10 Good Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians

Health and Nutrition

Vegetarians can be classified into different groups based on how restrictive their diets are when it comes to animal foods. The more restrictive they are the more they have to be cautious about not becoming deficient in certain nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin B 12 etc.

Different types of vegetarians

Broadly vegetarians can be classified into vegans and vegetarians


Vegans restrict their diet to plant foods. For example, cereal grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Vegans have numerous choices for complementing proteins source. They may have to take supplements to meet recommended dietary allowanced of certain nutrients such as B 12.


These people mostly include milk and dairy products to a vegan diet. Milk is a complete source of protein. Also, dairy products are good sources of calcium. Soy products and dairy products make meeting nutrient recommendations a little easier for this group.

Major nutrient concern for vegans and vegetarians is protein

A vegetarian or vegan diet can meet protein requirement without too much effort. But as all the essential amino acids are not present in one plant food with a few exceptions all a vegan or vegetarian need’s to do is to get proteins from a variety of sources.

That way a vegetarian will get all the essential amino acids needed by combining different complimentary proteins.

Here are some protein sources for vegans and vegetarians

  1. Pulses

Pulses are the major source of dietary protein for many, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Pulses contain approximately 21–25% protein about double of what cereals contain (1). These do not provide all the essential amino acids but when consumed along with cereals they provide all the essential amino acids. Cereals and pulses proteins together make complete protein.

  1. Soybeans

Soybeans are one of the richest plant sources when it comes to protein. They contain about 40 % protein (2).  They are also a source of complete protein, that is they supply all essential amino acids. Soy products such as texturized vegetable protein (TVP products) are also good sources of protein.

Firm tofu is a soybean product made out of soy milk. It contains 17 % protein and is a source of complete protein. That is, it supplies all the essential amino acids (3).

  1. Nuts

Nuts are a good source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. Nuts such as almonds, pistachios and cashew nuts provide on an average 20 % protein. Walnuts, hazel nuts and Brazil nuts have slightly lower protein content that is around 15 % (3).

  1. Peanuts (Groundnuts)

Peanuts provide 25 % protein which makes them a rich source of protein. Peanut butter contains about 23 % protein (3).

  1. Chia seeds

Chia seeds contain more protein than any cereal. That is, they contain 16 % or even little more depending on the variety. Chia seeds are one of those few plant sources which contain all the nine essential amino acids (4).

  1. Quinoa

Quinoa has about 14 % protein which is more than any of the cereals (3). Quinoa protein quality is on par with milk protein and therefore superior to proteins from cereals such as rice and wheat (5, 6). It contains all the essential amino acids and therefore is a complete protein.

Quinoa is a good source of complete protein.

  1. Flax seeds

Flax seeds contain 20 % protein which makes them a good source of protein. Including them in a diet would enhance the protein content of vegan and vegetarian diets (3).

  1. Hemp seeds

Hemp seeds contain about 30 % protein which makes them a rich source of protein. They can be incorporated into a vegetarian or vegan diet to enhance protein content (3).

  1. Fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek seeds are rich source of protein, they contain 23 % protein. But fenugreek is only used as a condiment, therefore in small quantities. But regular use of it will add to the protein content of vegan and vegetarian diets (3).

  1. Cumin seeds

Cumin seeds have about 17 % protein. Like fenugreek seeds these also are used only as spice/condiment. The quantity used is very less (3).


Final word

Protein is a nutrient of concern for vegans and vegetarians as they do not eat any meat. They have to be aware of quantity and quality of proteins they consume. Knowing the different sources of proteins will help them plan a balanced diet.



  1. Singh, N. (2017) Pulses: an overview, Journal of Food Science and Technology. Vol.54 (4). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13197-017-2537-4
  2. Messina M. (2016) Soy and Health Update: Evaluation of the Clinical and Epidemiologic Literature, Nutrients. Vol. 8(12).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5188409/
  3. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list
  4. Ullah, R., Nadeem, M., Khalique, A., Imran, M., Mehmood, S., Javid, A. and Hussain, J. (2016) Nutritional and therapeutic perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanicaL.): A review, J Food Sci Technol. Vol. 53(4). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27413203
  5. Singh, S., Singh, R. and Singh, K.V. (2016) Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd), functional superfood for today’s world: A Review, World Scientific News. Vol. 58. http://psjd.icm.edu.pl/psjd/element/bwmeta1.element.psjd-e765ee65-4f8c-413f-9b30-e02c2b6c9172
  6. Bastidas, G.E., Rizzolo, D., Roura, E., Massanés, T. and Gomis, R. (2016) Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd), from Nutritional Value to Potential Health Benefits: An Integrative Review, J Nutr Food Sci. Vol. 6 (3).https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303845280_Quinoa_Chenopodium_quinoa_Willd_from_Nutritional_Value_to_Potential_Health_Benefits_An_Integrative_Review


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