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Protein is crucial for immune health, muscle recovery and growth, and healthy aging, among other important functions.

It can also support weight loss or weight gain goals.

Although protein needs vary depending on age, activity level, and overall health, studies recommend consuming 20–30 grams of protein across four meals for the best results (1, 2).

One of these four meals starts with breakfast.

Unfortunately, most people consume a breakfast that’s rich in carbohydrates but low in protein, such as a bagel, a piece of fruit, or a bowl of sugary cereals.

Here are 10 high-protein breakfast ideas, with plenty of vegan options, that have at least 20 grams of protein.

high-protein breakfast ideas

1. Proats (protein oats)

Proats is an abbreviation for protein and oats.

Oatmeal is a great — and tasty — vessel for various ingredients, including protein powder.

Most protein powders contain 20–25 grams of protein per scoop and come in various flavors allowing for customization.

A basic whey protein like Elite 100% Whey from Dymatize Nutrition can meet most people’s needs. However, there are plenty of quality plant-based options available.

Whey is one of the two main proteins found in milk. The other is casein.

You can mix the protein powder with water or, for additional protein, milk or soymilk.

Ingredients:

  • 1 scoop of Dymatize Cookies & Cream protein powder
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk
  • 1 cup of quick oats

Directions:

  1. Mix your preferred protein powder in a shake cup
  2. Pour over 1 cup of quick oats
  3. Microwave for 1:30–2:00 minutes

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 540
  • Protein: 39 grams
  • Carbs: 77 grams
  • Fat: 11 grams

2. Protein pancakes

Pancakes don’t have the best reputation of being healthy since they are made from refined flour and topped with high-sugar syrups, but they are surely delicious.

Introduce some protein, however, and you have protein pancakes — a more complete breakfast.

You can make protein pancakes from scratch using your favorite-tasting protein powder. Alternatively, there are protein pancake mixes available if you don’t have protein powder around or prefer not to purchase it.

If you opt for the protein pancake mix, make sure it contains at least 20 grams of protein per serving or make a larger portion.

Many protein pancake mixe use wheat flour and whey protein but there are gluten-free and plant-based options available.

To lower your calorie and sugar intake, you can use a sugar-free maple syrup like this product from Lakanto, which is sweetened with monk fruit.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Heat griddle to low heat and lightly grease.
  2. Combine the ingredients and whisk until blended. Let thicken for 3 minutes.
  3. Pour batter into 3-4-inch pancakes on the griddle.
  4. Cook until no more bubbles are forming in the center and the edges look dry (about 3 minutes). Flip and cook and cook until golden brown.
  5. Spread with butter and top with syrup as desired.

Nutrition (without butter or syrup):

  • Calories: 210
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Carbs: 25 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams

3. Greek yogurt parfait

Greek yogurt is regular yogurt’s high-protein cousin, providing three times the protein.

This makes Greek yogurt the perfect choice for a protein-rich yogurt parfait.

This recipe uses strawberries, blueberries, and almond granola for the toppings, but the options are endless.

There are vegan versions of yogurts that are made from non-dairy plant sources like almonds, soy, coconut, oats, and peas, but they are much lower in protein.

However, you can boost the protein content of vegan yogurts by adding flaxseed or chia seeds.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Wash the blueberries and strawberries and pat dry. Cut the strawberries into pieces.
  2. In a glass cup, layer 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup strawberries, 1/4 cup berries, and 1/4 cup granola, and repeat.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 503
  • Protein: 26 grams
  • Carbs: 83 grams
  • Fat: 9 grams

4. Cottage cheese toast

There’s peanut butter toast but have you heard of cottage cheese toast?

While not everyone is a fan of cottage cheese — either due to its texture or some other reason — cottage cheese toast is an easy, high-protein breakfast to mix things up.

Several foods pair well with cottage cheese and make great toppings.

This recipe keeps it simple and uses tomato and cucumber slices but you can also add jam, toasted nuts, sliced berries or peaches, cinnamon, chia and hemp seeds, honey, and sprouts.

This recipe also uses a high-protein bread called Ezekiel 4:9 Bread, a flourless sprouted grain bread, but cottage cheese provides plenty of protein if you prefer to use traditional whole-grain bread.

Ingredients:

  • two slices of Ezekiel whole-grain bread
  • 1 cup of 1% cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/2 big boy tomato or similar variety

Directions:

  1. Slice the cucumber and tomato.
  2. Toast bread (may brush with olive oil for flavor).
  3. Spread the cottage cheese equally over the toast.
  4. Top the toast with cucumber and tomato slices.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 340
  • Protein: 36 grams
  • Carbs: 40 grams
  • Fat: 3 grams

5. Spinach and egg scramble

What would this list of high-protein breakfast ideas be without at least one egg option?

Eggs are commonly vilified for their high-cholesterol content. However, the cholesterol from eggs and other animal-based foods like meat and dairy products has little effect on most people’s cholesterol levels (3).

This is because your body tightly balances its production of cholesterol with the amount you consume through your diet. In other words, the more cholesterol you eat, the less cholesterol your body makes.

Eggs are a good protein choice for vegetarians — lacto-ovo and ovo vegetarians — who allow eggs in their diets. For a vegan option, swap eggs for tofu.

