The Ultimate List of 86 Vegetarian Protein Sources

Even if you’re not considering a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are huge benefits from eating vegetarian proteins. They are usually much cheaper, lower in saturated fat, and have a longer shelf life.

Protein is essential for all of us – but for those looking to lose weight, it’s paramount. Protein keeps you full throughout the day, burns a lot of calories while it’s being digested, and helps retain muscle mass.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 18 years, although I rarely mention it on this site (since it’s not relevant to most of my readers). By far the most common question I get asked is “How do you get protein?”. Well… Without further ado, here is the definitive list of 86 vegetarian protein sources to keep your diet from getting boring!

mycoprotein#1: Mycoprotein
Protein Content: 26 grams in 1 cup

Mycoprotein is the ingredient behind the Quorn brand of meat substitutes – one of the only brands not based around soy protein. Grown in vats, mycoprotein is best described as part of the mushroom family (although it tastes nothing like mushrooms!). This is one of the most “meat-like” substitutes around, and it’s easily capable of fooling meat-eaters.

However, like a handful of other foods (such as peanuts), a small portion of the population is allergic to mycoprotein – although this allergy is very rare.

Here are some great recipes that use mycoprotein:

Quorn Mexican Quesadilla
Quorn Meatless Sheperd’s Pie

eggs#2: Eggs / Egg Whites
Protein Content: 12 grams in 2 eggs

Eggs are a great vegetarian way to start the day. You can save some calories by eating only the egg white (which contains the protein, while the yolk contains the fat, micronutrients and most of the calories) – but yolks in moderation are great for your health. One whole egg with two egg whites is a great combination of flavor, protein, and caloric value.

Soy Sources:

#3: Edamame
Protein Content: 9 grams in 1/2 cup

Edamame is the most direct way to consume soybeans. Boil or steam the pods, cover them in a dash of salt, and eat up for a fresh source of soy protein.

#4: Tofu
Protein Content: 20 grams in 1 cup

Tofu doesn’t have a great reputation for flavor, but these things often boil down to how it is prepared. Proper seasoning can yield a delicious protein source for many dishes, especially stir-fry. Still not a fan? Blend it up in a smoothie for instant protein. Firmer tofu products tend to contain the most protein.

#5: Tempeh
Protein Content: Around 15 grams in 1/2 cup

Tempeh originated in Indonesian cuisine and is a soy product that is similar to tofu, although it is a different product with a unique nutritional profile and taste. In fact, it has more nutritional value than tofu – so give it a try!

#6: Natto
Protein Content: 15 grams in 1/2 cup

Natto is a Japanese food made by the fermentation of soybeans. Often served on a bed of rice, it has a unique flavor that is considered by most to be a love-it-or-hate-it sort of thing.

TVP#7: Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Protein Content: 30 grams in 1 cup

Despite the science-experiment-sounding name, TVP is a great all-purpose protein for vegetarians. When in doubt, try using it in place of ground beef.

Here are some great recipes that use TVP :

Brown Rice Mushroom Risotto
TVP Spaghetti Puttanesca

Nuts & Seeds

#8: Cashews
Protein Content: 4 grams in 18 nuts

#9: Flax Seeds
Protein Content: 4 grams in 2 tablespoons

Flax seed is famous for its healthy fats – flax seed oil is used as a vegan alternative to Omega-3 fish oil. It also has a fair amount of protein, and every little bit helps.

#10: Black Walnuts
Protein Content: 7 grams in 1 ounce

#11: Pumpkin Seeds
Protein Content: 5 grams in 1 ounce

#12: Pine Nuts
Protein Content: 4 grams in 1 ounce

Containing a lot of fat, pine nuts aren’t the best in terms of calorie-to-protein ratio – that one ounce serving will pack almost 200 calories. However, they are healthy fats, so it’s not all bad in moderation.

almonds#13: Almonds
Protein Content: 6 grams in 22 nuts

Almonds have been heavily linked to weight loss through numerous studies, making them a great choice for those watching their waistline – the protein is just a nice bonus.

Recipe: Try these delicious Rosemary Roasted Almonds

#14: Pistachios
Protein Content: 6 grams in 1 ounce

#15: Peanuts
Protein Content: 19 grams in 1/2 cup

For a quick protein-rich snack, peanuts are hard to beat. Just watch out for added calories from the fat content.

#16: Pistachios
Protein Content: 13 grams in 1/2 cup

Another great snack to reach for, pistachios are quite the healthy nut.

#17: Hempseed
Protein Content: 20 grams in 1/4 cup

You don’t have to be a hippie to enjoy hempseed! This food is absolutely LOADED with protein, is a complete protein source, and even contains the same heart-healthy fats found in fish oil.

sunflower seeds#18: Sunflower Seeds
Protein Content: 15 grams in 1/2 cup

Sunflower seeds are rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, unsaturated fats, and – of course – protein. Buy them unshelled and sprinkle on salads for a nutrient boost.

#19: Sesame Seeds
Protein Content: 13 grams in 1/2 cup

With almost as much protein as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds are also worth considering.

#20: Poppy Seeds
Protein Content: 13 grams in 1/2 cup

Containing the same protein content as sesame seeds, poppy seeds are another way to derive seed-based protein. Their unique flavor can help switch things up when you get tired of sunflower or sesame seeds.

#21: Chia
Protein Content: 8 grams in 1/4 cup

Many people aren’t even aware chia is an actual food – but there’s no need to waste it on growing hair for a tacky fake pet! Due to its easily-liquefiable consistency, chia is a great protein source for smoothies.

peanut butter#22: Peanut Butter
Protein Content: 8 grams in 2 tbsp

Peanut butter is cheap, protein-dense, and an amazing source of healthy fats. The same goes for most other nut butters – try cashew butter to mix things up, which contains almost as much protein (6 grams per 2 tbsp).

#23: Tahini
Protein Content: 8 grams in 3 tablespoons

Tahini is a sesame-seed-based dip that is popular in the Eastern world. It’s a great, delicious source of protein that most people overlook.


#24: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti
Protein Content: Up to 16 grams in 2 cups

Regular spaghetti might not be that healthy, but whole-wheat spaghetti is a different story. Serve with a green pea and pine nut pesto for a few extra grams of protein. It also provides a boat-load of fiber – 2 cups has half the fiber you need in a day.

oatmeal#25: Oat Meal
Protein Content: 6 grams in 1 cup

The combination of dense fiber and protein helps oatmeal keep you feeling full longer – something that’s great for weight loss.

#26: Raw Oat Bran
Protein Content: 16 grams in 1 cup

Raw oat bran is available at most grocery stores, and is incredibly nutritious. Add to smoothies or sprinkle on food.

#27: Whole-Wheat Bread
Protein Content: 7 grams in 2 slices

Choose your bread carefully. Reading the nutrition labels and picking a high protein option can more than double the amount of protein provided by the average bread. Use it to make toast with peanut butter for a great snack.

#28: Whole-Wheat Bagel
Protein Content: Approximately 11 grams per bagel

Some bagels have more protein than others, so pay careful attention. Try them with peanut butter instead of butter to make them even healthier.

#29: Bulgur
Protein Content: 17 grams in 1 cup

Bulgur is a grain cereal produced from a variety of wheat types. It’s high in both fiber and protein. It’s more common in Europe, but can still be found in other countries.

quinoa#30: Quinoa
Protein Content: 8 grams in 1 cup

This super-food grain is not only packed with protein, it’s also loaded with minerals and iron – something important to round out a vegetarian diet. Replace unhealthy grains (like rice) with quinoa for an instant protein boost. It also goes great as a side dish to other protein sources.

Here are some great recipes that use quinoa:

Herbed Quinoa Recipe
One-Pan Mexican Quinoa

#31: Buckwheat
Protein Content: 6 grams in 1 cup

Buckwheat is another great food that can be served alone, or used as flour for making tons of different foods a bit healthier. Studies have linked buckwheat to surprising health benefits, such as improved heart health.

Here’s a list of 20 buckwheat recipes to help you make the most of this great ingredient.

Veggies / Leafy Greens

Vegetables aren’t known for their dense protein content, but are still important to eat. Every gram helps, so why not make your choice in veggies a wise one?

#32: Spinach
Protein Content: 3 grams in 3 cups

Like most protein-dense veggies, you won’t get much from eating spinach on its own. However, blend several cups into a smoothie with some fruits (which help overpower the taste of spinach) and you’ve got a more practical source.

veggies#33: Brussel Sprouts
Protein Content: 6 grams in 1 cup

#34: Chard
Protein Content: 1.5 grams in 3 cups

Like spinach, chard can be consumed blended in a protein or as part of a huge salad.

#35: Kale
Protein Content: 3 grams in 1 cup

The benefits of kale lie more in other nutritional areas than protein, but it still contains a bit to help round out your diet.

#36: Greens (Turnip, Mustard, etc.)
Protein Content: 1.5 grams in 1 cup

#37: Asparagus
Protein Content: 3 grams in 1 cup

#38: Snow/Snap Peas
Protein Content: 3 grams per cup

#39: Mushrooms
Protein Content: 4 grams in 1 cup

Mushrooms have more protein than some vegetables, but not as much as many people think. Still, every gram adds up.

