If you’re serious about elevating your fitness performance, but you don’t want to consume any animal-based products in the process, you may be on the lookout for the best vegan protein powder. The last decade has seen a sharp increase in people adopting plant-based lifestyles and the demand for cruelty-free supplements is growing rapidly.
Less than a decade ago, finding a good vegan protein powder was a tricky task, but these days you’ll be spoilt for choice. Ideally, we want something that supports our fitness goals, tastes nice and contributes to our health – all while not breaking a bank. To help you decide which vegan protein powder takes the ultimate crown, we personally tried and tested dozens of products. Here, you can find our complete guide to the best vegan protein powder on the market right now.
Gareth Nicholas, head performance nutritionist at Maximuscle says: "Protein is the king of nutrients when it comes to building muscle or improving your body composition. An additional benefit is that protein increases satiety – the feeling of fullness - and helps steer you away from unhealthy temptations.”
But why is protein so important? Protein is the main building block of all the tissues in our body. Without an adequate intake of this important macronutrient, our bodies would not be able to grow, create new tissues, heal any wounds or recover from injuries. Protein is also essential for sports performance and weight management.
The more you train, the more damage you inflict on your muscles and the more protein you need to sustain your lifestyle. And although it’s always best to cover your dietary requirements with healthy and nutritious food, sometimes it may not be feasible or practical to do so. That’s when protein powder steps in.
“It’s an incredibly convenient way to supplement extra protein into your daily nutrition intake,” says Paul Fletcher, certified personal trainer at Discount Supplements. A standard protein shake can contain 22g of protein, which is almost 40% of the daily recommended protein intake for a male.”
However, you may have heard that plant-based protein is inferior to whey, eggs and other animal-based equivalents. It’s true that some vegan proteins can lack one or more essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein molecules. But it’s still possible to meet your protein requirements on a plant-based diet. In fact, multiple studies have shown that with some careful planning, vegan protein is as good as animal-based protein for muscle building and strength training.
And you can easily avoid amino acids deficiencies if you mix and match different sources of vegan protein. That’s why one of the most prominent differences between vegan and animal-based protein powders is the amount of ingredients used. Most protein supplements are based entirely on whey, whereas the best vegan protein powders usually comprise several different types of protein. “Popular vegan variants can include pea, hemp and pumpkin seed protein, offering a complete amino acid profile, which is vital for optimal muscle repair and recovery,” says Fletcher.
So if you’re willing to give vegan protein powders a try, read on. In our guide we’ve pulled together the top choices, along with the information you need to pick the right one to suit your fitness regime.
But if you are looking for a whey-based protein powder, we’ve also got a guide to the best protein powder. And if you're looking at buying protein powder to supplement your workouts, you may also be interested in the best resistance bands and the best rowing machines.
How we tested
All of the vegan protein powders in this guide have been tried and tested by the Live Science team. Firstly, we looked at the texture of the powder. We then evaluated how well it mixed into water, plant-based milk, and either porridge or a smoothie bowl. Finally, came the taste test, where we determined whether the taste was reflective of the flavor, unusually bitter or particularly sweet. Packaging was also noted, based on sustainability and convenience.
Best vegan protein powder
Huel, better known for its plant-based meal replacement powders, has branched out into flavored products and nutritionally balanced snacks, including this impressive protein powder, which pulls off the rare feat of achieving excellent flavor and texture in a plant-based product alongside a complete nutrition package.
Reviewers are impressed with the taste - "by far the best tasting protein drink I’ve tried," says one reviewer. The main objection in the reviews is the price, especially when compared to non-plant-based protein powders. At the same time they mostly acknowledge that the nutritional profile and ingredients are of a quality that justifies the price.
It’s not intended as a meal replacement or for your sole source of nutrition, as it has a lower calorie and carbohydrate profile than would be recommended for a complete meal, but nevertheless it is a nutritionally complete high protein snack. Using pea, faba pea and hemp seed as its protein source, it contains all 26 recommended vitamins and minerals and meets the UK and EU recommendations for macro- and micronutrients.
There are a few potential issues. There’s a minimum order of two tubs, and it doesn’t come in sample sizes, which might make you reluctant to commit to a particular flavor. It claims that the tubs are recyclable, though not every area will recycle this kind of tub, and it doesn’t have the sustainability credentials of some vegan protein powders.
This protein powder is designed by vegan nutritionists and made with a blend of five different types of protein.
It scores 4.2 stars of 5 on Amazon overall. However, one reviewer rates the flavor as "insanely terrible". At the other end of the scale, a fan says, "I've tried a few plant based protein shakes and they've all tasted like old carpet. I was expecting similar with this one though I was hoping it might at least be new carpet flavor but OMG it tastes great. "
This protein powder actually delivers the largest helping of protein of all, coming in at a punchy 25.1g per serving. Be aware that one of those protein sources is soy, which Dr Dehghan recommends but which is also a common allergen.
It isn’t the easiest vegan protein powder to blend - we found that you really need a metal spiral or a blender to get a smooth consistency - and it’s definitely designed for those with a sweet tooth. Nonetheless, it worked well with water as well as plant-based milks and did not feel overwhelming when blended with fruit or peanut butter. A big plus for The Protein Works is that it offers two additional versions of this protein powder: a diet one (with fewer calories) and an ‘extreme’ one (infused with a mineral and vitamin blend). Strict vegans and vegetarians should note that this brand also produces products such as whey protein and fish oils.
Anyone who competes in athletic events will know how important it is not to take any banned substances, either deliberately or inadvertently.
In reviews on Amazon it scores 4.1 of 5. Some reviewers note that it’s expensive compared with other vegan protein powders. As another points out, however, "There are cheaper vegan protein supplements out there, but the ones I've checked out tend to compromise on the quality, they often 'pad out' their mixes… In many respects, you get what you pay for."
With this protein powder you can be confident that you’ll not breach any doping regulations. All batches are screened for banned substances on the Informed Sport program.
The flavor and texture are pretty good, although it’s a pity it only comes in chocolate and banana flavor - a wider choice, including vanilla, would be welcome, and it only comes in one size (although the pouch arguably makes it more environmentally friendly than a tub). Strict vegans may have some reservations about purchasing from a manufacturer that also produces non-vegan products, including whey products and fish oils.
Bulk is a reliable manufacturer of good value protein powder, and the vegan version is no exception.
Overall, reviewers are pretty enthusiastic, awarding it 4.1 stars of 5 overall. Fans praise it for not including artificial ingredients, especially sweeteners, and many find it delicious. Critics of the flavor are inventive in their descriptions. "It tastes like green peas in coffee", and "more chemical latte than caramel latte", say two reviewers about the caramel latte flavor.
Made up of five different protein sources, it provides a chunky 23g of protein per serving, although with a carbohydrate content a little higher than some others at 5.5g. It comes in a dizzying array of flavors, plus an unflavored version, and includes digestive enzymes in an otherwise reassuringly small list of ingredients. Vegans and vegetarians should be aware that Bulk also produces products such as beef jerky, fish jerky and fish oils.
Where it falls down, in our opinion and that of many, is in the flavor. The stevia flavor is rather overpowering and it’s extremely sweet, but without much depth of flavor (although many reviewers enjoy the taste). However, its superb consistency - thick, creamy and easily blendable - makes it easy to enjoy this protein powder on its own with water or milk, or as a component of fruit smoothies and desserts. As with quite a few of the other vegan protein powders, it is made by a manufacturer that makes non-vegan products, although that presumably is one of the reasons they can keep the cost down.
MyProtein is known for its reliable products that offer no-frills value for money. Its vegan protein powder fits this bill.
It scores 4.2 of 5 on Amazon (although a less enthusiastic 3.25 on the MyProtein site) has many fans. "Really, REALLY tasty", raves one reviewer. Not everyone is convinced. "The ingredients are all good, high protein, low carbs, sugar and fat. Now for the taste. First of all it tastes nothing like any chocolate I have ever tasted before. I can't work out if the flavor you get is perfume, soap or crushed up vitamins."
Made in a wide range of flavors (admittedly, not as many as the bewildering 40+ flavors that its whey protein comes in, but still more than most of its vegan counterparts), it provides a hefty 22g of protein per serving, for just 110 calories.
As you’d expect with a value product, it’s not as natural as some of the more expensive vegan protein powders. It contains processed ingredients such as high-oleic sunflower oil, xanthan gum and sucralose, and strict vegans and vegetarians should know that MyProtein also produces products such as beef biltong, hydrolyzed beef protein and fish oils.
The flavors aren’t to everyone’s taste - we found the chocolate flavor to be very unchocolatey and rather artificial. Moreover, some of our testers experienced a slightly unpleasant ‘cotton mouth’ sensation after trying this protein powder. However, it mixes well and doesn’t overpower the flavor when blended with fruit, peanut butter or other ingredients.
