There’s no denying the importance of protein for the human body to function properly. However, that doesn’t mean that meat is your only source of this important macronutrient.
There are a ton of vegan proteins out there, but you may not recognize them as foods that are high in protein.
For example, you might think of nuts and seeds as healthy fats and nut butters and hummus as condiments. While this true, these are also great examples of vegan protein sources.
If protein is important to you, you’ll want to know the best vegan proteins that will keep you full and help you meet your protein requirements.
Fortunately, vegan proteins are both common and easy to prepare.
Protein: 22 grams per 1 cup, 9 grams per 100g serving
Let’s get the obvious vegan protein source out of the way: tofu, a go-to vegan protein made from curdled soy.
Tofu is a popular meat alternative that’s made by coagulating soy milk. The curds are then pressed and mashed into the spongy, white blocks that get a bad reputation for being tasteless and difficult to prepare. However, like a sponge, tofu absorbs whatever spices, sauces and seasonings you put on it. You can also bake, fry, saute, roast or cook tofu like meat.
Tofu is actually a very versatile vegan protein. It’s used heavily in Asian dishes and can be tossed in stir-fry dishes and vegan protein bowls. You can also crumble tofu like scrambled eggs.
If you fall into the camp that swears they hate tofu, don’t give up on this vegan protein source. You just haven’t found the right cooking method and flavor combination yet.
These high-protein tofu recipes should help:
Protein: 26-35 grams per 1 cup, 21-24 grams per 100g serving
The protein in nuts depends on the type of nuts. So, here’s a breakdown of the nuts with the highest amount of vegan protein:
- Peanuts: 35 grams per 1 cup, 24 grams per 100g serving
- Walnuts: 30 grams per 1 cup, 24 grams per 100g serving
- Almonds: 30 grams per 1 cup, 21 grams per 100g serving
- Pistachios: 26 grams per 1 cup, 21 grams per 100g serving
- Cashews: 20 grams per 1 cup, 16 grams per 100g serving
A moderate serving of nuts packs more than half of the average person’s daily protein requirements. Who said overt fats like nuts can’t double as vegan protein sources?
If you snack on almonds throughout the day or turn walnuts into taco “meat,” you’re packing a ton of vegan protein from nuts alone. Nuts also make great salad and vegan protein bowl toppers, and they can even be milled into a flour or meal.
Soaked nuts, especially almonds and cashews, serve as the base of many vegan cheese recipes. All you have to do is soak your nuts overnight and blend with plant milk, spices, and other ingredients. And voila! You have an entirely plant-based cheese sauce that’s high in vegan protein.
High-protein vegan nut recipes:
Protein: 10-17 grams per 1 cup, 5-9 grams per 100g serving
Beans, beans, the magical fruit… Contrary to the children’s song, beans belong to the legume family.
Like nuts, there’s a vast variety of beans, each with a unique flavor and texture:
- Black beans: 15 grams per 1 cup, 8 grams per 100g serving
- Pinto beans: 15 grams per 1 cup, 9 grams per 100g serving
- Kidney beans: 15 grams per 1 cup, 8 grams per 100g serving
- Cannellini beans: 10 grams per 1 cup, 5 grams per 100g serving
- Navy beans: 15 grams per 1 cup, 8 grams per 100g serving
- Mung beans: 14 grams per 1 cup, 7 grams per 100g serving
- Adzuki beans: 17 grams per 1 cup, 7 grams per 100g serving
Beans are one of the most affordable foods in the world, making them one of the most accessible vegan proteins. You can buy them canned and in the bulk section. Buying dried beans is cheaper, and they’re easy to prepare—just soak and boil them.
Think beans are just for Mexican dishes? Beans can be used in a variety of ways: veggie burgers, meatballs, casseroles, soups and salads.
High-protein vegan bean recipes:
Protein: 18 grams per 1 cup, 9 grams per 100g serving
Lentils are another versatile vegan protein in the legume family.
There are six main types of lentils, which are mainly classified by color:
- Red lentils
- Brown lentils
- Green lentils
- Yellow lentils
- Black lentils
- French green (le puy) lentils
If you’re on a budget, this is the vegan protein for you. Like beans, lentils are extremely affordable. You can buy them in the bulk section or dried in pre-measured packages. Lentils also come in cans and other premade packages. Like beans, you cook lentils by boiling them.
