’m getting it because I eat a very balanced diet — and I am SO over counting anything. I don’t want to count calories, carbs or grams of protein. I want to follow my instincts and make a point to get a wide variety of delicious, plant-based foods.

  40. Thanks for your advice on the protein, it was very enlightening!

  41. This recipe looks so good, it’s like you invented it for me!

    I don’t really worry about protein, and I tend to eat a pretty high-protein diet on accident, just because those are the foods I like. I eat a lot of veggies,split peas, and lentils. I definitely get more protein for less fat than I did before I went vegan.

    I was wondering, why is this client so interested in high-protein foods? Is it her interest, or did you advise her to eat more protein? And what would be the reason for that? Just wondering what would cause you to advise a client to up their protein intake.

    • Mostly her own request. She’s a marathoner and works with a trainer who has made her quite nervous, so I’m working to alleviate the fretting!

  42. These are such sensible recommendations about protein.

    Another great source to add is spirulina/chlorella– is it 15g protein per tablespoon?

    I make a delicious salad dressing with tahini, spirulina and nooch, or sometimes sub coconut for the tahini. With oregano and smoky paprika sometimes. So delicious, and so protein-rich too!

    • This looks delish!

      I did crack up about the hummus though. I used to ask my vegan friends about it, and one said “Yeah, it’s the best source of vegan protein besides tofu, seitan, or beans.” When I saw a nutritional label for it, I was like “eh?” Then again, she went vegan for ethics, and didn’t care much about the nutritional aspects beyond the basics. Don’t think she knew about nooch ;-).

      I love hummus to pieces, but it’s not a “protein food” to me…excepting your hempy hummus.

  43. I am making that tonight! I eat a lot of variations on this, but my spices are bland compared to yours…can’t wait to try it!

  44. I share your relaxed but mindful perspective on protein, and the quinoa recipe looks great.

    I’m LOVING your hemp hummus recipe right now…I was surprised that hemp seeds contributed to such a creamy texture, even without the suggested tbs. tahini – esp. given the lack of olive oil. My worry was that the outcome would be dry. And, the nutritonal profile of this hummus is so well balanced and relatively low fat. Most importantly, it’s even more delicious than my traditional hummus. Many thanks, Gena!

  45. Completely agree with your take on protein! Like most things, it’s a balance! You need to look at your personal lifestyle and find what works for your body. It needs to be taken into account, but shouldn’t be the sole focus of your diet.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  46. this looks DELICOUS!!!!! and i love all that info on protein- yeah that must be really tough for raw foodies to get protein.. since nuts is like the only source!

  47. Thank you for addressing the issue regarding protein content in hummus – I’ve always wondered that too!

  48. I tend to think the protein concern has only come about because we’re so used to eat not-whole foods in between meals like cookies and brownies that we’re relying too much on processed food and because of that protein becomes a bigger concern during the 3 standard meals of the Standard American Diet. I know that sine I’ve started getting used to having real food in between meals, whether it’s a handful of nuts, raw veggies, or even canned beans, I’ve been able to destress protein at meals and still feel great.

  49. I so appreciate your discussion of protein, and how inclusive you always are in your reasoning. Thank you for that 🙂

    I can’t get enough quinoa lately. Especially mixing it with freshly simmered pinto beans and making a cheesy sauce to mix with. Love this recipe and will try it soon!

  50. Yum. I am all about nooch and quinoa these day so I will need to try this soon. And thank you for the good advice on protein. I got to the 45-65 gm figure on my own after some research, but it was nice to see you confirm my hunch – t one point my old GP’s advice was that I needed 85-100 grms of lean protein like egg whites for blood sugar stability and weight loss. yeah right – it never worked and i never built muscle mass (or lost weight), whereas now, with plenty of greens and my 50 grm protein/day, sometimes a bit less, I seem to build muscle so much more easily. I only stopped listening to the 85-100 grms of protein advice after doing a lot of my own research.

    Off my soapbox, but needed to mention this: I am visiting my parents now and on a mission to get them on the chia pudding board – particularly my mom who is great about her low-glycemic diet except for breakfast where she just eats fruit (which isnt bad per se, but not ideal for her). So I am working on getting her to add a small scoop of chia pudding to her fruit. So far we have done blueberry (inspired by you), raspberry (natural derivative of blueberry pudding inspiration), sunbutter (I think that one might be out of my chia obsessed brain) and we have pumpkin (your recipe) on deck for tomorrow morning.

    HAve a good trip back to the city.

  51. Yeah, I’ve definitely recently gotten in trouble by eating way too many raw nuts and seeds for my protein fix and have put on a fit of weight. Love the quinoa bowl. Sounds delicious.

  52. Wonderful information, beautifully presented. Your insights could really help a lot of raw foodies, I’ll definitely share them with folks here at The Tree of Life in Arizona. Thank you 🙂

  53. Hi Gena – what is your assessment of how much extra protein active or extremely active women need? I ask because I was a vegetarian for many years, and as I was a teenager/college student, I neglected to ensure I got enough protein. About a month after re-introducing all animal protein except red meat, my swimming times improved drastically. I’ve recently contemplated becoming vegetarian again, but am concerned about how this would impact my training (80-120 minutes a day most days) and thus my overall health. I can see from your delicious recipes that it’s certainly *possible* to get protein, but it might be difficult to get the quantities I need to support my training (which I love).

