Plant-Based Protein Powder: Build Muscle The Whey-Free Way!

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When you tell someone you’re vegan, one of the first questions they’ll probably ask is, “But how do you get enough protein?!” The truth is a vegan diet provides more than enough protein to maintain a healthy body.

However, if you’re an athlete, a teenager, or looking to build muscle, you may need to supplement your balanced vegan diet with a plant-based protein powder.

New vegans can also benefit from finding the best plant based protein powder for them. When first going vegan, you’ll be eliminating many of the previous sources of protein from your diet.

A vegan-friendly protein powder can help you fill in any nutritional gaps, so you can worry less and enjoy your new lifestyle more.

How much protein do I need?

The usual recommendation for protein intake is between 0.6-0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of healthy body weight.

Dietitian Jack Norris, an expert in the vegan diet, recommends erring on the side of more protein for vegans: 1.0-1.1 grams per kilogram of healthy body weight for most adults.

This means that a vegan woman in her 20s who weighs 135 pounds would need to consume about 61 grams of protein per day. This isn’t actually so hard to do. For example, two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 8 grams of protein. A cup of cooked beans or lentils contains 12-18 grams.

Remember, this recommendation is on the high end. If you get a little less protein some days, you should be fine. However, using a protein supplement can help ensure that you’re reaching your daily protein target.

Who may need more protein?

vegan protein supplement shaped to a muscular man

For the average vegan, if you’re eating a balanced diet, you’re probably getting enough protein. People that need to pay extra attention are teenagers, people over age 60, and, of course, athletes and anyone else who works out regularly and trains hard.

Since the teenage years are characterized by rapid growth and muscle development—both for boys and girls—protein requirements are higher. Vegan teens may want to supplement with protein powders to be sure their needs are being met. Again, 1.0-1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight should be more than adequate.

If you’re an athlete, your need for protein will be higher than the average person. Endurance athletes should aim for 1.2-1.4 grams of dietary protein per day for each kilogram of body weight.

Strength athletes need even more: between 1.3-1.7 grams. With these high requirements, a complete vegan protein powder may be the best way to meet your needs.

Severe protein deficiency is rare outside of regions experiencing famine and extreme malnutrition. However, if you’re having symptoms like chronic fatigue, edema (swelling), hair loss, or frequent illness, you should see your doctor. Even if the cause isn’t dietary protein, these symptoms should be checked out. (1)

As a final note, if you’re pregnant or nursing, definitely talk to your doctor about how to follow a vegan diet safely for you and baby. Motherhood complicates your dietary needs in ways that are beyond the scope of this article.

What is protein powder?

A protein powder is simply a food supplement that provides a dense quantity of protein, usually between 10 and 30 grams. Protein powders can be mixed with water or other liquids. They vary widely in calorie content and may contain additional macronutrients like carbohydrates.

The powdered form makes protein supplements convenient and palatable. It would be hard to sit down and eat a load of protein-rich foods in the middle of your workout, but downing a chocolate-flavored protein shake is no problem.

Protein powders have been on the market since the 1950’s, originally used exclusively in the bodybuilding community. Muscle tissue is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Therefore, bodybuilders realized they needed to consume more protein in order to build muscle.

Today, protein powder sales are booming as a tool to help people reach their health, diet, and fitness goals. The products have also come a long way from the originals in terms of taste, amino acid balance, and diversity. Protein powders are considered safe to use, but as with any lifestyle change, you should talk to your doctor first before making any big changes.

What are most ordinary protein powders made of?

selection of different protein powders

The majority of mainstream protein powders are made of whey, casein, or eggs, which are obviously off-limits to vegans. This may be just as well, since we may not absorb as much protein from whey as protein powder manufacturers would have us believe. (2)

Soy is another common protein powder ingredient. Though vegans are free to eat soy, many don’t choose it for their protein powders. Though soy is a high quality, nutritious source of protein, soy is also one of the top GMO crops. Soy allergies are also on the rise, leading many vegans to avoid consuming more soy in their diet than necessary. (3)

In addition to the main protein source, protein powders may also contain sugars or other carbs and flavors to make them taste good. Artificial preservatives and emollients that improve the texture of the shake are also common.


