Vegan Protein Sources


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There are a plethora of vegan protein sources available for those following a plant-based diet. Eating a combination of these foods daily can help provide complete protein and keep meals interesting.

The different types of vegan protein sources.

Vegan protein sources are crucial for those on purely plant-based diets. The amino acids in proteins are the building blocks for muscles and tissues and assist with immune function, so consuming several protein-rich ingredients is critical.

It can be a challenge to obtain all of the nine essential amino acids from single types of plants alone. That’s why it’s necessary for those on a vegan diet to incorporate a variety of food sources that are high in protein and healthy fats to receive all the required nutrients for normal body function.

The good news is there are many tasty ways to enjoy vegan sources of protein, including nuts and seeds, soy products, legumes, and grains, which all vary in the amount of protein. This guide provides non-animal-based protein options, many of which are gluten-free, for those who live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle or would like to incorporate more plants into their diet.


Wooden spoons holding different types of uncooked beans.

These inexpensive and versatile legumes are packed with protein and fiber. It takes a while to make them on the stovetop, but canned beans are an excellent convenience product when short on time. There are so many types of beans, the most popular being black bean, pinto, kidney, and cannellini. I love to add them to burgers, soups, stews, salads, tacos, and dips.

Nutritional Profile: Per ½ cup (130g) – 150 calories, 10g protein, 1.50g total fat, 23g carbohydrates, 10g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 341 mg sodium, 40 mg calcium, 3.6 mg iron. (Reference: Canned black beans)


Wooden bowl of chickpeas.

Also referred to as garbanzo beans, this staple legume in the Mediterranean and the Middle East is a source of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Most often beige with a mealy texture and mild flavor, roasted chickpeas have become a favorite snack, but you can also find them in a couscous salad or homemade hummus. The liquid from canned garbanzo beans is often used as an egg substitute called aquafaba.

Nutritional Profile: Per ½ cup (120g) – 106 calories, 6g protein, 2.3g total fat, 16g carbohydrates, 5g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 42 mg calcium, 1.5 mg iron. (Reference: Canned garbanzo beans)


Four small wooden bowls with colorful lentils.

Lentils are dried and vary in color and size. There are many types of lentils, including brown, green, Lentilles du Puy, red, yellow, and black, and they all have different textures and tastes. Learning how to cook lentils is easy, and each type lends itself well to soups, stews, sides, or salads.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (50g) – 180 calories, 13g protein, 0.50g total fat, 30g carbohydrates, 15g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 2.5 mg iron. (Reference: Raw green lentils)


White bowl with bright green peas.

Pea protein, especially in powder form, has become commonplace as a vegan and vegetarian source. You will often find it in protein powders. Eaten fresh, frozen, or canned, peas also have additional benefits as the nutrients and fibers are retained in the whole plant. They are easy to add to soups, stews, rice dishes, and more!

Nutritional Profile: Per 1 cup (98g) – 26 calories, 1.76g protein, 0.13g total fat, 4.76g carbohydrates, 1.6g dietary fiber, 2.52g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 27 mg calcium, 2.1 mg iron. (Reference: Raw podded peas)


Wooden spoon on a table holding soybeans.

Globally, soybeans or soya beans are the most consumed food, and for good reason. They contain a significant amount of protein and provide all nine essential amino acids. These oval beige oilseeds are often used to make soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (43g) – 170 calories, 15g protein, 8g total fat, 14g carbohydrates, 10g dietary fiber, 3g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 129 mg calcium, 7.25 mg iron. (Reference: Shiloh Farms uncooked soybean)


White cubes of tofu in a small bowl.

Tofu is made from soymilk by pressing the curds into solid slabs. The press time and the amount of coagulant and whey removed will result in different types of tofu: silken, soft, medium, firm, and extra-firm tofu textures. This soy-based high-protein source has a lightly sweet and nutty flavor and is versatile in many culinary applications. Baked tofu is a popular favorite, but it can be fried, marinated, grilled, sauteed, or stir-fried—the options are endless.

Nutritional Profile: Per 4 ounces (112g) – 96 calories, 12g protein, 4.70g total fat,1g carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 0.4g sugars, 36 mg sodium, 166 mg calcium, 1.9 mg iron. (Reference: House Foods firm tofu)


White bowl filled with green edamame beans.

Often used in Japanese cuisine, edamame is an immature soybean. It comes in its pods, and the green, tender beans can be enjoyed once boiled or steamed. An excellent protein snack, edamame can be added to soba noodle salad, sides, or stir-fries.

Nutritional Profile: Per ½ cup (75g) – 120 calories, 9g protein, 5g total fat, 11g carbohydrates, 8g dietary fiber, 2g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 40 mg calcium, 1.64 mg iron. (Reference: Ito boiled shelled edamame)


Wooden plate with a bar of tempeh vegan protein.

This rectangular-shaped pressed cake is made from fermented cooked soybeans. It often contains a mixture of grains with flavoring agents. However, soy-free versions are also available. It has a robust nutty flavor and holds its shape well during cooking. It can be marinated and used to make a stir fry, sandwiched, or cut in slabs to make seared or grilled steaks.

