High-Protein Alternatives to Meat

March 08, 2023

Essential Survival Protein Sources You Can Eat Today

In this blog, we are going to give you almost 50 different affordable sources of vital protein, way beyond meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. With the price of meat skyrocketing, many of us are looking for alternate sources of the vital macronutrient protein.  Most of the sources we will show you in this blog can be stored in the pantry with no electricity.   We’ll also show three recipes along with showing you how to cook these protein packed meals.  So, you’ll definitely want to watch this one all the way through.


BeansAll plants contain protein, and here we will list some of the big ones.  If the food has more protein in it than the equivalent 3 ounces of steak, more than 21 grams per 3 ounces, we’ll put an asterisk on it.

Beans are often viewed as a primary protein source, and they are loaded with protein, as we will see.  They are not a complete protein, though, so they shouldn’t be the only source of protein on your menu.  

When it comes to beans, 3 ounces of:

  • Pinto Beans have 23.4 grams of protein*
  • Kidney Beans have 20 grams of protein
  • Adzuki Beans have 17 grams of protein
  • Black Beans have 6 grams of protein
  • Lima Beans have 6.5 grams of protein
  • Great Northern Beans have 7.2 grams of protein


LegumesBoth peas and beans are legumes. There are about 16,000 types of beans and legumes grown all over the world in different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures.  While they both belong to the family Leguminosae or Fabaceae, beans and peas are completely different plants, coming from different genus and species.  We’re not going to go into that debate, but we have to list this protein source here because it’s another plant-based protein power source.

When it comes to legumes, 3 ounces of:

  • Lupini Beans have 31 grams of protein*
  • Soybeans have 31 grams of protein*
  • Lentils have 22 grams of protein*
  • Peanuts have 22.2 grams of protein*
  • Chickpeas have 16.3 grams of protein
  • Green Peas have 5 grams of protein
  • Lima Beans have 6.5 grams of protein


Tabouli salad or Tabbouleh is a simple Mediterranean salad of very finely chopped vegetables, lots of fresh parsley, mint, and bulgur wheat, all tossed with lemon juice and olive oil.  There are thousands of variations, and I don’t use bulgar wheat, we use Amaranth and Quinoa to make it a healthier, protein-packed, gluten-free salad.

Add 3 ounces each of Quinoa and Amaranth, adding the juice of a half lemon.  Top off with enough boiling water to just cover the grains.  This will soften them. Chop a handful or so of mint. Chop 1 or 2 bunches of parsley. Slice diagonally, then deseed and finely cube a cucumber. Cube 1 large tomato.  Some people deseed them, but we don’t bother.  We can’t tell the difference in a salad. Chop at least 2 scallions, more if you like a little more bite to the salad.  We’ll also add about a dozen chopped black olives.  Returning to my Amaranth and Quinoa, it has absorbed almost all of the liquid, cooked, and softened a bit.  To this, we are going to add 1 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Then the juice of the other half of the lemon and one more.  You can pass on the second lemon if you don’t like it too lemony.  We find that the lemon absorbs right in and incorporates pretty well.  To this, you will add all your chopped vegetables.  Then mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated and mixed.  You will want to refrigerate this overnight to let the flavors come together and to let the grains continue to soften.  Serve chilled with crackers or pita bread and enjoy.  The whole salad has about 26 grams of plant protein in it.  You could throw in some lupini beans and give it an even bigger protein kick.  There really aren’t too many rules with Tabouli.


NutsHere are some tree nuts with their protein equivalency per 3 ounces:

  • Black Walnuts have 20.4 grams of protein
  • Almonds have 18.1 grams of protein
  • Pistachios 17.4 grams of protein
  • Walnuts have 13 grams of protein
  • Hazel Nuts have 12.9 grams of protein
  • Brazil Nuts have 12 grams of protein
  • Hickory Nuts have 10.8 grams of protein
  • Pine Nuts have 9.9 grams of protein
  • Pili Nuts have 9 grams of protein
  • Acorns have 6.9 grams of protein


SeedsSeeds, like nuts, get touted as a protein powerhouse, and they are, with at least one ranking higher than that 3-ounce steak.

  • Hemp Hearts have 26.4 grams of protein*
  • Pumpkin seeds have 19.8 grams of protein
  • Sunflower seeds have 17.4 grams of protein
  • Flax seeds have 15.6 grams of protein
  • Sesame seeds have 15 grams of protein
  • Chia seeds have 14.1 grams of protein
  • Buckwheat has 11.4 grams of protein


Baby Lima BeansWe purposely picked recipes that have unlimited variations.  Chili fits that bill.  This is a protein and fiber powerhouse that you can flavor and spice up as you like.  We are going to go light on the spice with this version.  

Chop and saute one large onion, three garlic cloves, and maybe a hot pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil or the fat of your choice.  To this add a few tablespoons of tomato paste and stir.  Add a little water if needed to keep the contents from sticking.  To this, we will add 3 ounces each of black beans, lima beans, white beans, lentils, and pinto beans.  Stir those in until all ingredients are well incorporated.  As that cooks, we’ll add two large pinches of sea salt.  After a few minutes, we add 24 ounces of chicken stock and 16 ounces of water.  Finally, we will add 2 tablespoons of taco mix chile powder and a ¼ teaspoon of cumin as my seasonings.  On a stovetop or fire you would bring this to a boil, cover, then lower it to a simmer for a few hours until the beans are soft, adding water as needed.  In our pressure cooker, we just set it on high for 30 minutes, and that’s it.  This makes about 2-3 quarts of chili that has about 66 grams of protein, but we wouldn’t suggest you try and eat all that chili in one sitting.

Pseudocereals & Grains

Whole OatsSome pseudocereals and grains have high levels of oxalates in them and should be cooked, but the cooking process also denatures the protein and destroys some of the amino acids.

  • Whole Oats have 14.4 grams of protein
  • Teff has 12 grams of protein
  • Spelt has 12 grams of protein
  • Amaranth has 11.4 grams of protein
  • Quinoa has 10.8 grams of protein
  • Millet has 10 grams of protein
  • Wheat flour has 9 grams of protein


Oatmeal CookiesThis is our favorite oatmeal cookie recipe.   Cream together ¾ cup softened or melted butter with 1 cup brown sugar and a ½ cup white sugar.  Add 4 teaspoons vanilla and continue to mix until all is incorporated.  Add two eggs and stir.  When that is all incorporated, add 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, and 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Mix until well incorporated. To this, we are going to add an ounce and a half each of flax seeds and sesame seeds and one-ounce chia seeds, but to make the protein in those hard seeds more bioavailable we are going to pulse them in the blender.  Mix until incorporated.  We’re also going to add 3 ounces of shaved almonds.  Finally, add 2 cups whole oats and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.  Roll these into 1 ½ balls onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and allow an inch or two between cookies.  Cook for 12-15 minutes in a 375-degree, 190 celsius, oven.  Place on a wire rack to cool.  We think these cookies taste better after they have cooled.  This will make roughly 2 dozen cookies.  The entire batch we estimate to have about 114 grams protein, which is 4.75 grams per cookie.

Amino Acids

Don’t view protein like you do other nutrients.  We often think of nutrients like oxygen.  The O2 you breathe in is actually two oxygen atoms, and these get transferred from the lungs to hemoglobin, pumped to cells, and eventually directly absorbed into the cell sap of all our individual cells.  Some nutrients are like that– iron and other minerals, for instance.  Protein is nothing like that, which is why all the nutritional labels and your body’s requirements are all over the place in their estimations.

