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October 6, 2022
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Best vegan protein powder 2022: Build muscle on a plant-based diet

Best vegan protein powder 2022: Build muscle on a plant-based diet

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best vegan protein powder can help you to increase your overall protein intake if you are following a plant-based diet. Whatever your reason for reducing or cutting animal products out of your diet, a good vegan protein powder can be the difference between achieving your muscle-building goals or missing your RDA of protein altogether.

Protein powder isn’t just for athletes either: if you’re just looking to shed a few pounds, we’ve looked into ‘is protein good for weight loss?’, or if you want to bulk up, we’ve investigated ‘does protein build muscle?’ and ‘can protein shakes help you gain weight?’. Sufficient intake of high quality protein can help you achieve your fitness goals, whatever they are – it’s just a case of tailoring your consumption and exercise routines to your personal aims.  

According to Dr Brian Carson, co-founder of Whole Supp (opens in new tab)and a lecturer in the department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick, our protein requirements change depending on our activity levels. “The current RDA for protein is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body mass,” he says. “However, there is a consensus building that this target is too low, particularly in athletic and older adult populations and a move towards a recommendation of 1.2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body mass is required.”

When following a vegan diet, protein can feel hard to come by, as so many common protein sources like meat, fish and dairy products come from animal sources. However, you don’t need to eat meat to get protein, as combining the best vegan sources of protein with a high quality vegan protein powder can help you to hit our RDA. 

Additionally, a vegan diet for athletes can be just as healthy as a meat-based diet, even for those trying to maintain larger muscle mass. The key is knowing how much you are consuming and ensuring that you are consuming enough to ensure protein synthesis to help your muscles to recover and grow after exercise. 

“Exercise and nutrition act synergistically to increase our muscle mass, therefore, what you eat pre- and post-exercise is important,” adds Dr Carson. “Post-exercise meals should generally be high in protein. This promotes muscle protein synthesis to help our muscles recover and adapt following exercise. This is especially important after resistance exercise training.”

If you’re looking for alternatives to vegan protein powders, we’ve also put together tried and tested guides to the best protein powder and the best protein powder for women for female-focused supplements. 

But if it’s dairy-free you’re after, read on for our reviews of the best vegan protein powders, with options suitable for a range of budgets and requirements.

How we tested

All of the products in this guide have been tried and tested by the Live Science team. Firstly, we looked at the texture of the powder. We then evaluated how well it mixed into water, plant-based milk, and either oatmeal or a smoothie bowl. Finally, came the taste test, where we determined whether the taste was reflective of the flavor, unusually bitter or particularly sweet. Packaging was also noted, based on sustainability and convenience, as well as any additional ingredients such as digestive enzymes and sweeteners.

The best vegan protein powder we tried

(Image credit: Future)

Our favourite vegan protein powder

Specifications

Protein per serving: 20g

Carbs per serving: 3.1g

Calories per serving: 105kcal

Protein source: Pea, faba pea and hemp seed

Sweetener: Sucralose

Available flavors: Vanilla fudge, banana milkshake, chocolate fudge brownie, strawberries and cream, salted caramel, unflavored

Reasons to buy

+

Highly nutritious 

+

Good taste 

Reasons to avoid

Minimum order of two tubs 

Tubs not always recyclable 

Huel, better known for its plant-based meal replacement powders, has branched out into flavored products and nutritionally balanced snacks, including this impressive protein powder, which pulls off the rare feat of achieving excellent flavor and texture in a plant-based product alongside a complete nutrition package.

What users say

Reviewers are impressed with the taste – “by far the best tasting protein drink I’ve tried,” says one reviewer. The main objection in the reviews is the price, especially when compared to non-plant-based protein powders. At the same time they mostly acknowledge that the nutritional profile and ingredients are of a quality that justifies the price.

It’s not intended as a meal replacement or for your sole source of nutrition, as it has a lower calorie and carbohydrate profile than would be recommended for a complete meal, but nevertheless it is a nutritionally complete high protein snack. Using pea, faba pea and hemp seed as its protein source, it contains all 26 recommended vitamins and minerals and meets the UK and EU recommendations for macro- and micronutrients.

There are a couple of drawbacks. There’s a minimum order of two tubs, and it doesn’t come in sample sizes, which might make you reluctant to commit to a particular flavor. However, the taste is delicious, and it mixes really smoothly. Overall, this was our favourite protein powder we tested.


(Image credit: Future)

2. MyProtein Vegan Protein Blend

Best budget vegan protein powder

Specifications

Protein per serving: 22g

Carbs per serving: 4.1g

Calories per serving: 10kcal

Protein source: Pea Protein Isolate, fava bean isolate

Sweetener: Sucralose

Available flavors: Banana, cacao orange, carrot cake, chocolate peanut caramel, chocolate salted caramel, coffee and walnut, ruby chocolate, strawberry, turmeric latte, vanilla, white chocolate raspberry, unflavored

Reasons to buy

+

Good value for money 

+

Large range of flavors 

Reasons to avoid

Flavors not universally popular 

Some artificial ingredients 

MyProtein is known for its reliable products that offer no-frills value for money. Its vegan protein powder fits this bill. 

What users say

It scores 4.2 of 5 on Amazon (although a less enthusiastic 3.25 on the MyProtein site) has many fans. “Really, REALLY tasty”, raves one reviewer. Not everyone is convinced. “The ingredients are all good, high protein, low carbs, sugar and fat. Now for the taste. First of all it tastes nothing like any chocolate I have ever tasted before. I can’t work out if the flavor you get is perfume, soap or crushed up vitamins.”

Made in a wide range of flavors (admittedly, not as many as the bewildering 40+ flavors that its whey protein comes in, but still more than most of its vegan counterparts), it provides a hefty 22g of protein per serving, for just 110 calories.

As you’d expect with a value product, it’s not as natural as some of the more expensive vegan protein powders. It contains processed ingredients such as high-oleic sunflower oil, xanthan gum and sucralose, and strict vegans and vegetarians should know that MyProtein also produces products such as beef biltong, hydrolyzed beef protein and fish oils.

The flavors aren’t to everyone’s taste – we found the chocolate flavor to be very unchocolatey and rather artificial. Moreover, some of our testers experienced a slightly unpleasant ‘cotton mouth’ sensation after trying this protein powder. However, it mixes well and doesn’t overpower the flavor when blended with fruit, peanut butter or other ingredients. 


(Image credit: Future)

3. The Protein Works Vegan Protein

This powder is high in protein, but low in calories

Specifications

Protein per serving: 25.1g

Carbs per serving: 0.6g

Calories per serving: 110kcal

Protein source: Soy protein isolate, pea protein isolate, pumpkin seed, sunflower, brown rice

Sweetener: Sucralose

Available flavors: Choc mint brownie, choc peanut cookie, chocolate silk, cookies’n’cream, millionaire’s shortbread, salted caramel, strawberries’n’cream, vanilla crème, unflavored

Reasons to buy

+

High protein content 

+

Low carb 

Reasons to avoid

Not suitable for anyone with a soy allergy 

Too sweet for some 

This protein powder is designed by vegan nutritionists and made with a blend of five different types of protein.

What users say

It scores 4.2 stars of 5 on Amazon overall. However, one reviewer rates the flavor as “insanely terrible”. At the other end of the scale, a fan says, “I’ve tried a few plant based protein shakes and they’ve all tasted like old carpet. I was expecting similar with this one though I was hoping it might at least be new carpet flavor but OMG it tastes great. “

This protein powder actually delivers the largest helping of protein of all, coming in at a punchy 25.1g per serving. Be aware that one of those protein sources is soy, which Dr Dehghan recommends but which is also a common allergen.

 It isn’t the easiest vegan protein powder to blend – we found that you really need a metal spiral or a blender to get a smooth consistency – and it’s definitely designed for those with a sweet tooth. Nonetheless, it worked well with water as well as plant-based milks and did not feel overwhelming when blended with fruit or peanut butter. A big plus for The Protein Works is that it offers two additional versions of this protein powder: a diet one (with fewer calories) and an ‘extreme’ one (infused with a mineral and vitamin blend). Strict vegans and vegetarians should note that this brand also produces products such as whey protein and fish oils. 


(Image credit: Future)

4. Maximuscle Plant Max Vegan Protein Powder

Best vegan protein powder for competitive athletes

Specifications

Protein per serving: 20g

Carbs per serving: 0.8g

Calories per serving: 108kcal

Protein source: Pea protein isolate, brown rice

Sweetener: Sucralose

Available flavors: Chocolate, banana fudge

Reasons to buy

+

Screened for banned substances 

+

Palatable flavor and texture 

Reasons to avoid

Only two flavors available 

Made by non-vegan manufacturer 

Anyone who competes in athletic events will know how important it is not to take any banned substances, either deliberately or inadvertently. 

