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Fresh out of dinner ideas? We’re pretty sure you’re not alone, as racking our brains for a plan to make healthy meals is usually the last thing we want to do while exhausted on a weeknight. That said, as a dietitian I’m constantly trying to find ways to help athletes and active individuals to include protein in their meals, and dinner is no exception.
In fact, having a high-protein dinner is probably the most important meal for people who work out in the evening (because recovery). It’s also a game changer for those who have a problem with late-night snacking, as high-protein dinners can help keep you full all the way until bedtime.
Finally, higher protein intake has been shown1 to be effective at managing hunger and promoting weight loss in those struggling with obesity. TL;DR, high-protein meals should be utilized by pretty much anyone, whether you’re on a weight-loss journey or trying to put on mass. As a result, we compiled a list of high-protein meals across a range of cuisines and cooking skills. Check them out below.
15-Minute Southwestern Chicken and Black Bean Skillet
Serves 6; Per Serving – Calories: 321 | Fat: 11g | Carbs: 25g | Protein: 32g
If you came here looking for a quick weeknight dinner, this is the one. Both the prep and cook time is only 15 minutes and it holds well overnight, so it’s a great option for meal prep, as well. The black bean and chicken breast pairing boosts the grams of protein. There are some carbs in this meal due to the inclusion of corn, but you can also lean into the Southwestern theme by adding some extra starch such as quinoa.
Italian Meatballs with Zoodles
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 437 | Fat: 20g | Carbs: 21g | Protein: 38g
Need some tasty dinner recipes for your keto diet? What about an Italian pasta dish? These Italian meatballs with Zucchini noodles have almost 40 grams of protein per serving, but only 21 grams of carbs. You can use either ground beef or bison depending on what’s available (bison has much less saturated fat, FYI) and can sub turkey sausage if pork isn’t your jam. Either way, this is a superb low-carb meal for those with some extra time on their hands to get creative.
Roasted Salmon and Vegetables with Citrus Miso
Serves 2; Per Serving – Calories: 782 | Fat: 50g | Carbs: 49g | Protein: 41g
Here’s one of those high protein dinner recipes that is perfect for fall. Take advantage of in-season veggies including cauliflower and squash along with some October pumpkin seeds for texture. The white miso dressing in this dish gives a hint of umami flavor and the recipe calls for half a pound of salmon, which is quite a protein portion. So, break this one out in case of a serious appetite emergency.
Sheet Pan Moroccan Chicken with Sweet Potato & Cauliflower
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 526 | Fat: 28g | Carbs: 32g | Protein: 41g
Moroccan cuisine is one of my favorites due to its unique combination of foods we normally don’t use in American cuisine and its rich use of seasonings and spices. This one pan recipe contains cauliflower and sweet potatoes with some cranberries and pistachios as garnish for a hint of sweetness and crunch.
Want to know something cool? Potatoes are very similar to protein in how they promote feelings of fullness. One study2 showed that people who ate a meal with meat, vegetables, and potatoes consumed fewer calories than people who ate the same meal, but had rice and pasta instead of potatoes. Basically, this chicken recipe is not only delicious, but filling as well.
Mediterranean Turkey Burgers
Serves 6; Per Serving – Calories: 420 | Fat: 20g | Carbs: 23g | Protein: 37g
For years, the U.S. News and World Report has ranked the Mediterranean diet3 as the healthiest diet in the world based on how the diet represents the gold standard in preventive medicine, probably due to the combination of antioxidant and antiinflammatory foods that help to ward off chronic disease and lower the risk of mortality.
So, why not take a page out of the Mediterranean book by making some turkey burgers topped with salty feta cheese and homemade tzatziki sauce for dinner? For those who need more calorie density, try topping it with some hummus instead.
Ground Turkey Zucchini Boats
Serves 2; Per Serving – Calories: 316 | Fat: 14g | Carbs: 15g | Protein: 37g
With only a 15-minute prep time, this is a healthy dinner for those busy weeknights. It makes two servings, so it’s one of those dinner ideas you can use for a date night or as lunch and dinner for singles. Also, it’s low carb with only 15 grams of carbs per serving, so it can fit easily into keto diets. This recipe for zucchini boats is an Italian-style meal, but you can swap out the Italian seasoning with Fajitas seasoning and the mozzarella cheese with Mexican blend cheese for a more Southwestern-style high protein meal.
Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 578 | Fat: 24g | Carbs: 53g | Protein: 37g
This Asian-style salad is like a cross between a Chinese chicken salad and chicken satay with its mandarin oranges, grated carrots, and a savory peanut butter dressing. The combination of quinoa, edamame, and cooked chicken boosts the grams of protein to about 37 per serving and also contributes a good amount of fiber. Feel free to use slaw mix for quicker prep if you’re not into chopping a head of green cabbage.
Protein-Packed Lentil & Quinoa Salad
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 493 | Fat: 19g | Carbs: 52g | Protein: 19g
Researchers found4 that vegan diets tend to have the lowest calorie and protein intakes compared to other diets. So, high protein dinner recipes are particularly important to utilize in those who adopt this style of diet. Lentils are one of my favorite plant-based sources of protein as various studies show5 they contain the highest amounts of starch and insoluble fiber. In addition, they contain prebiotic carbohydrates, which aid the growth of a healthy gut microbiota, which in turn helps maintain a healthy colon and gut.
Even if you aren’t plant-based, you can try pairing this salad with a nice serving of baked salmon or roasted chicken breast for a dinner that’s high in both animal and plant protein along with healthy carbs from quinoa and edamame.
RELATED: Best Vegan Protein Powder
Ground Beef & Pasta Skillet
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 482 | Fat: 21g | Carbs: 55g | Protein: 44g
Listen up, pasta lovers! This one pan recipe is full of beefy, cheesy goodness. Try to find ground beef that is 90% lean or less so you don’t have to drain your skillet before adding your other ingredients. The addition of olive oil adds some heart-healthy fats and choosing whole-wheat pasta makes this meal so much more filling along with the 44 grams of protein per serving. To add even more bulk, add some roasted veggies like zucchini, spinach, or bell pepper.
Easiest Ever Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Serves 8; Per Serving – Calories: 315 | Fat: 13g | Carbs: 3g | Protein: 43g
As a dietitian, I love easy recipes like this, especially for people who want to meal prep, but don’t like eating the same meal all week long. What’s great about recipes like this is you can throw some meat in the slow cooker, along with spices like paprika and garlic, and let it cook while you go to work or run Sunday errands. When it’s done, you can make your weekly meal plan versatile by adding the pork to tacos one day, load a baked potato with it another day, or add it to some pasta and veggies the day after that. This way, you can have different, high-protein meals all week long.
Grilled Sesame-Crusted Tuna Steaks
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 345 | Fat: 10g | Carbs: 7g | Protein: 55g
I have to confess, I have made this exact recipe multiple times. During cutting season when protein intake needs to be sky high while keeping fat low, seafood is the safest way to minimize the headache of macro tracking tetris. With 55 grams of protein and only 10 grams of unsaturated fat from sesame oil and seeds, you have a lot of extra wiggle room to make these steaks a healthy dinner by adding in some chow mein noodles and stir fry veggies.
Greek Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 322 | Fat: 18g | Carbs: 13g | Protein: 31g
Let me tell you, when I went to Greece, I ordered the salad wherever I went. Not only because it’s just universally delicious, but the anti-inflammatory ingredients had me feeling great and I never felt hungry afterward. Combine all of that good fiber with the protein from the chicken in this recipe and you’ve got one satisfying, low-calorie meal. It combines all of the best components of a traditional Greek salad with homemade hummus dressing and uses Bibb lettuce as a vessel in lieu of something more carb-based such as pita bread.
Crispy Baked Tilapia
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 294 | Fat: 11g | Carbs: 12g | Protein: 37g
Tilapia tends to be a low-fat fish with a high protein content. It also has a mild flavor which makes it easy to incorporate into nearly any cuisine. This recipe is for those of you who want that crispy, deep-fried crunch without all of the fat. The breading is made using parmesan cheese, flour, seasonings, and breadcrumbs, then is oven-baked to give it that crispy texture. This is a great lean protein to batch cook in the oven in less than 25 minutes.
Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 654 | Fat: 54g | Carbs: 10g | Protein: 35g
Before you freak out at the grams of fat in this recipe, know that most of it comes from the olive oil used in the marinade and chimichurri, an Argentinian sauce traditionally served with steak that also uses red wine vinegar and oregano. Think of it as like a South American pesto.
Due to the high calorie count, this would be a more ideal recipe for those on a bulk, which is a total treat because nothing beats the flavor of grilled steak. Skirt steak is leaner than most other cuts of steak, but because of the lack of fat, it can also be quite tough. So, make sure to take advantage of the marinade included in the recipe and slice against the grain so the beef doesn’t end up chewy.
Baked Pork Chops and Rice
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 720 | Fat: 31g | Carbs: 62g | Protein: 45g
To make this meal complete, I recommend adding some veggies like roasted zucchini, Brussels sprouts, or carrots. You can also swap the long grain rice out for brown rice to add even more fiber to this comfort food recipe. If you want to reduce the fat or calorie content, you can swap the bone in pork chops for boneless pork loin chops.
RELATED: High-Protein Vegetables
Sheet Pan Chicken Pitas with Herby Ranch Slaw
Serves 2-3; Per Serving – Calories: 570 | Fat: 23g | Carbs: 49g | Protein: 43g
This recipe uses skinless boneless chicken breast as its main protein source with most of the fat coming from olive oil and avocado. That’s right, the “ranch slaw” doesn’t come from actual ranch, but a fresh, homemade sauce made from yogurt, dill, parsley, and avocado. If you’re going low-carb or just want to reduce the calories a bit, you can totally ditch the pita bread and enjoy the chicken and slaw in a bowl or use the filling for lettuce cups.
Crockpot White Chicken Chili
Serves 3; Per Serving – Calories: 485 | Fat: 16g | Carbs: 32g | Protein: 44g
White chicken chili is a classic high-protein recipe for busy weeknights, but this one uses a crockpot to cook the chicken so it shreds easily. Then, all you have to do is make a roux, throw in your beans, cumin, jalapenos, and other seasonings for a one pot meal that’s not only perfect for meal prep, but for the whole family. Double the recipe if you have more mouths to feed and dress it up with tortilla chips or canned corn for some extra carbs and texture.
Slow Cooker Satay Chicken
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 605 | Fat: 29g | Carbs: 29g | Protein: 60g
If you want a break from chicken breast, there’s nothing wrong with some dark meat in the form of some flavorful chicken thighs every now and then. This recipe calls for about 2.2 pounds of chicken thighs and about half a cup of peanut butter (for those who aren’t good with conversions). You’re gonna throw those into a slow cooker with some bell pepper and Thai seasonings to make Asian-style, high-protein meals for as long as you can stand to resist eating the whole pot. If you want to make it a bit more authentic, add some cayenne pepper for some spice.
Beef Stew with Carrots & Potatoes
Serves 6; Per Serving – Calories: 539 | Fat: 18g | Carbs: 32g | Protein: 54g
This comfort food is one of my favorites from my childhood. As the weather gets cooler, this high-protein meal looks more and more appealing. With 54 grams of protein from boneless beef chuck and carbs from potatoes and carrots operating as your veggie, it’ll be a fully balanced meal you can cook while you sleep. The use of tomato paste, red wine, and beef broth deepen the flavors and if you want a thicker sauce that’s perfect for dipping some buttery rolls into, leave the skin on your potatoes and let the starch make the broth more hearty.
Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 8; Per Serving – Calories: 390 | Fat: 16g | Carbs: 33g | Protein: 28g
If you’re scanning for some gluten-free dinner ideas, listen up! This chicken recipe uses corn tortillas rather than flour for a naturally gluten-free, but creamy, enchilada casserole. The Mexican flavors are enhanced by the addition of black beans, which also boosts the protein content, along with cilantro and cumin. You can also use Mexican cheese blend instead of Monterey Jack.
RELATED: Best Gluten-Free Meal Delivery
If you want to skip some steps, try buying a rotisserie chicken and using a fork to strip it of its meat for some ready-made, already seasoned and juicy chicken that you can add straight to the baking dish.
White Bean, Spinach & Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers
Serves 6; Per Serving – Calories: 539 | Fat: 18g | Carbs: 32g | Protein: 54g
These Italian-style bell peppers obviously include at least a serving of vegetables, but get their 54 grams of protein from ground turkey, white beans, and cheese which keeps the fat relatively low per serving. Most of the carbohydrates are thanks to the orzo, which is a rice-shaped pasta originating in Italy. If you want to make this recipe gluten-free, you can sub the orzo with brown rice. The filling also has parmesan cheese mixed in for some extra saltiness. This recipe is a good one to add to your meal prep repertoire since it can be made in bulk and holds up well when reheated.
Steak and Potato Foil Packets
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 400 | Fat: 16g | Carbs: 20g | Protein: 40g
This bona fide meat-and-potatoes dinner can be made in the oven or on the grill and, unlike the beef stew, can be ready in 30 minutes. The foil packs make it an easy dinner to reheat in the oven on those long days when you get home late and want a meal to be ready soon with minimal effort involved.