What is plant-based protein powder made of?

Plant-based protein powders usually derive their protein from one or a combination of the following:

  • Rice or brown rice protein powder
  • Pea protein powder
  • Hemp protein powder
  • Almond powder
  • Peanut powder

Additional, lesser sources of protein may include cranberry seed and algaes like dulse or spirulina. Each type of protein has different qualities. You may have to experiment to figure out the formula that works best for you.

Is plant protein “high quality”?

There is a lot of talk about which sources of protein are “high quality” or “complete.” A “complete” protein is one that includes all of the essential amino acids found in the human body. These high-quality protein sources are thought to better aid in muscle building and recovery.

Soy and animal sources are considered “complete” proteins. However, all plant foods contain at least some of the essential amino acids, and the whole “complete” protein and the knock-on “complementary” protein combining has long been debunked (see the excellent video from above for more). (4, 5)

Since the quantity of amino acids varies from source to source, however, you do still need to eat a variety of plant foods to meet your nutritional needs. Most vegan protein powders use several protein sources so they can cover all the amino acids.

The one amino acid that vegans need to particularly aware of is lysine. Lysine is not abundant in most plant foods, but you can find it in lentils, quinoa, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds.

When shopping for a non-dairy protein powder, you may want to pay special attention to be sure it includes lysine.

Best plant-based protein powder Reviews

Even with an understanding of protein and amino acids in the vegan diet, the number of choices for plant-based protein can be overwhelming. Don’t worry–we did the hard work for you! Here are our reviews of the best non dairy protein powders to supplement your vegan diet.

Elevate Plant-Based Performance Protein Powder

In each serving of Elevate Plant-Based Performance Protein Powder, you will find 21 grams of complete protein made from a mix of plant sources. Pea protein isolate and hemp protein top the list of ingredients which also includes chia seeds and stevia for sweetness.

Elevate plant protein powder is sugar-free and contains just 3 grams of carbs. It is also certified vegan, GMO-free, and gluten free.

Since the vanilla taste is provided through stevia and natural flavors, it’s also free of any artificial nasties. Some, however, will still want to go purer still, but for many this will be an adequate way to cut back on the “unpronounceables” found in lots of other protein powders.

Elevate advertises this protein powder as the perfect supplement for people who are serious about their fitness. Their customer base seems to agree! Most athletes found this protein powder was easily digestible and helped support their workout or recovery.

A lot of people also like the taste of Elevate, with one enthusiastic customer describing it as tasting “like cake batter.” Elevate protein mixes well on its own or in vegan-friendly shakes with additional ingredients like berries or leafy greens.

Though the taste is a crowd-pleaser, some people found the texture to be less than desirable. The most common complaint was that the protein powder was chalky and didn’t dissolve entirely. Elevate Plant-Based Protein Powder also comes in only one flavor: plain old vanilla.

  • Variety of plant-based sources provide a mixed protein profile
  • No artificial anything
  • Nice taste alone or in shakes
  • May not always mix together well
  • Chalky texture
  • Only one flavor

Almond Pro Almond Protein Powder

Almond Pro Almond Protein Powder stands out among many vegan proteins because of its main ingredient.

You guessed it: almonds!

Using a special process that involves pressing and dehydrating the almonds, the makers of Almond Pro Protein Powder are able to preserve all the protein in the almonds without all the fat.

Almond Pro powder contains 19 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Fiber is lacking from many protein powders, but it’s essential for good digestive health. It also helps you feel full for longer.

Customers seem to really like the taste of Almond Pro’s three flavors: chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, and vanilla. The powder is sweetened with a combination of stevia, xanthan gum, and monk fruit. The texture is described as “slightly grainy” but didn’t seem to bother most people.

Even though Almond Pro Protein Powder has less fat than the corresponding amount of almonds would ordinarily have, it still contains 6% of the recommended daily fat intake, including 1 gram of saturated fat. This is a little higher than some other powders and may not sit well with some.

The source of this fat is likely the rather confounding second ingredient in the powder: “Clean Cream.” Huh? Apparently, this is a blend of sunflower oil, brown rice syrup, and some other texturizing and preserving agents.

Though all these ingredients are technically natural, some—like silicon dioxide—push the boundaries of what most people would consider real food.

  • Variety of yummy flavors
  • Unique almond protein source
  • High fiber
  • Higher fat content than some other plant-based protein powders
  • Mystery ingredient: “Clean Cream”
  • Contains silica dioxide

Vega One All-in-One Plant Based Protein Powder

Vega One All-in-One Plant Based Protein Powder isn’t just a protein supplement. Each Vega shake also contains 6 servings of vegetables, a slew of essential vitamins, probiotics, and filling fiber.

The nutrition is complete enough that many people use it as a meal replacement, and some even use Vega protein powder for weight loss.

A serving of Vega protein powder provides 20g of protein from pea, hemp, and flax. The flavors—chocolate, French vanilla, berry, vanilla chai, and “natural”—are sweetened with stevia. Each serving also contains 1.5 grams of essential Omega-3 fatty acids from vegan sources.

For a lot of vegan protein enthusiasts, Vega protein is the perfect supplement. They love the whole foods approach and nutritional profile of the shakes. Many customers report starting their day with a Vega One shake mixed with almond milk and fresh fruit.

However, there are some complaints about the taste and texture of some of the flavors. Several customers describe the shakes as too sweet. The texture also left some people disappointed. Apparently, Vega One doesn’t mix well with plain water, which is cause for concern if you’re all out of your favorite plant-based milk.

  • Nutritional powerhouse
  • Works well as an occasional quick, healthy breakfast replacement
  • Includes Omega-3’s and probiotics
  • Some flavors are overly sweet
  • Gritty texture that may not mix well in water

Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein

If you’re an athlete in need of all-natural recovery protein, Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant Based Protein powder may be what you’re looking for.

Along with 15 grams of protein, this “vegan whey” also provides antioxidants from organic cherries, blueberries, and turmeric which is supposed to help you recover faster.

Garden of Life is different from similar vegan protein shakes because the simple list of ingredients are all organic. The protein blend includes organic pea protein and protein from sprouted navy beans. The antioxidant blend also includes probiotics, which is great for your gut flora.

Both vegans and non-vegans seem to love Garden of Life Organic Protein for its taste and creamy consistency. Athletes, from runners to body builders, also say that it lives up to the claim of helping with muscle recovery too.

There are a few issues with this organic vegan protein powder, however. If you don’t like the taste of stevia, you probably won’t find either flavor very palatable. Some customers also complained that the mixture produced a lot of “foam” when shaken which was somewhat of a turn-off.

Garden of Life Sport Organic Protein contains no sugar or fat, but it also doesn’t have a lot of fiber either, which is a pity.

  • May help with muscle recovery
  • No sugar or fat
  • Good taste and consistency
  • Does not contain much fiber, only 1g per scoop
  • Strange foam may develop when shaken
  • Strong stevia taste won’t be to everyone’s liking

Organic Muscle Organic Vegan Protein

People looking to add lean muscle will find the protein they need in Organic Muscle’s Organic Vegan Protein—24 grams of it! This pea, rice, and hemp protein powder contains 3 grams of fiber and a complete amino acid profile.

Organic Muscle Vegan Protein has 140 calories which is in the middle compared to similar products. This makes it an ideal post-workout drink when you need the protein but don’t want a ton of extra calories. People also seem to like it as a meal replacement for breakfast in smoothies or overnight oatmeal.

Organic Muscle has recently revamped the formula of their organic vegan protein, and people seem to like the new flavor and consistency. The protein itself is soy-, lactose-, and gluten-free. However, it is made in a facility that processes dairy and soy, so people with very sensitive allergies may want to look elsewhere.

