One of the most frequent questions I am asked as a 30+ year vegetarian is, where do you get your protein? There seems to be a belief that the only source of protein is meat.

What are the highest sources of protein for vegetarians and for vegans?


6 Answers 6


As long as you aren't eating the same food 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 defficient 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.

That said here is a list of foods ranked by percent of their calories being protein (note its a bit of a random selection)

Food / % cals protein / g protein per GBP (British pound sterling)

  1. Soy protein isolate /97.6 / 78
  2. Seitan (wheat gluten) 78.4 / 36
  3. Tofu /44.4 / 17
  4. Edamame beans /40 / 25
  5. Tempeh /39.2 /14
  6. Soy milk /36.4 / 43
  7. Kale /34.4 /10.75
  8. Broccoli /33.6 / 14.6
  9. Red lentils /30.4 / 35
  10. Black beans /28.8 / 22
  11. Black-eyed beans /27.6 / 26
  12. Baked beans /23.2 /28
  13. Chickpeas /22.4 /22
  14. Peanuts /17.6 /61
  15. Mixed beans /16.4 / 17
  16. Peanut butter /16 /84
  17. Cashew nuts /14.8 / 17
  18. Almonds /13.6 / 21
  19. Quinoa /12 / 6.1

A chart from reddit on percent protein

The data and chart come from this Google spread sheet. Dot size represents the 100 kcal serving size, that is how many grams of the product provide you with 100 kcal.

  • 1
    You should provide a source.
    – Alex Hall
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 11:59
  • 2
    That is beautifully presented but not adequately sourced. Who made the spreadsheet?
    – ecc
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 10:03
  • 1
    @henning pound refers to British pounds as in money. i.e. broccoli is a cheap source of protein (just edited to make less confusing) Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 23:10
  • 1
    aka Pounds Sterling. Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 4:12
  • 1
    What does the size of the circles mean
    – Kiochi
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 21:59

This will not be a comprehensive answer and is intended to kick-start what might end up as part of a FAQ.

Most pulses (the seeds from legumes) e.g. lentils, are a good protein source and are also versatile meal ingredients.

Nuts have high levels of proteins.

Soy is a seed that can be made into tofu or a cow milk substitute.

Have a look at this site (no affiliation) for a good list with explanations and recipes. http://greatist.com/health/complete-vegetarian-proteins

  • I suggest this be a community wiki -- rather than multiple answers, each with one or more (and potentially overlapping) sources of protein, just one big FAQ list!
    – Erica
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 22:25
  • @Erica absolutely. I wasn't sure how to do that
    – Steve
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 1:40

I have been a vegetarian all my life. Recently I started to do some dieting to lose weight, and I have cut down on carbs a whole lot. So, I'm always looking for protein sources to incorporate in my diet. And this is what I eat.

  1. Quinoa - A complete source of protein with all the amino-acids in it.
  2. A protein powder for making protein shakes in the morning. I use the Livfit superfoods powder, and mix it with hemp seeds, chia seeds, peanut butter, yogurt.
  3. Peanut Butter
  4. Nuts and seeds - I use all kinds of nuts and seeds. Which includes hemp seeds, which I found are a good source of protein. 3 tbsps=10gms of protein, which is substantial amount.
  5. Yogurt - I use the full fat version. I avoid milk because it's got too much sugar in it.
  6. Different varieties of lentils and beans. I use black eyed peas, chickpeas, black beans, mung beans, split pigeon peas, black lentils, red lentils, and other beans.
  7. Tofu - I make tofu flat breads. They are very filling.

I hope you find these helpful.


As someone who improved his benchpress from 50kg/110lbs to 110kg/242lbs almost solely on vegan protein, here is what I've found most practicable and healthy:

  • broccoli (1kg gives you around 35g of protein; I smash it with a slow juicer or a mincer and mix it with a few avocados or linseed oil and a few spices - super delicious)
  • fresh parsley (1kg gives you around 45g of protein; I mix it with just a bit of linseed oil, almonds, lemon juice and some spices to be able to eat it in higher amounts {up to 500g per day})
  • fresh dill 1kg contains around 40g of protein and can be used same as parsley
  • almond press cake which is a by-product when producing almond oil, it contains around 55% protein and you can mix it purely with water and drink it without adding anything else and tastes much better than all the vegan protein isolates from soy or pea.
  • peeled hemp seeds contain 35% protein. If the quality is good enough you can mix 100g with 1 liter water to make hemp milk. Unfortunately most available seeds are not of a very good quality and contain some acid that is kind of bitter, so you have to add more water (ratio 1 to 15) to be able to enjoy it. Or you add some dates into the mixer.
  • press cake of peeled hemp seeds - more than 60-70% protein. Difficult to get though. Most of the hemp protein powders are made of press cake from whole hemp seeds which contain huge amounts of some disgusting acid.
  • dry nettle contains 50% protein. If the quality is good enough I consume 100g of it per day. I put 100g and 1000ml of water into high speed mixer and let it go for one minute (you can add some ice cubes to keep cold) and then I pass it through a nut milk bag. If it's too bitter some more water.

Seitan or gluten can be used to make some tasty dishes but shouldn't be considered as a protein source. Even natural wheat has a very low content of Lysin. But when gluten gets washed out from wheat grains it loses even more of it and contains 5 time less of it then soy protein isolate (not to mention you feel like sh*t if you consume daily higher amounts of gluten)


Personally I tend to eat Quorn products, which are made from mycoprotein, which is a kind of fungal protein. It's fermented in vats and fed with glucose syrup, so it's entirely fungus and plant based. Interestingly it also doubles its mass in 5 hours, so it's a fairly efficient substance too.

Note that some mycoprotein products might not be suitable for vegans because they may contain free-range eggs, but in recent years more vegan variations have been introduced.

As for the protein content, it has more protein per mass than beef, and it has a reasonably high fibre content.


Unfortunately I don't have the numbers yet (I'll edit then), but for proteins I have also included in my diet:

  • Algae
  • Sprouted seeds

About sprouted seeds: if I remember well that changes the proteins content (I'm gonna search for numbers about that, but I sort of remember FAO advising to consume chickpeas half sprouted to gain the nutriment composition advantage of both dried and sprouted peas)

E.g. sprouted brown lenses do contain vitamin B12, whereas dried they do not contain B12.

About Algae I eat routinely:

  • Spiruline (I think this one has the highest protein content, and its really big)
  • Royal Kombu, Oarweed
  • Himanthalia elongata
  • Wakame
  • Nori
  • Dulse
  • Ulve
  • Lithothame
  • Fucus.

I don't remember which ones exactly in which quantity, I have to make my answer more precise: IIRC most of them have high proteins content.

My first reading for scientific sources suggests: there are no or really few scientific studies about algae after being dried. We don't know if the process of drying keeps all the extremely rich nutriments that algae do contain when alive.

And just for the mind shift, it is not disgusting at all, I can assure you, it was extremely easy to start mixing them with my dishes.

I consume them either cooked in the same water as noodles, rice, quinoa, peas, beans or (depending on the algae type), raw as mixed ingredient in salads: the barrier was only mental, really.

I have never tried to eat them separately, though. I think Kombu would make a good first try. Its flesh really resembles vegetables like leek.

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