Here is a list of 8 vegan complete protein sources. These foods have all nine essential amino acids for your body to run efficiently. Easily find these items locally in grocery or big box stores.
What is the number one question that every vegan is asked?
“How do you get your protein?”
So, the next time you get this question, direct them to this post.
Here are 7 NATURAL foods which have the complete proteins.
8 vegan complete protein foods
These 8 food items are easy to find in your grocery or big box store. These ingredients can be near the produce section or frozen section.
Just in case you can’t find them in your grocery / box stores, I have included Amazon affiliate links for some of the ingredients.
Which food do you consume daily? Tell me in the comment section.
1. Organic tempeh
Tempeh has more protein than tofu, but they are both complete sources of it. Tempeh is made by first fermenting soy beans and then compacted to form small blocks.
The protein in it is mostly bio-available so it will be easy for your body to use it towards building muscles. In one whole packed of tempeh (8oz packet) there is 51g of protein.
Ideally, you want to eat just half of it in one setting, so as to maximize the protein absorption. Our body can only process about 20-30g of protein per meal.
The good thing about Tempeh is that you can store it for a long time, especially if it is still packed. Once you open it, use tempeh within 2-3 days.
I like to marinate and cook tempeh in the air fryer.
💪 Substitution tip: Tempeh is one of the highest vegan complete protein sources. You can easily get 30g of protein in just one meal.
2. Organic tofu
Many people are surprised when they find out that tofu actually has all 9 essential amino acids. Being fermented soy product, the quality of protein in it is high.
A 3 oz of tofu has 8g of protein. So, about half a block of tofu has about 18g-20g of protein.
Source: USDA.gov (Change the portion to 0.25block)
Tofu is easy to find everywhere. I even noticed it being sold at a gas station convenience store. Everyone is realizing the protein worth of it.
3. Chia seeds
Organic chia seeds are my favorite source of complete protein. They are so easy to work with and can be put in almost all recipes. Chia can be put into drinks, spicy food, savory foods and desserts!
In one 1tsp of chia seeds, there is 2g of protein. That sounds so good, right? What I like to do is take 1Tbsp of chia seeds and grind them up. I prefer using (Affiliate Link) a mortar and pestle for this small amount of chia. I grind it up and then put it in recipes.
Grinding up chia helps bring out their oils and makes it easier to absorb it’s proteins, calcium and other nutrients. If you use store-bought ground chia seeds, they will not be as effective as freshly ground one. Ground chia will get rancid and start to loose it’s potency.
👩🍳 Chia Tip: Always use freshly ground chia seeds because it will bring out the oils. This will make it easier for your gut to get the nutrition.
4. Amaranth Grain
Amaranth grain is one of the most ancient grains we have today. It comes from the amaranth flower and grows mostly in South American nations.
This superfood was vital to the Aztecs because it was an energy powerhouse. Just the protein from it was enough to last a whole day. This was useful if you are an aztec soldier, right?
A half cup of cooked amaranth has about 4.7g of protein. The good news is that it’s very easy to cook amaranth using water. Cook it stove-top for best results.
My favorite thing to make with amaranth is this colorful tabouli recipe.
📆 Substitution tip: Amaranth is very easy to cook because you just have to put it in boiling water. You can make a big batch and use it all week.
This is one of the most common grains used as a protein source. Just like Amaranth and spirulina, this grain has it’s roots in ancient civilization. The grain was harvested as a food source by the Incas and they considered it to be very sacred. Source: Ancient Grains.
Quinoa has been controversial because it became very popular in Western world. This meant that the indigenous people in Bolivia and Peru, who relied on it for food, couldn’t afford it anymore. Source: The Guardian.
So, what can you do? Look for the fair trade label and climate friendly labels when buying them. Amazon makes it easy by showing it in their description.
One cup of cooked quinoa, there is 8g of protein. Source: CalorieKing.
☀️ Quinoa buying tip: Look for the sustainably sourced, fair trade or climate friendly pledge icons when buying quinoa.
I know I am not supposed to have favorite vegan complete protein, but edamame is my go-to source for protein! It’s easy to work with and the protein is satiating.
Edamame is sold in 2 forms here in the United States. It’s either in the pods or it’s shelled. They are both equally good, but it takes a little effort to eat the pod edamame.
There is about 17g of protein in just one cup of cooked edamame. The frozen edamames are very easy to cook with and they can be flavored a hundred ways from Sunday!
7. Hemp hearts
Hemp seeds AKA hemp hearts are very misunderstood. People often confuse it with a certain illegal item. Hemp hearts do not contain any of the bad psychoactive elements. Source: Good Hemp.
Hemp seeds are extracted from the plant and then sold as a food or nutrition product. They are a protein powerhouse because just 3 Tbsp of it contain 9.5g of protein!
🌱 Hemp seeds info: Hemp seeds don’t have any of the psychoactive elements of the plant it is extracted from. So, it’s safe to eat.
Spirulina is an algae that is seen floating on fresh and salt water lakes. This green stuff is cyanobacteria biomass that has 3 species in it. Arthrospira platensis, A. fusiformis, and A. maxima. Source: Wikipedia.
The use of spirulina, like amaranth, goes as far back as the Aztecs and Mesoamericans. It was extracted from Lakes in Mexico which was then turned into cakes. This was a good energy source for the soldiers.
There is a common misconception that spirulina only contains 8 of the 9 amino acids. Most people think that it doesn’t contain Threonine. There are about 0.208g of Threonine and 0.065g of tryptophane in 1Tbsp of spirulina. See spirulina’s protein content below.
So, why is spirulina a great vegan complete protein source? In just one Tablespoon of spirulina (about 7mg) you can get 4g of protein.
I have put spirulina in my spinach smoothie and it came out really good.
🌿 Spirulina tip: Spirulina does have threonine and tryptophane in it. These 2 are essential amino acids
Answering common questions
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food that slowly made it’s way to the west. Indonesians add Rhizopus oligosporus to fermentation process.
– Hemp seeds
– Amaranth grain
– Chia seeds
Yes, spirulina is one of those rare plant-based food that has al 9 essential amino acids in it. There is a misconception that, since it’s derived from algae, that must mean it’s not a complete protein. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In 1Tbsp of spirulina, these is the protein content:
– Histidine – 0.076g
– Isoleucine – 0.225g
– Leucine – 0.347g
– Lysine – 0.211g
– Methionine – 0.081g
– Phenylalanine – 0.195g
– Threonine – 0.208g
– Tryptophane – 0.065g
– Valine – 0.246g
Source of this spirulina protein profile is – USDA.gov (change the portion amount to 1Tbsp) and Amino.com
Vegan complete proteins doesn’t have to be a complicated issue. I love to incorporate these 8 complete protein foods in a variety of ways. I will mix and match them, keeping it interesting.
I also incorporate some vegan complete protein powders into meals and desserts. It’s all about keeping it interesting since I get bored easily.
It’s also easy to pair complete proteins with incomplete proteins (like chick peas and Brazil nuts). This way, you maximize your protein quality.
Do you struggle to get enough protein on a vegan diet? Feel free to comment below and I will try to make it simpler.