The 30 Best Vegan Protein Sources

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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
Oats 1 cup 607 26.35
Soybeans 1 cup 254 22.23
Buckwheat groats 1 cup 567 19.24
Peanuts 0.5 cup 414 18.83
Lentils 1 cup 230 17.86
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
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 14.53
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
Almonds 1/2 cup 313 11.42
Cashew 0.5 cup 393 10.49
Hazelnut 0.5 cup 424 10.09
Spinach 1 bunch 78 9.72
Wheat flour (whole-grain) 100 g 332 9.61
Brazil nut 0.5 cup 438 9.52
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 9.47
Amaranth 1 cup 251 9.35
Pine nuts 0.5 cup 454 9.24
Walnut 0.5 cup 383 8.91
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 8.64
Quinoa 1 cup 222 8.14
Peas 1 cup 117 7.86

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
Watercress 10 sprigs 3 0.57 19
Rapini 5 stalks 21 3.01 14.33333333
Water spinach 1 cup 11 1.46 13.27272727
Bamboo shoot 1 shoot 17 2.2 12.94117647
Spinach 1 bunch 78 9.72 12.46153846
Collard greens 2.5 cup 25 3 12
Bok choy 1 cup 9 1.05 11.66666667
Asparagus 4 spears 13 1.44 11.07692308
Mustard greens 1 cup 15 1.6 10.66666667
Arugula 1 cup 5 0.52 10.4
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
Soybeans 1 cup 254 22.23 8.751968504
Broccoli 1 cup 31 2.57 8.290322581
Kale 2 cup 15 1.23 8.2
Lentils 1 cup 230 17.86 7.765217391
Cauliflower 1 cup 27 2.05 7.592592593
Squash 1 large 52 3.91 7.519230769
Zucchini 1 large 55 3.91 7.109090909
Brussels sprouts 1 cup 56 3.98 7.107142857
Artichoke 1 large 76 5.3 6.973684211
Fava bean 1 cup 187 12.92 6.909090909
Kidney beans 1 cup 225 15.35 6.822222222
Peas 1 cup 117 7.86 6.717948718
Black beans 1 cup 227 15.24 6.713656388
Mung bean 1 cup 212 14.18 6.688679245
Gourd 1 gourd 36 2.14 5.944444444

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.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

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