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 if a gorilla can basically be vegetarian, I was sure that I could manage as well.
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.
See my how to get enough protein guide as a vegan page if you’re interested in learning more about protein powders or bars.
The Best Vegan Foods for Protein By Gram and Calorie
The standard way to look at nutrients in food is per 100 grams, since volume is a big factor in how much we can eat.
But I’ve also included a column for the amount of protein per 100 calories, which can be useful if you’re trying to lose weight and still hit certain macros.
|Food||Protein (g) per 100g||Protein (g) per 100 calories|
|Vital wheat gluten||75.2||20.3|
|Wheat flour (whole-grain)||9.6||2.9|
|Lettuce (red leaf)||1.3||10.3|
|Red bell pepper||1.0||3.8|
|Green bell pepper||0.9||4.3|
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. Soybeans (and therefore products like tofu and tempeh) are at the top of legumes.
Surprisingly, oats also have a good amount of protein, just a lot of calories overall as well.
If you’re trying to hit certain macros on a diet plan, the list above may not be enough information for you. The following post might be more useful: The 30 Top High Protein Low Fat Vegan Foods
Turning Those Ingredients Into High Protein Recipes
If you’re not too picky, it’s easy to toss a few of those ingredients together and put some sort of basic sauce on them.
But if you have the time and desire to make really good tasting recipes, see my database of high protein vegan recipes to find some great meals to make. Or, I also have a page of over 100 vegan seitan recipes if you’d like to filter by things like cooking time and method.
Plant Based Protein Quality
As long as you’re eating a wide variety of protein sources, it doesn’t matter if any particular source is a complete protein or not.
However, there are some situations where you might want to know if a protein is complete or not.
In general, very few plant proteins are complete proteins. They usually lack 1-2 essential amino acids. Additionally, while glutamine isn’t an essential amino acid (it’s “conditionally essential”), there aren’t too many good plant sources of glutamine.
Personally, I’ve only looked at whether the most popular vegan protein sources are complete. You can click the links for detailed looks, but here’s a summary:
- Is tofu a complete protein – Tofu is a minimally processed complete protein by most standards, although relatively low in methionine (common in beans).
- Is seitan a complete protein – It depends on the specific recipe, but seitan usually is not a complete protein. Vital wheat gluten is quite low in lysine.
- Nutritional yeast amino acid profile
If you’re interested in exploring this topic in more detail yourself, you can use my amino acid comparison tool. It let’s you compare amino acid profiles of different protein sources (both animal and plant).
Comparing Plant Protein to Other Plant and Animal Protein
Over time, I’ve done detailed comparisons of many different protein sources that you may be interested in: