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Ranking The Best Low-Calorie Vegan Protein Sources

For a long time, there has been a misconception that eating a plant-based diet meant not getting enough protein.

But getting enough protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet is not at all difficult to do! In fact, with a little creativity, you can easily hit your protein goals while eating plant-based.

The best vegan protein sources


  • Seitan (vital wheat gluten) tops the list of low-calorie vegan protein sources with 36g of protein per 4 oz serving at 180 calories.
  • Vegan protein powder ranks second, offering 20g of protein per scoop with only 110 calories.
  • Many plant-based protein sources are also high in fiber, helping to keep you full & satisfied.

Now, if you search for the lowest-calorie plant-based protein sources, you’ll find a bunch of lists just like this one. But I wanted this list of vegetarian options to be a little bit different than others out there.

Rather than just list a bunch of random vegan ingredients that contain protein, I want to include foods on this list that you will actually want to eat.

While the focus of any diet, plant-based or not, should be on whole foods, I also wanted to include some other snack options like protein bars and protein cereal.

No diet should be boring, so we should also look at some options that are a bit more fun than seeds and flour.

Plant Proteins vs Animal Proteins

When it comes to plant based protein vs animal protein, is there a “better” option?

Plant-based proteins are more environmentally friendly since they don’t require land, water, or food production. They’re also better for the environment because they don’t produce greenhouse gases or contribute to deforestation.

Animal-based proteins might be more sought-after because they contain all 20 of the essential amino acids (they are considered complete proteins), which can be difficult to find in plant-based sources. Some people also claim that animal-based proteins are more bioavailable, meaning they can be absorbed more easily by the body.

It is often said that plant-based protein is an incomplete protein, which is why many people choose to avoid it. However, this is not always the case. Some plant-based proteins contain all the essential amino acids required by the body.

I have a full breakdown of complete protein vs incomplete protein, and a deep dive into essential amino acids vs branch-chained amino acids, which you can find here.

Comparing protein powders

At the end of the day, they’re both still protein, and they are both great to consume. If you are able, I always recommend getting your protein from a variety of sources.

However, if you do have to choose one or the other, there is not a “bad” choice here.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide which type of protein source is best for them!

The Best Vegan Protein Sources

Now, before we dive into this list, we need to define what defines “best” in this case.

Put simply, I wanted to find vegan food that had the highest total grams of protein per serving to identify the best sources of plant protein. Some options may certainly be better than others based on calories, fat, serving size, etc, but I wanted to keep it simple.

These will be numbered in order of their protein content, starting with the lowest first, but I’ll provide the full nutrition facts and additional notes to paint the bigger picture to find the lowest calorie and highest protein options.

Ultimately, I want you to be able to find the best vegan protein sources for YOU.

25. Farro

1/4 Cup: 190 Calories, 1g Fat, 38g Carbs, 6g Protein

Brand Used: Bob’s Red Mill

Farro is a type of wheat that is high in fiber (5 grams of fiber per serving) making it a very solid option.

Farro can be prepared in a variety of ways, but the most popular is to cook it with some type of broth or sauce. You may also find it boiled, steamed, or ground into flour. Some common vegan protein sources that are similar to farro include quinoa, amaranth, and brown rice.

24. Nutritional Yeast

2 Tbsp: 40 Calories, 0.5g Fat, 3g Carbs, 5g Protein

Brand Used: Bragg

Nutritional yeast is a type of fungus that is grown on malt or sugar and then dried. It is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids, making it a great alternative to animal products when looking for protein on a plant-based diet. With one tablespoon containing only 20 calories, it’s a great way to get extra protein.

Due to its cheesy flavor, it is used very often as a topping or in recipes. In fact, I personally use it to make my own vegan mac and cheese!

23. Quinoa

1/4 Cup: 170 Calories, 1.5g Fat, 33g Carbs, 6g Protein

Brand Used: Bob’s Red Mill

Quinoa is a whole grain that is high in both protein and fiber, making it a great addition to a high-protein meal.

