A List of the Top Vegan BCAA Sources

A

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, Examine.com 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.

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, thin seeded (baby), mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt 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

A few types of food really stand out:

  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes

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 3 main groups:

  1. Beans – Soy (and soy products like tofu/tempeh), mung, navy and kidney (to a lesser extent)
  2. Nuts – Butternuts, cashews, almonds
  3. Seeds – Hemp, pumpkin, sesame
  4. Legumes – Lentils, peanuts

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.

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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