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Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will love

Enjoy these protein-packed, plant-based recipes kids will love — from Canadian cookbook author and mom of three Dreena Burton!

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will love

Photo: Dreena Burton

Protein-rich foods vegetarian children will love

Fast, healthy, easy and delicious

Growing, active children need nutrient-rich meals and snacks. As a mom of three vegetarian children, I've seen how our kiddos develop a true appreciation for wholesome foods over highly processed foods — and how they come to love the foods they know. So, let's get them started with some healthy, nutritious plant-based foods.

Here are 12 protein-rich vegetarian recipes your kids will truly love — from snacks to dinner options. Enjoy!

Looking for more dinner ideas? Try these vegetarian dinners that aren't pasta

Dreena Burton has been vegan for almost 20 years, in that time writing four bestselling cookbooks charting her journey as a plant-powered cook and at-home mother of three.  Passionate about creating nutritious recipes, she is an advocate of using vegan basics to create healthy, delicious food for the whole family. Visit Dreena at plantpoweredkitchen.comFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Dreena Burton

Chickpea Nibbles

Your kids will love nibbling on these tasty chickpeas warm out of the oven, or cooled for lunches and snacks! Legumes are also a great source of fibre—more high-fibre recipes here

What you'll need
— 2 cans chickpeas
— 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
— 1 tbsp tamari
— 2 - 2 1/2 tbsp natural ketchup

What to do
Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Toss all ingredients together and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing chickpeas once or twice during baking, until marinade is absorbed but chickpeas are still tender. 

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy


Mellow Lentil "Sniffle" Soup

This is one of our girls' favorite soups. Red lentils are the protein star here, and the entire soup can be prepped and cooked in less than an hour.

What you'll need
— 1 1/2 tbsp water
— 1 1/2 cups onion, diced
— 1 cup celery, diced
— 1 cup carrots, diced
— 3 large cloves garlic, minced
— 1/2 tsp sea salt
— freshly ground black pepper to taste
— 3/4-1 tsp mild curry powder
— 1 tsp paprika
— 1/4 tsp dried thyme
— 2 cups dry red lentils, rinsed
— 3 cups vegetable stock
— 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups water (adjust to desired consistency)
— 2-3 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
— 1-1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

What to do
In a large pot on medium heat, add water, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, curry powder, paprika and dried thyme and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Rinse lentils. Add lentils, stock, 3 1/2 cups of the water, and stir to combine. Increase heat to bring mixture to a boil. Add rosemary, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add vinegar, and more water as desired to thin the soup. Makes 5-6 servings.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy

Protein Power Balls

These chewy, sweet treats combine a protein-rich trio of hemp seeds, pupkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, but kiddos won't know because they taste like little bites of fudge!

What you'll need
— 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
— 1/2 cup coconut flour (or 3/4 cup rolled oats)
— 1/3 cup hemp seeds
— 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
— 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
— 3 tbsp cocoa powder
— 2-3 tbsp chocolate protein powder 
— 1/4 tsp sea salt (scant)
— 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 

What to do
In a food processor, process the pumpkin seeds, coconut flour, hemp seeds and sunflower seeds until fine and crumbly.  Add the dates and process slightly. Add remaining ingredients and process until mixture forms a ball — this will take a few minutes, keep processing! Take small spoonfuls (about 1 tbsp) and roll in balls.  Makes 25-28 balls.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy

Sweetened Nut Butter Dip

Choose your favorite nut butter, and make this creamy, lightly sweetened dip in just a minute or two! Kids will love dipping with fruit, or even eating as a pudding.

What you'll need
— 1/2 cup cashew butter (or other nut butter/peanut butter)
— 2/3 cup non-dairy yogurt
— 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup or agave nectar
— 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
— 1/8 teaspoon (rounded) cinnamon

What to do
Add all ingredients to a mini food processor and puree until very smooth, or whisk in a bowl by hand until smooth.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Pamela Bethel


Simplest Marinated Tofu

This is the go-to recipe I use to make weekly tofu for my kids' lunches. It is a snap to prepare, and versatile for parents to use in dinners and lunches.

What you'll need
— 2 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
— 2 tbsp tamari
— 1 tsp pure maple syrup
— 1 350-g pkg  (12-oz) extra-firm organic tofu, cut into squares (about 20-24 square slices)

What to do
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). In an 8"x12" baking dish, stir together the vinegar, tamari and maple syrup. Add the tofu and coat each side. Bake uncovered for 17-22 minutes, turning once through baking.  Remove and let cool slightly; pour any remaining marinade over the tofu.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Protein-rich chia seeds are used in this chocolate-y "instant" blender pudding. It is also sugar-free, sweetened with dates — and kids love it!

What you'll need
— 1 cup plain or chocolate soy or almond milk 
— 1/2 cup (packed) pitted dates
— 3 tbsp chia seeds
— 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
— 1/8 tsp sea salt (slightly rounded)
— 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
— 2 - 3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
— 2 tbsp mini non-dairy chocolate chips (optional)

What to do
In a blender, add all ingredients except coconut and chips. Blend for a minute or more (depending on blender), until seeds pulverized and pudding has thickened. Transfer to a dish, stir in coconut and garnish with chocolate chips.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy

Almond Zen Granola

Combining rolled oats, natural nut butter and pumpkin seeds, this cereal is higher in protein than many boxed cereals. Kids will also love it as a snack straight up! Or try this granola recipe over Greek yogurt. 

