35 Best Vegan Protein Sources to Help You Crush Cravings and Feel Full
Whether you follow a plant-based diet or just want to mix up your protein intake with some new sources, plant-based foods are actually a great protein source. While you may not expect it, many vegan protein options at your local supermarket and each option may even contain more protein than meat per serving.
While choosing a high protein vegan source seems straightforward, some care must be made when selecting the best options. According to Rachel Paul, Ph.D., RD from CollegeNutritionist.com, plant-based protein is constructed differently from animal protein.
"Protein sources are classified as either 'complete' or 'incomplete,' meaning they either contain all the essential amino acids our bodies need or don't," says Paul. "Animal proteins are complete sources of protein, plant sources of protein are incomplete. However, different plant-based protein sources can be paired throughout the day to present all essential amino acids (e.g. beans and rice). Pairing [proteins] together at the same meal isn't necessary."
Paul also has good news when it comes to selecting vegan protein. "It's best to get a variety of plant-based protein sources throughout the day—no one source is really better than another," says Paul. "[This way] a person will be exposed to a variety of additional nutrients—in addition to protein [and] amino acids."
So if you can't find all of these options in your area, have no fear! As long as you can find some of the foods listed below, you should have no problem completing your daily nutrition regimen.
With the help of Paul, we assembled the master list of the highest vegan protein sources that you can mix and match to get the most positive nutrition. If you need to find some extra protein for your diet, read on to find the right vegan protein source for you.
This trendy vegan protein source has broken through to middle America in recent years and has made appearances on restaurant menus across the country. Made from vital wheat gluten, this protein source is a great substitute for meat and can be marinated and prepared most ways you would prepare chicken or pork. In order to get the proper amount of protein, you just need to consume about a third of a cup to consume a whopping 75 grams of protein. To top it off, seitan contains no cholesterol and has healthy iron and calcium content, making it a great meat replacement to help you bulk up.
Tofu has established itself as the king of soy-based vegan proteins—most supermarkets carry it, it can be cooked in a variety of ways, you can flavor it to fit any dish, and can cook it to your texture preference, ranging from soft to crispy. In order to gain the full 10 grams of protein, you need to consume about 2/5 of a standard package of tofu, but have no fear—this food cooks down easily, as its weight is mostly water. With a low calorie count and high amounts of calcium and phosphorus, you'll be craving even more of this vegan protein source.
This fermented soybean-based protein source found its way from Indonesia to America and contains enough nutrients to keep you going for the day. With a similar texture to seitan but with added benefits of soy, you can marinate, stir-fry, or bake tempeh to get a full serving of protein. To get the proper amount of nutrition, aim to eat three or four slices to get a serving of protein comparable to consuming two eggs.
Going straight to the source, edamame are immature soybeans and have been a staple food in East Asia for centuries. Edamame has remained popular in part to its high serving-to-protein ratio and ease of preparation—just steam and shell them and you are ready to get a solid 17 grams of protein per cup. Pair this with any meal and you are going to get a good serving of nutrients, complete with 98 milligrams of calcium and 99 milligrams of magnesium.
This staple vegan protein source has easily earned its spot on this list. You just need a 3/4 cup of cooked lentils to get a solid nine grams of protein. They are extremely versatile and add a nice nuttiness to any meal. To supercharge their nutritional content, soak the lentils in water to sprout them and get healthy doses of iron and vitamin C.
Found in a wealth of Middle Eastern recipes, the mighty chickpea will provide a wealth of protein to keep you moving through your day. As one of the most protein-packed items on this list, you just need to eat a 3/4 cup of soaked beans to get a full 19 grams of protein—the equivalent of three eggs. Whether you soak the dry beans or get the canned version, you get an added bonus if you save the water they soak in. This water, called aquafaba, is a rich energy source that can replace egg whites in baking and has additional nutrients you can either add straight to your meal or save for later.
You may have seen this specialty vegan protein pop up at health food stores and local grocery stores alike. Known for being a cheese substitute in plant-based recipes, nutritional yeast can be sprinkled onto any meal to add an acidic bite, bringing out the flavors of your meal more than you could even expect. And what's more, you only need about a teaspoon to get eight grams of protein!
You may have never heard of this specialty grain, but the considerable protein content is a key reason as to why you should seek it out at your local health food store. It can be cooked in the same process as couscous and packs in 25 whole grams of protein per 1 1/2 cups of cooked spelt. With this in mind, you can easily replace any starch in a meal to super-boost your recipe to new levels.
You may be suspicious of the nutrition of hemp products but have no fear. Hemp seeds are known to be packed not just with protein, but also healthy fat and you only need two tablespoons of the seed to get as much protein as a cup of yogurt! Sprinkle these on top of salads to add a nice crunch or bake them into your favorite cookies or breads to supercharge your meal.
