When schedules get hectic, meaningful mealtimes are often the first to go. Luckily, quick and easy high-protein meals make the best of both worlds.
When you’re short on time, taking a few minutes to choose high-protein foods can help you move more efficiently throughout the day. Keep reading for the top high-protein easy meals, including easy high-protein meals that require no cooking.
What Are Quick and Easy High-Protein Meals?
Before understanding the benefit of easy high-protein meals, understanding how crucial protein is to the diet is important. It’s earned its place as a macronutrient, next to carbohydrates and fats, by literally being the “building blocks” of life.
Protein is used all over the body, from enzymes to energy production. It’s especially crucial in helping to repair or maintain body tissues, such as muscle and organ cells. Interestingly, protein is also involved in other tasks, such as making hormones and antibodies.
Clearly, protein is a key part of keeping the body thriving day-to-day. Having meals high in protein helps your body to meet its daily protein requirement. Additionally, protein (along with healthy fats and fiber) is a nutrient that promotes a feeling of fullness, which can help curb cravings between meals.
Luckily, pairing protein food with other foods is easy! Foods like nuts, cheeses, and lean meats naturally boost the protein content of meals you may already be eating. If you don’t know where to start, try these high-protein meal ideas for inspiration.
Wake Up with High-Protein Easy Meals
Common breakfast staples—like cereal, bagels, and pastries—are low in protein. Start your morning feeling fueled and satisfied with these high-protein meal ideas!
Protein Smoothie or Shake
A protein shake or smoothie is one of the most obvious choices for a high-protein breakfast. Adding a scoop of protein powder to your favorite smoothie can instantly boost its protein content.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
Did you know ⅔ cup of nonfat Greek yogurt contains 10 grams of protein? A Greek yogurt parfait can be a protein-rich way to start the day.
Want even more protein and some healthy fats to help keep you full? Add a nut and seed-based granola or a drizzle of nut butter. Don’t be afraid to play with flavors as you make delicious parfaits and yogurt bowls.
Cottage Cheese & Fruit
Cottage cheese is another food surprisingly high in protein. A 4-ounce serving (about 113 grams) contains 13 grams of protein.
Topping cottage cheese with fruit—like pineapple and pear—is a great way to start the day!
If you need a satiating breakfast, but are short on time, try preparing overnight oats the night before. A few minutes of preparation in the evening can create a delicious dish for the following day.
One perk of overnight oats is that they can be eaten hot or cold. They can be easily transported to work if you’re running late, or heated up in the microwave at a moment’s notice. Plus, there are nearly endless possibilities for flavor combinations—like PB&J or apple pie oats (yum)!
Black Bean Egg White Omelet
Black beans are a powerful source of plant-based protein. Pair them with eggs and you’ve got the ultimate protein-powered morning meal!
Since a black bean egg white omelet is made utilizing only the whites of the eggs, it’s also considered a heart-healthy meal.
Ham & Cheese Rollups
Searching for the fastest breakfast yet? This may be it.
Ham and cheese rollups take mere moments to make. The best part is that they are kid-friendly, and can be customized with a couple of herbs according to your taste or preference.
Protein-Packed Lunch Hour
Less than an hour to enjoy your lunch? Look no further than these delectable lunchtime ideas.
Waldorf Chicken Salad
Looking for a no-cook meal? Waldorf chicken salad can be whipped up in minutes, especially if you purchase pre-shredded chicken from the grocery store.
Since it’s made in batches, it’s so much more than your side dish. Serve it with crackers for a satisfying snack one day, then eat it for lunch atop a bed of lettuce leaves the next!
Either way, the recipe contains plenty of lean protein in the form of chicken, walnuts, and Greek yogurt.
Mason Jar Loaded Tuna Salad
If you prefer tuna to chicken salad, try a tuna salad reimagined. Mason jar salads make for easy meals, and a loaded tuna salad is no exception.
Layering protein-rich tuna among other ingredients means you’ll only need to mix everything together when the moment comes to eat.
A Classic PB&J Sandwich
Why try to reinvent a classic when the classic works wonderfully? A tablespoon of peanut butter contains 4 grams of protein and is relatively shelf-stable.
In other words, PB&J is a no-brainer regarding a quick and easy lunch. To boost the protein content of this simple sandwich, use two slices of whole grain or whole wheat bread (instead of white).
