Protein is everywhere—in various meats, plant-based foods such as vegetables, and yes, even cheese. While you might not equate cheese with the important nutrient, there are many cheeses that taste delicious and can help you boost your protein intake.
Given that many Americans don’t eat quite enough protein—the Dietary Reference Intake for protein amounts to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man, and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman—every little bit counts. “Protein is one of the three macronutrients that provides the body with calories along with fat and carbohydrates. Because of this, protein is an essential part of our diet and vital for life. Protein not only provides us with calories, but it also plays a key role in cellular health,” explains Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.
“Taking in adequate protein in your diet means you will fuel your body with nutrients to build muscle, skin, cartilage, and bones,” says Best. “Protein is essential in tissue repair, hormone regulation, oxygenating the blood, and creating enzymes to aid in digestion.”
Since cheese is so versatile and can be added to anything from a burger to scrambled eggs, it’s easy to get a little extra protein via a slice of Gouda or some savory goat cheese crumbles. With that in mind, we consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food database and picked 10 different cheeses that pack an impressive amount of protein per serving.
What’s more? Since protein is so crucial to a healthy and balanced diet, we also included links to recipes that call for each of those 10 cheeses, so you can increase your protein consumption ASAP.
Eager to add some more protein to your diet courtesy of some irresistible cheese? Keep reading to find out which cheeses you should purchase the next time you head to the grocery store!
Protein, per 100 grams: 31.8 grams
“One ounce of romano cheese provides the consumer with 9 grams of protein, which is a significant amount for the average adult,” says Best. “This form of hard Italian cheese contains a beneficial fatty acid known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to improve risk of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.”
This colorful dish has a red wine pasta base, which is really just pasta partially cooked in red wine, and is topped with a third of a cup of shaved romano cheese. It’s also made with fresh lemon zest, and cracked black pepper, which gives it a little kick.
Protein, per 100 grams: 31.7 grams
“An ounce of this soft cheese contains 9.1 grams of protein and under 1 gram of carbohydrates,” Best notes. “Mozzarella cheese is versatile, making it easy to add to your diet to give you the benefit of increased calcium. This cheese provides 21 percent of the daily recommended intake.”
Need a vehicle for your mozzarella? Try this savory salad made with a whole pound of mozz, thinly sliced salami, green olives, and a dressing that includes honey and lemon zest.
Hard goat cheese
Protein, per 100 grams: 30.5 grams
“This popular cheese provides 8.7 grams of protein per ounce along with just 0.6 grams of carbohydrates. In addition to protein, this cheese also provides the consumer with beneficial probiotics,” Best explains. “These naturally occurring bacteria improve gut health, digestion, and contribute to overall health.”
To add more goat cheese to your diet, give this light pasta a try. In addition to being topped with crumbled goat cheese and lemon zest, the pasta is made with sliced zucchini and garlic.
“This cheese, used primarily as a melting cheese in fondues and baked dishes, provides 8 grams of protein for just 1 ounce,” according to Best. “Along with its protein content, Gruyère provides an impressive amount of B12 at 19 percent of the daily recommended value. This nutrient is involved in energy, nerve cell health, and mood.”
This cheese, which is actually a type of Swiss cheese, shines in this savory gratin recipe, which also includes spinach, shallots, and Parmesan—another cheese with a good amount of protein.
Protein, per 100 grams: 29.6 grams
Parmesan cheese goes with just about anything. Case in point: This recipe pairs a half a cup of the grated cheese with scrambled eggs, so you can start your day with a healthy and hefty dose of protein. “An ounce of this popular cheese provides a significant amount of protein at 11 grams,” Best notes. “Parmesan is another versatile cheese that can be used in many dishes, but what is most impressive may be the fact that it’s naturally lactose-free.”
Protein, per 100 grams: 28.4 grams
This cheese (another versatile pick) works well in sandwiches, wraps, or omelets, and, as this dish proves, can also hold its own in a dish that’s a bit heartier. This quick chicken dinner is basically comfort and coziness in a dish, and it takes just 30 minutes to make. In addition to chicken and cheese, this recipe calls for slivers of prosciutto and a crunchy Panko breadcrumb topping.
“Swiss cheese is identified by its appearance with holes embedded throughout. However, there is more to Swiss cheese than how it looks. This cheese provides eight grams of protein for one ounce and only 50 calories as well as under 2 grams of fat,” Best says. “This nutrient makeup makes Swiss cheese one of the healthier cheeses available.” Not a fan of low-fat cheese? The same size serving of full-fat Swiss cheese has 27 grams of protein.
CREDIT: JAMES BAIGRIE
Protein, per 100 grams: 25.6 grams
“This cheese is classified as a semi-firm Italian cheese and contains 7 grams of protein,” Best notes. “Along with an impressive amount of calcium, provolone also contains a significant amount of vitamin A, an important nutrient for eye health.”
Keep your eyes in tip-top shape with this eggplant provolone recipe, which is like a lighter version of eggplant Parmesan. Here, grilled eggplant halves are topped with provolone slices and grilled salsa.
If you’re a fan of Greek cuisine, you’re likely familiar with this popular cheese. In this recipe, the pungent ingredient is grilled and joined by other popular Greek staples including olives, chickpeas, cucumbers, and onions.
“This semi-hard cheese has a tangy flavor and chewy texture that packs 7 grams of protein into a 1-ounce serving,” shares Best. “This is another cheese that supports bone health via its beneficial calcium content at 25 percent of the daily recommended value.”
Protein, per 100 grams: 25 grams
“Edam is a mild-flavored cheese that contains seven grams of protein for a one-ounce serving. Along with its beneficial protein, it has an impressive amount of potassium, which is an important electrolyte for healthy nerve function and fluid balance,” Best explains.
While this recipe doesn’t use Edam cheese, it does call for fontina cheese, which is similar. The cheese is layered inside the elevated quesadillas along with sweet pear, salty prosciutto, and spicy arugula.
Protein, per 100 grams: 24.9 grams
“An ounce of this semi-soft cheese contains seven grams of protein in a 1-ounce serving,” says Best. “This cheese also contains beneficial probiotic bacteria for overall health and vitamin K2, which improves skin, bone, brain and heart vessels.”
To keep your body in good shape, turn to this recipe for cheese puffs, which is great for a holiday party or other gatherings. The savory puffs are made with a cup of smoked Gouda, which is packed inside a simple dough shell that’s topped with flaky sea salt and pepper.