Innermost Health takes a holistic approach to its products - it claims to use science, research and "best practices from Ayurvedic and Asian medicine" in crafting its products.
It scores an impressive 5 stars on the Innermost website, with most reviewers giving glowing feedback on the taste, praising its "delicious, creamy taste". One reviewer was disappointed with the vanilla flavor, saying they struggled to taste the vanilla and could taste the peas and brown rice, but most are positive about the flavors.
This plant-based protein powder ticks those boxes, combining an exceptionally high 31g of protein per serving with immune-supporting ingredients such as glutamine and medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, reishi and cordyceps). It does have a slightly higher calorie count than most of the other vegan protein powders with 150 calories per serving.
There’s a strong emphasis on natural and non-GMO ingredients, but the protein powder is sweetened with sucralose, an artificial sweetener, and vegans and vegetarians should be aware that some of their products, such as the collagen peptides, are not vegetarian.
We found the flavor pleasant, though we were aware of a slightly unusual underlying flavor, perhaps due to the unusual list of ingredients, and it mixed well.
This protein powder ticks most boxes when it comes to protein powders.
Some reviewers criticize it as being overly sweet and sickly, but most praise it for being one of the best-tasting vegan protein powders out there. "Not overly sweet which you find with other protein shakes, mixes really well so it’s not grainy and doesn’t clump together on the bottom/side."
Made by a giant in the industry, Optimum Nutrition, it is Informed Choice and Vegan Society certified, so you can be sure of the ingredients, and it delivers 24g of protein per serving. The flavor and texture are pretty good, but it’s a pity it only comes in two flavors, chocolate and vanilla.
The downside for vegetarians and vegans is that Optimum Nutrition also makes whey products and sells fish oils, so it’s not a vegan company. Its plant-based eco-credentials are further marred by the fact that it only comes in a plastic tub with a plastic scoop.
Note: this is a review of the UK version of the protein powder. The US recipe is different. A review of the US version will follow.
There’s much to love about this protein powder.
Most of the reviews can be summed up in the words of this reviewer: "The taste is great, it is a quality product with added extras like probiotics, it has responsible eco packaging and whilst it is pricier than others on the market, all of the before mentioned make this worth it."
Packing a powerful protein punch from high quality, plant-based proteins, it also tastes pretty good. We found the texture to be pleasantly smooth and creamy. The powder is easy to mix and the flavors are fun, though some of them may come across as way too sweet. They may also overpower the taste when blended with other ingredients. Still, it’s worth trying Form out. Their protein powder is enriched with 5g of glutamine and 5g of BCAA per serving, making it a perfect muscle building supplement. It also contains several digestive enzymes and is devoid of artificial flavorings and thickeners, which can be helpful for people suffering from gastrointestinal issues. The addition of curcumin to combat inflammation is a nice touch.
Vegans can rest assured that it comes from a business only selling plant-based products (even the omega oils are vegan). It’s not cheap, but most flavors are available in smaller sample sizes, and you are getting a product that is kind to the environment in every way (there’s no plastic scoop and the packaging is 100% plastic-free and compostable).
It’s not surprising it’s won awards. Reviewers are enthusiastic about the protein to calorie ratio and the flavors. It’s not to everybody’s taste - there are grumbles from some about the flavor, powdery texture and excessive sweetness.
There’s a bit of a trade-off with this protein powder.
It has a slightly underwhelming 3.9 stars of 5 on Amazon. Although plenty of happy customers love the flavors, some find it too sweet (which was our experience). "I REALLY wanted to like something about these but unfortunately the taste was really artificial and the texture like eating wet sand", laments one.
While three out of the four flavors come in at under 100 calories, so it may appeal to anyone watching their caloric intake (and see Dr Dehghan’s comments on this, above), the flip-side is that the protein content is a little lower than in most. It has a good level of sweetness and a pleasant, subtle flavor that works well with a wide range of ingredients. Nonetheless, Misfits powder does not blend easily and you need to give it a good shake or stir before serving.
Vegans will appreciate the purely plant-based ethos and product range of Misfits. Better still, the packaging is biodegradable and even the ink used is eco-friendly. Misfits works with Climate Partner to offset its emissions and aims to be plastic-free by 2022. This protein powder isn’t the cheapest, and it’s only available in one size - another trade-off.
If all you want is a reliable, pure source of GMO-free protein and you’re not interested in fancy flavors, this is the product for you.
