16 High-Protein Breakfasts To Start Your Day Right (Including Vegan & Vegetarian Options)
If your morning routine is a whirlwind of getting up and out the door, protein may be the last thing on your mind. But making time for a high-protein breakfast tees you up for a better day and helps keep your health goals on track. To get started with more protein in the morning, we polled registered dietitians and health experts for their favorite protein-packed breakfast recipes.
High-protein breakfast staples:
- Eggs: 6 grams of protein per normal-sized egg
- Greek yogurt: 17 grams of protein per ¾ cup
- Cottage cheese: 15 grams of protein per ½ cup
- Smoked salmon: 16 grams of protein per 3-oz serving
- Turkey sausage: 14 grams of protein per 2-oz serving
- Tofu: 11 grams of protein per 5-oz serving
- Almonds: 6 grams of protein per 1-oz serving
- Oats: 5 grams of protein per ½ cup
- Skyr yogurt: 19 grams of protein per ¾ cup
The importance of protein at breakfast.
Eating a high-protein breakfast is important for a few reasons. "Protein supports blood sugar balance and satiety, which is key for helping you stay full1, energized, and focused through the morning—and less likely to struggle with compulsive snacking," says dietitian Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, INHC.
That's a big benefit if you regularly find yourself hitting a wall midmorning and scrounging for a muffin or a sugary latte. Start your morning with a high-protein breakfast, and "you'll be feeling sustained and energized until lunch, or more likely to look for a protein-rich or healthy snack if you do start getting hungry," says Lisa Mastela, MPH, R.D., and CEO of Bumpin Blends superfood smoothies.
That's because research shows2 the body is more equipped to manage blood sugar and insulin levels after a carbohydrate-containing meal that's high in protein.
And then there is the long-term payoff. "Because of its blood-sugar-balancing effect, consuming adequate protein can help reduce risks of many health conditions whose roots lie in glycemic instability and inflammation related to that imbalance, such as diabetes3, cognitive decline4, and heart disease5, to name a few," says Cording.
A high-protein breakfast is equally important if you have specific health and fitness goals or you're looking to support longevity and healthspan. Looking to put on some muscle? "Muscle growth needs regular protein, so incorporating extra protein into every meal feeds muscles," says Mastela. And if your goals are geared toward longevity, she adds that protein is still your friend. "A healthy amount of protein at breakfast supports longevity both independently and as a precursor to other activities that support longevity—for example, skipping the midmorning sugar fix."
How much protein do you need for breakfast?
So, what does a healthy amount of morning protein look like? "I generally encourage aiming for 15 to 30 grams of protein per meal for most healthy adults, but depending on factors like age, activity, and underlying health conditions or if someone is healing from surgery or burns, those needs can vary," says Cording.
Try to get that morning meal in within 90 minutes of waking up. "This is a bit arbitrary, but really, you just don't want to get your day going too far without some breakfast," says Mastela. "Studies show that eating when you wake best supports longevity and a healthy circadian rhythm6."
Finally, don't get too hung up on counting every last gram. "Sometimes the stress of measuring food and hitting specific number-based goals causes more inflammation in the body and thus is detrimental to health," Mastala points out. "Rather, focus on just incorporating one to two healthy sources of protein into your meals."
Ready to get started? We've got you covered with these simple high-protein breakfast recipes that come personally recommended by health and nutrition experts.
Veggie-packed Breakfast Casserole
Recipe by Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, INHC
This make-ahead, vegetarian-friendly recipe has four to six servings with about 15 to 20 grams per serving (size dependent). Bonus: It heats up well for an easy, protein-rich breakfast on the go.
- 1 pound frozen vegetables of choice, thawed (you can also sauté fresh vegetables in olive or avocado oil if preferred)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons desired spices (sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, turmeric, paprika, and oregano)
- 8 eggs, whisked, or 2 cups liquid egg whites
- 1 cup cultured cottage cheese (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- Heat the frozen veggies and spread evenly over the baking pan. If using fresh, sauté them before adding to the baking dish.