Nutritional Profile: Per 8 ounces (227g) – 460 calories, 42g protein, 16g total fat, 32g carbohydrates, 24g dietary fiber, 2g sugars, 20 mg sodium, 159 mg calcium, 8.6 mg iron. (Lightlife Tempeh Original)

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Bowl filled with Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP).

These crunchy soybean flakes are used as a meat extender or vegetarian meat substitute. Stir them into mixes for tacos, chili, sandwiches, meatballs, or meatloaf. It’s a versatile gluten-free meat alternative.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (24g) – 80 calories, 12g protein, 0g total fat, 7g carbohydrates, 4g dietary fiber, 3g sugars, 2 mg sodium, 80 mg calcium, 5.63 mg iron. (Reference: Bob’s Red Mill high protein textured vegetable protein)


Black plate filled with seitan protein.

Also known as “wheat meat,” seitan is made from wheat gluten. The texture is very chewy, mimicking chicken or beef. Often sold in slabs, pre-cut slices, cubes, or pre-seasoned. Lends well to marinating, coating and fried, or stir-fried.

Nutritional Profile: Per 8 ounces (227g) – 280 calories, 56g protein, 4g total fat, 10g carbohydrates, 0g dietary fiber,0g sugars,  800 mg sodium, 0 mg calcium, 0 mg iron. (Reference: Sweet Earth Natural Foods Traditional Seitan)

Bulgur Wheat

A spoon filled with bulgur wheat.

Bulgar is made from the golden grains of parboiled or steamed wheat kernels or berries. It’s then dried, with some of the bran removed, and further ground. The neutral-tasting grain cooks relatively quickly, depending on whether it’s medium or coarse ground. It should be rinsed before cooking to remove excess starches. It’s a popular grain used in tabbouleh.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (42g) – 150 calories, 3g protein, 0.6g total fat, 34g carbohydrates, 5g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 0 mg calcium, 0.77 mg iron. (Reference: Finest Food Distributing Co. Uncooked bulgur wheat)

Wheat Berry

Wooden spoon filled with wheat berry.

Wheat berries are the whole kernels of wheat that have not been processed. They have a chewy texture and take longer to cook but provide proper nutrition. It can be added to salads, soups, or as a side dish.

Nutritional Profile: Per ½ cup (82g) – 280 calories, 9g protein, 1.50g total fat, 62g carbohydrates, 10g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 2.47 mg iron. (Reference: Gretchen’s Grains uncooked wheat berry)


This olive-green grain with nutty and smoky flavors is made from immature durum wheat. It has three times more fiber and two times more protein than white rice, rivaling quinoa in macronutrient profile. It can be purchased whole or cracked and boiled until tender. It’s often eaten in the eastern Mediterranean and North African cuisines, like salads and pilafs.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (46g) – 170 calories, 7g protein, 1g total fat, 33g carbohydrates, 8g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 74 mg calcium, 6 mg iron. (Reference: Bob’s Red Mill organic cracked freekeh)


Wooden spoon on a table holding barley.

Barley is a nutty cereal grain famous for its use in beer making but can be eaten for its protein and fiber content. It can be purchased with its bran intact (hulled) or removed (pearled), which cooks quicker. It’s easy to add to salad, soups or a nice alternative to rice for risotto.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (50g) – 180 calories, 15g protein, 0.50g total fat, 39g carbohydrates, 8g dietary fiber, 10g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 0.76 mg iron. (Reference: Uncooked pearled barley)


Two wooden spoons showing different types of oats.

Many types of oats have soluble and insoluble fibers, and beta-glucans. They also have a balance of protein, fat, and carbs and are known as whole-grain food. They are sold as steel-cut that is partially cooked and cut into small rounds, old-fashioned, which are hulled, steamed, and pressed flat, or instant, which is precooked and dried. Eat them as a porridge, soak them for overnight oats as a ready-to-go breakfast, make oat milk, or add them to snacks like energy bites.

Nutritional Profile: Per ½ cup (48g) – 190 calories, 7g protein, 3.50g total fat, 32g carbohydrates, 5g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 2.25 mg iron. (Reference: Bob’s Red Mill uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats)


Small wooden bowls filled with different types of rice.

Depending on the types of rice you choose, there will be a different taste, texture and nutritional value. The rice grain is mainly endosperm and may contain the germ, bran, and husk if not removed. White rice is more tender because it has been husked, while brown rice still has not and takes longer to cook, but it has more nutrients retained. Long, medium, and short-grain rice are available that yield different textures when cooked. Red and black rice are also available that have additional antioxidants.

Nutritional Profile: Per 1 cup (195g) – 218 calories, 4.5g protein, 1.6g total fat, 46g carbohydrates, 3.5g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 1 mg sodium, 10 mg calcium, 0.5 mg iron. (Reference: Cooked brown rice)


Amaranth is a gluten-free and protein-rich grain native to Peru. The fibers aid in digestion and the calcium helps with bone health. The nutty and toasted flavored grains and flour can be used in cooking. It’s boiled and simmered uncovered, about ½ cup amaranth to 1 ½ cups water. Use flour in baked goods, and grains in breakfast porridge, puddings, and as replacements for rice or other grains.