Eggs pack 6 grams of protein each so aim to have 2–3 eggs with a high-protein toast like Ezekiel bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 slice Ezekiel whole-grain bread

Directions:

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs.
  3. Add the spinach leaves to the skillet. Cook, stirring, just until the leaves begin to wilt (about 1 minute).
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Cook, pushing them back and forth with a rubber spatula, until set to your liking.
  5. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes, if you choose.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 422
  • Protein: 24 grams
  • Carbs: 17 grams
  • Fat: 29 grams

6. Protein bar

Protein bars are the perfect grab-and-go breakfast, especially if you’re a chronic alarm-snoozer or you describe your morning as chaotic.

Even then, protein bars are a great option if you just don’t feel like preparing one of the other high-protein breakfast ideas on this list.

Pair the protein bar with a piece of fruit like a banana, orange, or apple for a more balanced breakfast.

Here are some protein bar options that contain at least 20 grams of protein and have great taste reviews:

Store-bought protein bars are great for convenience but you can also make your own.

Here’s a homemade protein bar recipe to try that requires no baking:

Chocolate peanut butter bar (8 servings)

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, combine milk, peanut butter, and honey over low heat. Stir until all ingredients are well-combined. Remove from heat.
  2. Add protein powder and oats. Stir well to combine.
  3. Grease an 8 x 8 pan. Using firm pressure, press evenly into the pan.
  4. Allow bars to cool. Cut into 12 servings. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or for up to one week in the fridge.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 326 calories
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Carbs: 24 grams
  • Fat: 19 grams

7. Black bean breakfast bowl

Black beans and breakfast — two things that don’t sound like they go together. That is until you’ve tried a black bean breakfast bowl.

Black beans are rich in protein and combine well with scrambled eggs, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese.

If you want to go completely vegan, swap the scrambled eggs with tofu scramble and the feta cheese for vegan tofu feta cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup canned black beans
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 avocado
  • olive oil spray

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs.
  2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with olive oil.
  3. Cook black beans in the skillet until hot and empty into a bowl. Wipe out the skillet and return it to the heat.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet to scramble, then spoon over the black beans. Wipe out the pan and return it to the heat.
  5. Spray the pan with olive oil and add blacken the tomatoes (about 5 minutes).
  6. Pour the tomatoes on the eggs and add crumbled feta and freshly scooped avocado.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 420
  • Protein: 26 grams
  • Carbs: 31 grams
  • Fat: 23 grams

8. Lox bagel

Lox is salmon that has been preserved by curing or brining.

Add it to a bagel with cream cheese, red onions, dill, and capers, and it’s called a lox bagel.

Lox bagels are perfect for breakfast or a lazy Sunday brunch.

Lox is considered uncooked fish since it’s not smoked or heat-treated, so you should avoid lox if you’re pregnant or have a weakened immune system.

Alternatively, you can use hot-smoked salmon, which is fully cooked.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1 medium bagel
  • 3 oz Nova lox salmon
  • pinch of capers, chopped
  • pinch of dill
  • pinch of red onion, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Soften cream cheese in a microwave for 20-30 seconds.
  2. Split the bagel and toast the halves to the desired doneness.
  3. Spread each bagel half with cream cheese and top with layers of Nova lox salmon. Finish with capers, fresh dill, and red onion.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 513
  • Protein: 27 grams
  • Carbs: 34 grams
  • Fat: 31 grams

9. Protein shake or smoothie

Smoothies are like oatmeal in that you can easily customize them to your liking.

Beyond being easily customizable, they’re easy and quick to whip up with the help of a good blender.

Here are two high-protein smoothies to try:

Strawberry banana smoothie

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 394
  • Protein: 35 grams
  • Carbs: 56 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams

Almond buttercream shake (vegan)

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Blend the quick oats into a fine powder.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 493
  • Protein: 21 grams
  • Carbs: 44 grams
  • Fat: 32 grams

10. Steak and eggs

Nothing says hearty like steak and eggs.

Steak and egg is the perfect protein-rich, low-carb breakfast.

This breakfast, thanks to the steak, is also rich in creatine, a nutrient that increases muscle size and strength and supports healthy aging and brain health (4).

Ingredients:

  • 6-oz sirloin or New York strip
  • two eggs
  • olive oil spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill. Season steak with salt and black pepper.
  2. Grill the steak, for 2 minutes per side for medium-rare or 3 minutes total in a dual-contact grill.
  3. Transfer the steak to a plate and loosely cover it with foil.
  4. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and fry the eggs.
  5. Transfer the eggs to the plate and remove the foil from the steak.
  6. (optional) Season with red pepper flakes and garnish with chopped parsley.

Nutrition:

  • Calories: 533
  • Protein: 48 grams
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Fat: 37 grams

The bottom line

Protein is something most people don’t get enough of at breakfast.

These high-protein breakfast ideas — each with at least 20 grams of protein — can help you meet your daily protein targets, even if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Don’t forget to include 20-30 grams of protein in each of your remaining meals to support healthy aging, muscle recovery and growth, or weight loss or weight gain goals.


Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD
Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD is a registered dietitian with a master's of science in human nutrition and bioenergetics. Gavin specializes in nutrition for older adults and regulations surrounding long-term care as they relate to food and nutrition.