This vegan protein is mainly associated with Indian dishes like various curries and dals. However, lentils can be used in many high-protein vegan recipes, such as chilis, sloppy joes, tacos, burgers, soups, stews, “meat” loaves, etc.
High-protein vegan lentil recipes:
Protein: 18 grams per 1 cup, 7 grams per 100g serving
Chickpeas are a fun-shaped legume that also go by the names garbanzo bean, Bengal gram and Egyptian pea. We’ll stick with “chickpeas.”
Chickpeas are one of the most commonly consumed beans in the world, and for good reason. They’re a great source of vegan protein, and they’re high in other nutrients like fiber, folate and iron.
Aside from being super healthy, chickpeas are a delicious and versatile vegan protein. Chickpeas are also a staple in Indian cuisine, adding a great texture and taste to the classic dish Chana Masala.
You can also add chickpeas to salads, soups, stews, burgers and vegan protein bowls. As vegan cooking becomes more popular, people find creative ways to enjoy chickpeas. New recipes include roasted chickpeas, chickpea flour and even chickpea cookie dough.
And, let’s not forget the famous chickpea-based dip: HUMMUS.
High-protein vegan chickpea recipes:
6. Split peas
Protein: 16 grams per 1 cup, 8 grams per 100g serving
Split peas aren’t your average green peas often served with carrots. Yes, they’re both peas, but they’re processed and served differently. Split peas start out as regular peas, but they’re then dried and split (as the name suggests).
This type of pea is another vegan protein in the legume family. They look like lentils and are treated like lentils in some recipes, but they’re technically peas.
Green split pea soup is one of the most common ways to prepare this vegan protein. You can even buy vegan split pea soup in the store, or you can make your own with dried split peas.
Split peas are also used to make dal, stew, curry and split pea patties.
High-protein vegan pea recipes:
Protein: 13 grams per 1 cup, 11 grams per 100g serving
Soy comes in many different forms, but one of its least processed forms is edamame. Like snap peas, edamame consists of a pod or shell containing young soybeans. Both the pods and the soybeans are edible.
Edamame is commonly used in stir-fries and Asian cuisine. They can also be dried or roasted to eat as a snack. Because they’re so high in protein, pasta companies are beginning to use edamame to make gluten-free, vegan protein-packed pasta.
Like other forms of soy, edamame is a vegan protein that’s affordable, accessible and easy to prepare—both with and without the pod or shell.
High-protein vegan edamame recipes:
Protein: 33 grams per cup
Like tofu, tempeh is also made from soy. However, it’s processed a little differently. Rather than coagulating soy milk like tofu, tempeh is made by fermenting soybeans. This means that tempeh is less processed than tofu and usually contains more nutrients like protein and fiber. For this reason, many people consider tempeh to be healthier than tofu since it more closely resembles whole soybeans.
Tempeh can be added to stir-fries or other meals where animal protein is used. It’s also popular for making smoked vegan “bacon.” You can throw tempeh on sandwiches, salads, and vegan protein bowls for extra flavor, texture and nutrients.
If you’ve never tried tempeh, don’t worry—it doesn’t have a strong fermented taste like sauerkraut or kimchi. The texture is chewier and thicker than tofu, but it’s just as versatile.
High-protein vegan tempeh recipes:
9. Veggie burgers
Protein: Approximately 20 grams per patty (depending on brand)
From garden burgers, black bean patties and “bleeding” meat alternatives, veggie burgers have come a long way. Sure, you can throw some veggies and beans into a food processor and make healthy veggie burgers, but those won’t convince a true meat lover.
Companies are now making veggie burgers as realistic as possible. In 2016, Beyond Meat released the first-ever bleeding Beyond Burger to be sold alongside beef patties in grocery stores. The Beyond Burger is now sold in many national grocers and even some restaurant chains.
The Impossible Burger was also launched in 2016, but it wasn’t nearly as accessible until 2018. Now, you can find one of the most realistic vegan protein sources in certain restaurants.
If you’re looking for realistic vegan protein sources, the Beyond and Impossible burgers should be at the top of your list.
Photo by Lisa Fotios
Protein: 5 grams per 1 cup, 3 grams per 100g serving
Popeye didn’t chug entire cans of spinach because he loved the taste. This vegan protein was the star of a classic cartoon because of its nutritional content.
Spinach is pretty easy to incorporate into your diet unless you’re a picky eater or have never prepared it before. Simply toss spinach into smoothies for a vegan breakfast high in protein, bulk up salads with spinach or saute it with other veggies in a stir-fry. You can also incorporate this green vegan protein in soups, stews, sandwiches and basically any savory meal.