One reviewer sums it up: "NOW makes no pretenses or attempts to mask or enhance the pea taste or gritty texture. This is a large quantity of a base nutrient at a very attractive price. Does it deliver on the nutrition of pea protein? Yes. Are you getting it for a fraction of the cost of other designer pea proteins? Yup."
Made from just one ingredient - pea protein - it nevertheless delivers an impressive list of nutrients. Athletes will be pleased to learn that it is Informed Sport-approved so you don’t need to worry about accidentally consuming a banned substance.
There’s no denying it doesn’t taste wonderful - there’s a distinct taste of pea, and the texture is grainy - but at the same time it’s neutral enough to mix with other ingredients without obscuring their flavors too much. It’s disappointing that the distinctive orange tub doesn’t appear to be recyclable.
Reviews are predictably mixed, although it earns 4.4 stars of 5 on Amazon. There are complaints about the taste and texture, and some queries about quality control, with suggestions that some batches are better than others. Its fans point out the value for money and ease of digestion.
How to choose the best vegan protein powder for you
When choosing the best vegan protein powder, the first step is to decide on your protein source.
To start with, discard any products that contain ingredients that you’re allergic to or that you don’t tolerate well. For example, soy is a popular component of many plant-based supplements. It’s a great protein source with a complete amino acid profile, but many people are allergic to it, don’t tolerate it well or have a thyroid condition that may be made worse by eating more of it. If this applies to you, look into pea, hemp or brown rice as they may be better suited to your needs.
Pea protein is made out of yellow peas, and as such, it’s FODMAP-diet friendly and free of allergens. It's also very high in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). According to a review article published in the Nutrients journal, BCAAs promote muscle fiber synthesis and can be a good addition to many different heavy resistance training routines. Another hypoallergenic protein source is brown rice. Although it’s great quality, brown rice does not boast a complete amino acid profile and consequently has to be paired with different vegan protein sources.
Many of the best vegan protein powders will also contain hemp extracts, which are a rich source of essential amino acids, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. However, hemp has a strong, earthy aftertaste that may not be to everyone’s liking. As a general rule, choose products that combine several different protein sources to make sure that you get all of the amino acids that your body needs.
The next step would be to find a product that aligns with your health and fitness goals. Protein powders are generally divided into two categories: protein supplements and mass gainers. Protein supplements aim to exclusively top up your protein intake, whilst mass gainers are designed to also deliver a hefty dose of calories and a bulk of different nutrients that support muscle growth. If your primary aim is to lose weight, aim for the regular protein powders, particularly those that are lower in carbohydrate. But if you train very hard to shape up your body, mass gainers may be better suited for your goals.
Another aspect to look into is supporting ingredients. The best vegan protein powders will come with a host of vitamins, minerals and other functional ingredients, such as digestive enzymes to improve their digestibility.
Choose a product that tastes well and easily blends with other ingredients. Lastly, consider the price. Although the best vegan protein powders do not necessarily have to come with a hefty price tag, they’re usually of better quality and they may include more supporting nutrients. If you have a highly specific fitness goal, you may be better off investing in a more expensive product that caters to your needs and circumstances.
The benefits of using vegan protein powder
Calculating the correct amount of protein you need depends on several variables; your body weight, your age and how physically active you are. An average person will need 0.75g of protein per kg of body weight, increasing to 1-1.2g in the over-65s. People who train a lot will need even more – about 1.2-2g per kg of body weight.
To boost your protein consumption Dr. Dehghan recommends starting with whole foods. “The easy way to increase your protein intake is to start with regular food,” she said. "You can easily increase your protein intake by just adding hemp seeds, tofu or any other protein source to your smoothies or meals."
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If you feel that you still want to add extra protein to your diet, then Dr. Dehghan lists soy and pea proteins as her first recommendations. “Both have been around for a long time and most studies use soy or pea protein powders to compare with whey protein. Another one of my favorites is protein powders that use a combination of different protein sources, for example, pea and brown rice.”
While there is a lot of advice out there on when to consume your protein, Dr. Dehghan said concentrating on getting enough protein and calories should be the main focus. “As the sports dietitian Dan Benardot says, we humans are energy-first systems, meaning that if we don’t increase our caloric intake to meet the increased demand during exercise, any excess protein will be utilized as fuel and not for muscle synthesis. This is why increasing calorie intake should be top priority for anybody who’s engaging in physical activity, even before deciding on protein shakes.”
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.