Thai Lettuce Wraps
Like sandwiches, wraps can be thrown together with a few basic ingredients in a matter of minutes. Thai lettuce wraps, in particular, capture a unique blend of tasty flavors.
Using ground turkey allows the recipe to remain higher in protein and lower in fat. A homemade peanut sauce can pair well with Thai flavors, increasing the protein in the dish overall.
Since big batches of rice can easily be made beforehand, rice makes the perfect base for many quick meals. Choosing your rice type wisely can help you make the most of your meal. Brown rice contains marginally more protein than white rice. However, wild rice contains nearly four to six times the amount of protein than white or brown rice!
Capitalize on protein content by making rice bowls, sometimes called nourish bowls. Combine rice with protein-packed ingredients, such as beans, chickpeas, salmon, or grilled chicken.
Chili is an incredibly filling meal, due to a mix of protein-rich ingredients. Using lean ground turkey keeps saturated fat and protein content low, and beans also increase plant-based protein in the dish, providing the body with quality carbohydrates.
Seriously short on time? Have a crockpot do the cooking!
Most recipes use the same ingredients as a regular chili recipe. However, the crockpot allows you to take a more hands-off approach to the cooking process. If you work from home, dump the ingredients in the crockpot after breakfast, cook on high heat for 3-4 hours, and have a delicious dish by lunch.
High-Protein Dinners in a Snap
Nearing the end of a busy day, dinner can seem more similar to a chore than a delight. Luckily, quick and easy dinners make mealtime more efficient.
With plenty of protein ingredients, you may feel full enough to skip dessert completely!
Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers
For simple dinners, stuffed bell peppers are hard to beat. Nearly any type of lean ground meat can be used, and the protein content can be boosted by using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream as a topping.
Cheese, brown rice, and black beans also add protein, making this meal a nutrient powerhouse.
Cheesy Quinoa Recipe
Speaking of powerhouse ingredients, quinoa is sure to make the list. A ⅔ cup serving (about 4 oz) contains over 4 grams of protein and only 120 calories.
When aiming for weight loss, quinoa is a great ingredient to eat when you want to feel full without overeating. For a crave-able quinoa recipe, try the comfort food-worthy cheesy quinoa.
Air Fryer Cauliflower Tacos
While air fryer cauliflower tacos aren’t necessarily high-protein on their own, they can be customized with protein-rich additions. The air fryer makes cooking quick and easy, and additions such as beans or beef can “beef up” the meal.
Chicken Stuffed with Wild Rice
Have a couple of frozen chicken breasts just waiting to be used? Utilize them in wild rice-stuffed chicken, which boasts nearly 30 grams of protein.
It’s an impressive meal made using six simple steps, instead of hard-to-follow instructions. Once it’s prepared, it cooks for just 20 minutes, meaning you can get dinner prepared and on the table within an hour.
Chicken Pad Thai
Take-out dinners aren't always as high in protein as they are in added sugars, salt, and saturated fat. Make a healthier, protein-rich take-out favorite with homemade chicken Pad Thai.
Authentic as it is appetizing, Pad Thai is packed with protein-powered ingredients like chicken, brown rice noodles, and peanuts.
Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry
Another Asian-inspired recipe with plenty of protein is beef and broccoli stir fry. This dish is prepared in 15 minutes and has nearly 30 grams of protein while keeping calories just below 300 per serving.
The fats and fibers also work together with the protein to help keep you feeling full long after the dinner table has been cleared.
Recapping High-Protein, Easy Meals
Getting enough protein daily is essential, and easy meals can make this task possible and delicious. High-protein dishes don’t need to be elaborate to be effective.
Try protein-rich meals that can be thrown together in minutes from breakfast to lunch to dinner.
How we reviewed this article
Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Published 2011.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cheese, cottage, creamed, large or small curd. Fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed June 2023.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yogurt, Greek, plain, lowfat. Fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed June 2023.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Peanut butter, smooth style, without salt. Fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed June 2023.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Quinoa, cooked. Fdc.nal.usda.gov. Published April 2019.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rice, white, medium-grain, cooked, unenriched. Fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed June 2023.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wild rice, cooked. Fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed June 2023.