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A variety of brown bowls filled with vegetables, tofu, and chickpeas on a grey table.

Vegetarian Meal Ideas with Protein

There are many delicious and simple ways to get the nutrients you need without meat.

By Clover Health

Are you unsure about removing meat from your diet? Maybe you’re thinking, “there’s no way I’ll get enough protein.” Well, think again! 

Check out these ideas for packing the protein in your next meatless meal.

5 Ways to Use a Can of Chickpeas

Keep a few cans of chickpeas (sometimes labeled “garbanzo beans”) in the pantry and you’ll always have a quick, inexpensive way to add protein into your meals. 

Chickpeas are winners in the nutrition lottery. They’re low in calories and fat and are high in fiber and protein. Check the label and opt for cans marked “low sodium” or “no salt added.”   

  1. Roast for a snack:  Roasted chickpeas make for a great snack or salad topper. Try replacing croutons with a handful of roasted chickpeas. Simply drain the liquid from a can of chickpeas, rinse them, and dry. Toss with a dash of olive oil and any other spices you like (curry, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder). Spread them out on parchment paper on a sheet pan and roast at 425 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes until brown and crispy.
  2. Smash for a sandwich: Looking for a quick sandwich idea? Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them in a mixing bowl. Smash them with a fork or potato masher, a squeeze of lemon juice or a spoon of mustard, chopped celery, pickles and red onion and a tablespoon or two of tahini (available in most supermarkets in the international foods aisle). This chickpea mash is a great sandwich spread on whole wheat toast, pita, or even on its own.
  3. Toss in a salad: No need to get too fancy. If you’re making a green or pasta salad, add a half cup of rinsed chickpeas in before you top with dressing. They’ll add texture and a punch of protein.
  4. Puree for soup: Making tomato or another vegetable soup? If you have an immersion blender, stir in a 1/3 cup of rinsed chickpeas and puree. If not, use a blender, working in batches. Serve with fresh bread and a salad, and you’ve got a simple, healthy meal!
  5. Blend for hummus: All you need is a can of rinsed chickpeas, 1/3 cup of tahini, a drizzle of olive oil, a clove of fresh garlic (or garlic powder) and a little salt. Puree all the ingredients in your blender, adding a few tablespoons of water to get to the consistency you like. Serve with warm pita or cut-up veggies and enjoy!

A plate of chickpea, lemon, tomato, and cucumber salad with an avocado and fork on the side placed on a grey table.

How to Make Tasty Tofu

Tofu gets a bad rap. True, by itself it’s not much to get excited about. But with a little bit of seasoning and you’ve got a truly delicious addition to any meal that’s rich in protein and low in calories. 

Follow these tips to get started. Then, start experimenting with this versatile, healthy ingredient. 

  1. Buy the right kind: For most meat-style meals, you’ll want firm or extra firm tofu. If you’re looking to add tofu to a smoothie or blend into a pudding, go for silken.
  2. Squeeze it: That firm or extra-firm tofu generally comes floating in a water bath. Before you add any seasonings, you’ll want to squeeze out the water so it can absorb your seasoning better. Just remove it from the water, wrap it in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, and place a heavy object on top (a cast iron skillet, or a cutting board with a few heavy books on top will work). In about 30 minutes, it’ll be ready for seasoning. (No need to press silken tofu—just drain it and you’re ready to go.)
  3. Season: What’s your favorite marinade for chicken or beef? It’ll work just fine on tofu! Cut your pressed tofu into cubes and marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. Then you can sauté or bake it (400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, flipping the pieces halfway through). You can also put it in your air fryer! The nice thing about tofu is it’s done when it’s browned and crispy. Just serve with veggies and rice.

Another great way to sneak tofu into your diet? Blend it. A 1/2 block of silken tofu, 1/2 cup of soy milk, a banana and the frozen fruit of your choice: It’s all you need for a healthy, protein-rich smoothie. A dash of honey or maple syrup is fine if you need more sweetness, and add a few ice cubes if it’s not thick enough.

If you’re in need of some more meatless-meal inspiration, check out these recipes for Red Lentil Dal With Citrus and Herbs, One-Pot Saucy Beans and Eggs, and Sheet-Pan Shawarma Cauliflower. Bon appétit! 


Published on 4/1/22

Photo credit: iStock