#40: Hummus
Protein Content: 5 grams in 1/4 cup

A little hummus can help add a few more grams to your diet. It’s also a source of healthy fats and goes great with more substantial protein sources.

#41: Green Peas
Protein Content: 8 grams in 1 cup

Although treated as such, green peas aren’t just a veggie – they are a legume, and as such contain more protein than you might think. While eating a cup of peas might not be your idea of a good time, they become more practical when you blend them up. Try mixing with basil and olive oil in a blender for an absolutely delicious homemade pesto sauce that’s packed with protein.

#42: Broccoli
Protein Content: 3 grams in 1 cup

Broccoli is a great source when consumed in bulk. A bunch contains 17 grams of protein and only 205 calories – which may be too much to eat raw, but blend it into a smoothie with some berries and juice (which mask the flavor nicely) and you’ve got yourself a powerful, raw protein shake – with more Vitamin A, calcium, iron, Vitamin C, and magnesium than you can shake a stick at.

Commercial “Fake Meat” Products

People new to vegetarian / vegan diets are often surprised at how many fake meat products are on the market. Although most of these use soy for texture and protein, the nutrition from one brand to the next can vary a bit – so the numbers provided are an average.

I won’t bother describing each of these products, since they are pretty much self-explanatory – but I have had the chance to try each of these on my own, so I will instead provide a rating (from 1 to 10) on how well each of these products tends to resemble the real meat alternative.

meatless protein sources#43: Veggie Burger Patties
Protein Content: 13 grams per patty
Meat Resemblance Rating: 8 out of 10

#44: Veggie Turkey Burgers
Protein Content: 10 grams per patty
M: 9 out of 10

#45: Veggie Ground Beef
Protein Content: 9 grams in 1/2 cup
M: 9 out of 10

#46: Veggie Chicken Patties, Breaded
Protein Content: 8 grams in 1 patty
M: 8 out of 10

#47: Veggie Chicken Wings
Protein Content: 12 grams in 5 wings
M: 5 out of 10

#48: Veggie Chicken Nuggets
Protein Content: 12 grams in 4 nuggets
M: 9 out of 10

#49: Veggie Corn Dogs
Protein Content: 8 grams in 1 corndog
M: 9.5 out of 10

#50: Veggie Hot Dogs
Protein Content: 7 grams in 1 link
M: 9 out of 10

#51: Veggie Meatballs
Protein Content: 14 grams in 5 meatballs
M: 7 out of 10

#52: Veggie BBQ Ribs
Protein Content: 16 grams in 1 rib
M: 7 out of 10

General Dairy

#53: Fat-Free Cottage Cheese
Protein Content: 28 grams in 1 cup

Fat-free cottage cheese is amazing – it only costs 160 calories to provide 28 grams of protein (in a 1 cup serving), meaning this food is nearly all protein. Fresh fruit or canned pineapple or peaches are a great way to add some flavor and texture.

Greek Yogurt#54: Greek Yogurt
Protein Content: Around 17 grams per container

Regular yogurt contains a fair amount of protein, but it just can’t match Greek yogurt. The recent rise in popularity of this food means it’s easy to find nearly everywhere. Sprinkle on some flax seed or oat bran to kick things up a notch.

#55: Soy Yogurt
Protein Content: 6 grams in 1 cup

Greek yogurt has soy yogurt beat on protein, but it’s worth mentioning since this is a vegan alternative – and some prefer the taste of soy over Greek.

#56: Cow’s Milk
Protein Content: 16 grams in a pint sized glass

While not exactly vegan friendly, a good old glass of milk is hard to beat. Milk fat is one of the unhealthy saturated fat sources, so try to buy skim or at least reduced fat. Skim plus is made with carrageenan, a thickening agent derived from seaweed that can help make skim milk taste richer.

#57: Soy Milk
Protein Content: 16 grams in a pint sized glass

With the same protein content as regular milk, soy milk is a perfect vegan alternative. If you’ve never tried it, give it a shot – it really doesn’t taste that different when compared to regular milk.


cheesesWhile not helpful for vegans, dairy cheese can be one of the easiest ways for vegetarians to get more protein. Try to stick with low-fat versions to reduce your saturated fat intake.

#58: 2% String Cheese
Protein Content: 8 grams per stick

The 2% version of this fun snack provides 8 grams of protein and only 70 calories.

