25 Vegan Protein Sources: Familiar and Unique

Where do plant-based eaters get their protein? This round-up of the best vegan protein sources will help you navigate the protein landscape and discover how easy it is to get what you need.
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Bowl of golden tofu triangles that have been marinated in an asian tofu marinade and served over rice and veggies.
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“So do you just eat a lot of tofu?”

Anyone following a plant-based diet has undoubtedly heard that question more times than they can count. As a bodybuilder and bikini athlete, I consume anywhere between 120 and 150 grams of vegan protein each day and, we promise, it isn’t all tofu.

Sadly, the lack of knowledge surrounding protein sources is a major factor preventing people from switching to (or even trying) a vegan diet.

How Can Vegans Get Protein?

In the vibrant world of nutrition, protein reigns supreme as the building block of life, and the quest for quality protein sources is ever-present. The exciting news? Nature’s pantry is bursting with a colorful array of vegan protein sources that not only satisfy your body’s needs but also invigorate your taste buds.

From legumes to nuts, grains to greens, the plant kingdom offers an abundance of protein-packed treasures, proving that protein is not the exclusive domain of the animal kingdom. So, let’s embark on a journey through the verdant landscapes of plant-based protein, debunking myths, and illuminating the path to a protein-rich, animal product-free lifestyle.

All Plant Have Protein!

It’s a well-kept secret that every single plant on this green Earth contains protein – yes, even those leafy greens that rabbits munch on. From the towering oaks to the tiniest blade of grass, protein is woven into the very fabric of plant life.

The misconception that we must rely solely on animal products for protein has been debunked by science time and time again. Our leafy companions pack more than just vitamins and fiber – they’re also armed with amino acids, the building blocks of protein, ready to fuel your muscles and support bodily functions.

Too Little Protein…Or Too Much?

In a world where protein supplements and high-protein diets seem to dominate the conversation, the truth often lies hidden in plain sight: most people in the developed world consume more protein than they actually need.

The notion that a plant-based diet lacks protein is a myth that deserves to be put to rest. The average person, whether plant-powered or not, often exceeds their daily protein requirements without much effort. Nature’s bounty offers a diverse range of protein sources that, when combined thoughtfully, fulfill our nutritional needs.

So, let’s embark on this exploration of vegan protein sources with a clear understanding that our goal isn’t to find protein, but to choose wisely from an abundance of protein-rich plants.

Vegan Protein Sources

Vegan Protein Sources

Tofu

First, let me just touch base on the one item most people know: tofu.

Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks which is the form most commonly seen. Tofu is available in many different forms from silken, or very soft, to firm and extra firm. Tofu has a very mild flavor and can be used in both savory and even sweet dishes. Tofu is widely available, very low in calories and high in protein which is why it has always been a staple in any vegan’s diet.

Here are some of the best tofu recipes that will win over almost any tofu skeptic.

Small bowl full of raw tofu cubes with some cubes scattered around the bowl.

Tempeh

Meet tempeh, tofu’s funky cousin.

These fermented soy blocks are like the rebels of the vegan protein world, with about 21 grams of protein per cup. It is even higher in protein than tofu, and can be crumbled and used as a great meat-substitute because of its consistency and texture.

While tempeh, like tofu, is made from soy, it has a much stronger and unique, almost nutty, flavor all on its own. Grill them, marinate them, or even crumble them for a killer taco filling. It’s like a protein-packed party for your taste buds.

Air fryer tempeh in bowls with broccoli.

Seitan

Pronounced ‘say-tan’, and commonly referred to as “wheat meat” this is one of the most protein-rich plant-based foods you will ever come across. It is also extremely easy, and very inexpensive, to make at home and can be flavored and utilized as a meat-substitute in everything from stir-frys to sandwiches. Seitan can be diced, sliced, and even grilled. It will keep in the refrigerator for over a week or you can freeze it and have it at your disposal for months!

Vegan seitan kebabs on parchment paper, next to peanut sauce, lime wedges, and cucumber slices.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are the cool cats of vegan protein. Packed with about 15 grams of protein per cup, they’re like the concert headliner of plant-based gains. Whip up some hummus, toss them in a salad, or go all out and make chickpea cookies (yes, it’s a thing) – these legume lunatics will have you grooving with every bite.

Explore these fantastic chickpea recipes to add to your diet.

Quinoa

Bow down to quinoa, the reigning queen of grains. With all nine essential amino acids, this gluten-free gem packs a protein punch that’s practically regal. It’s versatile too – use it as a base for bowls, stir-fries, or even as a quirky twist in your morning pancakes. Your taste buds will curtsy in delight.

Three large mason jars full of vegan quinoa salad.

Lentils

Lentils, the unsung heroes of vegan protein, bring about 18 grams of protein per cup to the party. These tiny but mighty legumes are like the Bruce Lees of plant-based nutrition – they pack a powerful punch. Whip up a hearty lentil stew or sneak them into your favorite pasta sauce. Your muscles will thank you for this karate kick of protein.

Vegan Lentil Bolognese Pasta with a Protein-Packed Sauce

Edamame

Edamame, those delightful soybean pods, are like the bubble wrap of protein sources – addictive and oh-so-satisfying to pop. With around 17 grams of protein per cup, they’re the MVPs of movie night snacks. Steam ’em, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt, and enjoy the ultimate plant-powered finger food.

