The 7 Best Vegan Protein Powders, According to Exercise Experts

These are powerful protein powders made for vegans and vegetarians alike.

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December 20, 2023

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Mid adult black woman enjoys light upper body workout before at-home cycling session

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Mid adult black woman enjoys light upper body workout before at-home cycling session

Photo by: Grace Cary/Getty Images

Grace Cary/Getty Images

Our Top Vegan Protein Powder Picks

Choosing a plant-based protein powder can be tricky since some may be missing important elements needed for building muscle. Vegan and vegetarian exercise enthusiasts need to look for a product with all nine essential amino acids (EAAs) – these are the building blocks of protein that serve a variety of vital functions, including help you build and maintain lean body mass. Here are some of the best plant-based protein powders that sports nutrition experts and registered dietitians reach for.

Vega (US)
What We Like
  1. Widely available
  2. Tastes good
  3. Affordable
What We Don't Like
  1. Processed in a facility that also processes eggs and milk

Affordable, accessible (sold all over the place) and most importantly, tasty! Vega is also NSF certified and boasts an impressive 30 grams of protein per serving. It comes in a wide variety flavors including berry, mocha and peanut butter.

  1. Protein Type Blend (pea, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, alfalfa)
  2. Protein Per Serving 30 grams per scoop (41g)
  3. Calories Per Serving 170 calories per scoop (41g)
  4. Third Party Tested Yes
Amazon
What We Like
  1. Third party tested by two different companies
  2. Organic
What We Don't Like
  1. Additional ingredients that may not be right for some

This organic, reliable and 3rd party tested brand has 15 grams of protein from seeds and legumes, plus a plant-based recovery blend with antioxidant-rich ingredients to help fight some of that post exercise inflammation.

  1. Protein Type Blend (peas, beans, lentils)
  2. Protein Per Serving 15 grams per scoop (22g)
  3. Calories Per Serving 90 calories per scoop (22g)
  4. Third Party Tested Yes
Amazon
What We Like
  1. Simple ingredient list
  2. Great consistency
What We Don't Like
  1. Expensive

This brand features a combo of pea and pumpkin seed protein, along with digestive enzymes and probiotics and totals 21g of protein per scoop. Ladder also has third-party testing from NSF Certified for Sport, a company that verifies the product is labeling properly and free of banned substances.

  1. Protein Type Pea
  2. Protein Per Serving 21 grams per scoop (37.2g)
  3. Calories Per Serving 130 calories per scoop (37.2g)
  4. Third Party Tested Yes
Sprouts
What We Like
  1. Affordable
  2. Great taste
What We Don't Like
  1. Not third party tested

Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, a sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Braves encourages a variety of plant-based proteins. She recommends Sprouts for your bod and your wallet. "Sprouts farmers market vegan protein powder offers a mix of plant proteins (therefore containing all EAAs) and natural nutrient-rich ingredients, plus great taste at an affordable price."

  1. Protein Type Blend (pea, brown rice)
  2. Protein Per Serving 20 grams per scoop (32g)
  3. Calories Per Serving 120 calories per scoop (32g)
  4. Third Party Tested No
NOW Foods
What We Like
  1. Simple ingredient list
  2. Organic
  3. High in iron
What We Don't Like
  1. Unflavored
  2. Missing some EAAs

Quickly becoming the new "it" plant protein, pumpkin seed derived products add nutty flavor and 5 grams of protein per tablespoon. It is a great addition to shakes and protein balls plus it adds important minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc.

  1. Protein Type Pumpkin seed
  2. Protein Per Serving 10 grams per 2 tablespoons (15g)
  3. Calories Per Serving 60 calories per 2 tablespoons (15g)
  4. Third Party Tested No
GNC
What We Like
  1. Fun flavors
  2. Includes watermelon seed protein
What We Don't Like
  1. Sweetened with acesulfame potassium, which may cause stomach upset

Ghost protein is a newer brand to the market, but it boasts fun packaging and even more creative flavors. Creamy coconut flavor makes an awesome addition to protein shakes but also smoothie bowls and overnight oats. Other fun flavors include Banana Pancake Batter and Chocolate Cereal Milk.