What users say

In reviews on Amazon it scores 4.1 of 5. Some reviewers note that it’s expensive compared with other vegan protein powders. As another points out, however, “There are cheaper vegan protein supplements out there, but the ones I’ve checked out tend to compromise on the quality, they often ‘pad out’ their mixes… In many respects, you get what you pay for.”

With this protein powder you can be confident that you’ll not breach any doping regulations. All batches are screened for banned substances on the Informed Sport program.

The flavor and texture are pretty good, although it’s a pity it only comes in chocolate and banana flavor. A wider choice, including vanilla, would be welcome, and it only comes in one size (although the pouch arguably makes it more environmentally friendly than a tub). Strict vegans may have some reservations about purchasing from a manufacturer that also produces non-vegan products, including whey products and fish oils.

If you’re a fan of using creatine powder, we found this product mixed extremely well together with creatine and water too.


(Image credit: Future)

5. Bulk Vegan Protein Powder

A brilliant consistency that blends well

Specifications

Protein per serving: 23g

Carbs per serving: 5.5g

Calories per serving: 131kcal

Protein source: Pea Protein Isolate, Brown Rice Protein, Pumpkin Seed Protein, Flaxseed Powder, Quinoa Flour

Sweetener: Stevia

Available flavors: Apple strudel, banana caramel, caramel latte, chocolate mint, chocolate peanut, peanut butter, strawberry, vanilla, white chocolate coconut, unflavored

Reasons to buy

+

Good value 

+

Large choice of flavors 

Reasons to avoid

Taste and texture not the best 

Bulk is a reliable manufacturer of good value protein powder, and the vegan version is no exception. 

What users say

Overall, reviewers are pretty enthusiastic, awarding it 4.1 stars of 5 overall. Fans praise it for not including artificial ingredients, especially sweeteners, and many find it delicious. Critics of the flavor are inventive in their descriptions. “It tastes like green peas in coffee”, and “more chemical latte than caramel latte”, say two reviewers about the caramel latte flavor. 

Made up of five different protein sources, it provides a chunky 23g of protein per serving, although with a carbohydrate content a little higher than some others at 5.5g. It comes in a dizzying array of flavors, plus an unflavored version, and includes digestive enzymes in an otherwise reassuringly small list of ingredients. Vegans and vegetarians should be aware that Bulk also produces products such as beef jerky, fish jerky and fish oils.

Where it falls down, in our opinion and that of many, is in the flavor. The stevia flavor is rather overpowering and it’s extremely sweet, but without much depth of flavor (although many reviewers enjoy the taste). However, its superb consistency – thick, creamy and easily blendable – makes it easy to enjoy this protein powder on its own with water or milk, or as a component of fruit smoothies and desserts. As with quite a few of the other vegan protein powders, it is made by a manufacturer that makes non-vegan products, although that presumably is one of the reasons they can keep the cost down.


(Image credit: Future)

6. Innermost The Health Protein

Best vegan protein powder for immune support

Specifications

Protein per serving: 31g

Carbs per serving: 2.5g

Calories per serving: 150kcal

Protein source: pea and brown rice

Sweetener: Sucralose

Available flavors: Smooth chocolate, creamy vanilla

Reasons to buy

+

High protein content

+

Immune-supporting ingredients 

Reasons to avoid

Expensive 

Only two flavors 

Innermost Health takes a holistic approach to its products – it claims to use science, research and “best practices from Ayurvedic and Asian medicine” in crafting its products. 

What users say

It scores an impressive 5 stars on the Innermost website, with most reviewers giving glowing feedback on the taste, praising its “delicious, creamy taste”. One reviewer was disappointed with the vanilla flavor, saying they struggled to taste the vanilla and could taste the peas and brown rice, but most are positive about the flavors.

This plant-based protein powder ticks those boxes, combining an exceptionally high 31g of protein per serving with immune-supporting ingredients such as glutamine and medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, reishi and cordyceps). It does have a slightly higher calorie count than most of the other vegan protein powders with 150 calories per serving.