Though the nutrition label boasts that there are 0 grams of sugar, Organic Muscle Vegan Protein does contain “brown rice syrup solids” as a sweetener. Brown rice syrup, whether solid or liquid form, is still a carbohydrate that some people may want to avoid. (6)

  • 24 grams of protein make it perfect for building muscle
  • Contains fiber and all the amino acids
  • Nice taste and texture
  • May not be allergy friendly
  • Contains brown rice syrup as a sweetener

Compass Elements Vegan Plant-Based Protein Powder

Compass Elements Vegan Plant-Based Protein contains 20 grams of sugar and 40% of your daily fiber at just 120 calories a serving. The protein blend is a mixture of pea, hemp, and sacha inchi, a peanut-like seed which is native to Central America.

In terms of taste, many customers found both the chocolate and vanilla flavors to be too sweet for their liking. Cocoa powder is the third ingredient in the chocolate flavor. This isn’t bad per se, but cocoa usually turns up further down the list of ingredients in chocolate protein shakes and has a lot lower nutritional value than the excellent cacao powder.

Those who didn’t mind the sweetness say that this makes a great post-workout drink or ingredient in a breakfast smoothie. Since the calorie content is low, you won’t want to use this as a meal replacement, but it might make a yummy snack to tide you over between meals.

Finally, potential customers should note that Compass Elements Vegan Protein is not organic and not “complete,” meaning it doesn’t provide all of the essential amino acids (see above). This may be an issue for some people, but many athletes and diet-conscious folks are perfectly happy with this vegan protein supplement.

  • Low calorie
  • High fiber
  • Works well as workout recovery drink
  • Very sweet–particularly the chocolate flavor
  • Doesn’t have a complete protein profile
  • Not organic

Biochem Sports Vegan Protein

From its packaging to its “proprietary protein blend,” Biochem Sports Vegan Protein seems to be all about simplicity. There are no additives, fillers, animal-derived ingredients, or anything artificial.

The protein in this vegan protein supplement comes from pea, hemp, and cranberry seeds, so Biochem Sports Vegan Protein works well for diabetics since it doesn’t have any rice products which can raise blood sugar. Biochem also throws medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil into the mix for a source of healthy fat.

A sticking point for some people is that it’s not 100% clear what the Vegan Protein powder is sweetened with. However, people with lots of food sensitivities, including to stevia, say that they can drink Biochem Vegan Protein without any allergy issues.

The taste is described as “sweet” and often “too sweet.” The mixture tends to be very thick, which some people like and some don’t – it’s all really subjective. Finally, the sodium content of this protein supplement is a little high, so if you’re watching your sodium you may want to look elsewhere.

  • Good for people with certain allergies
  • Mixes well alone or in smoothies
  • Does not contain any rice products, which is great for diabetics
  • High sodium
  • Too sweet for some
  • Some mystery over what sweetens the formula

Ora Organic Protein Powder

Ora Organic Protein Powder contains 21 grams of protein per serving, and a dose of “superfoods” like kale, acai, and spirulina.

This protein powder also includes enzymes to help you digest pea protein, which is great for anyone who has digestive issues. Ora is the only manufacturer to include this enzyme, and they say its inclusion makes theirs the best pea protein on the market.

Also, Ora Organic Protein Powder differs from similar products because it is a raw vegan protein. The list of ingredients is 100% organic, including the flavoring agents like cocoa and vanilla bean. The shake is sweetened with stevia.

Ora Organic Protein Powder doesn’t seem to be a widely used plant-based protein supplement, but it does have some rave reviews. Customers love the taste and the smooth texture and the fact that this vegan protein powder also mixes well and tastes good even in plain, chilled water.

Though Ora does include a full list of ingredients, it’s a rather long list which may turn off people looking for simple vegan protein supplement. Ora Organic Protein Powder also contains 6 net carbs. While this isn’t high by any means, it may deter anyone who just wants protein from their supplement.