Once you get over the mental roadblock of eating more greens, consuming more of this vegan protein source becomes second nature. It’s a win-win: you get more protein in your diet AND pack in some greens.
High-protein vegan spinach recipes:
Photo by Stephanie Studer
Protein: 5 grams per 1 cup, 3 grams per 100g serving
Asparagus is a delicious vegetable that’s a surprising vegan source of protein.
Whether you buy it frozen or fresh, asparagus makes for a great side dish to practically any savory meal. You can roast, steam or saute asparagus, and it only takes a few minutes to prepare. Talk about maximum taste with minimum effort.
High-protein vegan asparagus recipes:
12. Collard Greens
Protein: 5 grams per 1 cup, 2 grams per 100g serving
Who would have thought of this leafy green as a vegan protein source? If you need another reason to eat more greens, here’s one: protein!
Cooked collard greens are a favorite in the South, but they’re often prepared with bacon and butter. You can easily make Southern-style collard greens vegan, however. Just follow the recipe below for a delicious and high-protein vegan side dish.
Collard greens can also be eaten raw in place of wraps and tortillas.
High-protein vegan collard greens recipes:
Protein: 28 grams per 4 oz serving (for Sweet Earth Foods brand)
Seitan is a vegan meat replacement made from vital wheat gluten. It’s a high-protein vegan food that’s often smoked and flavored to resemble various types of meats. From deli slices to ribs, seitan offers a texture that’s incredibly similar to chicken, pork and beef.
You can make your own seitan at home with vital wheat gluten and a few other ingredients. Once you have your seitan, you can flavor and prepare it how you’d like. Thinly slice it for high-protein vegan sandwiches or form it into patties to create vegan cutlets.
Like tofu and tempeh, the options are endless with seitan.
To get your imagination running, here are some high-protein vegan seitan recipes to start with:
14. Nutritional yeast
Protein: 8 grams per ¼ cup
Nutritional yeast, or “nooch” as it’s commonly referred to, is one of the top vegan pantry staples. It’s a deactivated yeast that has a nutty and slightly cheesy flavor. It’s flaky in texture and has a yellow-gold color.
You can buy nutritional yeast in the bulk section, condiments section and online. It’s pretty affordable, which is convenient since it’s slightly addicting.
Simply sprinkle nutritional yeast onto your meals. The nutty, cheesy flavor complements salads, chili, steamed veggies and vegan protein bowls. Nutritional yeast can also be used to make vegan mac n’ cheese and Parmesan cheese.
High-protein vegan nutritional yeast recipes:
Protein: 8 grams per 1 cup, 4 grams per 100g serving
Quinoa has basically taken the place of brown rice as everyone’s favorite healthy grain. There are several different types of quinoa, usually classified by color (i.e. yellow quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa, etc.).
For vegans, this amaranth-like grain takes the cake for one of the best vegan protein sources. This is because quinoa is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids.
You can use quinoa however you’d use rice. It’s most commonly used as the base of vegan protein bowls. Start with quinoa and pile on the veggies and condiments of your choice for a simple vegan protein-packed meal.
Quinoa is often referred to as a superfood or super grain since it’s high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
High-protein vegan quinoa recipes:
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood
Protein: 4 grams per 1 cup (cooked), 2 grams per 100g serving
There are two types of people:
- People who like brown rice
- People who like white rice
Neither one is better than the other, but we will say that brown rice is usually a healthier vegan protein. It’s less processed, significantly higher in fiber and overall contains more nutrients.
If you’re a rice lover, try swapping white rice for brown rice for added vegan protein. Plus, brown rice makes a hearty and filling base for super simple meals.
High-protein vegan rice recipes:
Protein: 16-31 grams per 100g serving
Seeds is a pretty extensive category, so let’s get specific:
- Chia seeds: 4 grams per 1 oz, 16 grams per 100g serving
- Flaxseeds: 2 grams per 1 tablespoon, 18 grams per 100g serving
- Hemp seeds: 9 grams per 3 tablespoons, 31 grams per 100g serving
- Sesame seeds: 25 grams per 1 cup, 17 grams per 100g serving
- Pumpkin seeds: 11 grams per 1 cup, 18 grams per 100g serving
- Sesame seed butter (a.k.a. tahini): 2 grams per tablespoon, 17 grams per 100g serving
Seeds are high in healthy fat, but as you can see, they’re also high in vegan protein. Like nuts, seeds are extremely versatile and servings can be split up throughout the day.
