20 Zinc-Packed Vegan Recipes To Support Your Immune System

Zinc is vital for immune system function, and it's perfectly possible to find it in plant-based foods


(updated )

16 Minutes Read

a bowl of vegan orange tofu with broccoli, a vegan meal that's high in zinc Contrary to popular belief, you can get zinc on a plant-based diet - Media Credit: Sarah Cabacho

Our immune system helps our body fight off illness and infection. It’s a complex network of cells, tissues, organs, and molecules that work together to protect the body from harmful viruses and bacteria.

Catching illnesses is part of being human, and getting the odd bug here and there is totally normal. Unfortunately, there aren’t any quick fixes to ensuring you don’t get sick, but there are a few ways we can support our immune system to keep it running smoothly.

If you want to give yourself the best chance of fighting coughs and colds, there are certain foods you can eat to help keep your immune system running as it should. Foods containing zinc are a great example.

Why we need zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that helps with many bodily functions. Perhaps most notably, it’s vital for the immune system. “Zinc plays a crucial role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division,” Lisa Marley, nutrition coach and chef, tells Plant Based News.

According to Marley, zinc is “particularly important” for boosting the immune system. “It helps in the development and function of immune cells, and a deficiency in zinc can impair immune function, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses,” she says.

Zinc is one of those minerals that vegans often get criticized for being deficient in. While it’s true that zinc is found in meat, fish, and other animal products, there are plant-based sources as well. There is no reason to think someone on a plant-based diet is deficient in zinc if they eat the right foods and supplement where appropriate.

Generally speaking, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc is 11mg for men and 8mg for women. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding will need 11 mg and 12 mg respectively.

Are there plant-based sources of zinc?

There are a number of plant-based sources of zinc, and there’s no need to eat animal products to ensure you’re getting enough. Examples of zinc-rich plant foods include legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans), nuts and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds and cashews), whole grains (such as quinoa and oats), tofu, tempeh, and fortified foods. “Including a variety of these foods in your diet can help you meet your zinc requirements,” Marley says.

Marley warns, however, that vegan zinc sources tend to be less bioavailable than animal sources, which means that the body may not be able to absorb it as easily. “It is important for vegans to include zinc-rich foods in their diet and consider supplementation if needed,” she says.

There are steps you can take to maximize zinc absorption. “Phytates, which are compounds found in plant foods like whole grains, legumes, and nuts, can bind to zinc and inhibit its absorption,” Marley says. “To enhance zinc absorption, you can soak, sprout, ferment, or cook foods that contain phytates. Including vitamin C-rich foods in your meals can also help enhance zinc absorption.”

Vegan zinc recipes – ingredients

The below recipes contain at least one vegan source of zinc, as outlined below:


According to Marley, tempeh is a good source of zinc for a number of reasons.

The vegan protein is made from fermented soybeans. As well as being naturally rich in zinc, the fermentation process breaks down the phytates that can inhibit absorption. This makes tempeh a more bioavailable source of zinc than some other plant foods.

“Tempeh is a nutrient-dense food that not only provides zinc but also offers other essential nutrients like protein, fiber, iron, and calcium,” says Marley. “Including tempeh in your diet can help you meet your zinc requirements along with other important nutrients.”

Tempeh contains around 1.14mg of zinc per 100g.


Some of the recipes are lentil-based. As well as containing a good amount of zinc, lentils are packed other essential nutrients such as fiber, iron, folate, and potassium. “This nutrient profile makes lentils a valuable food for overall health and well-being,” says Marley.

Lentils are an example of a vegan zinc source that may not be as bioavailable as animal sources due to phytates. Marley recommends combining lentil recipes with vitamin C-rich foods, including peppers, tomatoes, and citrus fruits.

Lentils contain 3.27mg of zinc per 100g.


Tofu is made from soybeans, which naturally contain zinc.

“Similar to other plant-based sources of zinc, tofu contains phytates that can inhibit zinc absorption,” says Marley. “However, incorporating tofu into a balanced diet that includes a variety of zinc-rich foods and sources of vitamin C can help improve zinc absorption.”

Tofu contains around 1.57mg of zinc per 100g.


Chickpeas are a hugely popular plant-based ingredients, as they’re cheap, protein-packed, and work well in a a wide variety of recipes.

They’re also a good source of zinc, featuring around 1.13mg per 100g.

Vegan zinc recipes

For many of these dishes, you can add additional seeds and nuts like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, or cashews. It’s always worth including an extra source of vitamin C to any of these dishes to aid absorption, including kale, peppers, lemon juice, or broccoli.

This is intended as a guide only, and you should not rely on these recipes to reach your RDA of zinc. Eating a variety of zinc-packed foods is key, and supplementation may be beneficial.

Please always consult your doctor if you are worried about zinc intake.

Sweet chili tempeh

A bowl of sweet chili tofu,  a zinc-packed vegan recipe
World of Vegan Tempeh is a good vegan source of zinc

If you’re new to cooking with tempeh, this sweet chili recipe is a great place to start. It’s easy, quick, protein-packed, and works well with noodles, rice, or just on its own.