  1. Protein Type Blend (pea, pumpkin seed, watermelon seed)
  2. Protein Per Serving 20 grams per scoop (33g)
  3. Calories Per Serving 120 calories per scoop (33g)
  4. Third Party Tested No
Amazon
What We Like
  1. Simple ingredient list
  2. Very affordable
What We Don't Like
  1. Unflavored

Soy based protein powders are one-stop shopping for all your essential amino acids — it is one of the few plant-based exceptions, meaning it’s a plant-based food that like animal products, offers all nine essential amino acids. Look for brands like Bob’s Red Mill and NOW Foods.

  1. Protein Type Isolated soy protein
  2. Protein Per Serving 16 grams per ¼ cup (19g)
  3. Calories Per Serving 70 calories per ¼ cup (19g)
  4. Third Party Tested No
Momentous
What We Like
  1. Third party tested by two different companies
  2. Fun flavors
What We Don't Like
  1. Higher price point
  2. Not widely available

Chris Mohr, PhD, RD of MohrResults.com opts for this plant-based powder from this lesser-known brand. “Momentous Essential Plant Based Protein is a great tasting, quality product. With 20 grams of protein per scoop, coming mostly from pea protein and complemented by brown rice protein, it offers a complete amino acid profile. Bonus: It's certified by both NSF and Informed Sport to ensure what's on the label is in the product and nothing more.”

  1. Protein Type Blend (pea, rice)
  2. Protein Per Serving 20 grams per scoop (37.7g)
  3. Calories Per Serving 140 calories per scoop (37.7g)
  4. Third Party Tested Yes

FAQs

Who should use vegan protein powder?

Anyone can use a vegan protein powder to get more supplemental protein in their diet. Plant-based options are desirable for people that adhere to a vegan diet, but are also well-suited for vegetarians and omnivores alike. If you're pregnant, you should speak with your doctor before adding any protein powder to your diet.

How much vegan protein powder should you take?

Doses vary by brand, but a good target would be 15 to 30 grams per serving. Limit intake of any protein powder to 1 serving or less per day to leave room for plenty of protein rich foods at most meals and snacks. Supplements like protein powders are meant to help supplement voids in the diet, not replace nutrient-dense foods.

Is vegan protein powder as effective as whey protein?

Whey protein has been more widely studied and data suggests it is the most highly absorbable form of protein powder. Whey protein is derived from milk and contains all the EAAs; depending on the food source, isolated plant-based proteins are missing one or more. This is why most vegan protein powders are made from a blend of various plant sources that yield all the EAAs you need.

Which type of plant-based protein is best?

There is no one best protein powder and as with all foods, personal tolerance may vary. Soy and pea protein powders plant-based proteins with all the EAAs but several other products offer blends of grains, legumes and other plant-based proteins that offer the same panel of amino acids.

Since dietary supplements are poorly regulated, competitive athletes or those with dietary restrictions should seek out supplements with third-party verification from companies like NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Sport to ensure label accuracy.

How to Read an Ingredient List

When seeking a protein powder, it’s important to realize that they are not one-size-fits-all. Protein sources vary and it’s worth checking those lengthy ingredient lists to make sure you know what you are getting. Many brands also contain a lot more than just protein. Check ingredient lists carefully for additional ingredients including caffeine, creatine, probiotics, vitamins and minerals. While some of these add-ins may be desirable, you should know if they are part of your protein supplement or not. Most protein powders are also sweetened with calorie-free sweeteners like stevia, sucralose and monk fruit. This keeps the calories and carbs low, which may not be ideal for recovery.

Since dietary supplement manufacturers do not have to follow FDA guidelines for ingredient disclosure, seeking a third party tested brand or a product with a label titled “Nutrition Facts” (as opposed to a “Supplement Facts”) is the best way to help ensure the label is accurate.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.

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