Are you looking for a way to get more plant-based protein into your diet, without having to eat bowlfuls of beans? Vegan protein is a quick, easy solution that can be added to your regular meals or mixed with non-dairy milk to create a tasty and nutritious drink any time of the day.
If you don't know which protein powder to choose, have a read through our buying guide and top 10. From pea protein to rice, soy-free to flavoured, Amazon and eBay have them all! From TRIBE, Vega, Pulsin and more! Our dietitian Jo Travers will also weigh in on factors to keep in mind when choosing a vegan protein.
Author of The Bone Strength Plan and a professional, evidenced-based nutritionist in London. Jo has carried out over 1500 hours of one-to-one consultations with more than 600 clients, as well as the additional hours of workshops, research, and media work with the BBC, Channel 4, The Islam channel and more.
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Jo Travers, author of The Bone Strength Plan is a professional, evidenced-based nutritionist in London. She has carried out over 1500 hours of one-to-one consultations with more than 600 clients, as well as the additional hours of workshops, research, and media work with the BBC, Channel 4, The Islam Channel, and more.
To start things off, let's look at some of the key factors you should consider when buying a protein powder online. These include the protein source, key nutritional information, and added flavours.
There are several different sources of vegan protein to choose from, such as soy, pea, hemp, and rice. Here, we'll discuss the benefits of each!
Soy is probably the most popular vegan source as it can contain up to 90% pure protein! It's considered a complete protein, which means that it contains all the essential amino acids that our bodies need for muscle repair and growth. Plus, its neutral flavour makes it ideal for mixing into recipes.
However, as many people are allergic or intolerant to soy, it can cause digestion problems. Another thing to consider is that a lot of soy is grown using chemicals, so you may want to check for an organic alternative if this is something that concerns you.
The symptoms of a soy allergy can be uncomfortable although usually fairly mild, like tingling or itchiness in the mouth after eating, or abdominal cramps. If you don't experience symptoms after eating then soy is a good choice. The body needs all the different amino acids to make new proteins and soy is one of the few plant-based proteins with them all.
Pea-based powder is mostly allergen-free (if you don't possess a pea allergy), so it's a good alternative if you have problems digesting soy. As well as being high in protein, it is also a great source of calcium if you are or need to avoid dairy products.
Unfortunately, pea protein can't be considered a complete protein, as it doesn't contain all of the essential amino acids that we require, but can be combined with other plant-based protein to make up the difference. Further, it can also be high in carbohydrates, so those following a low-carb diet like keto may want to pay attention to this.
Although pea protein doesn't contain all the amino acids, the ones it is missing can be found in other foods like grains. As long as you eat some grains such as oats, bulgur wheat, rice, or anything made from flour, during the same day, your body will be able to combine them together to get the full complement.
Hemp is an easily digested complete protein containing all of the amino acids we need. Plus, it's high in unsaturated fats and fibre, giving it extra health benefits. Unfortunately, it contains less protein per serving than soy or pea-based powders and has a very distinctive earthy taste and gritty texture that may take some getting used to!
Hemp protein is made mainly from ground seeds rather than pulses like peas, so it contains omega 3, which other protein powders are generally low in. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory, which means it is good for the heart, but it is also a key ingredient in brain cell membranes. Plant-based diets can be low in this type of fat as the primary source in the diet is usually from oily fish.
Rice protein is a convenient choice because it's quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and is gluten-free, so digests easily. However, it doesn't contain enough amino acid lysine of the essential amino acids so can't be considered a complete protein either, unfortunately.
Rice is a grain so it contains the amino acids that are missing from protein powders made from pulses like peas; combining the two powders can therefore provide a complete amino acid complex.
This could be a useful mix if soy protein isn't suitable for you. Although rice generally contains a lot of carbohydrate, the rice protein powder is made by isolating just the protein part so isn't like eating the whole grain.
Not all powders contain the same amount of protein, so think about how much you'll need to supplement your diet. The daily recommendation for adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, those looking to build muscle mass will need to consume between 1.5 and 2.0 grams per kg of their body weight each day.