This particular recipe, which comes from World of Vegan, is made in an air-fryer – but there is an alternative method available if you don’t have one. It requires just eight ingredients, many of which you may already have in your kitchen cupboard.

Find the recipe here

Easy lentil stew with mashed potatoes

A bowl of vegan lentil stew, a zinc-packed plant-based recipe
Ela Vegan This lentil stew is packed with protein and zinc

Lentil stews are an absolute classic, and are always a reliable dinner if you’re wanting something comforting yet nutritious.

This hearty and wholesome stew – which comes from Ela Vegan – features mushrooms alongside a bunch of herbs like oregano, thyme, and parsley, and even pickles – making it a hugely flavorful dish. It’s served with mashed potatoes, and is a perfect recipe for a cold and rainy day.

Find the recipe here

Sunshine tempeh curry

sunshine tempeh curry, a vegan plant based dinner
BOSH! Try this simple yet fragrant plant-based curry made with vegan-friendly tempeh

If you’ve never had tempeh in a curry, this is your sign to try. This protein-packed BOSH! recipe is an explosion of flavors, and an easy way to pack more vegetables into your diet.

It features broccoli, carrot, and red peppers (for added vitamin C), and you can definitely play around with the recipe depending on what veggies you have lying around in your fridge.

Find the recipe here

Spanish white wine lentils

A vegan Spanish White Wine Lentil recipe
Vegan Recipe Club Lentils are a protein-rich and highly versatile ingredient

If you thought lentils were boring, you obviously haven’t tried this Spanish-inspired white wine lentils dish from Viva!’s Vegan Recipe Club. It’s extravagant enough for a dinner party or date night, but also deceptively easy to make.

It can be served on its own, alongside bread, or however you like. You also have the option to include vegan bacon lardons for an even tastier dish.

Find the recipe here

Red lentil tofu

Photo shows a dish of pink colored "tofu" cubes made from red lentils so as to be soy free.
Plant Baes If you’re avoiding soy, you can easily make your own tofu using red lentils

Did you know you can make soy-free tofu using red lentils? Neither did we until we found this incredible Plant Baes recipe.

You’ll literally just need one ingredient, red lentils, to make this recipe (plus some water), so it’s absolutely worth trying. It’s great for anyone who’s allergic to soy, or just fancies something a bit different from shop-bought tofu.

Find the recipe here

Tempeh neatballs

A zinc-packed vegan pasta dish made with tempeh meatballs
Happy Skin Kitchen Tempeh can be used to make meatballs

Meatballs can be made vegan with a variety of plant substitutes, including tofu, soy, seitain, and more. A more unusual choice of plant protein for meatballs, however, is tempeh.

This recipe, which comes from Happy Skin Kitchen, shows you how to make tempeh “neatballs” with just a few ingredients. They’re great served with pasta, rice, or whatever takes your fancy!

Find the recipe here

One-pot chili mac

A vegan chili mac in a bowl next to dairy-free cheese and cilantro
Rainbow Plant Life This chili mac is vegan, dairy-free, and easy to make

As well as the tempeh, this recipe features kidney beans for a zinc boost (these contain around 0.9mg per half cup). This Rainbow Plant Life recipe is easy to make, requires just one pot, and also packs in a good amount of plant protein.

If you’ve yet to discover the magic of combining pasta and beans, you’ll soon discover they’re a match made in heaven. This recipe features a range of cupboard staple ingredients, and is perfect for a comforting weeknight meal.

Find the recipe here

Lazy lentil dahl

lazy lentil dahl vegan curry with coconut, tomato, and spinach
BOSH! Lazy Lentil Dahl made with coconut milk and tomato and aromatic South Asian spices

This recipe is just perfect for when you’ve had a long day at work, can’t be bothered to cook, but still want to eat something tasty and healthy.

While many dahl recipes can take quite a bit of effort to make, this one is super easy, and is ready in just 45 minutes. It comes from BOSH!, and features classic ingredients like ginger, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and coconut milk.

Find the recipe here

One pot spaghetti with lentil ragu

A one-pot spaghetti and lentil ragu recipe
Romy London This vegan one-pot recipe takes just 30 minutes to make

Traditional ragu sauces are heavy on meat, but zinc-packed lentils are a hugely popular alternative to use.

This Romy London recipe has all the makings of a classic that you’ll come back to time and time again. It’s easy to make, requiring just 13 ingredients (including vegan parmesan, which really brings this recipe to life).

Find the recipe here

Apple and ginger dahl

An vegan high protein apple and ginger dahl recipe
Happy Skin Kitchen This dahl recipe features apple for a new and exciting twist

If you’ve never had apple in a dahl, we seriously recommend giving it a go, pronto. The sweetness of the apple goes perfectly with the saltiness and spicy flavors of this dahl dish.

This recipe is perfect for batch cooking, as you can keep this dahl in the freezer so it’s ready to cook for a quick evening meal.

