38 High-Protein Foods

Bowl of beef jerky
Beef jerky is second in our list with 34g of protein per 100g (Image credit: Vadim Zakirov / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Whatever your aim is when it comes to fitness, the hard work doesn’t end when you finish your workout. If you’re not backing up your exercise with a similar level of commitment in the kitchen, you’re going to find it very hard to realize the benefits.

One key dietary consideration for active people is protein intake, which plays a vital role in building muscle. When you exercise you cause microscopic tears in your muscles, and to repair them so the muscles grow back bigger and stronger you need the amino acids that you get from protein. And even if you’re not smashing out workouts every day of the week, protein is a vital nutrient because of its role in building and maintaining body tissue.

The Dietary Reference Intake for protein is 0.8g per kg of bodyweight, or 0.36g per pound, but if you are especially active you’ll want to increase that amount. We spoke to specialist dietitian Susan Short about how much protein you should eat each day to build muscle and she said strength athletes should consume 1.2-2g per kg of bodyweight per day, while endurance athletes will require 1.2-1.8g per kg of bodyweight.

Fortunately, it’s easy to ensure you consume the correct amount of this essential macronutrient, whatever your requirements. Adults in the US generally eat more of it than they actually need to, according to Harvard Health. Not because everyone in the country is seeking to bulk up—protein is simply found in significant amounts in a wide variety of delicious foods that we already eat regularly. But we can be smarter about the protein-rich foods we choose, not least to expand our diet to enjoy a wider range of micronutrients.

To help you hit your protein goals we’ve compiled an extensive list of foods that are especially high in the macronutrient. Below you’ll find the foods ranked by their protein content per 100g, then broken up into breakfast, lunch/dinner (with additional sub-sections by different food groups) and snacks. We’ve also included protein per portion because we wouldn’t want you to think we’re suggesting you should eat 100g of cheese in one sitting.

High-Protein Foods Ranked By Protein Content Per 100g

  1. Parmesan 36g
  2. Beef jerky 34g
  3. Turkey 30g
  4. Hemp seeds 30g
  5. Pumpkin seeds 30g
  6. Tuna steak 28g
  7. T-bone beef steak 27.3g
  8. Peanuts 26g
  9. Seitan 25g
  10. Canned tuna 19g
  11. Monterey Jack 24.5g
  12. Shellfish 23.5g
  13. Cheddar 23.3g
  14. Mozzarella 22g
  15. Blue cheese 21.4g
  16. Sunflower seeds 21g
  17. Almonds 21g
  18. Salmon 20g
  19. Pistachios 20g
  20. Tempeh 20g
  21. Cod 20g
  22. Mackerel 19g
  23. Pork loin 18g
  24. Chicken 18g
  25. Cashew nuts 18g
  26. Tofu 17.3g
  27. Chia seeds 17g
  28. Oats 13.5g
  29. Buckwheat 13.2g
  30. Eggs 13g
  31. Edamame beans 12g
  32. Cottage cheese 11g
  33. Greek yogurt 10g
  34. Lentils 9g
  35. Chickpeas 9g
  36. Kidney beans 8.7g
  37. Peas 6g
  38. Quinoa 4.4g


Pancakes with maple syrup or Belgian waffles may be tasty, but sadly these sweet treats don’t contain much protein. Another breakfast staple, bacon and sausages score highly in the protein department, but they are not the healthiest way to start your day. Fortunately, these are not your only options. There are plenty of nutritious foods that can boost your protein intake first thing. Next time you prepare your breakfast, try scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt with fruit, or a large portion of porridge sprinkled with protein-rich seeds.        


Protein content: 13g per 100g

Per portion: 6.3g / 1 large egg (50g)

One of the finest ways to up your protein intake at breakfast time, a couple of medium eggs will easily net you over 10g of the stuff.

Cottage cheese

Protein content: 11g per 100g

Per portion: 24.2g / 1 cup (220g)

You can get versions of cottage cheese with added protein nowadays, but even the standard stuff contains a good portion. Compared with other cheese it’s also relatively low in fat and salt.

Greek yogurt

Protein content: 10g per 100g

Per portion: 20g / 1 cup (200g)

As well as protein, Greek (not Greek style) yogurt is packed full of healthy bacteria and enzymes that will do wonders for your digestive health.


Protein content: 13.5g per 100g

Per portion: 7g / 3oz (50g)

You can get souped-up versions of oats that have even more protein crammed into them, but the bog-standard supermarket own-brand versions aren’t light on the stuff. No breakfast is complete without them.

Chia seeds

Protein content: 17g per 100g

Per portion: 4.7g / ¼ cup (1 oz)

The most in-vogue seed around is chock-full of fiber and protein, and most of the fat it contains is of the “good” unsaturated variety.