There will be plenty of potatoes to go around and 40 grams of protein per serving from the top sirloin to keep you feeling so full, you’ll be able to skip dessert. This, along with the fact that each serving has only 400 calories, makes this an ideal dinner recipe for weight loss.
Louisiana BBQ Shrimp
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 744 | Fat: 36g | Carbs: 62g | Protein: 41g
Get a taste of New Orleans with this shrimp recipe you can serve over cheesy grits or polenta for even more carbs (and authenticity). Contrary to the name, Cajun shrimp is not grilled or even cooked in barbecue sauce. However, it’s called BBQ shrimp for the deep red color the shrimp takes on from the Creole seasoning. Shrimp is such an excellent source of protein due to its extremely low fat content, making this crustacean almost pure protein.
Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 332 | Fat: 10g | Carbs: 22g | Protein: 40g
Not only does this Asian-style recipe taste better than Chinese delivery, it’s probably faster, too! Ready in 30 minutes or less, the whole family can enjoy this classic dish that’s also surprisingly low in calories. Enjoy it over brown rice and, although it includes broccoli and carrots, you can swap out or add any other veggies you enjoy. Make sure not to skip marinating the beef, as it needs to be sliced thin for stir fry but can overcook and become tough quickly without marinade.
Shrimp and Steak Fajitas
Serves 4; Per Serving – Calories: 788 | Fat: 44g | Carbs: 23g | Protein: 75g
Last, but certainly not least, we have the most high protein dinner recipe on the list. The whopping 75 grams of protein per servings are thanks to the inclusion of two protein sources: shrimp and steak. Fajitas differ from tacos in that the ingredients are usually cooked grill-style and don’t necessarily come in a tortilla. The recipe is also rich in cilantro, which is known to reduce heart disease risk6.
If you want to get really crazy, you can add canned black beans for even more protein and fiber. And I haven’t even told you the best part—this is a sheet pan recipe. So, not only can it be ready in 20 minutes, but the cleanup will be minimal when you’re done.
High Protein Dinner: Final Thoughts
We get it. It can be downright exhausting constantly coming up with ideas for healthy meals, let alone high-protein dinner recipes to help support your fitness and weight-loss goals. (Check out this list of high-protein fast food if you’re really in a pinch.)
We tried to include dinner recipes that can fit a variety of palates and fitness goals, be it mass gain or weight loss. Remember as you take note of your favorites that, while protein is important, you always want to balance your meals with a carb and veggie source to make your dinner complete.
RELATED: High-Protein Breakfast Ideas
High-Protein Dinner: FAQs
Which type of meat has the most protein?
Low-fat seafood like shrimp and tuna are great for dinner because they are high in protein and deliver more protein ounce for ounce than higher fat meats like beef. Other high-protein meats include chicken breast, lean beef, and bison.
What are the best plant sources of protein?
Legumes such as black beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans are the best sources of plant protein due to how nutrient dense they are in addition to the protein content. Soybeans or edamame are particularly great as they are one of the few plant sources of protein that contain all of the essential amino acids.
How can I get 100 grams of protein a day?
You can get 100 grams of protein a day without eating excessive calories by choosing lean sources of protein such as legumes, seafood, and lean cuts of poultry.
- Leidy HJ, Tang M, Armstrong CL, Martin CB, Campbell WW. The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011;19(4):818-824. doi:10.1038/oby.2010.203
- Zhang Z, Venn BJ, Monro J, Mishra S. Subjective Satiety Following Meals Incorporating Rice, Pasta and Potato. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1739. Published 2018 Nov 12. doi:10.3390/nu10111739
- Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Martin-Calvo N. Mediterranean diet and life expectancy; beyond olive oil, fruits, and vegetables. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2016;19(6):401-407. doi:10.1097/MCO.0000000000000316
- Clarys P, Deliens T, Huybrechts I, et al. Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrients. 2014;6(3):1318-1332. Published 2014 Mar 24. doi:10.3390/nu6031318
- Ganesan K, Xu B. Polyphenol-Rich Lentils and Their Health Promoting Effects. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(11):2390. Published 2017 Nov 10. doi:10.3390/ijms18112390
- Mahleyuddin NN, Moshawih S, Ming LC, et al. Coriandrum sativum L.: A Review on Ethnopharmacology, Phytochemistry, and Cardiovascular Benefits. Molecules. 2021;27(1):209. Published 2021 Dec 30. doi:10.3390/molecules27010209
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