Getting your daily fix of protein (experts recommend eating 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight every day) on a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be a challenge. In fact, the options for vegan protein sources are pretty limitless these days, with ingredients like tempeh and chia seeds rising in popularity.
When considering proteins for your next vegan dinner, it’s important to know what each of them offers. That way, you can maximize their nutritional benefits (and their yum factor)! From tofu to legumes, we’ve got you covered with this handy guide to vegan protein sources. We’ve sorted them by their protein density per cup, so you can easily find the most protein-rich foods at the top of the list. You can also find some recipe inspo with what meals to make with each source of protein!
What vegan foods are high in protein?
Seitan, beans, tofu, chickpeas, hempseeds, and nuts are all vegan foods high in protein.
How to get protein without meat?
Eating vegan protein sources like seitan, tofu, chickpeas, lentils, soy beans, and edamame are all great ways to get protein without meat.
Are chickpeas high in protein?
Yes, chickpeas are high in protein with about 39 grams of protein per cup.
What vegetable has the most protein?
Green peas are the vegetable with the most protein, with leafy greens following.
These Are The Best Vegan Protein Sources
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Seitan: ~200 g protein / cup
The texture of vital wheat gluten, or seitan, has been deemed the most meat-like vegan protein source, and it offers quite a bit of protein per cup. But, because of its low content of the essential amino acid lysine, it’s not a complete protein: the body only absorbs about 35 grams of seitan protein per meal. It is high in iron, though it’s also slow to absorb.
- Cut seitan into deli slices for vegan sandwiches
- Cook ground seitan into stir fries
Photo by Kindel Media / PEXELS
Hempseed: 75 g protein / cup
Hempseed is impressively up there in terms of protein count. Hempseed contains all 21 known amino acids, including the nine essentials: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. The small seeds can be ground into a meal, sprinkled on top, sprouted, made into powder, or consumed raw.
- Add hempseeds on top of smoothie bowls
- Blend into smoothies
- Drink hemp milk with your coffee
Photo by Karolina Grabowska / PEXELS
Nuts + Nut Butters: 65 g protein / cup
On top of being a great source of healthy fats and fiber, nuts are big on protein — but the list is extensive. Some of the most prominent high-protein nuts include peanuts (38 grams / cup), almonds (30 grams), and pistachios (25 grams). You can get creative and incorporate them into your meals as toppers, or simply toss back a handful as a healthy snack!
Don’t forget nut butters for making delicious PB&Js or breakfast toasts, either! Peanut butter (65 grams) and almond butter (52 grams) are great bases, although they do typically contain more added sugar if they’re refined. If you’re concerned with eating clean and getting the most benefit from these butters, try to shop nut butters with minimal ingredients.
Photo by Vie Studio / PEXELS
Chickpeas: 39 g protein / cup
Also known as garbanzo beans, these strapping little gems pack about 39 grams of protein per cup. Chickpeas are also high in fiber, which makes them a smart, balanced snack or addition to meals. Chickpeas can be enjoyed whole in salads and curries, air fried to crispy perfection, or blended up into homemade falafel and hummus!
Photo by Antoni Shkraba / PEXELS
Chia Seeds: 37 g protein / cup
Despite their micro size, chia seeds dish up a good amount of protein. Sprinkle them onto yogurt bowls, add them into your overnight oats, or blend a few spoonfuls into fruit smoothies for a protein boost. If you’re looking for a high-protein dessert, you can even make chia pudding.
Photo by cottonbro studio / PEXELS
Tempeh: 31 g protein / cup
Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh gives a whopping 31 grams of protein per cup. It has a fairly hearty and thick texture, perfect for making tacos, rice bowls, and even sandwiches since you can slice it thin.
