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If you’re like most of my nutrition clients, protein is the nutrient you have the hardest time getting enough of to meet your goals.
To help you overcome this challenge, I’ve researched the highest protein foods and put it into a handy, printable infographic to let you know which ones provide the most protein per 100g.
I was surprised to find out that there are foods on this list that don’t require a lot of preparation or cooking time, which make them very easy and convenient.
How We Sourced This Data
This database has a food search feature that allows you to pull up nutrient analyses for many foods. I focused on entries for raw foods, since cooking methods can vary and change nutrition info.
What To Do With The Information Below
Focus on including a combination of these foods over the course of your day to help you hit your protein targets.
Each meal should include a protein source from this list in order for it to be considered “a complete meal”.
- To know how much protein you should eat per day, check out my other article: Is 1g of Protein Per Day Enough?
Most Protein-Dense Foods
Rather than just listing foods with the most grams of protein per 100g serving, regardless of the total number of calories, we give you a more valuable list by ranking how much protein each food provides relative to its total calories. This is “protein per calorie”.
This will save you the frustration of eating sources of protein, trying to get to your target number of grams of protein for the day, and finding out that you’re completely overshooting your calorie target because those protein sources also have a lot of calories from fat and/or carbs.
50 Highest Protein Foods Per 100g
|Food||Protein (g) per 100g||Calories per 100g||Protein per calorie|
|Whey protein isolate, plain||90.9||364||0.25|
|Ahi tuna steak, frozen||24.8||110||0.23|
|Ground turkey, extra lean (99%)||23.2||107||0.22|
|Cod (Atlantic), raw||17.8||82||0.22|
|Casein protein powder, plain||79.2||375||0.21|
|Tilapia, snapper, or grouper, raw||20||95||0.21|
|Turkey breast (boneless, skinless), raw||23.7||114||0.21|
|Water buffalo, raw||20.4||99||0.21|
|Bison (lean meat only), raw||21.6||109||0.2|
|Brown rice protein powder, plain||75||370||0.2|
|Chicken breast (boneless, skinless), raw||22.5||120||0.19|
|Pork tenderloin (lean meat only), raw||21||109||0.19|
|Sea bass, king mackerel, or monkfish, raw||17.7||93||0.19|
|Center loin pork chop (lean meat only), raw||22.4||127||0.18|
|Sea Bream or Flounder, raw||15.6||88||0.18|
|Veal sirloin (lean meat only), raw||20.2||110||0.18|
|Cottage cheese, 1%||12.4||72||0.17|
|Greek yogurt (plain, nonfat)||10.3||59||0.17|
|Ground beef, extra lean||21.4||125||0.17|
|Deli ham (96% fat-free)||16.7||101||0.17|
|Steak, Angus sirloin||22.1||133||0.17|
|Catfish (wild), raw||16.4||95||0.17|
|Bluefish or yellowtail, raw||21.6||135||0.16|
|Duck breast (boneless, skinless), raw||19.8||123||0.16|
|Ground pork, extra lean||20.5||134||0.15|
|Liver (beef), raw||20.4||135||0.15|
|Cottage cheese, 0% (dry curd)||10.3||72||0.14|
|Crickets, roasted (plain)||9||70||0.13|
|Tofu, extra firm||7.4||55||0.13|
|Venison, ground, raw||21.8||157||0.13|
1. Whey Protein Isolate
There is a reason that whey protein isolate is considered the gold standard when it comes to protein. Since the manufacturing process involves stripping away fat and carbohydrate (lactose, the naturally-occurring sugar in milk) to isolate the whey protein in milk, whey protein isolate is, by definition, nearly purely protein – at least 90% by weight.
The highest whey protein per serving is Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate (click to read my full review).
Shrimp is the highest-protein whole food source. Shrimp are small crustaceans along with harder-shelled ocean critters like crabs and lobsters (also in this list). A shrimp cocktail is a great high-protein appetizer, or you can add shrimp to salads, soups or pasta.
If you enjoy seafood, I put together a separate list of the highest protein fish.
Haddock is actually a member of the cod family of saltwater fish, but it is known for having a stronger, sweeter flavor and it’s considered the best white fish for smoking. Try it poached, smoked, baked, or grilled in your favorite fish dishes, or have it as a substitute for chicken.
