No matter what your budget is, you can thrive with plants. So, here are some choices for the most affordable sources of plant-based protein:
Beans are one of the most well-known sources of plant-based protein. As per the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service, the one cup of black beans from a can costs an average of $0.58. If you cook your own beans, you can save even more at just $0.25 per cup of cooked black beans, so we recommend buying dry beans over canned, but keep a can of beans on hand for quick meal prep. At 15 grams of protein per serving for black beans, it’s easy for anyone eating plant-based to get enough protein through eating beans.
Black beans are just one example of affordable beans, so if you don’t like them, don’t worry. Here are more options for you to choose from: kidney beans, navy beans, lima beans, pigeon peas, black-eyed peas, mung beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, and soybeans. Of course, you may even come across some varieties that aren’t listed, so keep an eye out for new ingredients.
Beans are also versatile and you can do a lot more with them than throw together a pot of chili. You can also make curry, burgers, plant-based meatloaf, and even dessert. If you’re new to cooking beans, read The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Beans to master how to cook beans the right way. Then, read 7 Ways to Cook Beans to Make Them More Exciting, 10 Ways to Cook Beans With Global Flavors, and These 25 Recipes Will Make You Love Beans.
Scooping a spoonful or two of peanut butter as a snack is one of the greatest of life’s little pleasures. What’s even better is not only is peanut butter delicious, it’s also a cheap source of plant-based protein. In 2017, creamy peanut butter costs an average of about $2.50 per pound, making it an affordable source of plant-based protein. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain eight grams of protein (though protein content may also vary by brand), which is 16 percent of your daily recommended allowance (RDA). While, yes, peanut butter does contain fat, it contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which our bodies need in order to stay healthy. Just make sure that you read the ingredients label before you buy a jar because unfortunately, a lot of peanut butter manufacturers like to add extra ingredients like palm oil, sugar, and other unnecessary ingredients. Choose peanut butter made from 100 percent peanuts and you’re golden.
Our favorite uses for peanut butter are stuffing a spoonful into a Medjool date as a pre-workout snack, adding it to smoothies, smoothie bowls, or nice cream, peanut butter brownies, and making energy bites.
Tempeh has been used as a high-protein alternative to meat in East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures for centuries and guess what? We love it, too. One cup of tempeh contains 31 grams of protein, over half of the RDA for men and women, and it is also a complete protein, meaning it provides you with all the necessary amino acids. Also, because tempeh is a fermented food, eating it is good for your gut. Look for store-brand tempeh at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s — both are cheaper than better-known brands you’ll find.
As with tofu, you might not like tempeh until you learn to cook it the right way. Read 5 Tips for Making Amazing Tempeh Dishes and then try out 25 Super Rad Recipes Made With Tempeh. Some of our favorite uses are tempeh bacon, in stews as a replacement for meat, traditional Asian dishes, in plant-based reubens, and more.
Costing an average of just $0.20 per cup, lentils are one of the cheapest sources of high-protein plant-based foods you can buy. They are also high in fiber and carbohydrates, which give you the feeling of being full. Like beans, there are a lot of varieties to choose from, such as brown, French green, red, Beluga, and more than you might come across while browsing the dried pulse section of Indian grocery stores.
Pulse-based pastas are one of the latest trends to hit the market and in a short span of time, we have seen a wide variety of pastas hit the shelves. But first, what is a pulse-based pasta? Rather than traditional dry pastas, which are typically made from semolina flour or whole wheat flour, pulse-based pastas are made from the flours of dried pulses like chickpeas, lentils, beans, and more. Compared to traditional pasta, pulse-based pasta is higher in protein and fiber (chickpea pasta, for example, boasts 14 grams protein and eight grams of fiber), plus it’s typically gluten-free and grain-free, so those with allergies can still enjoy a big plate of pasta.
If you’re interested in trying pulse-based pasta, read 15 Nutrient-Dense and Grain-Free Pastas You Can Buy Online (or check your local Trader Joe’s for affordable options like black bean pasta and red lentil pasta) and then check out our vegan pasta recipes page for inspiration.
What’s your favorite way to get plant-based protein on a budget? Let us know in the comments below!
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
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