Let us simplify this by explaining that protein comes in two basic types- natured and denatured. Just picture that like tightly held together and inaccessible versus loose and accessible.  Cooking, chewing, and digestion denatures these proteins.  You might take in 21 grams of protein in a 3-ounce steak, but your body may only be able to break down a fraction of that.  Also, the body doesn’t retain the protein in its protein form.  The body breaks down consumed protein into amino acids and absorbs it. Then, it is used to build muscles and organs, to make hormones and antibodies, to be stored as fat, and to be burned as energy.  The body makes the proteins it needs from the amino acids.  So, the protein we take in gets broken down into amino acids and modified or manufactured into proteins again to fit the body’s needs.  Roughly there are 500 amino acids in nature.  Our bodies use just about 20 of those.  11 of those the body makes from food ingested, and the other nine it needs from food digested.  What we call a “complete protein” contains all 9 of those essential amino acids.

It is very possible that if you only had one protein source, you might not have all of the amino acids you need.  This would result in a short time in a protein deficiency- hypoproteinemia.  Your body would then turn on itself, at first, and cannibalize cells to get to the amino acids it needs.  Eventually, your muscles will wither, bones will be more susceptible to fractures, immunity systems will falter, your hair will fall out, and eyes and organs will fail, along with a decrease in hormones and enzymes needed to maintain physiology.  Though the extreme effects onset gradually, they can begin mere days after protein in your diet drops. 

To summarize what you need to know:

  • You can’t store protein in protein form
  • Protein must be broken down into amino acids by the body
  • Your body can’t function without amino acids.

You can see that the easiest way to ensure you are getting all the amino acids you need is to eat a wide array of protein sources in foods that your body can easily access.  The protein in some mashed-up beans is probably better absorbed than a lump of steak that has only been chewed.  Understanding this, let’s turn back to alternative protein sources.

Mushrooms & Vegetables

MushroomsThere are a lot of foods that contain protein in small amounts.  We will add mushrooms and vegetables here, though they don’t contain much per ounce.

  • Oyster mushrooms have  2.7  grams of protein
  • Broccoli has 2.4 grams of protein
  • Spinach has 2.4 grams of protein
  • Shiitake has 1.8 grams of protein
  • Morels have  1.8 grams of protein

If you want to stay in touch with the carnivore side of yourself and are desperate for an abundant and replenishable protein source, there’s a final category we will include here that many will find unappealing, but is a source.

Bugs & Worms

Meal WormsMost will find this unappealing, but it’s worth meaning so you know. Here is what 3 ounces of insects equates to as a protein source:

  • Crickets have 48 grams of protein*
  • Worms have 20 grams of protein*
  • Beetles have 19 grams of protein
  • Ants have 12 grams of protein
  • Meal Worms have 17 grams of protein

We won’t include any recipes for this, but again, we just wanted to bring this up so you know.

When it comes to protein, your body can’t function properly for very long without it.  While most organic matter we consume has protein in small amounts, the quantity and our body’s ability to process and assimilate it can vary widely.  The winners here for your pantry are pinto beans, most of your legumes, lentils, lupini beans, peanuts, and soybeans; finally, a winner is hemp hearts because they actually have more protein than 3 ounces of steak.  Many of your vegan powdered protein mixes are hemp heart and soybean-based.  Other winners are sunflower, amaranth, and buckwheat because they are complete proteins in that they contain those nine essential amino acids, plus you can easily grow them.  

Most tree nuts also make my list if they grow in your area.  They don’t have as much protein, but they store and transport well.  Any of these sources of protein that can be easily dried and stored is reason enough to get a wide array of them in your food inventory.  All of them provide minerals, enzymes, and vitamins that make them great sources of nutrition beyond just being a protein source.

Don’t just stockpile food in your prepping food supplies.  Make sure you have the right nutrition to get you through any disaster.  At the very least, make sure you have a protein powder that you can use and rotate out, so you’re getting your minimum daily needs.  A final warning, though, is that too much of anything can be bad.  The same is true with protein.  You are better off getting a wide array of protein sources in varied quantities than you are blasting your body with a megadose of protein.  We have heard of some athletes who have had too much protein– more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.  The results of that intake can have a horrible impact on the body, putting a metabolic burden on the bones, kidneys, and liver.  Make protein part of the meal, but not the whole meal, and get what your body needs from multiple sources.

As always, stay safe out there.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x