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- Protein is important to keep you full.
- Having protein-packed dinners can make it easier to avoid overeating later.
- INSIDER asked chefs what their favorite protein-packed dinner recipes were and they delivered.
- Here are seven recipes to try when you a high-protein meal.
Whether you’re giving the keto diet a try or simply want to lower your dependence on pasta, bread, and other delicious carbs, high-protein dishes offer a plethora of benefits.
We asked a group of seven professional chefs to share their favorite protein-packed dinners, and they provided us with nutritious recipes with plenty of flavor.
When topped with a runny egg, lentil stew includes both a high count of vitamins and a rich and luxurious texture
If you’re seeking a cheap, easy, and satisfying way to add more protein to your diet, eggs are your new best friend. Even a seemingly super-virtuous dish like lentil stew becomes decadent with a runny egg mixed in, which is why Nashville, Tennessee-based chef Ellie Golemb of Culinarie Kit tops her version of lentil stew with a poached egg.
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“My favorite high-protein dinner is a thick lentil stew served with a runny egg. It’s low-cost and packed with other beneficial nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A & B, so it’s the perfect recovery meal–whether that recovery is from a tough workout or a long night out. This soup can be prepared in 30 minutes on a stovetop or can be tossed together in a crockpot for minimal active cooking time,” Golemb told INSIDER.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 4 carrots, sliced in 1/4″ rounds
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups vegetable broth or stock
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp yellow curry powder
- 1 tsp sea salt (adjust to taste)
- 2 whole eggs
- Fresh black pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro for soup garnish (optional)
- Smoked paprika for egg garnish (optional)
- Sauté onion, carrots, and garlic over medium-high heat until tender.
- Add broth or stock, followed by lentils, lemon juice, curry powder, and salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low on the stovetop (or low in a crockpot).
- Allow lentils to simmer for about 20 minutes on the stovetop (two to three hours in the crockpot), or until the soup thickens.
- When stew is almost ready to serve, season with black pepper and salt to taste.
- Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a rapid boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Stir the water with a spoon to create a whirlpool, then crack two eggs into the spinning water. Leave untouched for four minutes.
- Remove poached eggs with a slotted spoon and put them on top of the bowl of stew. Garnish with cilantro and a pinch of paprika for color and additional flavor.
If you assume that all tofu is flavorless, prepare to have your mind blown by this peanut-crusted spin
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Tofu’s ability to absorb other flavors works to its advantage when used in a bold recipe like peanut-crusted tofu with Asian slaw, a dish devised by executive chef Bonnie Shuman of the Weavers Way co-op grocery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“Between the tofu, peanuts and veggies, [this dish] clocks in at about 16.5 g of protein per serving and has the added benefit of being able to be made [so that it’s] completely vegan and gluten-free. But don’t let that fool you – this dish delivers a punch of flavor and texture that delights even carnivores. Baking the tofu with crunchy peanuts on top and serving with a raw slaw makes for a crispy bite, and the balance of vinegar, sugar and hot sauce in the dressing is a great combo,” Shuman said.
- 1/2 cup crushed salted peanuts
- 14 oz extra firm tofu, drained and cut into ½ inch rectangular pieces
- 1/4 cup Vegenaise (egg-free mayo)
- 1 tsp tamari
- 1/2 small green cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 small red cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1/2 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/3 cup organic safflower oil
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 6 tbsp tamari
- 4.5 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp Sriracha
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Lightly grease a sheet pan with organic safflower oil.
- Whisk the Vegeniase with the tamari until blended.
- Coat one side of each piece of tofu with the Veganaise mixture.
- Cover the surface of the coated side of the tofu completely with crushed peanuts using a spoon and/or your clean hands. Do not attempt to dip the tofu in the crushed peanuts, as it will coagulate the peanut mixture.
- Bake the coated tofu at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until peanuts are roasted toa golden brown.
- Remove and allow to cool while making the slaw.
- Combine cabbage, peppers, scallions and cilantro in a large bowl.
- Whisk together safflower oil, lime juice, and sugar in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.
- Pour the dressing over the slaw mixture and toss.
- Serve the slaw alongside the peanut-coated tofu.
A lean whole fish like branzino packs both abundant protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids
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Also known as European sea bass, branzino is ubiquitous on restaurant menus due to its delicate flavor, flaky texture, and high nutritional value. This fish delivers a solid helping of protein, along with omega-3 acids and antioxidants like selenium. To enjoy branzino in its finest form, try a whole-fish preparation like this one from Chef Giuliano Matarese of Mille Lire in Dallas, Texas.
Matarese said the following about his branzino recipe: “This branzino recipe is one of my favorites for a high-protein meal, as its classic ingredients really let the fantastic flavors of the fish shine – you can quite literally taste the protein. Using lemon, tomatoes, parsley, and garlic, this dish is finished in a generous amount of olive oil for moisture and maximum flavor. You’ll know the dish is ready when you can actually see the protein on the fish as an opaque fiber.”
- 1 whole branzino
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 bunch parsley
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Season the branzino on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper and place it on the parchment paper.
- Surround the branzino with cherry tomatoes, garlic, parsley, and lemon wedges. Drizzle generously with olive oil.
- Fold the parchment paper over the fish and crimp the edges to create a tightly-sealed packet.
- Bake the fish for 20 minutes.
- Place the whole packet on a serving plate, open it, and drizzle the fish with olive oil and freshly-squeezed lemon juice.
For an easy weeknight meal with lots of valuable protein, try shrimp and quinoa
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Kevin Curry of Fit Men Cook specializes in lean dishes with abundant nutritional perks, and when he’s looking for a quick dinner with the energizing power of protein, he turns to his recipe for Southwest Shrimp Quinoa Mix.
“I love this recipe because it’s easy to make ahead [of time] or quickly whip up at dinner time, so long as you have some cooked quinoa in your fridge. You get double doses of protein from the shrimp ([or you] can sub any lean protein) and from the quinoa. Plus, you can easily switch up the flavor profile by replacing the Southwest elements (i.e., bell pepper, chiles, corn, onion, etc) with [ingredients from other] cuisines like Mediterranean ([using] roasted veggies, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta, etc). It’s a really versatile base recipe, so dinner is always interesting,” Curry told INSIDER.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 3/4 cup frozen corn
- 4 cups cooked rainbow quinoa
- 1 cup diced bell peppers
- 8 oz green chile peppers
- 1/2 can no-salt-added black beans, drained
- 1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro, tightly packed
- 1 1/2 lbs raw jumbo shrimp
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Lime slices for garnish
- Set a nonstick skillet on medium heat, and once hot, add olive oil, onion, and garlic. Caramelize for two to three minutes until the onions are brown and somewhat translucent (and be careful not to burn the garlic).
- Once caramelized, increase the heat in the skillet and add frozen corn. Shake the skillet to mix the corn with onions and garlic and cook until the corn is lightly seared on the outside, about two to four minutes, then empty it into a bowl and place the skillet back on the heat.
- Add the shrimp to the skillet and as it cooks, sprinkle in the seasonings. Shake and toss the shrimp in the skillet so the seasoning is distributed and the outside of all edges are seared. Cook for six to eight minutes or until the shrimp turns plump and white. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and fresh lime.
Fuel your workouts with this protein-forward chicken dish that has versatility
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An avid practitioner of CrossFit, executive chef Jonathan Dearden of Radiator in Washington, D.C. said that this savory “steak-spiced” chicken breast with roasted broccoli fits excellently into his active lifestyle.
“My favorite high-protein meal is steak-spiced chicken breast with [jasmine] rice [and] roasted broccoli. Depending on the day, I might enjoy it with half an avocado. I always finish it off with one of my favorite hot sauces: Chipotle Tabasco, Sriracha, or Texas Pete.
“I love this dish because I can eat it multiple times throughout the week without getting bored. If I have a heavy workout and am able to eat more carbs, I throw all the ingredients into a wrap and recreate a Chipotle burrito. On my non-workout day, I eat less of the rice and toss the rest of the ingredients into a salad. It is a super-versatile dish and can be adapted with different proteins such as salmon and shrimp,” Dearden said.
- 1 skinless boneless chicken breast
- 3 tbsp steak seasoning
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- ½ cup jasmine rice
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock or water
- 3 tbsps yellow curry powder
- 1 tbsp garlic salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add jasmine rice, chicken stock, curry powder, and garlic salt to a one-quart sauce pot and stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil, then lower to a light simmer. Cover with lid and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Lay the rice flat on a cooling sheet and fluff with a fork.