Nutritional Profile: Per 1 cup (246g) – 251 calories, 9.4g protein, 4g total fat, 46g carbohydrates, 5.2g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 15 mg sodium, 116 mg calcium, 5.17 mg iron. (Reference: Cooked amaranth)


A spoon full of farro.

Farro is a nutty ancient grain that provides an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, and iron per serving. When you’re ready to learn how to cook farro it can be boiled and then simmered until the grains are tender. It’s great to add to a farro soup, stews, risotto, or salads.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (13g) – 170 calories, 7g protein, 1g total fat, 35g carbohydrates, 5g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 10 mg calcium, 1 mg iron. (Reference: Uncooked pearled farro)


Bowl of uncooked quinoa.

Quinoa is a superfood seed of the goosefoot plant from the Andes Mountains. It is one of the few plant-based proteins that provides all nine essential amino acids. The seeds have a nutty taste but should be rinsed before cooking to remove the slightly bitter flavor from their protective coating called saponins. They come in yellow, black, and red and are often mixed. You can cook quinoa like rice and add other flavors for a tasty side dish or use it in burgers or fritters.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (43g) – 156 calories, 6g protein, 2.50g total fat, 27g carbohydrates, 3g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 5 mg sodium, 47 mg calcium, 4.6 mg iron. (Reference: Uncooked quinoa)


Wooden spoon holding flaxseeds.

Flaxseed health benefits include loads of fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid. They come whole or ground. However, the milled seeds have a special thickening ability. Flax “eggs” are a combination of ground flaxseeds and water, which thicken after a few minutes and are used as an egg substitution in baked goods for structure. Sprinkling the seeds or milled flax seeds can nutritionally boost any snack, beverage, or sweets.

Nutritional Profile: Per 2 teaspoons (13g) – 60 calories, 3g protein, 3.50g total fat, 5g carbohydrates, 4g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 5 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 2.5 mg iron. (Reference: Bob’s Red Mill golden flaxseed meal)

Chia Seeds

Big bowl of chia seeds.

Chia seeds, which can be black or white, are tiny round seeds that pack a nutritional punch. When combined with liquids, the outer coating swells to make chia pudding. Chia seeds are neutral in flavor and have a jelly texture with a crunch. They’re often added to drinks, smoothies, puddings, and jams for fiber and protein.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (36g) – 180 calories, 6g protein, 11g total fat, 16g carbohydrates, 14g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 5 mg sodium, 250 mg calcium, 3.4 mg iron. (Reference: Black chia seeds)

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds on a wooden spoon.

These green roasted seeds, also known as pepitas, are often used in Mexican cuisine. They’re most well known for their high magnesium content, about 74 milligrams per 2 tablespoons. Pepitas add a nice crunch to salads and soups. Roasted pumpkin seeds also make a great high-fiber snack.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (30g) – 160 calories, 10g protein, 13g total fat, 4g carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 7.5 mg iron. (Reference: Giant Eagle roasted pepitas)

Hulled Hemp Hearts

Hulled Hemp Hearts.

When the hulled green and cream-colored seeds are removed from the hemp plant, they yield a nutty and earthy-tasting ingredient. One serving provides 10 grams of protein plus healthy fats. The tender hemp hearts can be added on top of porridge, non-dairy yogurts, smoothies, and salads.

Nutritional Profile: Per 3 tablespoons (30g) – 160 calories, 10g protein, 12g total fat, 23g carbohydrates, 10g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 12 mg calcium, 4 mg iron. (Reference: Bob’s Red Mill hulled hemp seed hearts)

Nuts and Nut Butters

Bowl of nuts next to a spoon of peanut butter.

Any nut you can dream of, almonds, peanuts, cashews, Brazil, pecans or walnuts are a nutrient-dense vegan protein source. They make a great snack or can be used as toppings, incorporated into sauces, soups, and stews to add richness and thickness, ground for baking like almond flour, or can be soaked to make dairy-free milk and cheeses. Nut butter like almond butter and peanut butter are easy to make and add as spreads or in sauces. Although high in protein, nuts also are higher in fat and calories, so moderation is key.

Nutritional Profile: Per ¼ cup (28g) – 180 calories, 10g protein, 16g total fat, 5g carbohydrates, 3g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 80 mg calcium, 1.9 mg iron. (Reference: Unsalted roasted almonds)

Nutrition Sources

Please note that all nutritional profile information is appropriate and was gathered from the food manufacturer’s website or the USDA National Nutrient Database.

I hope that you found this guide to vegan protein sources helpful! As you can see, there are a lot of ways to incorporate a variety of plant-based vegan foods into your diet each day. If there is a protein source that you think should be added to the list or you have a question about, please leave a comment below!

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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27 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Imen says

    Thank you so much, you helped me a lot,
    I am trying to help a family their 12 years son has cancer and they don’t know how to deal with this and what type of food should they prepare for him.

  2. Corrie says

    Where are you finding Pearl Barley that has 15g of protein per 1/4 cup uncooked? I don’t see that anywhere.

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