Who knew peas could contain so much protein? Packing in almost as much protein as lentils, green peas are a great side dish if you need to up the protein levels in your meal. They also contain high levels of vitamin A and C, making them all the more appealing if you need some extra nutrition in your diet. You just need 1.5 cups of steamed or boiled peas to get a protein boost.
When it comes to high vegan protein food, spirulina tops the list as one of the best sources of protein. This seaweed has been a vital ingredient in dietary protein supplements for years, and now grocery stores have caught on. You can opt to cook it like kombu and make a soup stock out of it, or crush it up and sprinkle it on top of your meals to add umami. If you eat a 3/4 cup of this seaweed, you consume as much protein as almost three chicken cutlets, with far fewer calories. Spirulina also contains essential iodine, a nutrient you may lack if you pursue an all-plant diet.
This starchy cereal has been gaining popularity in Western cuisine. Like many other grains, amaranth has been known to be an essential source of protein, magnesium, and iron. This grain can replace rice or potatoes as a side starch in many meals with a considerable boost in nutrients. You can often find it in bulk stores in its unprocessed form, meaning you get the hull of the cereal with extra fiber. If you eat about 2 cups of the cereal you get as much protein as eating 100 grams of steak.
This trendy grain has made its name in part to being a fantastic vegan high protein source. It just needs to be quickly boiled and fluffed to pair great with any other food to round out a meal. With 100 grams packing in over 14 grams of protein, you just need to add a 3/4 cup of quinoa to get a solid serving of protein.
This wholesome-sounding bread entered the market fairly recently, but like many other vegan protein sources on this list, has been eaten for generations. Made from sprouted grains, Ezekiel bread packs in 4 grams of protein per slice. That means that if you replaced your regular choice of bread with Ezekiel bread when you make a sandwich, you could get an added 8 grams of protein.
You've seen it in the refrigerator section for years, but you might not have known that this beverage is a great vegan source of protein. With the same building blocks as tofu or tempeh, soy milk is made from pressed soybeans and chilled to perfection. If you get the unsweetened variety, you can cut out any unnecessary sugar, while getting a healthy dose of vitamin B-6. You just need a glass of soy milk to get almost as much protein as a serving of lentils.
When you need a quick, hearty, and filling protein source, look no further than oats. In addition to cooking the oats into a porridge for a straight-forward meal, you can also bake them into cookies sweetened with agave to have a sweet protein boost. All you need is a 3/4 cup to get almost 17 grams of protein, almost as much as three eggs.
While it may be harder to find than the processed, white variety, wild rice is definitely worth it. With a solid cup of cooked wild rice, you not only get 24 grams of protein, but you also get healthy servings of fibers, magnesium, and vitamin B-6 that you wouldn't normally find in processed white rice. Pair this with beans in a meal or later in the day to get a complete protein.
You may know chia seeds from the iconic chia pet statues, but these superfoods should not be discounted—they pack in protein, healthy fat, and magnesium, and you just need to sprinkle them in your food for a nice textural crunch. With a 3/4 cup, you get a huge dose of protein. If you are a fan of boba teas, you can even soak the seeds and add them to the beverage to get a similar gelatinous bubble texture as you would with a tapioca bubble.
A vegan protein list wouldn't be complete without peanut butter, a classic spread that even your parents knew to be a solid protein source. If you spread on about two tablespoons of peanut butter on a sandwich, you get a healthy eight grams of protein. Don't limit yourself to just making sandwiches with peanut butter—throw the spread on top of your favorite vegan ice cream, mix it into oatmeal cookie batter or add it into satays to get a flavor and protein boost.
You may not have guessed it, but potatoes will supply you with a solid amount of protein to keep you going each day. A small potato packs in at least three grams of protein and assuming you are having a full serving of mashed potatoes or hash browns, you are looking at a solid 10 grams of protein per serving. Potatoes also pack in vitamins B-6 and C, while supplying enough filling carbs to keep you sharp and focused on your daily tasks.
Just like the regular potato, the sweet potato packs in almost as much protein as its normal cousin. You can prepare these the same way you do as regular potatoes, and if you eat an equivalent of two regular sized sweet potatoes, you are getting at least 4 grams of protein. Pair this potato with any other vegan protein source on this list, and you can easily sneak in some extra protein to a meal.
You may not have understood why you were forced to eat these as a kid, but in addition to high levels of iron and vitamin C, Brussels sprouts actually pack in a decent amount of vegan protein. You can roast, blanch, sautee or prepare these however you like and if you prepare a half-pound bag of Brussels sprouts, you get an easy 15 grams of protein. With these vegetables falling into vogue again, it is easy to find recipes that fit any palette while providing solid nutrition to a meal.
