Eggs are pretty much synonymous with protein in the average American diet. Considering how much protein there actually is in an egg—six grams in one large egg and seven in an extra large, per the USDA—it’s understandable that we rely so heavily on the affordable, versatile chicken egg to get our protein. In 2018 the U.S. produced a staggering 279 table eggs per person, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
But say you’re not an egg person—or you’re eating vegan, or you’re an egg-eater who’s just looking to diversify their protein intake. Well, there are actually tons of richer sources of the vital macronutrient out there, including familiar animal proteins like meat, dairy, and seafood as well as various plant proteins like beans and legumes. Here are 20 foods that outdo the protein in eggs.
1 Adzuki beans
9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving (cooked)
Adzuki beans may not be as popular as their cousins—garbanzo beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans—but they do have a tiny bit of an edge on most when it comes to protein content. Of course, they’re also absurdly high in fiber, at eight grams a serving.
19 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving
Ah, salmon. With its gorgeous pink hue, luscious texture, distinctive taste, and ease of cooking, salmon is one of the most beloved kinds of fish for good reason. Salmon is also a fantastic way to incorporate protein and those omega-3 fatty acids you’re always being told to eat more of.
10 grams of protein per 1 cup serving
This thick, creamy drink is packed with protein, probiotics, and tangy flavor. Somewhere between milk and yogurt, kefir works well in smoothies and can also be used in a surprising number of cooking and baking recipes, from chicken to pancakes. Or buy a fruit-flavoured variety to enjoy a cup on its own.
4 Pumpkin seeds
10 grams of protein per ¼ cup serving
Although pumpkin seeds are considered a fat (given they contain 14 grams per serving), they are also extremely high in protein. The iron-rich seeds are wonderful raw or roasted. Have a handful as a snack, mix some into trail mix, or sprinkle a few over soup or salad for some nutritious crunch.
9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving
Soy in its whole, natural form is bright green, slightly crunchy, and darn delicious. Sprinkle whole pods with sea salt for an appetizer, buy freeze-dried edamame for a snack to munch on at work, or add pre-shelled frozen edamame to a stir-fry or pasta salad.
13 grams of protein per ½ cup serving
Aside from having a really fun name, quark is awesome for several reasons. Technically a fresh cheese, it’s functionally like a German version of Greek yogurt. You can eat it by the spoonful with yummy toppings, throw it in a smoothie, or use it in place of sour cream or cream cheese.
31 grams of protein per 6.5 oz. can
Canned tuna is wildly underrated all around. Not only does it have piles of protein, it’s also inexpensive, shelf-stable, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can’t go wrong with a classic tuna-salad sandwich. But, of course, if you’re a fancy tuna kind of person, tuna steaks and sashimi are great choices too.
16 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving
Tempeh is a lot like tofu when it comes to its versatility and high flavor absorbency. The difference is that tempeh is considerably higher in protein, plus it’s firmer and has a nuttier flavor. It’s traditionally made from fermented soybeans, often with the addition of a grain or seed like rice, millet, or flax seed.
9 Peanut butter
8 grams of protein per 2 Tbsp. serving
While peanut butter is more known for its fat content (16 grams per serving), it also has an impressive amount of protein (plus a bit of fiber, at 3 grams per serving). Creamy or crunchy, it’s a great way to get protein in with a sweeter snack, like a PB&J or an apple and PB.
24 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving (breast, cooked)
Regardless of which came first in the metaphysical sense, chickens definitely come before their own eggs in terms of protein content. The weeknight dinner staple is also filling, affordable, freezable, and infinitely versatile. To get a little more fat alongside your protein here, eat it with the skin on or go for thighs.
11 Cottage cheese
12 grams of protein per 1/2 cup serving
If you’re looking for a no-cook way to get in some protein at breakfast, trade your eggs for a bowl of cottage cheese—there’s about twice as much protein in a serving as in an egg. The little cups are super convenient if you’re on the go, and the ones that have fruit on the side are especially delicious.
12 Hemp seeds
10 grams of protein per 3 Tbsp. serving
Hemp seeds are full of so much great stuff. Along with a lot of protein and fat in a little serving, they’re practically bursting with vitamins and minerals. A serving provides 20% of the Daily Value (DV) of iron, 45% DV of magnesium, 35% DV of phosphorus, 25% DV of zinc, 45% DV of copper, 100% DV of manganese, and 25% the DV of thiamin!
9 grams of protein per 1/2 cup serving (cooked)
This mighty legume is extremely rich in both protein and fiber. There are tons of different kinds of lentils, each with a slightly different taste and texture: brown, green, French, red, black. Lentils are a cinch to cook, but you can also buy them cooked and canned for dinner in a pinch.
21 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving (cooked)
Tilapia is another fantastic source of protein that comes from the sea. The tender, mild white fish has a broad appeal and wide range. Try it baked in parchment paper, fried, on a sandwich, broiled, over rice or pasta, or in a fish stew.
15 Greek yogurt
20 grams of protein per 7 oz. container
Greek yogurt took the dairy aisle by storm years ago, and we’ve never looked back. The superthick breakfast go-to is at its creamiest in full-fat and reduced-fat varieties, but whatever kind you choose will be positively packed with protein. Top with fresh fruit, granola, nuts, seeds, honey, or agave.
Seiman Choi photography / Getty Images
8 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving
There is no shortage of novel meat substitutes these days, but plain old tofu remains a truly excellent source of plant-based protein for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. You can actually whip up a pretty great breakfast scramble using the soy product, which is available in varying degrees of firmness.
20 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving
These diminutive crustaceans pack a jumbo protein punch. While you might usually enjoy shrimp as a party appetizer (shrimp cocktail) or seafood restaurant treat (shrimp scampi), you shouldn’t overlook them for weeknight dinners. Frozen usually works just as well as fresh.
18 Black beans
8 grams of protein per ½ cup serving (cooked)
Black beans are usually touted for their fiber content—definitely impressive, at six grams per half cup. But this legume, popular in Mexican dishes, is just as rich in protein. Buy canned black beans for maximum convenience and toss them into salads or chilis for a protein-fiber double whammy.
19 Cow’s milk
8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving
Dairy milk’s popularity has certainly been encroached on by its plant-based rivals in the past few years—but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is more or less liquid protein. Whether you like to drink skim, reduced fat, whole, or chocolate milk, milk is also a great source of calcium and vitamin D.
26 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving (breast, cooked)
The juicy Thanksgiving star is a celebration-worthy source of protein any day of the year. If you don’t feel like oven-roasting the whole darn bird, try using ground turkey in a burger or stir-fry, deli slices in a lunch sandwich, or diced breast in a salad.