Pollock is another white fish, and it is very versatile. Its mild taste and lower cost mean that it is often substituted for more expensive seafood, such as imitation crab meat. Watch out, though, because imitation crab meat made with pollock usually has added starch and sugar, and artificial color.
5. Ahi Tuna Steak
Ahi tuna is also called yellowfin or saku tuna, and it features prominently in Japanese cuisine. It’s often served in sushi rolls or as sashimi (raw fish). It’s also very easy to cook at home – you simply sear the tender steaks for 1-2 minutes on each side and enjoy.
6. Canned Tuna
Tuna is also called the “chicken of the sea” because of its affordability and its mild flavor and color. Canned tuna has certainly been a staple source of protein for bodybuilders for a long time, given how portable and convenient it is: a ready-to-go protein source straight out of the can.
7. Ground Turkey (extra lean)
It might surprise you to learn that turkey isn’t just for rich Thanksgiving feasts. In fact, lean turkey offers even more protein per calorie than chicken. .
If you aren’t already a fan of the crab fishing show “Deadliest Catch,” the high protein content of crab meat should give you a good reason to start watching and cheering for your favorite crew. Steamed crab is one of the most popular ways to serve it; just steer clear of drenching it in garlic butter.
9. Cod (Atlantic)
The colder waters of the Atlantic Ocean make Atlantic cod sweeter and flakier than the more mild and savory Pacific cod. Worldwide, cod is popular in various forms, with Norwegian “stockfish” (dried cod) showing up as a staple in African soups.
10. Casein Protein Powder
Casein is the other form of protein (along with whey protein) naturally found in milk. Casein is slower-digesting than whey, which makes it perfect as a bedtime snack to help reduce the risk of muscle protein breakdown during the overnight fasting period while you’re asleep.
Since I come from the East Coast of Canada, I’m used to celebrating special events with the treat of a boiled lobster dinner. It tastes great and it helps me with my protein intake for the day. Many people mistakenly believe that lobster is quite rich and high in calories, but that’s only if it’s eaten with garlic butter.
12. Egg Whites
Egg whites are another staple food for bodybuilders, due to their convenience, versatility and high protein content. To save you the hassle of separating the egg and the yolk, I recommend buying cartons of liquid egg whites.
13. Tilapia, Snapper, Grouper
Tilapia is a very common freshwater white fish with a mild flavor. It tends to be readily available and inexpensive, which makes it a great choice for any fish dish. You can get inspiration from a huge list of easy tilapia recipes. Snapper and grouper are also versatile white fish with a mild flavor.
14. Turkey Breast (boneless, skinless)
If you’re trying to keep your fitness and nutrition on track over the holidays, head straight to the platter of turkey and get a serving of turkey breast without the skin. Filling up on this protein-dense food will help fill you up so you’ll be satisfied without dessert (or a smaller serving).
15. Water Buffalo
You might be more used to eating beef for red meat, and less familiar with water buffalo. But, North American ranchers are starting to raise water buffalo, and the meat is higher in protein and lower in fat and cholesterol than beef. Water buffalo is great in many of the same recipes as beef, such as chili and burgers.
These days, you don’t have to be a hunter yourself to get your hands on high-quality game meat. Elk is an excellent lean source of protein, but because it’s so low in fat it’s important not to cook it at too high of a temperature or for too long, because it can quickly dry out.
Halibut is actually the name for three different species of marine flatfish. These huge fish can grow up to nine feet long and weigh up to 500lbs. Try a much smaller portion of this lean fish, with a slightly sweet and mild taste (similar to tilapia). It can be pan-seared, baked, grilled, poached or roasted.
You’re not alone if you ever wondered if a bison and a buffalo are the same animals (they’re not). Bison are much bigger, especially in the head and shoulders and they have a beard of shaggy fur.
19. Brown Rice Protein Powder
The first vegan protein source in this list is in the top half, which goes to show that it is possible to hit your protein targets without animal products. I like stirring brown rice protein powder into cooked quinoa or oatmeal for a warm, high-protein breakfast.
20. Chicken Breast (boneless, skinless)
If you thought that a high-protein bodybuilder diet meant eating nothing but chicken breasts and broccoli, you might be excited to realize that there are 19 other foods (above) that offer even more protein per calorie than chicken! Chicken breasts are definitely popular because people like the taste and they are so versatile in all the ways they can be prepared.
