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25 Vegan Sources for Protein

25 Vegan Sources for Protein

If you’ve been vegan for any length of time, there’s a pretty good chance that someone’s asked you the ubiquitous question, “How do you get enough protein?” It’s a common misconception that you need animal products to get enough protein into your diet. In fact, many plant foods are loaded with protein, and if you incorporate 2-3 protein sources into each meal, chances are your protein levels will be a-OK.

Need proof that vegans aren’t hurting for protein? Just take a look at the recent popularity of veganism among bodybuilders! When you’re doing heavy weight training like bodybuilders do, you need to take in a lot more protein than the average recommendations. If it was that hard to get enough protein on a vegan diet, chances are we wouldn’t see so many bodybuilders talking about the benefits of a vegan diet!

The amount of protein you need in your diet depends a lot on your body weight and what activities you do. Americans in general eat far more protein than we need each day. The RDA for protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 140 pounds, you’d need 51 grams of protein per day (140 pounds = 63.5 kg, and 63.5 X .8 = 50.8).

Like I mentioned above, you just need a couple of protein sources at each meal, and you’re golden. Depending on the protein sources you choose, you can even have just one source at a meal, if it’s high in protein. What I don’t want to do is confuse this idea with protein combining, a common practice that is totally unnecessary.

the myth of protein combining

The Myth of Protein Combining

You can probably track the idea of protein combining back to the book Diet for a Small Planet. The idea is that plant foods don’t contain “complete” proteins, and you need to combine certain plant foods at each meal to make sure you’re getting enough complete proteins.

Proteins contain amino acids, which are necessary for good health. There are nine amino acids that our bodies need to function, and animal products contain all nine. However, most plant-based protein sources are missing one or two amino acids, and different ones are missing different amino acids.

What makes a good myth is a kernel of truth, right? It’s true that you need to eat a variety of proteins to make sure you’re getting all of the amino acids your body needs, but it’s not as hard as protein combining methods make it seem. You don’t need all nine at the same meal, and it’s even OK if you don’t get them all every single day. If you stick to a variety of protein sources, like the ones below, you’ll be golden. Hey, maybe you’ll even try your hand at bodybuilding!


vegan protein sources

25 Vegan Protein Sources

There are plenty of vegan protein sources, and if you make sure to eat a variety of these throughout the week, you won’t need to worry about getting enough protein!

I understand that not everyone is going to eat all 25 of these. This list is a jumping off point to give you some options to get going. Beans, whole grains, and even fruits and veggies contain protein, so if your favorite foods aren’t on this list, I suggest using a resource like the USDA Nutrition Database to check out their protein contents.

  1. Tempeh -  41 g per cup
  2. Lentils – 18 g per cup
  3. Plain soymilk – 11 g per cup
  4. Edamame – 20 g per cup
  5. Seitan – 19 g per 3 ounces
  6. Tofu – 20 g per 1/2 cup
  7. Peas – 9 g per cup
  8. Brown rice – 5 g per cup
  9. White rice – 4 g per cup
  10. Cooked broccoli – 4 g per cup
  11. Sunflower seeds – 6 g per 1/4 cup
  12. Quinoa – 9 g per cup
  13. Cooked spinach – 5 g per cup
  14. Avocado – 4 g per cup
  15. Whole grain bread – 7 g in 2 slices
  16. Black beans – 15 g per cup
  17. Cashews – 5 g per 1/4 cup
  18. Cooked semolina pasta – 8 g per cup
  19. Chia seeds – 5 g per 2 tablespoons
  20. Flax seeds – 4 g per 2 tablespoons
  21. Bulgur – 5.5 g per cup
  22. Peanut butter – 8 g per 2 tablespoons
  23. Sunflower seed butter – 5.5 g per 2 tablespoons
  24. Baked red potato – 3 g per cup
  25. Barley – 3.5 g per cup

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’d love to hear from you guys! What plant-based foods do you rely on for protein?


Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Health, Vegan, Vegetarian, , , , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


+ add your own
12:46AM PDT on Aug 16, 2014

Thanks for sharing

12:34PM PDT on Aug 13, 2014

Don't forget kamut and kamut pasta and well as the up and coming fonio.

10:35AM PDT on Aug 13, 2014

Congratulations, it is a very interesting article, which allows to clarify myths on the proteins.

10:09AM PDT on Aug 13, 2014

Being vegetarian I tended to load up on too many carbs and in the long run paid the price of high blood sugar, so you do have to be careful about too much rice, beans, pasta, bread and my down fall potatoes. It is a little more challenging to get in your protein when vegetarian and as a vegan twice as hard especially if like myself you don't care for tofu and the other non meat substitutes. I do like the veggie burgers but not the fact they are so processed that they become unhealthy (in my opinion). Nuts are great but packed with mucho calories so you need to be careful there too.

7:42AM PDT on Aug 13, 2014

You forgot to mention that soy is now almost exclusively filled with GMOs and tofu is made with soy.

7:35AM PDT on Aug 13, 2014


5:42AM PDT on Aug 13, 2014

There IS a problem with protein:
We eat too much of it.
We are genetically inclined to prefer foods which are scarce on the African savanna: Sugar, salt, fat and protein rich foods.
It is in our genes.
That is why we like chocolate, cheese, eggs, meat and ice cream.
There is not much anybody can do about it, until we find a way to change our genes using gene manipulation.
Until then, we all are going to be craving eggs, dairy, meat, grain, sugar salt and legumes.
Learn to live with it, vegans, the truth hurts.

5:29PM PDT on Aug 12, 2014

What about millet? love it

2:45PM PDT on Aug 12, 2014

Many good sources of protein listed here, I enjoy most of the ones listed except for Edamame, Seitan or Tofu, however red quinoa is one of my favourites.

Sandy G said: " Hopefully some carnivores will read this and at least try it...For dinner, a baked potato loaded with butter...You'd do both your body and the planet SOOO much good... I know someone who dropped meat from breakfast only three days a week and went veg at lunch or dinner twice a week. No portion reduction whatsoever. This person lost 11 pounds in six months without even trying..."

Your friend was likely eating a portion of meat that was larger than the recommended portion, many people eating meat eat far too much of it at one go and do themselves no favours as it is a food to eat in small amounts and society does a lot of things these days in excess, especially in the U.S. when it comes to food portion servings. Most people eating meat are not 'carnivores,' since they generally eat other foods combined with their meat, therefore they are omnivores. Unless one is traditional Inuit who do eat mostly meat, then most hardly fall into the category of being true carnivores. Certainly, one doesn't need to have meat three times a day if one is omnivore and there are plenty of protein substitutes available if one is having less meat or doing a meat free day.

2:45PM PDT on Aug 12, 2014

Baked potatoes are indeed wonderful, but 'loaded with butter' (as Sandy G mentioned) is not too wonderful, as butter is something to be used in moderation if one is using butter. There are vegan substitutes available for butter for those who are vegan which is also flavourful.

David S, just because someone disagrees with an article or the number of articles written on a given topic (as someone did in an earlier comment,) does not make them a 'troll'. Differing opinions are part and parcel of democracy, where dissent is tolerated. Since there are a number of vegans who will make comments in articles concerning milk, eggs and other foods including honey, would you also apply your 'logic' to them and 'ban' them from commenting on such articles in Care2? The trouble with banning ideas, even ones that are opposite to yours (or mine), is that you no longer end up with a democratic system where people are free to express their viewpoint. You don't need to ban a different opinion, you can choose to debate, which is far more democratic.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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