I was in the middle of a semi-professional soccer season when I went vegan cold tofurky overnight.
Protein was my number 1 concern like many new vegans.
It’s hard to know where to get it when all your usual protein sources are gone.
But it’s not too difficult to get enough protein once you get used to it.
I remember Googling “best vegan protein sources” when I first went vegan, and it was a pain to find a page with good, comprehensive, and easy-to-use data that actually answers the question.
So I made this one.
I collected the nutritional information for over 120 vegan whole foods from the USDA’s food database, which includes protein content.
The Best Vegan Foods for Protein By Serving
First, let’s look at the top 30 foods in terms of protein content per typical serving.
|Food||Serving||Energy (kcal)||Protein (g)|
|Vital wheat gluten||100 g||370||75.16|
|Buckwheat groats||1 cup||567||19.24|
|Rye grain||1 cup||571||17.47|
|Adzuki beans||1 cup||294||17.3|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||225||15.35|
|Black beans||1 cup||227||15.24|
|Navy beans||1 cup||255||14.98|
|Mung bean||1 cup||212||14.18|
|Fava bean||1 cup||187||12.92|
|Sesame seeds||0.5 cup||413||12.77|
|Pistachio nuts||0.5 cup||344||12.4|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 cup||285||11.87|
|Lima beans||1 cup||209||11.58|
|Wheat flour (whole-grain)||100 g||332||9.61|
|Brazil nut||0.5 cup||438||9.52|
|Hemp seeds||3 tbsp||166||9.47|
|Pine nuts||0.5 cup||454||9.24|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||8.64|
This list makes up most of what I eat these days for protein.
Vital wheat gluten, if you’re not familiar with it, is what you can use to make seitan (fake meats basically).
Other than that, the top results are mostly legumes: Multiple types of beans, along with lentils and peanuts.
Surprisingly, oats also have a good amount of protein, just a lot of calories overall as well.
Which leads us to the next logical question? What are the best vegan foods for protein when we’re trying to minimize overall calories?
Read on if you’d like the answer.
The Best Vegan Low Calorie High Protein Foods
I adjusted the data by calculating the amount of protein in each food when scaled to 100 calories. This ended up being more than one serving for some foods (mainly vegetables) and less than one serving for others.
|Food||Serving||Energy (kcal)||Protein (g)||Protein (g) per 100 calories|
|Vital wheat gluten||100 g||370||75.16||20.31351351|
|Seaweed (dried)||1 tbsp||20||4.02||20.1|
|Water spinach||1 cup||11||1.46||13.27272727|
|Bamboo shoot||1 shoot||17||2.2||12.94117647|
|Collard greens||2.5 cup||25||3||12|
|Bok choy||1 cup||9||1.05||11.66666667|
|Mustard greens||1 cup||15||1.6||10.66666667|
|Lettuce (red leaf)||0.5 head||20||2.05||10.25|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||8.64||9.494505495|
|Napa cabbage||1 cup||13||1.2||9.230769231|
|Brussels sprouts||1 cup||56||3.98||7.107142857|
|Fava bean||1 cup||187||12.92||6.909090909|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||225||15.35||6.822222222|
|Black beans||1 cup||227||15.24||6.713656388|
|Mung bean||1 cup||212||14.18||6.688679245|
Vital wheat gluten is still on top because it’s essentially pure protein.
Other than that, tons of vegetables moved up the list. Leafy greens like watercress, spinach, and rapini come into the top spots.
They obviously don’t have a huge amount of protein per serving, but they also don’t have many calories. A giant salad with some hemp seeds or other topping from the first table is a great way to make a high protein meal.