Nutrition

Eight Vegan Complete Protein Sources

When considering a vegan diet people often wonder about getting enough protein – especially complete proteins. There are actually many different sources of complete proteins available within a vegan diet, but not all plant-based proteins are complete protein sources on their own. In this article you can learn about great plant based vegan protein sources and which ones are complete vegan proteins.

What are complete proteins?

Proteins are long chains of smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are twenty overall – eleven that our body can make on its own, and nine essential amino acids that must be consumed in our diet. These nine essential amino acids are: 

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

When a protein contains all nine of these amino acids, it is considered a complete protein.

Many animal-based protein sources contain all of the essential amino acids – like beef, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Our body requires all of the essential amino acids for a variety of functions from building muscle to metabolizing food for energy or other basic functions. When a protein doesn’t contain all nine of the essential amino acids – like some vegan protein sources – it’s considered incomplete.

Eight vegan complete protein sources 

Here’s a list of complete vegan protein sources:

1. Quinoa

An ancient grain with a nutty flavor that is great alternative to rice or oatmeal, it can be used for any meal of the day or added to salads and other main dishes to increase protein content. 100g cooked quinoa provides: 4g protein and 3g of fiber.

2. Tofu

Made from fermented soy beans (a vegan complete protein), tofu is a versatile protein that’s available in many different textures, from silken to extra firm, and takes on the flavour of other foods you cook with it – making it easy to incorporate as a meat alternative. 100g of extra firm tofu contains 13g of protein

3. Tempeh

Another soy-based protein source, tempeh is a compressed soy product that often contains other grains to boost protein content. 100g of tempeh contains 19g of protein.

4. Edamame

Whole soybeans in their pod, edamame are a delicious vegan protein that is often added to stir fries or served as a side dish. 100 grams of edamame can contain about 11g of complete protein.

5. Pistachios

Pistachios are a complete protein source that is easy to carry on the go or add to other meals or snacks. 100g of raw pistachios contain 20g of protein.

6. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a vegan high protein source, great to make chia pudding or add to smoothies, with 100g containing about 18g of protein.

7. Hemp seeds

Containing up to 30% protein, hemp seeds are another versatile protein that are easy to add to any foods from smoothies to salads for some crunch and punch of protein. 100g of hemp seeds contain up to 25g of protein.

8. Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a grain like seed that is often ground into flour and used for a high protein, gluten free alternative to wheat flour or other cereal grains. 100g of dry buckwheat contains 13g of protein.

While other plant-based protein sources can be high in protein or contain many of the essential amino acids, they need to be combined to make complete proteins in adequate amounts. This is why vegan protein sources like rice and beans are often combined – they offer complementary amounts of different amino acids to make complete proteins.

Check out our latest tofu recipe for some delicious inspo…

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Take home message

While there are many sources of plant based protein, few vegan protein sources are true complete proteins – containing all nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts. If you are focused on complete vegan proteins, shoot for soy products, grains like quinoa and buckwheat, pistachios, chia and hemp seeds. Combining other plant based protein foods throughout the day can help you get adequate essential amino acids in your diet.

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



Claire Muszalski

Claire Muszalski

Writer and expert

Claire is a Registered Dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified Health and Wellness Coach through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.

Talking and writing about food and fitness is at the heart of Claire’s ethos as she loves to use her experience to help others meet their health and wellness goals.

Claire is also a certified indoor cycling instructor and loves the mental and physical boost she gets from regular runs and yoga classes. When she’s not keeping fit herself, she’s cheering on her hometown’s sports teams in Pittsburgh, or cooking for her family in the kitchen.

Find out more about Claire’s experience here.


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