Chia, flax and hemp seeds are great to include in smoothies. You can soak them for a few minutes to make them easier to blend and digest. Soaked chia seeds and flaxseeds also make for great binding agents or vegan egg alternatives.
Sesame and pumpkin seeds are excellent salad toppers, and pumpkin seeds can even go on top of smoothie bowls and oatmeal.
If you want to get really creative with seeds as a vegan protein source, try tahini. Tahini is like nut butter, but it’s made with sesame seeds. You can drizzle tahini on vegan protein bowls or use it in homemade salad dressings.
High-protein vegan seed recipes:
18. Nut butters
Protein: 6-7 grams per 2 tablespoons, 21-24 grams per 100g serving
Cashew butter. Hazelnut butter. Macadamia nut butter. Walnut butter. Pecan butter. Pistachio butter. The list goes on and on, but peanut butter and almond butter still reign supreme in the nut butter arena.
Peanut and almond butters are typically the most affordable and accessible, so they’re the most popular. Plus, peanut butter makes us feel like kids at heart.
These salty, satisfying spreads are prime vegan protein sources. You can add nut butters to sandwiches, toast, fruit, dressings, sauces, desserts and more. Nut butters also add extra vegan protein to smoothies, oats, and even dishes like Pad Thai.
High-protein vegan nut butter recipes:
19. Soy milk
photo by rawpixel
Protein: 8 grams per 1 cup
Many plant milks aren’t great sources of vegan protein. They’re full of other nutrients, but protein isn’t usually one of them. Soy milk, however, is a healthy alternative to cow’s milk that doubles as a versatile vegan protein source.
Soy milk can be consumed on its own or combined with other ingredients to make smoothies, cereal and even ice cream.
Basically, however you’d use cow’s milk, you can use soy milk instead.
Want to make creamy mashed potatoes? Add unflavored soy milk.
Craving a creamy, frothy latte? Use a soy milk coffee creamer or straight-up soy milk.
Want to add extra protein to your morning smoothie? Use soy milk instead of water.
High-protein vegan soy milk recipes:
Protein: 5 grams per 1 cup
We’ve covered brown rice and quinoa because they’re the most commonly used grains, but they’re not the only ones. Other grains that serve as vegan protein sources include bulgar, wheat berry and barley.
There are countless combinations of grains, legumes and veggies, but if you want to mix it up, try bulgar, wheat berry or barley.
These grains are not only high in vegan protein, but they’re also high in other nutrients. Rice and other grains are usually enriched with nutrients. These cereal grains contain naturally occurring vitamins and minerals like iron and selenium.
You can incorporate these grains how you would with rice and quinoa. Barley is especially common in soups, and bulgar adds vital vegan protein and bulk to salads.
High-protein vegan grain recipes:
Protein: 19 grams per 1 cup, 7 grams per 100g serving
Are you team hummus or team guacamole? Either way, you can’t deny the delicious, protein-packed dip made from chickpeas.
One gram of protein per tablespoon may not seem like a whopping vegan protein source, but it’s impossible to consume only one spoonful of hummus.
Hummus is super simple to make at home, and it’s also available in most grocery stores. Whether you dip pita chips or bread in it or use it to top salads and buddha bowls, hummus is a crowd favorite that’s secretly high in vegan protein.
High-protein vegan hummus recipes:
Protein: 22 grams per 1 cup, 12 grams per 100g serving
The soy family includes tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk and, most importantly, soybeans. Not to say that soybeans are better than other forms of soy, but soy products wouldn’t exist without this particular vegan protein.
Soybeans are the whole, unprocessed form of soy.
They’re an important part of many Asian and Indian dishes, and they’re a stellar vegan protein source. Just one cup of cooked soybeans provides nearly half the average person’s daily protein requirement.
The average American consumes plenty of soy without realizing it but rarely consumes the whole soybean. Hopefully, you feel differently about soybeans now that you know how much protein is in one serving.
High-protein vegan soybean recipes:
23. Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Protein: 12 grams per ¼ cup uncooked (Bob’s Red Mill brand)
Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is like nutritional yeast—once you try it, you can’t get enough of it.