    • I have the same question & would love to see your thoughts on this Gena. I train for 1/2 and full ironman distance races so I`m also regularly training 1-2hrs or more a day. I find I do have to take care to get the protein in because – for me too – it does make a difference to performance. For me, that’s meant relying a lot more on processed veggie meat analogs, which for more than a few reasons is something I`m working on changing.

      So happy to see the hemp hummus post the other day & this one! Will definitely be trying these out & hoping for more like this.

      • Yes, I really want to know the opinion on protein for athletes. I’ve got another marathon coming up this year and am hoping to smash my time – but I need to make sure I get enough protein 🙂

        • Hey everyone!

          Great question. The client I’ve been doing these recipes for, actually, is a marathoner, hence her concern. I think 80-90 grams or so is a reasonable amount for an athletic person; so you may want to think of this as 30 g per meal, 3x daily, and it’s cool if you go a little below that. Using a vegan protein powder in a smoothie can easily get you to 30; so can a chia pudding with a protein addition. This quinoa bowl for dinner is 30, and a hemp hummus sandwich along with some broccoli or other greens can easily be 30. You jut have to think it through.

          Also, don’t forget that tempeh is VERY protein rich, and you can get a lot from it without eating a huge portion.

          Hope this helps!


          • Yes! I’ve recently rediscovered tempeh and much to my delight have found it the most easily digestible form of soy – much less irritating than tofu for me, perhaps b/c it’s fermented and/or combined with whole grains. Just a half serving (1/4 package) yields 10 grams of protein. I actually like the earthy flavor and simply add a few raw chunks to my salads.

          • Thanks, Gena! I’m sure I wasn’t getting that much back in my previous vegetarian days; I might try again paying more attention this time.

    • I think you all might be interested in this information from my intro to nutrition textbook (science of nutrition 2nd ed by thompson, manore, and vaughn).

      recommended protein intakes
      most adults*: .8 g per kg body weight
      nonvegetarian endurance athletes^: 1.2-1.4 g per kg body weight
      nonvegetarian strength athletes^: 1.6-1.7 g per kg bw
      vegetarian endurance athletes^: 1.3-1.5 g per kg bw
      vegetarian strength athletes^: 1.7-1.8 g per kg bw
      * from IOM 2002
      ^ from ACSA, ADA, and DoC 2001

      I have not read the whole chapter yet but I think the protein recommendations are higher for vegetarians because of the need to combine proteins and because of protein digestibility. animal and soy protein are highly, or ~90% digestible, legumes are also highly, or ~70-80% digestible, and grains and vegetables vary from ~60% to 90% digestibility

  54. oooh this sounds great! I’m not a big fan of quinoa but I’ve actually been craving it lately. Looks like a great packable lunch too!

  55. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on protein for people who don’t eat meat. I always get frustrated when people use to ask me, “So where do you get protein from then?” Grrrr!

  56. “It sort of annoys me that so much of the media touts hummus as a high protein “food,” when it really has only 2 grams per 2 T serving, but this? This is this is the real deal.”

    But I don’t consider 2 T. a serving, I consider that a bite.

  57. Thanks for this post! I always like to read smart advice on protein in vegan diets. And I’ve really been appreciating your recent string of hemp recipes. I made your hemp hummus yesterday, and it really is a treat!

    One question: One piece of advice I’d heard from other vegan nutritionists (Brenda Davis was the first I heard this from, I think) is that we should think less about total grams of protein and more about total percent calories from protein (the general rule of thumb is that protein should account for around 15% of one’s total daily calories). I like thinking about things this way because then, instead of worrying about if I’m getting enough protein rich meals in every day which will add up to however many grams, all I need to think about is whether the foods I’m eating have at least 15% of their calories from protein–which, as the list here shows, are most whole foods, except for fruits. At any rate, this advice has helped me not be so finicky about counting grams of protein, and given me further encouragement to stay away from processed foods and stick with what nature gives us.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ve heard all this information before; I posted it mainly for those other readers that may not have yet. My question for you is: Do you think this is a good, accurate, and healthy way to think about protein in one’s diet?

    • I think it’s a pretty decent way of thinking about it! And I love Brenda’s work. To me, though, it sort of necessitates calorie counting — which is just as time consuming as protein gram counting — and it’s also possibly a little modest for some people as an estimate. For someone eating, say, 2000 kcal daily, this would be only 300 kcal from protein. Fine for some, low for others.

      I don’t think there’s a hard and fast system to follow, but staying in the 50-60 range seems easy for me to process, and once the habit is established, easy to maintain. But I think Davis’ system is useful for those who a) need to move away from processed foods, b) don’t like gram counting. For sure!

  58. I love this recipe. I don’t eat soy, but I think this would still be delightful with a substitution of beans.

    I’m so glad you provided this outline of your views on vegan protein sources; it seems to be a recurring topic of conversation with my acquaintances, so I always appreciate a refresher 🙂