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18 Excellent Plant Sources of Protein for Vegans and Vegetarians

A common notion is that people who are vegans or vegetarian do not get sufficient protein from their diet. However, not many know that there are some excellent plant sources of protein available for vegans and/or vegetarians. There are some plant foods which have more protein than others and studies show that diet with high protein is good for muscle strength, weight loss and satiety.(1, 2, 3)

In this article we will be talking about some excellent plant foods, which have increased quantity of protein in a serving.

18 Excellent Plant Sources of Protein for Vegans and Vegetarians

  1. Lentils

    Lentils are a great source of protein with 18 g of protein in a cooked cup of lentils.(4) Lentils can be used in different dishes, such as salads, soups and even curries and dahls.

    The fiber present in lentils helps feed the good bacteria present in the colon, which in turn helps in giving a healthy gut. Lentils are also beneficial in cutting the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers.(5) Lentils are also rich in iron, manganese, folate and antioxidants.(4)

  2. Seitan: A High Protein Meat Substitute

    Popularly known as wheat meat, Seitan is an excellent protein source for vegans and vegetarians. It is made from wheat protein which is gluten. Seitan when cooked is very similar to the texture and the look of the meat too. Seitan contains around 25 g of protein in 100 g of serving, which makes it a rich plant protein source.(6)

    Seitan also contains selenium along with small amounts of phosphorus, calcium and iron.(7)

    The ways in which Seitan can be made is grilled, sautéed and pan-fried and can be easily used in a variety of recipes. However, people who are allergic to gluten should stay away from this.

  3. Tofu, Edamame and Tempeh: Soy Proteins

    Tofu, edamame and tempeh all are soy based products, which have protein in them and are an excellent whole source of protein and give your body all the important amino acids it requires. Immature soybeans are Edamame and they have a slightly grassy and sweet taste. They can be consumed after boiling and steaming or they can be added to salads, soups, stir-fries, sushi, rice rolls and wraps.

    Tofu is made by pressing the bean curds together and tempeh is made by slightly fermenting and cooking the mature soybeans and then compressing them into a block.

    Tofu does not have any particular taste and can absorb the flavor of any dish in which it is used to cook with. Both tempeh and tofu can be used in different recipes, such as burgers to chilis, soups, curries and stews.

    These soy-based proteins that are Tofu, Edamame and Tempeh have calcium, iron and around 12 to 20 g of protein in a 100 g of serving.(8)

    Tempeh contains B vitamins, probiotics and minerals, such as phosphorus and magnesium.(8)

    Edamame also has fiber, vitamin K and folate, which are beneficial for digestive system.(9)

  4. Beans: A Powerhouse of Plant Protein

    All the varieties of beans, such as black, kidney and pinto are high in protein. Garbanzo beans also known as Chickpeas, which are rich in protein content. Majority of the beans have 15 g of protein in a cooked cup of beans. Beans are also good sources of iron, complex carbs, folate, fiber, potassium, phosphorus, manganese and other good plant compounds.(10)

    Studies also show that consuming a diet rich in beans and legumes helps in blood sugar management; decreasing cholesterol levels and reducing the blood pressure.(11, 12, 13)

  5. Mycoprotein: A Plant Protein with Meaty Texture

    Mycoprotein is actually a fungus and is a great alternative to meat with the same kind of texture and is famously used as a meat substitute in burgers, fillets, cutlets and patties.(14)

    The nutritional value of the Mycoprotein can vary depending on the particular product with the average amount of protein being about 15 to 16 g in a 100 g portion with 5 to 8 g of fiber too.(15)

    There is some concern about food allergies, but studies have shown the chances of it occurring as very rare.(16)

    It is also to be born in mind that products made with mycoprotein can also have egg whites in them so for people following a vegan or vegetarian diet they should read the label carefully before buying it.

  6. Spelt and Teff: Ancient Plant Protein

    These belong to the food category known as ancient grains, which also consists of sorghum, barley, farro and einkorn.(17) Spelt is a type of wheat, which also has gluten and teff, which come from an annual grass and is naturally gluten-free. Both Spelt and teff provide 10 to 11 g of protein in a cooked cup of 250 g, which make them the highest source of protein when compared to other ancient grains.(18, 19) Both of these are also rich in other nutrients too. Spelt and teff are great alternatives to other grains, such as rice and wheat can be used in a variety of dishes.

  7. Hemp Seeds

    Though not so popular as other seeds, Hemp seeds contain about 9 g of protein in a 30-g of serving.(20)

    Hemp seeds are also rich in iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and calcium along with being a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are great for health.(21)

    There are some studies, which show that these forms of fats present in hemp seeds help in fighting inflammation and relieving the symptoms of menopause, premenstrual syndrome and some skin problems.(22, 23, 24) Hemp seeds can be incorporated in the diet by sprinkling them in the cereal or adding them to your smoothie. They can also be used in homemade energy balls, salad dressings, protein or granola bars.

  8. Green Peas

    Green peas are great protein source for vegan and vegetarians and they have about 9 g of protein in about 160 g of green peas.(25) A single serving of green peas sufficiently covers more than 25% of the daily fiber intake along with folate, manganese, thiamine and vitamin A, C, and K requirements. Green peas are also rich in magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper and other B vitamins.(26) Peas can be used in different recipes or one can also make a pea soup to reap its protein benefits.

  9. Quinoa and Amaranth

    Although quinoa and amaranth are usually referred to as gluten-free or ancient grains, but they don’t originate from grasses as other grains or cereals do. So they are technically considered pseudocereal or pseudograin.