TVP is dried soy used in place of ground meat. It’s the byproduct of soybean oil, so it’s basically dried out soybeans. This means that TVP needs to be rehydrated before you can cook it. Simply soak TVP in water or vegetable broth, and then it’s ready to go.
Like other soy-based vegan proteins, TVP takes on the flavor of whatever seasonings or spices you use. For example, if you want to make ground taco “meat,” you can soak TVP in vegetable broth and cook it in a skillet with taco seasoning.
TVP goes great in tacos, burritos, bolognese sauce, veggie burgers, chilis, sloppy joes, meatballs, etc.
Instead of using minced meat, try out this versatile and inexpensive vegan protein.
High-protein vegan TVP recipes:
Protein: 6 grams per ½ cup uncooked (Bob’s Red Mill brand)
You wouldn’t assume your morning oatmeal counts as a vegan protein source, but it does.
Like other starches, oats are one of the cheapest foods in the world. Vegan protein on a budget? We think yes.
There are many different types of oats, too, ranging in how processed they are: instant oats, rolled oats, steel-cut oats, oat groats, etc.
A lot of people think oats are boring or conclude that they don’t like oats. Like every other food out there, it depends on how you prepare and flavor them. Cook regular rolled oats with soy milk and top with slivered almonds, chia seeds and peanut butter for even more vegan protein. Like your oats sweet? Use a natural sweetener like maple syrup, coconut sugar or dates.
High-protein vegan oat recipes:
Protein: 64 grams per 1 cup, 57 grams per 100g serving
Spirulina isn’t the most glamorous vegan protein source, but it’s one that we have to mention. Spirulina has one of the highest protein-to-gram ratios. This vegan protein simply can’t be ignored.
Now, we know what you’re thinking—no one can eat one cup or 100 grams of spirulina. Even if you start your day with one tablespoon of spirulina, that’s still 4 grams of vegan protein from a greens powder.
In addition to being a vegan protein source, spirulina is considered a superfood because it’s dense in nutrients. Even if you don’t rely on spirulina for protein, you can take it to supplement your diet.
Spirulina has fewer applications than other vegan proteins, but it’s still easy to add to smoothies and other beverages. If the taste doesn’t grow on you, you can always resort to spirulina capsules for the nutrition benefits.
High-protein vegan spirulina recipes:
26. Mycoprotein (by Quorn brand)
Protein: 10 grams per vegan naked “chicken” cutlet (63g)
Quorn is a brand of vegan and vegetarian meat replacement. Most of their products are vegetarian, which they contain milk and/or eggs, but Quorn recently started making more vegan products.
Soy is the go-to ingredient for vegan protein alternatives, but Quorn uniquely uses vegan fungi known as Mycoprotein. It’s been used in food since 1985, but it’s still a lesser known vegan protein source. This unique vegan protein sets Quorn apart from other plant-based protein brands like Gardein, Tofurky and Field Roast.
Some of Quorn’s vegan products include “chicken” patties, tenders and cutlets. They also have vegan “fish” sticks.
If you’re looking for convenience meals that are vegan and high in protein, try their vegan naked “chicken” cutlets. Just one serving packs 10 grams of vegan protein.
27. Green Peas
Photo by Rachael Gorjestani
Protein: 8 grams per 1 cup, 5 grams per 100g serving
Frozen peas double as an ice pack and a vegan protein. You probably grew up eating peas and carrots almost every night at dinner. In fact, green peas may have been the first vegetable your parents introduced you to. If you haven’t touched green peas since you “grew up,” think again on this classic vegan protein.
You can toss green peas in a vegetable medley, roast them in the oven or pulverize them in a soup. Craving an American classic? Green peas can bulk up a veggie pot pie with even more vegan protein. Indian dishes like Aloo Matar also call for green peas. Green peas have even debuted in some hummus recipes.
High-protein vegan green pea recipes:
Most of the vegan proteins out there are foods you’ve grown up eating and didn’t realize they were high in protein. How many times in your life have you had peanut butter sandwiches, beans and rice, hummus and oatmeal? Probably more than you can count.
Vegan options have come a long way. This list of vegan proteins proves that you don’t have to rely on vegan protein powders and processed vegan meats to adopt a protein-rich vegan diet.
A vegan diet is naturally high in carbohydrates, but even fats and carbs contain plenty of protein. If you decide to go vegan or give vegan protein a try, hopefully, you see that vegan protein sources are everywhere.
Note: all nutritional data sourced from USDA Food Composition Databases unless otherwise noted.