Find the recipe here

Maple and garlic tofu roast

A vegan roast maple tofu
Romy London If you’re craving roast ham, try this tofu recipe instead

This maple and garlic tofu roast was created by Romy London, and it’s a perfect alternative to roast ham.

This showstopper dish features the deep umami flavors of maple syrup, tamari, and red wine, and it’s perfect for a festive dinner or Sunday lunch. It’s high in protein, goes well in roast dinner, and is sure to be a crowdpleaser if you’re welcoming guests.

Find the recipe here

High protein pepper pasta

Vegan recipe developer Madeleine Olivia eating vegan high protein pepper pasta
Clare Winfield This vegan pasta recipe is full of plant protein

This protein-packed pasta dish – which comes from Madeleine Olivia’s book Make It Vegan – features both beans and tofu for your zinc fix. It also has the added benefit of containing bell peppers, whose vitamin C content will aid absorption.

It’s creaminess is creates by the silken tofu, which is a magic ingredient when it comes to creating pasta sauces. You also have the option of adding nutritional yeast or vegan cheese for even more flavor.

Find the recipe here

Lentil salad

A vegan high protein lentil salad
The Garden Party Lentils are packed with plant protein and fiber

This lentil salad is another recipe packed with both zinc and vitamin C, with the lentils and peppers respesively. It couldn’t be easier to make, and is perfect for a vegan picnic during the summer months.

It comes from Rachel Steenland (owner of The Garden Party), and you can easily adapt it to include whatever salad items need eating up from your fridge.

Find the recipe here

Scrambled tofu

Photo shows a slice of toast topped with a tofu scramble, avocado, and tomatoes.
Viva!'s Vegan Recipe Club Scrambled tofu is a great way to get protein and other nutrients into your diet

Vegans can’t eat scrambled eggs, but some genius somewhere invented a wonderful protein-packed vegan alternative: scrambled tofu.

There are many scrambled tofu recipes available – and this one, which comes from Viva!’s Vegan Recipe Club, uses tahini, soy sauce, and nutritional yeast to give it its flavor.

Find the recipe here

Orange and ginger glazed tofu

Orange and ginger glazed tofu with a slice of orange on top
Romina Callwitz This recipe will teach you a new way to marinade your tofu

Another innovative tofu recipe, this orange and ginger marinade will seriously up your tofu game and impress any dinner party guests you’ve got over.

Romy London is behind this recipe, which features ingredients like orange juice (hello, vitamin C), liquid smoke, tamari, and fresh ginger.

Find the recipe here

Mediterranean Cherry Tomato With Spongy Tofu

A one pot recipe cherry tomato and spongy tofu dish from George Stiffman, the author of Broken Cuisine
George Stiffman Tofu is a hugely versatile ingredient, and this one pot recipe may teach you a new way to cook it

This one-pot recipe calls for fermented tofu, which will aid absorption of its zinc content. It also calls for spongy tofu – known as Qianye – which is made directly from soy protein, rather than whole beans.

This protein-packed dish comes from George Stiffman’s cookbook Broken Cuisine. While the tofu types will be tricky to find in the supermarket, it’s worth checking your nearest Asian supermarket to see if they’re in stock.

Find the recipe here

Orange tofu and broccoli

bowls of freshly prepared orange tofu and broccoli, one being held by the recipe developer from Plant Baes
Plant Baes This tofu is anything but bland thanks to an orange marinade

This vegan take on a takeaway classic is a great alternative to spending huge amounts of money ordering in. It’s healthier than your average takeaway, but tastes just as good.

This Plant Baes dish contains a whopping 29g of plant protein. It also has the added bonus of featuring orange juice and broccoli, whose vitamin C content will aid zinc absorption.

Find the recipe here

Mediterranean chickpea stew

A Mediterranean chickpea stew, a healthy vegan weeknight meal
World of Vegan This stew is quick and easy to make

This simple chickpea stew was just made for a midweek meal, taking just 15 minutes to make and requiring a few cupboard staple ingredients. To make it even simpler, it uses a readymade pasta sauce (though you can of course make a sauce from scratch if you prefer).

This World of Vegan recipe also has the added bonus of being cheap, meaning it’s great for those on a budget or just before pay day.

Find the recipe here

Chickpea and pumpkin pilaf

A vegan pumpkin and chickpea pilaf
Natali Eleftheriou This pilaf is a perfect midweek meal

This pilaf doesn’t look vegan on first glance – and that’s because it features dairy-free feta sprinkled on top, which elevates this dish to a whole new level.

This Natlicious Food recipe takes just 20 minutes to make, and uses chickpeas and pumpkin and its main ingredients.

Find the recipe here

Sweet potato and chickpea stew

A bowl of Indian vegan sweet potato and chickpea stew
Rainbow Plant Life This stew is a perfect addition to your weekly dinner rotation

Sweet potatoes and chickpeas go perfectly together, as this protein-packed stew proves. It comes from Rainbow Plant Life, and is the ultimate healthy comfort food.

It can be served with your choice of rice or flatbread, and we recommend also putting coconut yogurt on the side to give it an added creaminess.

Find the recipe here

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