There’s a strong emphasis on natural and non-GMO ingredients, but the protein powder is sweetened with sucralose, an artificial sweetener, and vegans and vegetarians should be aware that some of their products, such as the collagen peptides, are not vegetarian.

We found the flavor pleasant, though we were aware of a slightly unusual underlying flavor, perhaps due to the unusual list of ingredients, and it mixed well. 


(Image credit: Future)

7. Optimum Nutrition GoldStandard 100% Plant Based Protein Powder

This vegan protein powder ticks most boxes

Specifications

Protein per serving: 24g

Carbs per serving: 4.2g (chocolate) / 5.2g (vanilla)

Calories per serving: 143 (chocolate) / 144 (vanilla) kcal

Protein source: pea and rice

Sweetener: Sucralose

Available flavors: Chocolate, vanilla

Reasons to buy

+

Good flavor 

+

Informed Choice certified 

Reasons to avoid

Only available in two flavors  

Only available in hard plastic tub with scoop 

This protein powder ticks most boxes when it comes to protein powders. 

What users say

Some reviewers criticize it as being overly sweet and sickly, but most praise it for being one of the best-tasting vegan protein powders out there. “Not overly sweet which you find with other protein shakes, mixes really well so it’s not grainy and doesn’t clump together on the bottom/side.”

Made by a giant in the industry, Optimum Nutrition, it is Informed Choice and Vegan Society certified, so you can be sure of the ingredients, and it delivers 24g of protein per serving. The flavor and texture are pretty good; we tried the vanilla, which had just the right hit of vanilla without being too sweet, and unlike some vegan proteins it didn’t make our oatmeal go all stodgy. In fact, the powder is quite fine which means it doesn’t come lumpy mixed with water or plant-based milk. 

The downside for vegetarians and vegans is that Optimum Nutrition also makes whey products and sells fish oils, so it’s not a vegan company. Its plant-based eco-credentials are further marred by the fact that it only comes in a plastic tub with a plastic scoop.


(Image credit: Future)

8. Form Performance Protein

Best vegan protein powder for sustainability

Specifications

Protein per serving: 30g

Carbs per serving: 2g

Calories per serving: 150kcal

Protein source: Organic pea, brown rice, pumpkin seed

Sweetener: Stevia, thaumatin

Available flavors: Chocolate peanut, tiramisu, vanilla, banoffee, chocolate hazelnut

Reasons to buy

+

High in protein 

+

Sustainable ingredients and packaging 

Reasons to avoid

Expensive 

Few plain flavors 

There’s much to love about this protein powder. 

What users say

Most of the reviews can be summed up in the words of this reviewer: “The taste is great, it is a quality product with added extras like probiotics, it has responsible eco packaging and whilst it is pricier than others on the market, all of the before mentioned make this worth it.”

Packing a powerful protein punch from high quality, plant-based proteins, it also tastes pretty good. We found the texture to be pleasantly smooth and creamy. The powder is easy to mix and the flavors are fun, though some of them may come across as way too sweet. They may also overpower the taste when blended with other ingredients. Still, it’s worth trying Form out. Their protein powder is enriched with 5g of glutamine and 5g of BCAA per serving, making it a perfect muscle building supplement. It also contains several digestive enzymes and is devoid of artificial flavorings and thickeners, which can be helpful for people suffering from gastrointestinal issues. The addition of curcumin to combat inflammation is a nice touch.

Vegans can rest assured that it comes from a business only selling plant-based products (even the omega oils are vegan). It’s not cheap, but most flavors are available in smaller sample sizes, and you are getting a product that is kind to the environment in every way (there’s no plastic scoop and the packaging is 100% plastic-free and compostable).

It’s not surprising it’s won awards. Reviewers are enthusiastic about the protein to calorie ratio and the flavors. It’s not to everybody’s taste – there are grumbles from some about the flavor, powdery texture and excessive sweetness.


(Image credit: Future)

9. Misfits Vegan Protein Powder

When it comes to flavor, this is one of our favourite products

Specifications

Protein per serving: 17g (chocolate) / 16.6g (salted caramel and vanilla) / 20.1g (cookies & cream)

Carbs per serving: 1g (chocolate) / 1.5g (salted caramel, cookies & cream) / 1.6g (vanilla)

Calories per serving: 93kcal (salted caramel, vanilla) / 95kcal (chocolate) / 113 (cookies & cream)

Protein source: Pea, organic sunflower

Sweetener: Stevia

Available flavors: Chocolate, salted caramel, vanilla, cookies & cream

Reasons to buy

+

Lower calorie than most 

+

Plant-based manufacturer 

Reasons to avoid

Too sweet for some 

Lower protein content than most 

There’s a bit of a trade-off with this protein powder. 