21. Pork Tenderloin
Pork, “the other white meat,” was a hugely popular advertising campaign in the 1980s designed specifically to point out that pork is an excellent lean protein source, on par with skinless chicken breasts (as we see here).
22. Sea Bass, King Mackerel, Monkfish
While sea bass, king mackerel and monkfish all weigh in with 0.19g of protein per calorie, sea bass and king mackerel are similar to warm water ocean fish found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Western Atlantic Ocean, whereas monkfish from the bottom of the colder North Atlantic is known as “poor man’s lobster” for its meaty flesh that is similar in both texture and flavor to lobster meat.
Rabbit meat is not likely the first thing you think of when you think of red meat, but this is another wild game meat that is a great lean source of protein. I grew up with a classmate whose family routinely made rabbit pie, but I never got to try it. Rabbit is also great in stew.
While goats are a domesticated source of meat, you’re still far less likely to find goat meat at the grocery store. A trip to a specialty butcher or farmer’s market is well worth it, though. Goat features in a lot of global cuisines, showing up in Indian biryani, and various African and Jamaican curries.
25. Beef Jerky
Beef jerky is an excellent convenient source of protein. It’s easy to find at most gas stations or corner stores and doesn’t require any preparation or refrigeration. Look for low-fat, low-sugar options.
People sometimes get confused and think that octopus is in calamari, but that’s actually squid. I became an octopus fan during my time living in South Korea, where fried octopus is a common movie snack at the cinema, and we also enjoyed nakji-bokkeum (spicy stir-fried octopus).
27 Pork Chops
Pork chops don’t have a great reputation for being lean, but if you get a center loin boneless chop and eat the lean meat only (trim away any fat), you’re getting an excellent lean source of protein in a satisfying comfort food meal.
28. Sea Bream or Flounder
Sea bream is a small enough fish that it’s often sold as a whole fish, which can be intimidating for new cooks. But, it’s easy enough to just wrap it in baking paper and foil with lemon slices and herbs, following this recipe.
Flounder, on the other hand, is more commonly sold in fillets. This delicate fish flakes easily, making it perfect for baking, broiling, poaching, sauteing or steaming.
Scallops have a rich, dense, and meaty texture and often feature in elegant restaurant meals. But, you can actually cook them quickly and easily at home for a fancy-feeling high-protein meal that is surprisingly low in calories.
Speaking of fancy meals, many people only encounter snails when they are hidden behind their French name “escargot” and served swimming in garlic butter. But, snails are actually sold ready to eat straight out of the can (look for them in the seafood aisle of your grocery store). I like to toss them on pizza, bake them into pasta, or simply broil them with a little Parmesan cheese.
31. Veal Sirloin
If you’re not familiar, veal is the meat from calves, rather than beef from older cattle. Most veal comes from young male calves. Just like beef, different cuts of veal have different amounts of fat, but all are excellent sources of protein and B vitamins.
Squid (not octopus) is the sea creature that features in calamari. But it’s not just good fried; squid can also be grilled, marinated, or baked. Stuffed squid tubes baked with tomato sauce is actually an Italian dish, and the baked squid is very similar to the texture of baked pasta like manicotti or cannelloni, but you get way more protein and way fewer carbs.
33. Cottage Cheese (1%)
Cottage cheese is my go-to bedtime snack for its high content of casein protein, the slow-digesting protein in milk. Try either these cottage cheese pancakes or cottage cheese pudding for a nutritious and filling high-protein breakfast.
34. Greek Yogurt (plain, nonfat)
Greek yogurt is much higher in protein than regular yogurt because it’s been strained to remove excess liquid and sugars (lactose). The thick, creamy texture is delicious on its own (or in a bowl with some fresh strawberries), but I also love using it to make a high-protein cheesecake.
35. Ground Beef (extra lean)
Ground beef can be a great way to get protein in family-friendly recipes like burgers, chili, sloppy Joe’s, and more. The bonus of ground beef is that as it cooks in a pan, the fat renders (melts and separates from the meat) so that you can strain it off and you’re left with a very lean, high-protein meat.
36. Deli Ham (96% fat-free)
Deli meat isn’t always the top choice for protein because of its high sodium content, and some cuts like salami or pepperoni are quite high in fat. But, lean deli meats like ham can be a great choice for protein in your sandwich, if sodium intake isn’t a concern.