Personally, I prefer rice to quinoa, but you cannot deny the high amounts of nutrients and fiber in quinoa.

22. Nuts

1oz Almonds: 160 Calories, 14g Fat, 6g Carbs, 6g Protein

Brand Used: Blue Diamond

Nuts get a bad rap for being really high in fat, but they are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can be beneficial for your heart health.

For 160 calories, they are not super high in protein, but it’s certainly a decent option. Different types of nuts will contain varying amounts of protein, but if you stick with common nuts such as almonds, peanuts, or cashews, they will all be very similar.

21. Buckwheat

1/4 Cup: 160 Calories, 1g Fat, 33g Carbs, 6g Protein

Brand Used: Bob’s Red Mill

If you’re looking for more whole grains, buckwheat may be a great option for you.

Buchweat is a whole grain that is often ground into flour and used in various foods, such as pancakes, waffles, and pasta. Buckwheat flour can also be made into breads and other baked goods.

Buckwheat itself can be cooked in a variety of ways, and you may find it in dishes as a replacement for rice, quinoa, or other whole grains.

20. Chia Seeds

2 Tbsp: 130 Calories, 7g Fat, 10g Carbs, 6g Protein

Brand Used: Bob’s Red Mill

Chia seeds are a very popular egg replacer in vegan cooking, similar to flaxseed. When mixed with water, chia seeds have a very slimy consistency, which ends up emulating the texture of eggs quite well.

While chia seeds contain 10 grams of carbohydrates, that is made up of all fiber. If you want to eat low carb or keto, chia seeds are a fantastic protein source.

19. Powdered Peanut Butter

2 Tbsp: 60 Calories, 1.5g Fat, 5g Carbs, 6g Protein

Brand Used: PB2

Peanut butter powder has become a very popular ingredient in low-calorie baking and a staple in weight loss diets, and it’s easy to see why. Since most of the fat from peanut butter has been removed, you’re left with far fewer calories and still the same amount of protein!

Powdered peanut butter loses some of the health benefits from the loss of healthy fats, but it is still a great plant-based protein source.

18. Chickpeas

1/2 Cup: 120 Calories, 2g Fat, 19g Carbs, 6g Protein

Brand Used: Goya

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are one of the main ingredients in Mediterranean food. If you’ve ever eaten hummus, you’ve eaten chickpeas!

Adding chickpeas to a dish is an excellent way to add quality protein, and like other beans, they’re a good source of fiber as well.

17. Sprouted Wheat Bread

1 Slice: 90 Calories, 0g Fat, 14g Carbs, 7g Protein

Brand Used: Trader Joe’s

This bread is one of my favorite plant-based foods to sneak in extra protein. Specifically, I’m looking at Trader Joe’s sprouted wheat sourdough bread, but there are other products similar to this on the market, namely Ezekiel bread.

Most bread will contain a few grams of protein per slice, but this sprouted wheat bread contains 7 grams of protein per slice. If you make a sandwich, you’re already starting out with 14g of protein! You wouldn’t think of bread as a great source of protein, but this one really delivers.

16. Edamame

1/2 Cup: 90 Calories, 2.5g Fat, 10g Carbs, 7g Protein

Brand Used: Great Value

Edamame is a type of soybean that is usually boiled and eaten as a snack. And a delicious one, if I say so myself!

While some people have hesitations about including soy products in their diet, there’s no denying that edamame beans are an excellent source of protein with only 90 calories and 7g of protein per serving.

15. Nut Butters

2 Tbsp: 180 Calories, 15g Fat, 7g Carbs, 7g Protein

Brand Used: Good & Gather

When it comes to nut butter, you’ll find calories and protein varying slightly. To make it simple, here’s a quick comparison for you to see all the differences:

Nut butter nutrition comparison

These are certainly not the lowest-calorie options, with peanut butter and almond butter containing nearly 200 calories, but 7 grams of protein makes it a solid option on a vegan diet.

14. Black Beans

1/4 Cup: 120 Calories, 0g Fat, 22g Carbs, 8g Protein

Brand Used: Kroger

In addition to having a high protein content, black beans are also a great source of both iron and potassium.

