What are the foods with the best price per protein ratio in the UK? I feel that protein is the main obstacle to a vegan diet, and so I would like to learn about possible options from you experienced folk.
Here is a list of foods ranked by grams protein per British pound, which may vary in the US, but not likely by that much (note its a bit of a random selection). The third column is protein per unit of money, and the second column is percent of calories that are from protein. For example, peanut butter is very cost effective for obtaining protein but it also contains a lot of fat, so its protein per calorie is relatively lower than for example tofu. Depending on your priorities, the which column is most important to you may vary.
Food % cals protein g protein per GBP (British pound)
Peanut butter 16 84* Soy protein isolate 97.6 78 Textured Veg Protein 44.6 77** Peanuts 17.6 61 Soy milk 36.4 43 Seitan (wheat gluten) 78.4 36 Red lentils 30.4 35 Baked beans 23.2 28 Black-eyed beans 27.6 26 Edamame beans 40 25 Black beans 28.8 22 Chickpeas 22.4 22 Almonds 13.6 21 Tofu 44.4 17 Mixed beans 16.4 17 Cashew nuts 14.8 17 Broccoli 33.6 14.6 Tempeh 39.2 14 Kale 34.4 10.75 Quinoa 12 6.1
The data and chart come from this Google spread sheet. Note that this chart unfortunately isn't well referenced (so take it with a grain of salt) but it is the best I could find for a one stop comparison of many foods.
As others have pointed out, the most important point is that as long as you aren't eating only the same one or two foods at every meal, you will get enough protein on a vegan diet. Vegetables, potatoes, rice, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy etc. all contain plenty of protein. Some are deficient in one or two amino acids that the others contain, so as long as you eat different things throughout the week you will get enough protein to meet your daily requirements in every amino acid. Note you do not have to mix foods at meals, just have to mix them up throughout the week (as is well documented in the peer-reviewed literature).
*I thought I'd actually try and see how accurate these numbers are, so I checked out, whole foods, and peanut butter is 26g protein per 100g. and 42 g/British pound this site. Its quite expensive at whole foods, but price points at amazon start as low as 2 pounds per kg and the premium brands are mostly around 6 pounds. This puts you in the 40-130g/british bound range. So the numbers in the table seem quite reasonable when doing a quick check. I think this is important given that the list isn't sourced.
**Textured Vegetable protein isn't in the original spreadsheet, but thought I should add it given the other answer. The nutrition info is from whole foods (see link) but the price is from amazon, because whole foods is notoriously expensive. Although it didn't make a difference.
Actually I disagree with you that protein is a major obstacle to going vegan. It's everywhere!
Grains and pulses are probably the cheapest protein-rich foods. Protein content in beans, peas and lentils when cooked varies from around 6 to 10%. Porridge oats contain about 20% protein, wheat flour around 11%, and cooked brown rice about 6.5%
TVP ("textured vegetable protein") - sold dried and made from usually partially defatted soya beans - is a good value option that has the advantage of absorbing flavours well. In its uncooked dry state its protein content is around 50%, but it triples in mass during preparation, so the final protein content is around 17%.
Tofu is high in protein (at least 7% for the highest water content type, more for firm types) and can be inexpensive when bought in bulk, especially if you have access to an Asian grocery. You might be able to save money by making it yourself from soya beans - the only other ingredient required is a coagulant (traditional nigari or epsom salts can be used) which can also be bought cheaply.
Many vegetables also contain significant quantities of protein. Dried kale (kale crisps) contains 20% protein, surprisingly enough, and broccoli is a decent source. Nuts, which are often expensive, are high in protein. Peanuts are the cheapest; their protein content is about 25%.
I've found that dry beans and lentils have been by far the cheapest source of protein, followed by the canned forms. Don't forget to eat a variety of foods, or combine protein types over the course of the day, so grains would be a good second type to add, or whatever nuts (not peanuts for complementing purposes) happen to be on discount, and vegetable sources as noted by another answer.
Peeled split mung beans are cheap and easy to find in Asian stores. I dont live in UK but in NZ I get 1kg for equivalent 4 GBP. That is 10 serves, each containing 29g protein. Thats 72g protein per GBP. Any asian store (particularly Indian) will be full of dozens of similar high protein whole foods, flours and snacks for dirt cheap.
Plant protein is simply way cheaper than meat. That is the reason why, by far most of the protein consumed by humans worldwide is NOT from meat, its from plants!
Therefore lack of protein in vegan/vege diets is more about lack of regional availability and knowledge, and often just ingrained meat culture making it harder or more expensive than it should be.
Go to an Asian store and learn to cook that stuff in tasty ways. Dont be blinded by western meat-culture options only.