Hemp seeds

Protein content: 30g per 100g

Per portion: 9.5g / ¼ cup (30g)

Hemp may not be on your radar, but these humble-looking seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of complete protein. Thanks to their mild, nutty flavor, hemp seeds go particularly well with oats and yogurts too.  

Sunflower seeds

Protein content: 21g per 100g

Per portion: 10g / ⅓ cup (47g)

Sunflower seeds are full of healthy fats and fiber, but they’re also an excellent source of protein—you’ll find nearly 10g in a couple of handfuls.  

Pumpkin seeds

Protein content: 32g per 100g

Per portion: 8.5g / ¼ cup (1oz)

Ever wondered why pumpkins look so swole? It’s because they’re full of pumpkin seeds and you should be too, because along with their impressive protein content, pumpkin seeds offer other nutritional riches in the shape of magnificent magnesium and zinc.

Lunch And Dinner

Lunch and dinner are a great opportunity to load up on protein. A portion of meat or an alternative can easily pack close to 30g of this essential nutrient, and if that’s not enough, you can get even more protein with a slice of cheese or a portion of chickpeas. You can also swap your usual pasta and rice for quinoa to top up your intake of essential amino acids. 


T-bone beef steak

Protein content: 27.3g per 100g

Per portion: 31g / 4oz (113g)

It’s hard to beat the protein content of a T-bone beef steak. One portion of the nation’s favorite dish packs nearly 31g of this essential nutrient.  


Protein content: 27.1g per 100g

Per portion: 30g / 4oz (113g)

Turkey shouldn’t just be for Thanksgiving: the festive bird contains more protein per gram than most other meats including its greatest feathered rival—chicken.


Protein content: 18g per 100g

Per portion: 20g / 4oz (113g)

The classic lean protein source, chicken contains large amounts of protein while being very low in fat, especially if you opt for skinless breasts.

Pork loin

Protein content: 18g per 100g

Per portion: 20g / 4oz (113g)

Pork comes in all manner of glorious varieties, but if you’re eating it to increase your protein intake stick to the stuff at the healthier end of the scale, which is pork loin, not cured bacon  (a whopping 40g of protein per 100g, if you’re wondering).


Tuna steak

Protein content: 28g per 100g

Per portion: 24g / 3oz (85g)

The “chicken of the sea” is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, among other valuable nutrients, as well as protein. It’s far more meaty and flavorsome than the canned version, with a price to match.

Canned tuna

Protein content: 19g per 100g

Per portion: 20.3g / 1 can (107g)

A cupboard well-stocked with tuna canned in spring water will see you through all manner of hardships. It’s packed with protein and virtually fat-free.


Protein content: 20g per 100g

Per portion: 40g / 0.5 filet (198g)

As well as plenty of protein, the pink flesh of salmon contains plenty of omega 3 fatty acids that make it great for a range of conditions including eye health and reducing the risk of heart disease.


Protein content: 20g

This fish is low in fat, but full of flavour. Naturally we’d advise avoiding battered versions due to the extra fat they contain.


Protein content: 19g per 100g

Per portion: 25g / 1 cup (136g)

Both the filet and canned versions of this oily fish are great picks for a quick and tasty protein hit. Try not to pair them with chips, though, or you’ll blow your daily salt intake out of the water.


Protein content: 23.5g per 100g

Per portion: 20g / 3 oz (85g)

Shrimp, oysters, lobster, clams, mussels and scallops are a great source of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, including iron, selenium and zinc. They are also rich in protein—one portion of shellfish provides nearly 20g of this essential nutrient.  

Meat Alternatives


Protein content: 25g per 100g

Per portion: 21g / 3oz (85g)

This meat alternative is made from wheat gluten, which gives it a texture that’s satisfyingly chewy, unlike softer soy products like tempeh and tofu. It’s also packed with protein, although amounts vary pretty dramatically in the seitan foods and snacks you’ll find on shop shelves, so make sure to check each label for a definitive protein count.


Protein content: 20g per 100g

Per portion: 34g / 1 cup (166g)

Tofu is not the only soy product in town and tempeh actually outdoes its more famous cousin in terms of its protein and fiber content.


Protein content: 17.3g per 100g

Per portion: 22g / 0.5 cup (126g)

Sure, we trash-talked tofu when bigging up tempeh, but it’s also a good source of protein. Tofu is also more widely available than tempeh.

Peas, Beans And Lentils


Protein content: 9g per 100g

Per portion: 18g / 1 cup (198g)

Whatever your favorite type of lentil is, you can be sure it’s adding some extra protein to your plate. Use them to thicken meaty stews and bulk up salads.


Protein content: 9g per 100g

Per portion: 14.5g / 1 cup (164g)

One of the earliest cultivated legumes—dating back 7,500 years in the Middle East—chickpeas are particularly rich in folate, a B vitamin that helps to support and maintain a healthy nervous system. Blend with lemon, fresh garlic and tahini for an easy and delicious homemade hummus.