Like other beans, such as pinto beans or white beans, black beans are high in fiber (with 6g per serving) making it a great way to stay full on a vegetarian diet.

Bump up your protein intake with a delicious black bean burrito for the ultimate (and most delicious) high protein vegan food!

13. Pumpkin Seeds

1/4 Cup: 180 Calories, 15g Fat, 4g Carbs, 8g Protein

Brand Used: Good & Gather

Pumpkin seeds are very similar (nutritionally) to other nuts and seeds. While high in fat, it is mostly omega-3 fatty acids, so it is nothing to be afraid of.

Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E; we love our micronutrients around here.

12. Lentils

1/4 Cup: 120 Calories, 0g Fat, 22g Carbs, 9g Protein

Brand Used: Kroger

Lentils are a legume that is typically grown in warm climates. They are an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber, and iron. Lentils have a mild flavor and can be cooked in a variety of ways, including in soups, stews, and salads.

If you’re looking for one of the most delicious vegetarian protein sources to prepare as a side dish, lentils are the way to go!

11. Chickpea Pasta

2oz Dry: 190 Calories, 3g Fat, 35g Carbs, 11g Protein

Brand Used: Banza

Chickpea pasta is one of those protein “hacks” that I love to use. While not insanely high in protein, 11 grams per serving is a good amount of protein compared to regular pasta.

If you need to get more protein into your diet, swapping regular pasta for chickpea pasta is a very simple change that can really help.

Since Banza burst onto the scene, you’ll see lots of other chickpea-based pasta options, and other similar products such as lentil pasta or black bean pasta.

10. Tofu

Firm tofu

4oz: 120 Calories, 6g Fat, 4g Carbs, 12g Protein

Brand Used: Good & Gather

Tofu is a plant-based protein made from soy milk. It’s a versatile ingredient that’s often used in vegan dishes, such as vegan salad, as a meat substitute. It can be found in most grocery stores, or you can even make your own tofu at home.

Tofu has stood the test of time as being one of the earliest plant-based protein sources, and it is still very popular in Asian countries. In China, tofu is even considered an essential part of the national diet.

In the fitness industry, it seems that many people still avoid tofu due to it being soy-based, but aside from protein powder, it’s one of the best sources of plant protein out there.

9. Lavash Bread

1 Lavash: 120 Calories, 3g Fat, 16g Carbs, 12g Protein

Brand Used: Joseph’s

If you ever come across Joseph’s lavash bread at your grocery store, I highly recommend giving it a try!

With only 120 calories and 12 grams of protein, it’s an amazing way to increase your protein intake. Without any additional work, your sandwiches or wraps instantly get a huge protein boost without a ton of extra calories.

8. Plant-Based Protein Cereal

1 1/4 Cup: 150 Calories, 6g Fat, 19g Carbs, 12g Protein

Brand Used: Kashi GO

Years ago, high-protein cereal was not an option, let alone plant-based high-protein cereal. Now it seems like we have more options than we can count!

Every single cereal will look different nutritionally, but this is just one example from a plant-based protein cereal I tried. If you feel like a vegan diet is nothing but leafy greens and seeds, protein cereal is here to save you.

7. Textured Vegetable Protein

1/4 Cup: 90 Calories, 0g Fat, 9g Carbs, 13g Protein

Brand Used: Bob’s Red Mill

Many people are looking for plant-based proteins that have a texture similar to animal-based foods. If you’re one of those people, then this is the vegan option for you.

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is made from defatted soybean flour, which gives it a somewhat chewy texture and gives it the ability to mimic the texture of meat. TVP is most commonly used in vegan cuisine as a replacement for ground meat or chicken.

6. Soybeans

1/2 Cup: 190 Calories, 9g Fat, 14g Carbs, 17g Protein

Brand Used: Country Life Natural Foods

Soybeans are similar to other beans in that they are high in protein and fiber, but soybeans also have health benefits that set them apart. One of the most significant benefits of soybeans is their ability to lower blood pressure.

