8 unusual sources of veggie protein + a lentil balls recipe

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One of the biggest mistakes I made last year when I decided to go vegetarian for a month, was not doing enough research before I made the change.

Which meant I ended up struggling to have enough energy.

Fortunately, a quick email to a nutritionist friend put me on the right path. I needed to make sure I was getting enough protein.

Tiredness problem solved.

This year, I’ve adopted a more moderate approach to vegetarianism by going meatless on Mondays.

It can be easy to rely on the old veggie protein favourites like eggs, lentils, cheese and beans. So here are some more unusual vegetarian protein sources to help you avoid falling into a meatless Monday rut, as it were.

8 unusual sources of veggie protein

1. brussels sprouts
I’m always on the look out for excuses to eat more brussels sprouts, like these. Until I did some investigation, I didn’t know that brussels are one of the highest sources of protein for green vegetables.

2. kale
With a similar level of protein to brussels sprouts, kale is another great veggie to choose to help boost your protein intake. It’s cabbage cousins also contain some protein but aren’t as well endowed as kale.

3. edamame
While I automatically think of soy and tofu for veggie protein, I hadn’t every linked the moreish green soy beans in Japanese restaurants with soy and protein.

4. sunflower seeds
I tend to forget about seeds as a great nutritional source. While sesame and flax (linseeds) are no slouches in the protein department, sunflower seeds have the highest protein content. A recent Stonesoup commenter finds roasted sunflower seeds a great alternative to bacon. Need to investigate that one.

5. tempeh
Made from fermented soy beans, tempeh is even higher in protein than tofu and has the added bonus of a healthy does of microbes. The flavour is nutty and I find it much stronger than tofu. To be honest I’m still trying to find a great way to prepare it, so if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

6. almonds
While nuts in general, contain decent amounts of protein, almonds contain the most protein and least carbs of the nut family. They’re wonderful as a snack or tossed in salads.

Almond meal or ground almonds make a great gluten-free flour substitute in baking, such as in these chocolate muffins or my supermoist carrot cake. It’s also useful in savoury cooking. See the lentil balls below. Or try it instead of flour in your favourite fritter recipe.

7. quinoa
While not technically a grain, quinoa sure acts like one. With twice the protein content of rice, it weighs in with considerably higher protein than its grain siblings. I love the texture of cooked quinoa. If you’d like to learn more, you may find this post useful.

8. seitan
Made from wheat protein, seitan can be made to have a similar texture to meat. People with gluten sensitivies should of course steer clear. I’m yet to find a source of it in Australia.

And thanks to the lovely Mel from Dietriffic for inspiring this post.

a meatless monday supper menu
lentil balls with tomato sauce
green salad

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lentil balls with tomato sauce recipe
takes 5 mins prep + 20 mins cooking
serves 2

Don’t be alarmed by the appearance of these little lentil balls, they’re actually a lot more delicious than they look. The lentils, almond meal and egg combine to create a wonderfully satisfying ball texture.

I’ve also used almond meal in actual meat balls instead of bread crumbs and was really happy with the results. If you need to feed some carnivores, soften a chopped onion and combine it with about 300g (10oz) minced (ground) beef and 75g almond meal. Shape into balls and bake in tomato passata as per the lentil ball recipe.

I like to serve these simply in a bowl with parmsean on top and a green salad on the side. Feel free to serve tossed in with pasta, or zucchini noodles.

1 can lentils (400g/14oz), drained
75g (3oz) almond meal
1 egg
1 jar tomato passata (tomato puree) (700g/24oz)
parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).

2. Roughly mash lentils in a large bowl with a fork, then add almond meal and the egg. Mix and season.

3. Place tomato passata in the base of a large oven proof dish. Using a soup spoon, form the lentil mixture into small balls. Placing them in the sauce as you go.

4. Drizzle very generously with extra virgin olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes or until balls are firm and the sauce has reduced a little.

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simple green salad
takes 5 mins
serves 2

It’s hard to beat a good mixed leaf salad to add a bit of colour and greenery to most meals. You can quickly make your dressing and pop the leaves on top while the lentils are in the oven. Then you just need to toss the salad at the table. Too easy

I love a good aged sherry vinegar for my dressings but other wine vinegars or lemon juice are also good.

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large handfuls mixed washed salad leaves

1. Combine vinegar and oil in the base of a salad bowl. Taste and season generously, remembering that the leaves are going to dilute the dressing.

2. Toss in the leaves to coat.

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video version of the recipe

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