Protein: it’s the macronutrient every vegan is asked about first. People will say, ‘where do you get your protein?’ – especially if you’re an active person or a gym buff. But, as many famous vegan athletes have shown, there’s no lack of protein in a vegan diet.
Even still, lots of existing vegans and aspiring ones are on the lookout for ways to pack in more protein into their diet. With that in mind, here are some of the best answers to getting more protein as a vegan without making it difficult.
Hack 1: Eat whole grains over refined carbs
Unless you’re following a keto diet, most meals involve some form of carbohydrate. Rice, pasta and bread are the most common. However, by replacing these staple carbs with their whole-grain equivalent, you can power up the protein content and get healthier too!
Whole grains are the full-grain kernel – they include the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains are instead milled, removing the bran and germ – thus taking away much of the fibre, iron and other nutrient content of the grain.
Crucially, whole grains also contain far more protein. Most whole grains contain on average 25% more protein than their refined equivalent. Even minor swaps make a difference: brown rice has 1.83g of protein per 43g compared to 1.43 in white rice. This adds up over time, increasing overall protein intake without actually changing your portion size – all you need to do is swap in the wholegrain version.
Better yet, some key wholegrains are absolutely chock-full of protein compared to their more common cousins. Swap some of these into your usual rice or pasta dishes, and you’ll naturally increase your protein intake.
Whole Grains with protein per 100g
- Buckwheat: 5g
- Quinoa: 8.1g
- Sorghum: 11g
- Whole wheat pasta: 12.5g
- Teff: 12.2g
- Whole wheat bread: 13g
- Amaranth: 14g
Hack 2: Tofu is your friend… but not the only answer
Never has a dish been so poorly perceived by people who have never tried it. Most vegans are met with grimaces when they tell people they eat tofu – as most omnivores consider it to be bland and mushy.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While silken tofu exists (and is fantastic as a breakfast scrambled egg substitute), the more solid ‘firm’ tofu is a protein-packed boost to most meals. Tofu essentially takes on the flavours of whatever you cook it in – making it a terrific way to add protein to noodle dishes and curries.
Tofu is a traditional dish made from soya beans, and people have been eating it in Asia for generations. Now, thankfully it’s readily available at most supermarkets. With around 12g of protein per 100g and minimal carbs, it’s a great addition to any diet – not just for vegans.
However, tofu isn’t the only meat replacement you can throw in your dishes. Tempeh is, like tofu, made with soybeans – but is fermented into a ‘cake’ form that you can then fry to emulate bacon or chicken. It is packed full of protein with around 19g per 100g, low in carbs and saturated fat. It is also full of fibre – great for those following protein-rich diets who need fibre to help aid digestion.
Both tofu and tempeh might seem intimidating at first. However, with these ingredients, you can add lots of protein to diets without incurring many of the downsides of other protein foods such as saturated fats or carbs.
Hack 3: Introduce the nooch
‘Nooch’ or nutritional yeast is a vegan’s best friend. The food, which draws some unfavourable comparisons to fish food flakes, is a commonly used cheese substitute that adds a punch of flavour to most meals.
It’s a dead yeast, unlike the yeast used in bread – made by cutting the yeast in a medium for several days before it is deactivated through heat, dried and packaged in the flaky form you’ll find on shelves.
Nutritional yeast is absolutely packed with protein for what it is. A two-tablespoon serving of the US brand Bragg Nutritional Yeast has 10g. That’s ten extra grams of protein you can get into a meal just by sprinkling it over your pasta. How’s that for an easy vegan protein hack?
Nooch is also full of Vitamin B12, which is the vitamin that vegans often struggle to get. Better still, the protein in nooch is a ‘complete’ protein – with all amino acids in one go.
Hack 4: Pack some vegan snacks
The easiest food to eat is the food you have with you on the go. It seems like a simple concept, but how often do we get caught out eating a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate just because we’re out and about and don’t have time for a proper meal?
Prepare in advance to replace your most common snacks with a vegan protein snack. For example, Oatein’s vegan protein cookie is a great on-the-go snack to pack into a laptop case or your pocket for when you’re heading into the office.
You can even replace sweet treats when you know where to look. Our vegan millionaire shortbread, the Oatein Millionaire Crunch, is a salted caramel delight that offers a huge 15g protein per serving.
When you’re packing vegan protein snacks with you, you’ll have healthier options to make snack time more exciting.
Hack 5: Make protein-powder smoothies
Many of us don’t have the time to make full meals despite knowing it’s usually the healthier route. So instead, we reach for the more accessible options – but smoothies are an excellent way to add protein and other nutrients into a vegan diet with virtually no prep time.
All you’ll need is a smoothie maker or blender. You don’t need the top brands or the fanciest machine – anything that blends adequately will do. From here, you can start making smoothies that can fully replace meals or just add in calories for those trying to bulk up.
Try these two to get started:
- Chocolate banana and oat smoothie: use peanut butter, bananas, oats, cocoa powder and almond milk to create a protein-packed sweet smoothie that is a perfect breakfast alternative. Throw in chia seeds to add even more protein to the mix. Depending on the ingredients, you’ll get about 20g of protein in one of these.
- Frozen berry smoothie: a real lazy vegan’s dream, get a few bags of frozen berries from your local supermarket. Toss them into your smoothie maker, combine with oats and seeds of your choice and then blend with soy milk. Boom, job done. The protein content is hard to estimate, but you’ll likely get between 12-18g, depending on your choice of seeds.
Hack 6: Nuts and seeds in every deed
Whatever you do, wherever you’re going, carry some nuts and seeds with you for an easy protein boost. Peanuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios are all rich in protein – but are also filled with healthy fats that vegans can lack, such as omega 3s, vitamin E and selenium.
Nut butter is also a great way to enjoy the benefits of nuts. We recommend unrefined nut butter with 100% nuts to get maximum benefit. A simple combo like a peanut butter sandwich on wholewheat bread offering as much as 14-15g of protein.
And don’t forget about seeds! They’re tiny and not as filling but packed full of nutrients. You can use seeds as a garnish for meals like stir-fries and salads, eat them in trail mix, bake them into bread or pancakes, throw them in smoothies and even grind them into burgers.
In terms of high protein vegan snacks, the seeds that pack the most protein are chia, flax, sesame, sunflower, hemp and pumpkin.
So, there you have it – some easy tips to follow for how to get more protein as a vegan (or as a non-vegan too, we won’t judge.) If you’d like to carry more easy high protein snacks with you, head to our vegan protein snacks page to grab tasty, healthy treats.