- Stir-fry some tempeh pieces with teriyaki sauce to eat with noodles
- Cook ground tempeh with taco seasoning for a high-protein taco filling
Photo by Vie Studio / PEXELS
Seeds: ~30 g protein / cup
Much like nuts, the list of protein-rich seeds is quite lengthy. But the ones that are most gainful by the protein-to-calorie ratio are pumpkin (39 grams), sunflower seeds (29 grams), sesame seeds (26 grams), and flax seeds (31 grams). Seeds like these made excellent additions to cereal bowls, salads, and homemade dips.
- Add sunflower seeds to salads or salad dressings
- Sprinkle sesame seeds over your next homemade Chinese dish
- Roast some pumpkin seeds in the oven for a quick high-protein snack
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch / PEXELS
Tofu: 20 g protein / cup
Also referred to as bean curd, tofu is made from coagulated soy milk (trust us, it tastes way better than it sounds). Tofu is the most widely recognized sub-in for meat in vegetarian and vegan diets. Plus, it’s a complete protein (has all nine essential amino acids) with 20 grams of protein per cup!
- Add soft, plain tofu to smoothies
- Make our unbeatable crispy tofu to top salads + add to wraps
- Make tofu scramble for breakfast
- Pan-fry cubes of tofu in the wok to go with noodles or rice bowls
Photo by Cup of Couple / PEXELS
Edamame: 17 g protein / cup
These bright green beans delivers 17 grams of protein per cup! The dish is simply a preparation of immature soybeans in (or out of) the pod, and it’s so delish, you can simply enjoy them steamed with a hint of flaky sea salt.
- Sprinkle cooked, shelled edamame on top of salads
- Make fresh rice paper spring rolls with edamame inside (with a peanut sauce on the side for more protein)
- Incorporate into any kind of Asian noodle recipe
Photo by icon0 com / PEXELS
Beans: 16 g protein / cup
Beans are known to be magical, and it’s probably because they pack loads of protein — approximately 16 grams per cup! In addition to hearty burritos, you can add any kind of bean to soups, dips, chilis, salads, or even make delish veggie burger patties out of them.
Photo by Valeriya Kobzar / PEXELS
Quinoa: 8 g protein / cup
This grain packs in all nine essential amino acids to nourish your bod, all while offering 8 grams of protein per cup. Quinoa pairs awesomely with pretty much anything, so you can easily add more of your fave proteins to it for a hearty protein-packed meal. It’s especially great with salmon, in wraps, or as a base in grain bowls. Hot tip: try cooking it with chicken or beef broth for a higher dose of protein!
Photo by R Khalil / PEXELS
Green Peas: 8 g protein / cup
Though green peas don’t pack as hefty of a protein punch as the other plant-based options, they’re still worth considering. Including a little extra protein doesn’t hurt after all, and peas are perfect in soups, stir-fries, and chilis. Per cup, you’ll get approximately 8 grams of protein.
- Stir in green peas into a vegan casserole
- Serve as a side dish
- Blend into a vegan pasta sauce
Photo by Daria Klimova / PEXELS
Non-Dairy Milk: 5-7 g protein / cup
Some non-dairy milks are considered to be a solid source of protein (soy milk with 7 grams per cup, hemp milk and oat milk with 5 grams), however, other popular choices are not. Almond milk, cashew milk, and rice milk deliver little to no protein, so shop smart if you’re aiming to eat more protein every day.
- Make an oat milk latte
- Add soy milk to your smoothies
- Swap regular milk for high-protein non-dairy milk in everyday recipes
Photo by Eva Bronzini / PEXELS
Leafy Greens: ~1 g protein / cup
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, and collard greens are very light sources of protein. Including them in your diet can only increase your intake of protein and other vitamins, but remember that legumes, seeds, and nuts are much more beneficial and practical vegan protein sources. Incorporating greens and another source in one meal is ideal!
- Blend spinach into a smoothie (you won’t even notice it!)
- Air fry some halved Brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil + spices
- Make a hearty vegan spinach dip
- Mix up a kale Caesar salad
For more plant-based tips and tricks, check us out on Pinterest!
This post has been updated.