A Guide To The 10 Best Vegetarian Protein Sources

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Protein is one of the most essential component of any diet because it plays a huge role in cellular activity. When it comes to the thought of protein, the immediate association often tends to be with words like ‘meat’. However, it is important to recognize that protein can come from other sources beyond animals. Why else are plant based diets getting so popular these days?

There are numerous ways to hit your protein count as a vegetarian. In this article, we will share some of the best vegetarian protein sources. So, if you are not already on a vegetarian diet, maybe the following information could convince you.

Key Takeaways

  • Protein is important in any diet as it plays a crucial role in cellular activity and overall health.
  • Protein can be obtained from plant-based sources and not just animal-based sources.
  • Vegetarians have various plant-based sources along with milk, eggs and dairy products to meet their protein needs.
  • Generally, for adults, 10-35% of daily calorie intake should be from protein consumption.
  • 10 best vegetarian protein sources (tofu, oats, lentils, hemp seeds, beans, quinoa, chia seeds, greek yogurt, peanut butter and mycoprotein) are highlighted in this article.

Why Do We Need Protein?

As humans, we need protein in order for our body to function properly and remain healthy.

did you know
facts about protein

Protein plays an important role in ensuring that our body has enough energy. It also helps with the transport of oxygen in the blood throughout our body [2].

How Much Protein Do We Need?

To prevent the tissues in our body from breaking down and the loss of muscles, we have to ensure that we are consuming enough protein each day. That being said, moderation is key. Ensuring that we consume enough protein is one but we also need to be mindful to not over-consume protein. Excess protein will be converted and stored as fats.

According per U.S. Dietary Guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim for protein to make up 10–35% of their daily calorie intake [5]. General recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight [4].

How Do Vegetarians Get Protein?

For vegetarians, getting their source of protein is not as straightforward as someone without any diet restrictions. Vegetarians generally consume plant protein and no meat, poultry, fish or any animal-derived products (with the exception of milk, dairy products and eggs).

Thus, those on a vegetarian diet will have to turn to these alternative sources of protein instead.

10 Best Vegetarian Protein Sources

10 best vegetarian protein sources

This list contains 10 of the best protein sources, suitable for those on following a plant based diet. Bear in mind that this list is non-exhaustive. There are still plenty of other plant proteins that you can source online if none of these suits your taste buds.

1. Tofu

10 best vegetarian protein source

Made from soy milk, tofu is one of the more popular plant-based protein sources. Every 100g portion of tofu provides about 8g of protein. Additionally, tofu is an extremely versatile ingredient that comes in many forms like silken, firm and pressed.

It is easy, filling and rich in protein so it makes sense that it is popular.

2. Oats

10 best vegetarian protein source

Oats is another great choice if you are looking for a plant-based option that provides a good amount of protein. Half cup (40g) of dry oats provides approximately 5g of protein. At the same time, they provide a ton of good minerals such as zinc, phosphorus, folate and magnesium.

3. Lentils

10 best vegetarian protein source

Lentils are known as nutrient powerhouses, for they are packed with protein, fiber and essential minerals. One cup of cooked lentils gives you about 18g of proteins. Not too shabby considering they are completely plant-based. They can also be used in a variety of dishes like soups and salads.

4. Hemp Seeds

hemp seeds
10 best vegetarian protein source

Hemp seeds are considered as a complete protein source. In order to be a complete protein, the food has to contain all nine essential amino acids that the body is not able to produce on its own [3]. In this case, hemp seeds satisfy this criteria!

Besides that, hemp seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and other vitamins. A 30g serving gives you roughly 9g of protein.

5. Beans

protein source

Kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans. What do they have in common?

They’re beans! All jokes aside, beans are a staple food in vegetarian diet due to its high amount of protein in each serving. For reference, a cup of cooked beans contains 15g of protein.

But that’s not all, research also shows that a diet rich in beans can potentially decrease cholesterol levels and manage blood sugar level.

6. Chia Seeds

chia seeds
vegetarian protein source

Chia seeds are amazing in terms of their protein content. Just two tablespoons alone, contains 5g of protein. It is a perfect addition to overnight oats, yogurts and salads.

Check out our article that features a recipe on chia seed pudding:

Low carb breakfast ideas

7. Quinoa

vegetarian protein

Quinoa are superfoods that contain the nine essential amino acids. A cup of cooked quinoa contains around 8g of protein. It is also gluten-free and rich in fiber. The next time you cook, try including quinoa in and see how it changes your diet.

8. Greek Yogurt

greek yogurt
vegetarian protein

Greek yogurt is a favorite amongst those who are seeking to build muscles. Simply because greek yogurt offers a good amount of protein in a single serving. A single serving has up to 20g of protein, making a perfect option for those that want to consume dairy in their diet.

9. Peanut Butter

peanut butter

Peanut butter is not only creamy and delicious, it also makes a good source of plant-based protein. Two tablespoons alone provides around 8g of protein along with some healthy fats and essential minerals. You can put it on toasts, add into your smoothie, use it as a dip or even add it into a gravy dish!

10. Mycoprotein

meat substitute

Last but not least, we have mycoprotein. Mycoprotein is a type of protein that comes from fungus but don’t worry, it is perfectly safe to consume. It is commonly used in meat substitutes like Quorn products for example. A typical 100g serving contains 13g of protein and some fibers. This is a great alternative for individuals who are just starting out on a vegetarian lifestyle.


In summary, being on a vegetarian diet doesn’t mean that you cannot have delicious and nutritious foods. It is the same as a normal diet with no restrictions, just that the difference is only being able to consume plant foods and a couple of animal-based products. You can still get a good amount of protein from plant foods, eggs and dairy. So, don’t be afraid to try!

10 Best Vegetarian Protein Sources: FAQs

Which vegetarian food is highest in protein?

In terms of vegetarian food, the foods that contain the highest amount of protein would be tofu and tempeh. There are also others like greek yogurt, eggs, beans, to name a few.

What is the difference between vegetarian and vegan diet?

For vegetarian diet, you are allowed to consume some animal products like eggs, milk and dairy product along with plant-based foods.

For vegan diet, you can only strictly consume plant-based foods.

How to get 40g of protein without meat?

40g of protein is easily achievable even if you are only consuming plant-based proteins. Foods like the ones mentioned in the list are great sources of protein. Consuming a 100g serving of tofu easily gives you 8g of protein. Just make sure that you are properly incorporating them into your meals and it should be easy!

Can I get enough protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Yes and there are several ways to do so. You can incorporate a variety of protein-rich foods into each meal and include plant-based protein powder into your smoothies or have protein-rich snacks.


[1] Becerra-Tomás, N., Papandreou, C., & Salas-Salvadó, J. (2019). Legume Consumption and Cardiometabolic Health. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 10(4): S437–S450. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz003

[2] Cooper, J. (2022) Benefits of Protein [online]. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diet/benefits-protein

[3] Cleveland Clinic (2022) What Are Complete Proteins? [online]. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-i-need-to-worry-about-eating-complete-proteins

[4] Harvard Health Publishing (2023) How much protein do you need every day? [online]. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

[5] U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov

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