In addition to being an excellent iron source, spinach builds muscle mass by providing almost three grams of protein per a 3/4 cup. You can maximize your intake by sauteeing the vegetable down or use the vegetable as a salad basis. By adding this leafy green to pastas, casseroles, or stir-frys, you can maximize your nutrient intake on any plant-based diet.
In just 5 florets of broccoli, you not only consume a healthy dose of vitamin C and K, but you also get 4.2 grams of protein. This vegetable can easily become the star of any meal and can fill you up with a solid fiber content as well.
Out of all vegan protein sources, you probably would never guess that artichokes would make the list. With such a small amount of edible material on each vegetable, it might seem hard to get the full amount of protein, but have no fear. Maximize your gains from this vegetable by transforming it into a dip or sauté the artichoke hearts as a side dish. If you consume a small can of store-bought artichoke hearts, you can guarantee that you will gain at least 4 grams of protein.
Textured vegetable protein
As one of the highest vegan protein sources, textured vegetable protein will supercharge any meal you can add it into. Often seen as a vegan substitute to ground beef, you only need about 3/4 cup of textured vegetable protein to pack in 52.9 grams of protein. With this amount, you won't miss meat even a little bit. Look for this product in the freezer section at your local supermarket.
With a high iron and fiber count, bulgur wheat supplies a considerable amount of protein to keep you moving all day long. As a cereal, you just need a cup of the boiled grain to gain 17 grams of protein, as much as three eggs. When bulgur wheat is boiled, it has a polenta-like texture and a pleasant earthy taste. It can even be eaten as a breakfast porridge to fill you up in the morning.
A wheat berry is a whole, unhusked wheat kernel, making it a perfect grain if you need fiber and protein in your day. Boil these like a porridge to soften them down and flavor them any way you like to bolster the taste. And at 13 grams of protein per a 3/4 cup of boiled grain, you are guaranteed to feel wholesome and full after just one serving.
This middle eastern grain can now also be found throughout grocery stores in America and packs in flavor. This grain works great in wraps and grain bowls and guarantees you not only get protein, but also manganese. You just need three tablespoons to get six grams of protein.
You may have seen the puffed version of this grain at bulk food stores and have maybe even eaten cereal or trail mix with added barley. What you might not know is that in addition to fiber, this high vegan protein source contains 23 grams of protein for every 1.5 cups. You can also boil the raw grain or throw the puffed version into salads to add a pleasant texture.
This grain mix appears commonly as an addition in salads and soups, but often people pass it over at the store just because they have never heard of it. Don't be thrown off—this vegan source of protein adds extra depth and flavor to the meals it goes in and can even be boiled and eaten plain. If you eat a bowl of this in the morning, you are sure to add at least 15 grams of protein to your diet.
Typically sold as a supplement, flax seeds take any smoothie or salad to the next level. By just adding a handful of these seeds, you automatically add in an equivalent of half a chicken cutlet worth of protein. In addition to adding crunch and flavor, flax seeds add in healthy fat and with extra fiber, they can keep you feeling full.
Whether it is Halloween and you are wondering what to do with your pumpkin scoopings or you are looking for an alternative vegan protein source, pumpkin seeds will provide you with a solid 12 grams of protein per two tablespoons. You can collect them yourself and roast them in the oven, or buy them in bulk to make your own nut and seed mix. Either way, this little known vegan protein source will help you bulk up.
As a basis of veggie burgers, Latin American cuisine and more, black beans provide a partial protein and you just need half a cup of soaked beans to get seven grams of protein. They are an extremely versatile vegan protein—you can mash and fry them to create fritters or boil them with onions and garlic to create a Cuban-influenced side dish. With a high sugar content, you can even turn them into an east Asian dessert filling for a vegan pastry to impress your friends.
This vegan protein option might be harder to find, but is the perfect supplement to your smoothie to give you that extra boost. Mycoprotein is a fungal protein that is normally sold as a powder and can be added to soups or stews for added umami. All you need is a 3/4 cup to mix into a soup to add 11 grams of protein.
A traditional grain originating from Ethiopia and Eritrea, teff is a grass that you typically see in powder form. With an earthy flavor, you can consume it like how you would eat wheatgrass and can even mix it with water to create a healthy drink. You just need ¾ of a cup to throw into a meal to add an extra boost of protein.
This ancient grain packs in the vegan protein—boil a 3/4 cup of this wheat and you get 14.7 grams of protein. This is great to consume as a breakfast porridge and top it off with some spinach to have an excellent start to your day.
This high protein vegan wheat appears throughout the world, and you may have already had the Eastern European dish Kasha that is made out of this whole grain. This fantastic grain not only contains more than 13 grams of protein per a 3/4 cup, but you also get iron and lots of fiber in each serving. You can prepare this as a porridge, replace an ordinary side starch with it, or pair it with vegetables to make an excellent pilaf that will impress anyone you serve it to.