    Quinoa and Amaranth can give you about 8 to 9 g of protein per 185 g of a cooked cup and this is actually uncommon among pseudocereals and grains.(27) Additionally, quinoa and amaranth are also good sources of fiber, complex carbs, manganese, magnesium, iron and phosphorus.(27)

  10. Spirulina

    Spirulina is an algae, which is blue-green in color and is loaded with nutrients. A 14-g serving of Spirulina gives 8 g of protein along with providing about 22% of the daily requirements for iron and 95% of daily copper requirement.(28) Spirulina is also rich in magnesium, manganese, potassium, riboflavin and little amounts of other nutrients and essential fatty acids.

    According to some studies, phycocyanin, which is a natural pigment present in spirulina, also seems to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.(29, 30, 31) There are also studies, which associate consuming spirulina to other health benefits, such as improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels; better immune system and decreased blood pressure.(32, 33, 34)

  11. Ezekiel Bread and Breads Made From Sprouted Grains

    Ezekiel bread is one of the healthiest bread, as it is made from organic, sprouted legumes and whole grains, such as wheat, barley, millet, spelt along with lentils and soybeans. About two slices of Ezekiel bread have around 8 g of protein.(35) Sprouting legumes and grains have more nutrients and less of anti-nutrients, which affect your body’s absorption of certain minerals and vitamins.(36, 37)

    There are studies which reveal that sprouting increases the quantity of certain amino acids, such as lysine, which increases their overall quality of protein.(38) Sprouting also helps in increasing the soluble fiber, vitamins C and E folate, and beta carotene along with slightly decreasing gluten, which can help with digestion in people suffering from disorders related with gluten.(39) Similarly, combining legumes with grains also enhances the amino acid profile of the bread.(40)

  12. Soy Milk: A Great Plant Alternative to Dairy Milk

    Soybeans are used to make soy milk, which is often fortified with minerals and vitamins and is a good alternative to dairy milk for people who do not want to consume dairy. Soy milk contains 6 g of protein per cup and is also rich in vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12.(41) Soy milk is a very versatile product where it can be used as a drink or can be used in different kind of recipes. One thing to remember is that soybeans and soy milk do not have vitamin B12 in them, so it is recommended to opt for a fortified type. There are some soy milks with added sugar in them, which is not good for health, so it is better to buy unsweetened soy milk.

  13. Oats and Oatmeal: A Delicious Protein Source for Vegetarians and Vegans

    Oats are easy to make and tasty too and an excellent source of protein; especially for vegetarians and vegans. About 40 g or half a cup of dry oats contain around 5 g of protein and 4 g of fiber along with also having zinc, magnesium, folate and phosphorus.(42)

    Oats may not have the complete amount of protein needed by the body, but it also has increased quality of protein when compared to other grains such as wheat and rice. Oats can be used in different recipes from oatmeal to burgers and they can be used in baking also by making oats flour.

  14. Wild Rice

    Wild rice is a relatively unknown source of protein for vegetarians and vegans with about 1.5 times protein as is found in other varieties of long-grain rice.

    About 164 g of wild rice has about 7 g of protein along with good amount of manganese, fiber, copper, magnesium, B vitamins and phosphorus.(43)

    Wild rice retains its bran, which is an excellent source of nutrients, such as fiber, minerals and vitamins.(44, 45) However, the bran also can be problematic because of accumulation of arsenic on rice crops grown in polluted regions.(46)

    Therefore it is important to thoroughly wash wild rice before preparing it and boil it in plenty of water to decrease the amount of arsenic and other heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead.(47)

  15. Seeds, Nuts and Nut Butters

    Nuts and seeds are great sources of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Depending on the variety of them, about 28 g of nuts and seeds have 5 to 7 g of protein.(48)

    Not only protein, seeds and nuts also have lots of healthy fats, fiber, calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium, vitamin E, phosphorus, antioxidants and some B vitamins.(49) However, roasting or blanching the seeds and nuts can damage or decrease the nutrients in them. Therefore, it is recommended to consume them raw and un-blanched as much as possible.(50) It is also recommended to choose natural nut butters, which do not have sugar, oil and excess salt in them.

  16. Chia Seeds

    Chia seeds are from a plant which is native to Guatemala and Mexico. About 28 g of chia seeds contain 10 g of fiber and 5 g of protein, which makes them an excellent plant-based protein.(51) Additionally, chia seeds also have iron, magnesium, selenium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.(52, 53) Chia seeds possess mild taste and can absorb water and turn into a gel like substance. Because of this they can be used in different kinds of dishes and recipes.

  17. Protein-Rich Vegetables and Fruits

    All the vegetables and fruits have protein in them and some of the vegetables have more protein than others, such as spinach, broccoli, potatoes, asparagus, artichokes, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. Sweet corn, which is technically a grain, has the same amount of protein as present in these vegetables.(54)

    Fresh fruits usually have lesser protein when compared to vegetables. Some of the protein rich fruits are cherimoyas, guava, blackberries, mulberries, bananas and nectarines.

  18. Nutritional Yeast

    This is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast and is sold commercially as yellow flakes or powder. Nutritional Yeast has a cheesy flavor and therefore is popularly used in scrambled tofu, mashed potatoes with pasta dishes etc.

    About 16 g of Nutritional Yeast contains 8 g of protein and 3 g of fiber.(55) Fortified nutritional yeast also contains copper, zinc, manganese, magnesium and all the B vitamins.(56)


Contrary to what people think, protein deficiencies are uncommon in vegans and vegetarians; especially for those who consume a well-planned and healthy diet.(56)

However, many people may want to increase their intake of plant protein for different reasons and for them the above mentioned plant protein sources are great to be incorporated in their diet.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 23, 2023

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