#59: Cheddar Cheese
Protein Content: 7 grams per ounce

#60: Swiss Cheese
Protein Content: 8 grams per ounce

#61: Ricotta Cheese
Protein Content: 14 grams per ounce

#62: Monterey Jack Cheese
Protein Content: 7 grams per ounce

#63: Mozzarella Cheese
Protein Content: 7 grams per ounce

#64: Brie Cheese
Protein Content: 6 grams per ounce

#65: American Cheese
Protein Content: 5 grams per ounce

#66: Blue Cheese
Protein Content: 6 grams per ounce

falafel#67: Falafel
Protein Content: 4 to 8 grams in 1 ounce

Falafel is a great meat alternative, replacing some of the texture and taste often provided by meat. It goes great in anything from tacos to pasta.

Here are some great recipes that use falafel:

How to Make Falafel
Baked Falafel with Tahini Sauce

#68: Cornmeal (Degermed)
Protein Content: 17 grams in 1 cup

Degermed cornmeal provides nearly twice the protein as regular cornmeal. Making this simple switch can add a lot of protein to your baked goods – try it out next time you have a craving for cornbread!

#69: Chickpeas / Garbanzo Beans
Protein Content: 8 grams in 1/2 cup

Chickpeas go into a lot of products, such as hummus and falafel, but are great on their own. Toss a handful into a salad for a delicious source of protein.

#70: Beans
Protein Content: Up to 13 grams in 1 cup

Beans are one of the easiest meat alternatives around, and are great as a side or in foods like tacos or enchiladas. There are plenty of types – like kidney, pinto, black, or white – and they all have a unique flavor profile.

#71: Rice & Beans Combination
Protein Content: Approximately 8 grams in 1 cup

I grouped these together because rice and beans served in unison provide a complete protein source – something that is fairly rare, and that neither of these foods could do alone. Rice and beans are a great staple for any vegetarian diet.

#72: Lentils
Protein Content: 18 grams in 1 cup

Lentils are certainly worth consideration for any meatless diet. They are a lot like beans, but pack even more protein, and go great in a wide range of dishes.

#73: Black-Eyed Peas
Protein Content: 7 grams in 1 cup

More than just an interesting band name, this legume makes a fantastic side dish for almost any dinner.

#74: Seitan / Wheat Gluten
Protein Content: 21 grams in 1 ounce

Seitan is another name for wheat gluten, the protein found in bread. Supplying 21 grams of protein and 104 calories per serving, it’s a very dense protein source. Gluten-free diets may be a trend right now, but there’s nothing wrong with gluten unless you have a very rare intolerance.

Here’s a great list of seitan recipes to get you started.

#75: Cocoa Powder
Protein Content: 4 grams per 1/4 cup

You might not expect to see chocolate on this list – but unsweetened cocoa powder is actually quite healthy. It’s a great way to add some delicious flavor to something like buckwheat pancakes.

protein bars#76: Protein Bars
Protein Content: 8 to 10 grams per bar

It takes some trial-and-error to find a protein bar that tastes great, but there are some delicious products out there if you look around.

#77: Protein Cereals
Protein Content: 10-14 grams per serving (with skim milk)

Fortified with added protein, these special cereals add nutrition to an otherwise fairly weak food.

#78: Protein Chips
Protein Content: Up to 21 grams per serving

Ditch regular potato chips and try something like Quest brand protein chips for a healthier snack. You can get them from Amazon or some health food stores.

Protein Powders:

protein powderUse these protein powders as a post-workout protein boost for muscle building, or just as way to up your protein intake. However, it’s best to get your protein from real foods – don’t use these powders to make up for a poor quality meat-free diet.

#79: Soy Protein Isolate: Made from soybeans, this is a true vegan powder.

#80: Whey Protein Concentrate: A dairy-based protein powder produced as a byproduct of cheese manufacture.

#81: Whey Protein Isolate: Whey isolate is a higher quality protein source than whey concentrate, and also contains less fat. Try to choose isolate where possible.

#82: Caseine: Caseine is different from whey, but is still derived from dairy. It’s a longer-acting protein that maintains blood levels of protein for a longer period of time.

#83: Rice Protein: Another vegan source of protein that doesn’t have the same phytoestrogen profile as soy, possibly making it better suited for male vegans.

#84: Pea Protein: Another vegan option.

#85: Egg White Protein: All of the protein goodness of egg whites, without the shell-cracking, cooking, or mess.

#86: Hemp Protein Powder: Hemp seeds are rich in protein, but difficult to eat en masse. This powder solves that problem by providing a powdered form of hemp protein.

I will maintain this list as the comprehensive reference for vegetarian protein sources. Think of something I missed? Drop me a line and I’ll add it!

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