37. Steak (Angus sirloin)
Angus beef is a breed of cattle from Scotland: the Aberdeen Angus. This sturdy breed that withstands cold Scottish winters also has marbling of fat that makes for juicy cuts of meat. Thankfully, a sirloin steak is still lean enough to offer more protein per calorie than even certain fish, as long as you trim away the visible fat.
38. Catfish (wild)
Farmed fish can have nearly double the fat content of wild fish because fish in the wild have to swim a lot more to find their food, and they have a much more varied diet than just processed fish food. This creates enough of a nutrient difference that wild-caught catfish make our list, but farmed catfish do not.
39. Bluefish or Yellowtail
Bluefish is a species of fish found around the world, and most commonly in the southwest Atlantic Ocean. While nutritionally similar, yellowtail fish most commonly refers to the Japanese amberjack, a Pacific fish that shows up in Japanese cuisine. Both fish are a great source of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids.
40. Duck Breast (boneless, skinless)
While duck is known for having oily meat, it turns out that removing the skin from the breast leaves you with a lean protein source. Of course, it’s this fatty skin that makes duck so tasty, so if you remove it, you’ll want to be careful to avoid overcooking the meat and getting a dry result. Cooking the skinless duck breast in a sauce or stew is a great way to ensure a moist result.
41. Canned Salmon
Canned salmon is another great convenience protein option that offers more flavor than canned tuna. The fat content varies by brand, so check your labels carefully. You can also look for canned salmon with bones for an extra boost of calcium – you can actually eat the salmon bones and benefit from their calcium content.
42. Ground Pork (extra lean)
Ground pork is a great alternative to ground beef, either just for a change in flavor or for people who don’t eat beef for health or religious reasons. I like making pork meatballs with soy sauce to pair with Asian dishes, and we also switch up our beef burgers for pork burgers with chopped apples mixed in.
43. Beef Liver
Liver (and other organ meats) is increasing in popularity for its high nutrition content. Beef liver is an excellent source of iron and vitamin A – so much so that it’s recommended to limit liver to 1-2 servings per week. I like a spicy spin on the dish of liver and onions, so I make Moroccan Beef Liver Tagine.
44. Cottage Cheese (0%, dry curd)
Dry-curd cottage cheese is also known as farmer’s cheese or baker’s cheese, and it’s just dry curds without liquid whey. I find it a bit weird in terms of texture to try to eat a bowl the way I would eat regular cottage cheese, so my favorite choice for dry-curd cottage cheese is in high-protein cheesecake. Apparently dry-curd cottage cheese is also the base for Polish Cheesecake (Sernik).
I’m pretty lucky to have a father-in-law who loves to fish, and who lives on the shore of the Kootenay Lake, one of the largest lakes in the province of British Columbia and a great spot for rainbow and bull trout fishing. Fresh-caught trout pan-fried or barbecued is one of the delights of our family vacations, and it keeps my high-protein eating on track even when we’re away from home.
Mussels are another seafood staple that you often see at restaurants, yet few people prepare them at home. That’s a shame because these high-protein nuggets are fast and easy so that you can have a quick and elegant dinner any night of the week.
Unlike its ocean-going cousins, carp are an oily freshwater fish, native to Europe and Asia. In the U.S, they are considered an invasive species. They aren’t as popular for eating with their distinctly fishy flavor and coarse texture compared to mild choices like tilapia, pollock, haddock, or halibut. But, when you’ve got the right recipe, carp are part of a delicious high-protein meal.
48. Crickets (roasted, plain)
Crickets aren’t a staple source of protein in the US (yet), but they are commonplace in several African countries, Thailand, China, Mexico, and Brazil.
Cricket and other insects are starting to be recognized as affordable, nutritious protein sources that are far more sustainable and eco-friendly than conventional beef, pork and chicken.
49. Tofu (extra firm)
Tofu, made from soy milk curds, is probably the best-known vegan source of protein. It can actually come in different levels of firmness from silken (great for puddings or other creamy desserts) to soft, firm, and extra firm. Extra firm holds its shape well, which makes it the perfect choice to cut into cubes that can be marinated and included in stir fries.
50. Ground Venison
Venison most commonly refers to deer meat, but can actually mean meat from any large game animal, especially one with antlers. In this case, our nutrition stats are for deer meat, and specifically ground venison. Ground venison works in all the same recipes as ground beef (and if you’ve got ground beef, you can use it in these great ground venison recipes).
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About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.