Soybeans contain compounds called isoflavones, which have been shown to lower blood pressure by inhibiting the production of angiotensin II. Soybeans are also a good source of vitamin B12, iron, and potassium, making them an all-around great option.

5. Vegan Protein Bars

1 Protein Bar: 180 Calories, 9g Fat, 15g Carbs, 16g Protein

Brand Used: Misfits

Like protein cereal, vegan protein bars can vary significantly when it comes to calories and protein.

For example, RXBAR is a very popular vegan protein bar, but it contains 210 calories and only 12g of protein per bar. Generally speaking, plant-based protein bars will have less protein than whey-based protein bars, but they are still an excellent way to get extra protein.

4. Tempeh

3oz Raw Serving: 160 Calories, 4.5g Fat, 12g Carbs, 18g Protein

Brand Used: Lightlife

If you’re not currently eating a vegan diet, you may have never heard of tempeh. It is usually shaped into a cake or block and then cooked in a variety of different ways. The flavor itself is tough to describe, but it will mostly take on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with, much like tofu does.

Tempeh is made from soybeans that have been fermented, which gives it a slightly different flavor and texture than tofu, which is made from soy milk that has been coagulated and pressed into a block.

3. Plant-Based Beef

4oz Raw Serving: 230 Calories, 14g Fat, 7g Carbs, 20g Protein

Brand Used: Beyond Meat

In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of plant-based meat alternatives on the market. Science has come a very long way, and these plant-based options actually look and taste just like actual meat.

Plant-based beef, like Beyond Meat, is also a complete protein source, meaning it contains all of the essential vitamins and minerals that you would expect to find in regular beef.

2. Vegan Protein Powder

1 Scoop: 110 Calories, 1g Fat, 3g Carbs, 20g Protein

Brand Used: PEScience

It should come as no surprise that plant-based protein powders make this list, considering they are pure protein.

Compared to whey protein, plant-based protein has a very distinct Earthy flavor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make delicious protein shakes or recipes with vegan protein.

The source of vegan protein powder will differ based on the brand, but the most common sources tend to be green peas, brown rice, and hemp seeds.

1. Seitan (Vital Wheat Gluten)

4 oz Serving of Seitan: 180 Calories, 1g Fat, 10g Carbs, 36g Protein

Brand Used: Upton’s Naturals Traditional Seitan

Last but not least, we have seitan, which is made from wheat gluten. It is one of the most popular protein sources for vegan diets, and with 36g protein in a 4 ounce serving, it’s easy to see why.

Seitan itself has a mild flavor, similar to chicken or portobello mushrooms. Texturally, it resembles meat quite a bit, making it an appealing alternative to the likes of tofu or tempeh for those looking to replace meat in their diet.

Conclusion: Is It Easy to Eat a High-Protein Vegan Diet?

I think it’s very easy to view a plant-based diet as nothing other than leafy greens, seeds, and nuts, but as you can see by this list, it’s so much more than that.

There is a huge variety of protein sources available on a vegan diet, so it certainly does not need to be boring.

What does 100g of protein look like?

As you can see in my 100 grams of protein breakdown, there’s no right or wrong way to hit your protein goals. While I always recommend getting your protein from a variety of sources, you need to eat in a way that suits your needs.

If you eat a plant-based diet, or you’re looking to add more plant-based foods into your current diet, you can do so while still hitting your protein goals.

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About Matt Rosenman

With over 15 years of experience in health and fitness, Matt Rosenman is the expert voice behind Matt’s philosophy is simple: no foods are off-limits, and a healthy lifestyle shouldn't be complicated or restrictive. As a former certified personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree in Health Behavioral Sciences, Matt brings well-rounded expertise to his blog. From revamping classic recipes with a nutritious twist to breaking down fast food menus, his goal is make healthy living less confusing for everyone. Featured in major publications and with a strong following on social media, Matt is committed to making “healthy” uncomplicated—no matter where you are in your health journey. Join Matt on his mission to simplify health without sacrificing flavor. Learn More