The Top Vegan BCAA Sources [Data-Based List]


Using the USDA Food Composition Databases, I’ve put together a complete list of the best vegan BCAA sources for you.

I’m going to assume that you already know why BCAAs (valine, leucine, and isoleucine) can be useful (promote muscle synthesis, reduce fatigue). If not, has a great summary and detailed analysis of the research.

The best foods for BCAAs are almost all animal products. Milk, eggs, pork, and beef products top the list.

But there are still quite a few options for us vegans, although in lower amounts.

Vegan BCAA Foods List

If you prefer to look at each BCAA one at a time, I’ve created more detailed pages for each individual amino acid:

Otherwise, let’s take a look at the list. Note that all the protein values are in grams of BCAA per 100 grams of food.

Food Valine(g) per 100 g Leucine(g) per 100 g Isoleucine(g) per 100 g
Soy protein isolate 4.098 6.783 4.253
Spirulina seaweed 3.512 4.947 3.209
Dried-frozen tofu 2.418 3.644 2.376
Soybeans 2.029 3.309 1.971
Hemp seeds 1.777 2.163 1.286
Pumpkin and squash seeds 1.559 2.388 1.265
Butternuts 1.541 2.199 1.179
Mung beans 1.416 2.089 1.287
Red lentils 1.238 1.809 1.078
Sunflower seeds 1.158 1.461 1.003
Cashews 1.094 1.472 0.789
Sesame seeds 0.99 1.358 0.763
Almond butter 0.937 1.483 0.813
Firm tofu 0.87 1.392 0.849
Chickpeas 0.865 1.465 0.882
Almonds 0.855 1.473 0.751
Peanuts 0.566 0.875 0.475
Navy beans 0.504 0.7 0.387
Kidney beans 0.5 0.736 0.41
White rice 0.497 0.691 0.359
Lima beans 0.484 0.694 0.423
Brown rice 0.466 0.657 0.336
Black beans 0.464 0.708 0.391
Great northern beans 0.436 0.665 0.368
Lentils 0.399 0.628 0.326
Tempeh 0.92 1.43 0.88
Spinach (cooked) 0.168 0.231 0.152

Types of Vegan Foods high in BCAAs

Grains (like rice) have a decent amount of BCAAs, but not enough that you’d specifically go out of your way to have them.

Vegetables are even worse. I included spinach for reference, and it’s at the bottom of the list. It’s also hard to eat a large weight of vegetables like spinach.

So you really want to stick to those 4 main groups:

  1. Legumes – Soy (and soy products like tofu/tempeh), mung, navy and kidney (to a lesser extent). If you’re not eating legumes on a regular basis as a vegan, you can’t really have a high protein diet.
  2. Nuts – Butternuts, cashews, almonds all have decent amounts of protein in general and BCAAs. You probably won’t want to base your diet around them as nuts have a bad omega 3 to 6 fat ratio and a ton of calories, but they can make up a small amount of your protein intake.
  3. Seeds – Hemp, pumpkin, and sesame seeds all have a good amount of protein and other nutrients. But on the other hand it’s hard to eat a lot of them, so this is another food group that will make up a relatively small portion of your protein intake.

It’s clear why beans are so important for vegans.

One final note that I would like to make is that butternuts are a solid source of BCAAs, but also a great vegan source of omega 3 fatty acids.

Hopefully this was a useful and clear list of the best vegan BCAA sources.

One Other Way to Get BCAAs

If you’re trying to achieve a relatively high protein (and BCAA) intake without eating too many calories, you have 2 options: soy or protein powder.

Soy has a uniquely high protein content, and vegan protein powders are obviously just extract protein (usually from sources like pea and hemp). Many plant protein powder blends also have added BCAAs.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.