- Trim any excess fat from the chicken. Butterfly lengthwise to create two pieces of even thickness and coat with steak seasoning.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. On one side, place the butterflied chicken breast. On the other, place the broccoli florets. Cook for 15 to 18 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees and the broccoli has a nice brown color.
- Allow the chicken to cool, then dice into bite-sized pieces. Mix 1/4 cup of the black beans with the rice. Plate rice, broccoli, and chicken.
A classic cold-weather dish in French cuisine, cassoulet incorporates numerous protein-rich ingredients, like lamb, duck, and beans
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Executive chef Antonio Mora of Quality Meats in New York City trained in French culinary technique, so when it came time for him to select his favorite protein-rich meal, he selected a Gallic staple: the rich stew known as cassoulet.
“I love making cassoulet. It’s a perfect meal [that’s] high in protein with the beans, bacon, lamb, and duck. I love the entire process from start to finish and all of the different techniques that are used when making it: confit duck legs, butchering the lamb, preparing the beans, searing, braising the meats. It’s also a one-pot pick-up when feeding a family, so [it involves] minimal dishes. [You] just need bowls and spoons. Instead of finishing with bread crumbs for texture at the end, you can use toasted crushed walnuts,” Mora told INSIDER.
- 17 oz dry white beans
- 1 lb lamb flank, cut into 1/3 inch cubes
- ½ lb red wine garlic sausage
- 2 lb duck confit
- 12 cloves of garlic
- 1 lb bacon lardons
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 6 oz duck fat
- 4 oz tomato paste
- 3 quarts chicken stock
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 bunch of thyme
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Soak the beans in water overnight.
- In a sauce pot, render a 1/2 pound of bacon lardons until about 75% cooked. Then add onions, 1/3 bunch of thyme, one bay leaf, beans and cold chicken stock to cover beans by around one inch. Add salt and pepper, bring it to boil, and then simmer for 1 hour.
- Once the beans are cooked, sear cubes of lamb in duck fat in a separate pot. You may need to do this in multiple batches to achieve an even sear. Reserve everything.
- In the same pot that you seared the lamb, render the remaining bacon lardons until about 75% cooked. Add remaining onions, carrots garlic, thyme, bay leaves and sauté halfway. Add tomato paste and cook until paste and vegetables are all cooked. Add beans, liquid and lamb, and sausage at this point. You can also add more stock and season if necessary. Bring everything to a boil.
- Cover and place in 300-degree oven for one hour until all elements are perfectly cooked and tender.
- Serve in a bowl garnished with crushed walnuts and thyme.
Popular in Spanish, Mexican, and South American cuisines, albóndigas, or meatballs, are phenomenal sources of both flavor and protein
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When seeking out a dinner recipe rich in protein, executive chef Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo in Austin, Texas opts for a long-standing family tradition: albóndigas al chipotle y alcaparras.
“Albóndigas is a family-favorite dish,” de la Vega said. “I still use my mom’s recipe for these meatballs. The spiciness of the chipotle and the tanginess of the capers make the dish very flavorful. I serve it with white rice, black beans, and freshly made corn tortillas, and it is a hit.”
- 4 lbs ripe tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ medium white onion
- 1 tbsp dried Oaxacan oregano
- 2 cloves
- 3 black peppercorns
- 2 chipotles
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 large egg
- 1 large slice of stale bread
- ½ cup of water
- 15 chopped capers
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place halved tomatoes in batches in the blender, along with garlic, onion, half of the oregano, cloves, black pepper, chipotles, and water.
- Heat the oil in a large casserole pot, big enough to hold all of the meatballs in one layer.
- Cook the tomato and veggie puree over medium-high heat until it changes color (about 10 minutes). Reserve a 1/2 cup of this mixture and keep the rest in the pot. Season with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to low.
- Cut the bread into chunks. Place in a bowl and add enough water to cover. Soak for eight minutes (or until soft) and squeeze out the excess water.
- In a big bowl, mix together the ground meat, the rest of the oregano, capers, bread, egg, salt, and pepper. Add enough of the reserved tomato puree to create an easy-to-handle mixture (add more egg or bread to thicken if necessary). Roll the meat mixture into 2 oz balls and immediately place into the tomato-chipotle sauce on the stove. Bring to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.