Kidney beans

Protein content: 8.7g per 100g

Per portion: 15.3g / 1 cup (177g)

A 120g serving (half a regular can) provides an impressive 7.4g of fiber, which plays a key role in healthy digestive function, as well as 8.3g of protein. Don’t confine these tasty beans to chilli con carne—they’re great in curries, stews and salads too.


Protein content: 6g per 100g

It may seem the most basic, bland, at-least-the-children’ll-eat-them legume there is, but a few spoonfuls of peas adds a useful amount of protein to your plate.



Protein content: 4.4g per 100g

Per portion: 8g / 1 cup (185g)

Quinoa’s protein stats look more impressive when you look at its uncooked numbers, but at 8g of complete protein per cup—not a mad amount of quinoa, compared with chomping down 100g of parmesan for example—it’s a good way to top up your intake of this essential nutrient, especially if you’re not a meat-eater.


Protein content: 13.2g per 100g

Per portion: 22.4g / 1 cup (170g)

Buckwheat may not be nearly as popular as quinoa, but when it comes to protein content, it’s streaks ahead. Just one cup of buckwheat contains a whopping 22.4g of complete protein, making it a perfect alternative to wholegrain pasta or brown rice.  



Protein content: 36g per 100g

Per portion: 3.7g / 1 cubic inch (10.3g)

No-one’s saying that eating 100g of parmesan in one sitting is a smart idea, but if you did, the protein content would be a big upside.


Protein content: 27g

Take a tip from the Dutch next time you hit the cheese counter for a tasty treat that’s high in protein. Just make sure you also embrace the Dutch love of cycling too, so you work off the high amounts of saturated fat.


Protein content: 23.3g per 100g

Per portion: 4g / 1 slice (17g)

Britain’s favorite cheese brings plenty of protein to the table. That includes the lower-fat versions, if you’re trying to keep your saturated fat intake down.

Blue cheese

Protein content: 21.4g per 100g

Per portion: 3.6g / 1 cubic inch (17g)

Don’t be shy of the cheeseboard, that’s what we’re learning here. Just behind the mighty cheddar comes blue cheese, which contains a stilt-load of protein at 21.4g per 100g. All the usual qualms about cheese remain—lots of saturated fat and salt being the biggest concerns—but there isn’t a tastier way to up your protein intake than a slice of blue.


Protein content: 22g per 100g

Per portion: 5.5g / 1 slice (27g)

Before you shriek with joy and assume that pizza is now on the protein-packed menu, let’s be sensible. While the occasional stuffed crust won’t do you any harm, for a healthier alternative slice some mozzarella onto a salad that’s rich with greens to up your protein tally.

Monterey Jack

Protein content: 24.5g per 100g

Per portion: 6.8g / 1 slice (1oz)

The mighty Monterey Jack is America's favorite cheese and also one of the richest sources of protein you can find in the dairy aisle. With nearly 7g of this nutrient per slice, it’s an easy way to ramp up your protein intake. 


Beef jerky

Protein content: 34g per 100g

Per portion: 30g / 90g (1 cup)

Keep some of these dried, cured strips of lean beef in your gym bag for a meaty hit of protein that doesn’t require firing up the grill. Most brands have different levels of protein—and make sure you check the label for sugar and salt content too, both of which can be alarmingly high.


Protein content: 26g per 100g

Per portion: 7.3g / ⅓  cup (1oz)

The underground legume is a fabulous source of protein, and if you steer clear of the roasted and salted varieties, it’s a fairly healthy snack. In peanut butter form you’ll get around 4g of protein per tablespoon.


Protein content: 21g per 100g

Per portion: 6g / ⅓  cup (1oz)

Alongside high protein content, almonds are also rich in fiber and a great source of vitamin E, which is needed to maintain healthy skin and eyes.


Protein content: 20g per 100g

Per portion: 5.7g / ⅓  cup (1oz)

Find a friend because this is a prime fist-bump opportunity. Perhaps the tastiest nuts of all are plump with protein. Sure, they’re also pretty fatty and if you opt for the roasted and salted variety, salty as heck, but still, pistachios are on the list.

Cashew nuts

Protein content: 18g per 100g

Per portion: 5.2g / ⅓  cup (1oz)

Any open packet of mixed nuts is quickly picked clean of all the cashews. Is that because they are the tastiest of nuts or because they’re high in protein? It’s probably the taste thing, but they’re reassuringly protein-rich too.

Edamame beans

Protein content: 12g per 100g

Per portion: 18.4g / 1 cup (155g)

These tasty beans can be bought frozen to consume at your convenience and add a shot of fiber, vitamins and minerals to your diet alongside the protein. If you find them a tad bland try livening them up with fresh lemon juice, smoked paprika and a pinch of salt.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.

With contributions from