- Pour the eggs or liquid egg whites on top and then drop spoonfuls of cottage cheese over the eggs & veggies.
- Bake at 400 for 35 to 45 minutes or until eggs are set.
- This dish will keep up to 5 days, covered, in the fridge.
Fiesta Breakfast Tacos
Recipe by Skye Garman, NASM, CPT, CES
With roughly 25 grams of protein per taco, this is a hearty breakfast that will keep your energy up all morning long. While the beef can ideally be made ahead of time, the rest of this breakfast comes together quickly.
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg whites
- 3 oz lean ground beef, cooked with taco seasoning beforehand
- ¼ cup refried beans
- 2 almond flour tortillas
- Avocado, olive oil, or another healthy cooking spray
- Heat a flat or griddle pan to medium heat. Lightly spray a second nonstick pan with oil and heat to medium.
- Scramble whole eggs and egg whites in a bowl. When the pan is heated through, add eggs and cook to desired texture.
- Meanwhile, heat the beans and the meat together in a pan (or microwave). Heat almond flour tortillas on the griddle (no oil) until they are soft. Be careful not to overheat, as they will get hard quickly.
- To assemble, scoop ½ of the eggs and ½ of the bean and meat mixture onto each tortilla. Add toppings to your liking.
Recipe by Jessica Monroe, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.
This recipe is high in protein because of the eggs, sausage, and cheese. Each burrito has roughly 25 grams of protein. The vegetables give an added boost of fiber and nutrients, and if you include sliced avocado as a topping, you'll get some healthy fats as well.
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese (or cheese of choice)
- ¼ cup onion, diced
- ¼ cup red bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup green bell pepper, diced
- 4 (10-in) burrito-size tortillas
- ½ tbsp butter or ghee
- ½ lb favorite sausage, removed from casing
- 1 jalapeño, diced (optional)
- ½ avocado, sliced (optional)
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt and pepper and set aside.
- Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add butter to melt.
- Add the onion, peppers, and jalapeño and cook until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, leaving the drippings.
- Using the same pan, reduce the heat to low and add the eggs. Scramble until just cooked through. Turn off the heat and add the sausage and vegetables, mixing together until just combined.
- In a separate pan, heat the tortillas on either side until warmed through.
- Assemble the burritos: Add ¼ cup of the cheese to the bottom and then spoon the egg, sausage, and vegetable mixture on top of the cheese. Add desired toppings and fold the sides of the tortilla over the filling and carefully roll, keeping the sides tucked as you go.
More breakfast ideas (vegan):
A gut-health-doctor-approved protein smoothie (~25 grams of protein per serving, depending on the protein powder used)
5-minute turmeric and spinach tofu scramble (31 grams of protein per serving)
PB and chocolate whipped protein oatmeal (27 grams of protein per serving)
Chocolate protein shake, protein powder free (23 grams of protein per shake)
More breakfast ideas (vegetarian):
Caramelized onion frittata (15 grams of protein per serving)
Veggie breakfast sandwich (17 grams of protein per sandwich)
Healthy pancake recipe (10 to 13 grams of protein per pancake)
High-protein overnight oats (25 grams of protein per serving)
Cottage cheese breakfast bowl (18 grams of protein per bowl)
More breakfast ideas (not plant-based):
Keto breakfast burrito (22 grams of protein per serving)
Smoked salmon scrambled eggs (17 grams of protein per serving)
Turkey sweet potato hash (26 grams of protein per serving)
Sweet potato and sausage frittata (37.5 grams of protein per serving)
Incorporating protein into your morning meal is an easy way to fuel your body for the busy day ahead, and the benefits for muscle gains, healthspan, and beyond are impressive. Eat any of the high-protein breakfasts on this list and you're well on your way to an energized day.
Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007 and has covered everything from parenting and pregnancy to residential and industrial real estate, cannabis, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, landscaping, home decor, and more. Her work has appeared in Healthline, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee Crumbs. When she’s not stuck to her laptop, Jessica loves hanging out with her husband and four active kids, drinking really great lattes, and lifting weights. See what she’s up to at her website.