Recent advances in our understanding of the sophistication of the cellular microenvironment and the dynamics of tissue remodeling during development, disease, and regeneration have increased our appreciation of the current challenges facing tissue engineering. As this appreciation advances, we are better equipped to approach problems in the biology and therapeutics of even more complex fields, such as stem cells and cancer. To aid in these studies, as well as the established areas of tissue engineering, including cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and neural applications, biomaterials scientists have developed an extensive array of materials with specifically designed chemical, mechanical, and biological properties. Herein, we highlight an important topic within this area of biomaterials research, protein-hydrogel interactions. Due to inherent advantages of hydrated scaffolds for soft tissue engineering as well as specialized bioactivity of proteins and peptides, this field is well-posed to tackle major needs within emerging areas of tissue engineering. We provide an overview of the major modes of interactions between hydrogels and proteins (e.g., weak forces, covalent binding, affinity binding), examples of applications within growth factor delivery and three-dimensional scaffolds, and finally future directions within the area of hydrogel-protein interactions that will advance our ability to control the cell-biomaterial interface.