Vegan protein bars are also a great snack to keep in your bag!
But remember, consuming more protein doesn't necessarily mean more muscle though. Having more protein than you need can actually put pressure on your kidneys. A metabolite of protein digestion is urea which must be dissolved in water for excretion via the kidneys. Too much urea needing to be excreted can irritate the bladder too and can mean needing to empty your bladder more often!
Many protein powders have large amounts of sugar added in order to make them taste better. But if you're trying to lose weight, or want to monitor your sugar intake for other health reasons, you'll want to find a powder with a low sugar content.
The recommended daily intake of 'free' sugar for adults is 30g, and the NHS states that any product with more than 22.5g of sugar per 100g is considered very high - so keep this in mind when checking the label of a sweetened powder.
Added sugar can cause blood glucose to spike which in turn can lead to it being converted into fat. Mixing protein powders into smoothies can be a way of making them taste acceptable without all the sugar and sweeteners. Use fruit to give some natural sweetness with added vitamins, phytonutrients and fibre, which will keep blood sugar stable.
In comparison to animal-based protein products like whey or casein powders, vegan powders are naturally higher in carbohydrates. If you're on a low-carb diet like keto, this can make things tricky!
Out of the plant-based options, soy protein has the lowest carbohydrate content - rice, pea, and hemp are all significantly higher. It's also worth noting that unflavoured powders are much lower in carbohydrates, as they don't have added sweeteners and flavourings.
If you are on a low-carb diet, protein powders are a valuable way of getting enough protein while following a plant-based diet. Most of the traditional vegan protein sources like beans and lentils are on the low-carb red list so removing some of the carbohydrate and isolating the protein in powder form gets around this problem.
Think about how you want your protein powder to taste too. Flavoured powders like chocolate and vanilla are extremely popular because they can be blended with non-dairy milk to make a delicious smoothie. Whereas, unsweetened or unflavoured powders are the best option if you're looking to bulk out savoury sauces or soups.
Need a protein shaker to go with that?
Flavoured powders do tend to be quite sweet so remember to check the sugar content before you buy. If you are wanting to use your protein powder for both sweet and savoury recipes, you can get a neutral one and add your own vanilla extract, cocoa powder or fruit to make it sweet as well as being able to use it in sauces and soups.
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THE PROTEIN WORKS
Vegan Extreme Protein Powder｜Chocolate
A Premium Blend With Added Vitamins
All-Natural and Organic Ingredients
Protein Powder Super Blend ｜Unsweetened
A Versatile, Omega-Rich Mix
Vegan Protein ｜Mango Matcha Tea
Fantastically Fruity and Totally Sugar-Free
Vegan Protein Blend ｜Berry
Formulated Especially for Women
Sport Premium Protein ｜Mocha
Supports Post-Workout Recovery
Protein Recovery Shake ｜Vanilla and Cinnamon
Cheap and Cheerful, With a Cinnamon Kick
Raw Plant Protein & BCAA Powder｜Salted Maca Caramel
Tasty and Fast-Absorbing
Heart Pumpkin and Chia Seed Super Protein
Healthy and High in Fibre and Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Rice Protein Powder
An Additive and Allergen-Free Formula
This best-selling powder by The Protein Works is formulated from a blend of premium soy, pea, hemp, sunflower and rice protein. Not only does it taste delicious, but it contains 15% RDA Vitamin C, Calcium and vitamins B5, B9 and B12, which are all needed for post-workout recovery.
Best of all, this product is really low in both sugar and carbs, and also has the added extra of Flaxseed Powder and Digezyme, which help aid digestion and also the absorption of macronutrients!
This organic formula by Super U is made from a mixture of pea, hemp, and pumpkin seed proteins. It has absolutely no sweeteners or additives, just a little bit of cacao to add a slight chocolate flavour.
Containing over 20g of protein per serving, as well as all of the essential amino acids, this product is the ideal choice for those who prefer an all-natural powder after workouts. We also love the stylish packaging!
This organic mix of pea, pumpkin and sunflower packs in a hefty 13g of protein per scoop. As well as botanical ingredients like baobab, turmeric, and cinnamon, it contains an omega-rich blend of flax and chia seeds.
It is also high in nutritious vitamins and minerals, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc and vitamin C. Since this powder is unflavoured, it’s extremely versatile. Add it to your baking mixes (perfect for healthy muffins!) or blend with bananas and almond milk to make a tasty beverage.
This mouthwatering mango and matcha tea powder provides tropical flavour alongside a caffeine hit that you'll find especially handy during morning workouts! Despite tasting fruity, it contains absolutely no sugar at all, making it a brilliant option for those trying to lose weight.
In addition, this mix has the highest amount of protein per 100g out of all of the products featured on our list, and it's super low in carbs and also gluten-free too. It comes in 6 different flavours, making it a great all-rounder!
This vanilla-flavoured formula by Free Soul is made from a combination of pea protein and white hemp protein. Developed with women in mind, it contains Peruvian maca which helps to promote hormone balance, the entire B vitamin complex for healthy hair, skin, and nails, and high levels of iron.
With 20g of protein per 30g serving, this product is ideal for those with active lifestyles. Although free from added sugar and sucralose, it does contain Stevia so you may want to avoid it if you prefer not to consume artificial sweeteners.
This soy-free powder by Vega has a base of pea, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed and alfalfa proteins, as well as 5 grams of BCAAs per scoop and tart cherry to support recovery after a hard workout sesh.
Sweetened with Stevia, this product’s mocha flavour means it’s only really suitable for use on its own or in things like milkshakes but there are also other flavours, such as vanilla, chocolate and berry that you can play around with. Still, it’s sure to appeal to those with a sweet tooth.
This powder pouch by TRIBE is 100% natural, with no preservatives or sweeteners. Made with peas, rice, and real vanilla powder, not only is it gluten-free, but it also contains an impressive 20g of protein per serving.
Not only is this product tasty and good for your health, but at under £15, it's incredibly affordable for those wanting to try it before they invest in a bigger bag. Just be aware that it’s much higher in sugar than our other recommendations.
This raw pea and hemp-based powder has 25g of protein per scoop and includes BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) which enhance performance. Added turmeric extract and digestive enzymes mean faster absorption, and who doesn’t love the taste of salted caramel?
When it comes to flavour, protein content, and beneficial ingredients, we can’t fault this product. However, the fact that it has a high price point for 32 servings, is likely to put some people off.
This simple formula by That Protein is bursting with amino acids, fibre, and omega 3, which help to reduce post-workout fatigue. We love that there are absolutely no added ingredients, just pumpkin and chia seeds.
However, there are a couple of downsides. First of all, it’s much lower in protein than our other recommendations. Secondly, you only get 8 servings per pouch, making it a less economical choice, especially if you're having it every day.
Made from sprouted whole grain rice, this protein powder is totally free from soy and gluten - this means it’s perfect for those with allergies. With an 81% protein content and no added ingredients, it’ll provide you with all the energy you need for even the toughest workouts.
Unfortunately, this product has a rather gritty texture which won’t be to everyone’s taste if drank on its own. Therefore, since it’s unflavoured, it's very easy to add to smoothies and deserts without changing the flavour.
There's nothing more satisfying than a meal that is healthy, hearty, and cooked in one pot! Variety is the spice of life and this recipe has it in abundance. Check out the video below and for further recipe details, take a look at their website.
Whether you're looking to bulk up your body or just want a little something extra to supplement your diet, we hope you've enjoyed browsing our list of recommended protein powders. Why not try out a few different flavours and see which is your favourite?
Author: Nicola McClements
No. 1: THE PROTEIN WORKS ｜Vegan Extreme Protein Powder｜Chocolate
No. 2: Super U｜Muscle Protein
No. 3: Naked Vegan｜Protein Powder Super Blend ｜Unsweetened
No. 4: Weider ｜Vegan Protein ｜Mango Matcha Tea
No. 5: Free Soul｜Vegan Protein Blend ｜Berry
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