  • Enzymes to aid in digestion
  • Smooth texture, even in plain water
  • Raw and organic
  • Long ingredients list won’t work for pure protein enthusiasts

Naked Choc PB Premium Organic Cacao and Powdered PB

Naked Choc PB is as simple as you get with only two ingredients: organic cocoa and dry pressed roasted peanuts. That’s it. Each serving contains 6 grams of protein, 5 carbs, and only 60 calories.

Naked’s peanuts are grown and processed in the US. The dry pressing process removes fat while preserving the nutritional goodness of the peanut. This all-natural protein is also independently tested for heavy metal content, a concern for people who consume a lot of protein powder.

The customers who seem happiest with Naked Choc PB seemed to keep two things in mind. First, this protein powder doesn’t really work just mixed with water and needs to be incorporated into a smoothie. People like it with almond milk, fruit, and mixed with other protein powders.

Second, happy customers kept reasonable expectations for the taste. Because Naked includes no added salt or sugar, this is a truly unflavored protein powder. It’s good when mixed with other ingredients, but don’t expect it to taste like a Reese’s!

Overall, Naked Choc PB will be a favorite of people who like simple, customizable nutrition. If you’re looking for a grab-and-go protein source, however, mixing up a Naked smoothie may seem like a hassle.

  • Only two, all-natural ingredients
  • No added salt or sugar
  • Heavy metal tested
  • Must be mixed with other foods as it has a bland taste on its own
  • Low protein content per serving

Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins+

Why fermented, you ask? According to the makers of Genuine Health Vegan Proteins+, fermenting foods primes them for digestion so our bodies can better absorb the nutrients, and we agree! Fermentation is a great way to improve your gut flora and overall health.

The protein in Genuine Health’s formula comes from brown rice, quinoa, alfalfa, and hemp and you can buy Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins+ in vanilla, chocolate, and unflavored. The chocolate and vanilla contain stevia and xanthan gum for sweetness.

Frequent complaints from customers include that this protein powder is chalky in texture and may upset the stomach, which may be due to poor digestive health rather than the product. Fermented foods can take a little getting used to at first.

Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Protein is a little low on the protein side at 15 grams per serving. However, it contains no sugar and is only 90 calories. This may work well as a vegan diet protein when blended with other nutritional foods.

Long-term customers were also upset to see the recent inclusion of the California Prop 65 warning on the label which identifies products with high levels of certain chemicals. It’s not entirely clear what prompted the Prop 65 warning on Genuine Health products, and the company still contends that their protein powder is high quality and safe. (7)

  • Easily digestible fermented proteins
  • Low calories
  • Available in unflavored
  • California Prop 65 warning may be a concern to some
  • Stomach issues reported by a few people, but this could be due to being unfamiliar with fermented foods

No Udder Dairy and Soy Free Protein Powder

No Udder Dairy and Soy Free Protein Powder claims that it is “like no other” protein powder. (Get it? I hope so!) This soy- and dairy-free protein powder is athlete-centered, striving to provide the most accessible nutrition to promote muscle growth and recovery.

This vegan protein supplement provides 17 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. It contains 6 grams sugar from organic dried cane syrup, which is a bit higher than many other vegan proteins. However, if you’re working out hard, you need a mix of protein and carbohydrates to fully recover.

No Udder Protein Powder seems to be a favorite among the lactose-intolerant crowd. Most people seem to like the taste of both the chocolate and vanilla flavors. The powder dissolves better in water but tastes nicer when mixed with plant-based milk or fruit juices.

However, if you are focused on finding a truly all-natural vegan protein supplement, No Udder is a little dicey. For example, the protein blend contains added glycine, taurine, and L-glutamine. In other words, it’s a complete protein only because of additives, not from the whole food sources.

Some other questionable ingredients in the mix include sunflower oil, silica, and tripotassium citrate (probably included to improve texture). Despite the rather complex ingredient list, most people seem satisfied with No Udder as a source of allergy-friendly protein. (8)

  • Great for people with lactose intolerance as well as vegans
  • Mixes well in plain water
  • Decent taste from both flavors
  • Lots of additives in ingredient list
  • 6 grams of carbs from sugar

Dr. Mercola Vegan Protein Powder

Dr. Mercola Vegan Protein Powder contains no protein isolates, meaning all 12 grams of protein come from whole foods.