What you'll need
— 3 cups rolled oats
— 3 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
— 1 tsp cinnamon
— 1/4-1/2 tsp ground cardamom (adjust to taste)
— 1⁄4 tsp sea salt
— 2 1/2 tbsp almond (or other nut) butter
— 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
— 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses
— 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
— 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
— 1/2 - 3/4 cup combination of raisins and chopped dates
— 1 tsp orange or lemon zest 

What to do
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine the rolled oats, seeds, cinnamon, cardamom and sea salt. In another bowl, stir together almond butter, maple syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup and vanilla. Add wet mixture to dry, combining well.  Transfer to baking sheet and spread out. Bake for 25-28 minutes, stirring once through baking. Stir in raisins/dates, bake another 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven, mix in zest, let cool completely. Makes about 5 1/2 cups.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy


Hemp-anana Smoothie

Hemp seeds are a complete protein, and kids will love them in this creamy, banana-dreamy smoothie. Combine with organic soy or hemp milk for an added protein boost. Make sure to try this fruit-packed smoothie

What you'll need
— 1⁄2 cup hemp seeds 
— 1 cup plain or vanilla nondairy milk
— 1 cup water (or more milk)
— 2 cups frozen sliced overripe banana
— 1⁄2 cup or more frozen or fresh blueberries or strawberries (optional)
— 1/2-1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
— 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon

What to do
Place all the ingredients in a blender, and puree for a few minutes until hemp and chia seeds are pulverized and mix is smooth. If using frozen berries, you may need to add extra nondairy milk to loosen. Serves 2.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Koko Brill

Umami Quinoa and Almond Burger

Combining quinoa with raw almonds, these are protein-rich veggie burgers. They are very flavorful without being spicy for little palates. Try serving with sliced avocado. 

What you'll need
— 2 cups raw almonds
— 1 small-medium clove garlic, cut
— 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
— 1 tbsp tamari
— 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste or ketchup
— 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
— 1/4 tsp sea salt
— 3/4 cup green onions, sliced
— 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
— 1 1/2 cups cooked/cooled quinoa

What to do
In a food processor, add almonds, garlic, balsamic, tamari, tomato paste, rosemary and salt. Puree until the nuts are very finely ground, and becoming a little sticky. Add green onions and sun-dried tomatoes, and pulse through until the mixture starting to hold. Add quinoa and process/pulse until well incorporated. Remove mixture, shape into patties. Cook on a non-stick skillet over medium heat, 5-6 minutes on each side. Makes about 6 patties.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy

Pumpkincredible Hummus

Most vegetarian kids enjoy hummus, but can tire of the same old flavor. Beans and pumpkin seeds are a protein-packed team in this lightly spiced, flavourful hummus!

What you'll need
— 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
— 1 can white beans (cannellini or other), drained and rinsed
— 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
— 1/4 cup lime juice
— 1 medium-large clove garlic 
— 1-1 1/4 tsp sea salt
— 1 tbsp tahini
— 1 tsp cumin
— 1/4 tsp (rounded) allspice
— 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
— 1/2 tsp pure maple syrup
— 1/4-1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (reserve about 2-3 tbsp for garnish)

What to do
In a food processor, add all ingredients except pumpkin seeds. Puree until very smooth. Taste, add extra salt if needed. Next, add most of the pumpkin seeds (reserving a couple of tbsps), and pulse through. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with remaining pumpkin seeds.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy


Peanut Butter Munchy Squares

As a legume, peanut butter is a great source of protein — and most kids love it. Try these squares as an after-school snack or when running out to activities.

What you'll need
— 1 cup rolled oats
— 1 cup pitted dates (I use honey, but any variety can be used)
— 3 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
— 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
— 1/8 tsp sea salt, lightly rounded
— 1/2 cup natural peanut butter or a nut butter (unsalted)
— 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
— 3/4 cup natural brown rice crispy cereal (not puffed rice; reserve 1-2 tbsp)

What you'll need
In a food processor, process oats until crumbly. Add dates and process until breaking down. Add the cocoa powder, maple syrup, salt, peanut butter and vanilla. Puree until mixture becomes uniform and sticky. Add brown rice cereal (reserving 1-2 tbsp) and pulse through. The mixture should form some balls in the processor. Transfer mix to an 8” x 8” pan lined with parchment paper. Press into pan, sprinkle on reserved cereal and press in. Makes 16 squares or 8 bars.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Nicole Axworthy

No-fu Love Loaf

This meatloaf-style recipe is made with protein-rich green lentils and steel cut oats, rather than using tofu or processed meat substitutes. Kids will love leftovers in a sandwich too!

Get the recipe here: No-fu Love Loaf

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will lovePhoto: Hannah Kaminsky

More kid-friendly recipes

8 kid-approved after-school snack recipes>
“Mom, I’m hungry!” Here are some ideas of what to feed your kids when dinner is at least an hour away and you don’t want to spoil their appetite.

Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will love

Read more:
10 vegetarian meals packed with protein
15 vegetarian dinner recipes that aren't pasta
15 high-fibre recipes your kids will love

This article was originally published on May 14, 2014

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