Cooking with plant-based protein foods

Estimated reading time
3 minutes

Cooking with plant-based protein foods doesn’t need to be complicated! Follow these tips to learn how you can incorporate them in your meals and snacks.

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Types of plant-based protein foods

There are many types of plant-based proteins foods, such as:

  • legumes
    • split peas
    • chickpeas
    • lentils (red and green)
    • lima, black, or kidney beans
  • soy products 
    • tofu
    • tempeh
    • unsweetened  fortified soy beverages
    • soybeans (edamame and dried soybeans)
  • nuts, seeds, and nut butters
    • walnuts
    • almonds
    • pumpkin seeds
    • sunflower seeds
    • peanut butter, nut butter or non-nut alternatives

Choosing plant-based protein foods

Plant-based protein foods are part of a healthy eating pattern and can be budget friendly. Follow these tips to choose healthier options and save money.

Choose healthier options

When selecting plant-based protein foods, choose those that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat. These include: 

  • lower sodium or unseasoned tofu and tempeh
  • unsweetened yogurts and fortified soy beverages
  • dry roasted nuts without added sugar, fat, or sodium
  • nut butters that only contain nuts or seeds in its ingredient
  • dry legumes instead of canned, or lower-sodium canned legumes

Save money

Many plant-based protein foods can be inexpensive and some, like legumes, have a long shelf life. To eat healthily and stick to your budget, try:

  • stocking-up on beans, lentils and other legumes 
    • dried legumes are usually less expensive than canned 
  • buying tofu in bulk or when it is on sale and freezing it
  • storing leftover cooked beans in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months

To save money when buying nuts, seeds, and non-nut alternatives, try:

  • buying raw nuts and roasting them at home 
  • checking grocery flyers for sales on nuts and nut butters 

Preparing and cooking plant-based protein foods

Plant-based protein foods often have a neutral taste so they work well in many recipes. Follow these tips to help you incorporate them to your favourite meals.

Prepare in advance

To prepare plant-based protein foods before cooking or eating them: 

  • press tofu before cooking to remove excess water 
    • this will help the tofu sear and become crispy when cooked  
  • marinate tempeh and tofu before cooking to add flavour  
    • use your favourite homemade dressing with oils that are healthy fats and your favourite seasonings
  • store natural nut butters upside down in the fridge after opening
    • this can help prevent the natural oils from separating
  • soak dry beans overnight to rehydrate them and rinse canned beans 
    • this will reduce sodium and make them easier to digest 
    • dry lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked overnight 

Add to your recipes

There are many ways you can add plant-based proteins to your recipes. Try:

  • adding beans to chilis, burgers and quesadillas 
  • using nut butter to prepare sauces for noodle dishes 
  • thickening sauces, soups and smoothies with blended soft tofu 
  • steaming uncooked edamame or roast chickpeas and eat as a snack 
  • topping salads with almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or chickpeas 
  • sautéing extra firm tofu or tempeh and add to stir-fries, noodles, or sandwiches 
  • adding lentils to soups, sauces, and dishes with ground meat, like Shepherd’s Pie
  • substituting dairy products in recipes with unsweetened soy beverages and yogurt 

Further reading