PF Changs Edamame Appetizer photo

Soymilk

Soymilk isn’t just a dairy alternative; it’s a protein elixir in a carton. With around 8 grams of protein per cup, it’s one of the highest protein plant-based milk that can effortlessly blend into your morning coffee or cereal. Whether you’re a latte lover or a smoothie enthusiast, soy milk brings a protein-packed twist to your sips.

Art illustration of vegan milk options including soy, almond, oat, hemp, rice, and coconut.

Almonds

Almonds are the brainy protein buddies you didn’t know you needed. With 6 grams of protein per ounce, they’re the nutty professors of plant-based smarts. Munch on them as a snack or turn them into creamy almond butter for your toast. Einstein would approve!

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are the tiny champions of protein, boasting around 4 grams per two tablespoons. When soaked, they turn into gel-like powerhouses that can fuel your day. Make chia pudding, sprinkle them on your yogurt, or add them to your water for a jiggly hydration adventure.

No Cow vegan protein bars served over a chia pudding parfait.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter, the charismatic commander of nut butters, brings around 8 grams of protein per two tablespoons. It’s the spread that sticks to your heart – and your sandwich. Slather it on whole-grain bread, blend it into smoothies, or get adventurous and drizzle it on your veggies. This nut butter knows how to party.

Homemade creamy peanut butter with peanuts scattered around it.

Spinach

Popeye was onto something with his spinach obsession. With about 5 grams of protein per cooked cup, spinach is the leafy green powerhouse that fuels your muscles. Throw it into your smoothies, sauté it as a side dish, or use it as a bed for your protein-packed creations. Your biceps will thank you.

Plate with spinach and mango.

Broccoli

Broccoli is the mini tree of protein dreams, delivering around 3 grams of protein per cooked cup. It’s like the nutritional architect of your plate, building a foundation of health. Roast it, steam it, or blend it into soups for a protein-packed cruciferous adventure. Your body will salute this green goodness.

Two heads of broccoli on a cutting board.

Hemp Hearts

Hemp hearts are the heartthrobs of vegan protein, with around 10 grams of protein per three tablespoons. These nutty-tasting seeds are like the bad boys of plant-based nutrition – rebellious and full of surprises. Sprinkle them on salads, blend them into your smoothies, or even bake them into cookies for a protein-packed treat.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds bring the crunch to your protein game with about 7 grams of protein per ounce. These little green gems are like the cheerleaders of your salad, adding both texture and protein punch. Roast them with your favorite spices or toss them into trail mix for a pep rally of flavors.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are the sunny side of protein, with about 6 grams per ounce. They’re the snacking sidekick that brings joy to your taste buds. Munch on them solo, sprinkle them on your oatmeal, or even use them as a crunchy coating for tofu nuggets. These seeds are your ray of protein-packed sunshine.

Pistachios

Pistachios are the protein-packed performers that bring a dash of green to your snack game. With around 6 grams of protein per ounce, they’re the nutty actors in your plant-based theater. Crack them open for a snack or crush them into a vibrant pistachio pesto. They’re the stars of the protein show.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the umami wizards of vegan cuisine, bringing around 2 grams of protein per cooked cup. They’re like the flavor whisperers, transforming dishes with their unique taste. Sauté them, stuff them, or make them the star of your stir-fry. These fungi are the secret to protein enchantment.

A close-up shot of grilled mushroom skewers.

Wild Rice

Wild rice is the enigmatic protein wonder that’s not actually rice – it’s a grass! With around 7 grams of protein per cooked cup, it’s the mysterious grain that elevates your dishes. Mix it into salads, stuff it into peppers, or use it as a base for a protein-packed bowl. It’s the wild card you’ll want to play.

Oats

Oats are the breakfast buddies with a protein surprise, offering around 6 grams of protein per cooked cup. They’re like the dependable pals you can count on for sustained

Rolled oats spilling out of a tipped over glass jar.

Vegan Protein Bars

For a quick, on-the-go option for extra protein, consider bringing along a couple of vegan protein bars in the car or in your purse. They really come in handy when you’re in a pinch, but need an extra boost.

Vegan protein bars are the protein-packed sidekicks that fit right into your pocket. With a range of flavors that could rival a candy store, they deliver around 10-15 grams of protein per bar. Whether you’re scaling mountains or conquering spreadsheets, these bars have your back with a dose of plant-based power.

Hand holding out vegan peanut butter chocolate chip protein bar from Go Macro.

Protein Drinks and Shakes

Plant-based protein drinks are the sippable stars that keep you refreshed and refueled. With a protein punch of around 15-20 grams per serving, they’re like the hydrating heroes of post-workout recovery. Sip on them after hitting the gym or whenever you need a delicious dose of plant-based power. From creamy almond milk-based shakes to vibrant fruit-infused smoothies, these drinks blend taste and nutrition into a harmonious gulp. Raise your glass to staying energized, one protein-packed sip at a time.

A hand holding a raspberry red colored Evolve plant-based shake container in Berry Medley against a background of pink flowers.
Evolve Plant-Based Protein Shake in Berry Medley (Source: @drinkevolve on Instagram)

Vegan Protein Powders

Protein powders are the powdered superheroes that can transform your shakes and smoothies into protein-packed elixirs. With approximately 20-25 grams of protein per serving, they’re like the secret ingredient that turns ordinary drinks into muscle-loving concoctions. Blend them into your morning shake, mix them into your oatmeal, or sneak them into your pancake batter for a protein-powered breakfast. It’s like having a personal protein wizard that makes your meals and snacks extra magical.

A hand holding up a package of NB Pure's plant protein.
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