This powder also contains a blend of five fiber sources and four enzymes. This vegan supplement is sweetened with stevia and monk fruit.

For flavors, you can choose from chocolate, vanilla, or “sweet cinnamon.” Unlike many vegan protein powders, people seem to really love the taste of this one. It’s described as “real,” “heavenly,” and “not too sweet.”

People also like that the formula lacks the aftertaste commonly associated with stevia products. Dr. Mercola Vegan Protein Powder also doesn’t have that “greens” aftertaste that some people don’t like either. Instead of typical veggie sources of protein, they’ve incorporated golden chlorella, a protein-rich micro-algae.

Customers also loved that this powder contains fiber and digestive enzymes. With that said, you may want to go easy when first trying this protein powder. A few people reported an upset stomach at first.

Though Dr. Mercola’s Vegan Protein Powder tastes great, it does contain a few additives: potassium citrate, sodium citrate, and sodium chloride. These are probably included as vitamin supplements or preservatives.

However, if you’re picky about all food-based ingredients, this may not be the protein powder for you.

  • Not too sweet and no aftertaste
  • Fiber and digestive enzymes included
  • Whole food protein sources
  • May cause digestive issues initially
  • Contains additives
  • Only 12 grams of protein

So, which is the best plant protein powder?

best vegan protein powder - ora so lean so clean

Picking a winner among diet supplements is tricky. People will have different goals in using a plant based protein powder, and individual body chemistries will factor into their rate of success. On top of that, taste is highly subjective: what may seem perfect to one person will be unbearably sweet to another.

With all that said, our favorite in this list is Ora Organic Protein Powder. This raw protein powder contains an impressive 21 grams of protein. We also like the inclusion of organic foods like kale and blueberries to add an extra nutritional kick to your dose of protein.

The taste of Ora Organic Protein Powder seems to please people across the board, probably because it’s not too sweet. The fact that it mixes well with plain water is also a huge plus for athletes or people on the go.

Ora Organic Protein Powder is probably best for your typical vegan as an everyday protein supplement. Mixed in a smoothie, it can make a healthy snack or light meal. However, the protein payoff is high enough that even athletes could benefit from Ora as a post-workout drink.

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If you’re a vegan athlete, it can be tough to fill your protein needs in a healthy, convenient way. For new vegans, supplementing with protein powder can also lend peace of mind that your nutritional needs are met.

Whatever the reason for adding a vegan protein supplement to our daily routines, vegans today are fortunate to have plenty of yummy, organic, raw, and allergy-friendly options available to them.

About The Author:
Lisa Williams
Happy Happy Vegan editor

Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.

Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!

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best plant based protein powder for vegans
  1. Healthline Editorial Team, Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, R.D., L.D. | What Is Kwashiorkor? |
  2. Helen Kollias, PhD | Protein supplements: Is protein absorption the problem? |
  3. Tom Philpott | Monsanto GM Soy Is Scarier Than You Think |
  4. RCHSD | What Does Getting “Complete Proteins” Mean for Vegetarians? |
  5. Care2 | Hey Vegetarians and Vegans: It’s Time to Debunk the Protein Combining Myth |
  6. Kris Gunnars, BSc | Brown Rice Syrup: Good or Bad? |
  7. OEHHA | Proposition 65 in Plain Language |
  8. Jungbunzlauer | Tripotassium Citrate |


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Important Disclaimer: All of the information found within Happy Happy Vegan is intended solely for educational and informational purposes only. None of the articles written by or associated with Happy Happy Vegan have been evaluated by the FDA or any other federal body. No information found within the site is in any way intended to replace your physician, doctor or healthcare practitioner nor is it intended to diagnose, cure, prevent or treat any illness or disease. Please always consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or adding supplements that may block, restrict, or interfere with any existing medication.

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