What users say

It has a slightly underwhelming 3.9 stars of 5 on Amazon. Although plenty of happy customers love the flavors, some find it too sweet (which was our experience). “I REALLY wanted to like something about these but unfortunately the taste was really artificial and the texture like eating wet sand”, laments one. 

While three out of the four flavors come in at under 100 calories, so it may appeal to anyone watching their caloric intake (and see Dr Dehghan’s comments on this, above), the flip-side is that the protein content is a little lower than in most. It has a good level of sweetness and a pleasant, subtle flavor that works well with a wide range of ingredients. Nonetheless, Misfits powder does not blend easily and you need to give it a good shake or stir before serving. 

Vegans will appreciate the purely plant-based ethos and product range of Misfits. Better still, the packaging is biodegradable and even the ink used is eco-friendly. Misfits works with Climate Partner to offset its emissions and aims to be plastic-free by 2022. This protein powder isn’t the cheapest, and it’s only available in one size – another trade-off.


(Image credit: Alice Ball)

10. Mikuna Chocho Superfood Protein

This most innovative vegan protein powder we tried

Specifications

Protein per serving: 20g

Carbs per serving: 11g

Calories per serving: 200kcal

Protein source: chocho

Sweetener: Coconut blossom nectar and monk fruit extract

Available flavors: Cacao, vanilla and pure chocho

Reasons to buy

+

Highly nutritious

+

Sustainably sourced

Reasons to avoid

Relatively expensive

Higher in  calories

Mikuna is a relatively new brand, on a mission to introduce the US to Chocho, the Andean-grown, plant-based protein. According to the brand, this whole food source helped to nourish the Incan civilizations thousands of years ago.

Chocho is a lupini variety that grows high in the Andes. It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, as well as vitamins E and D, and calcium. One serving of Mikeuna’s Superfood Protein also contains 7g of dietary fiber.

Plus, if sustainability is important to you, chocho is a regenerative plant, meaning it is drought-tolerant, solely rain-watered and helps to fix nitrogen deep into the soil. It’s also vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and paleo and keto-friendly.

When it comes to taste, we were in agreement with users who were hoping for a slightly richer chocolate flavor. One wrote, “It’s pretty decent.. 7/10…[but] that quintessential ‘plant protein taste’ is there and a bit overpowers the chocolate taste you want”. We would agree – while the flavor certainly isn’t unpleasant, it’s not as rich and chocolatey as you expect. However, given how few ingredients it contains, and the lack of artificial sweeteners, it’s no surprise that the powder is slightly on the bitter side. It does blend well, however, and was a pleasant addition to smoothies and oatmeal.

The drawbacks? Mikuna Superfood Protein is a little higher in calories than some other brands, at 200 calories per serving. Therefore, it may not be suitable for those with weight loss goals. At around $37.79 for 15 servings (or $67.49 for 30) it’s also fairly expensive.

How to choose the best vegan protein powder for you

When choosing the best vegan protein powder, the first step is to decide on your protein source. Discard any products that contain ingredients that you’re allergic to or that you don’t tolerate well. For example, soy is a popular component of many plant-based supplements. It’s a great protein source with a complete amino acid profile, but many people are allergic to it, don’t tolerate it well or have a thyroid condition that may be made worse by eating more of it. If this applies to you, look into pea, hemp or brown rice as they may be better suited to your needs. 

Pea protein is made out of yellow peas, and as such, it’s FODMAP diet friendly and free of allergens. It’s also very high in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) which promote muscle fiber synthesis and can be a good addition to many different heavy resistance training routines. 

Another hypoallergenic protein source is brown rice. Although it’s great quality, brown rice does not boast a complete amino acid profile, so has to be paired with different vegan protein sources. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many of the best vegan protein powders will also contain hemp extracts, which are a rich source of essential amino acids, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. However, hemp has a strong, earthy aftertaste that may not be to everyone’s liking. As a general rule, choose products that combine several different protein sources to make sure that you get all of the amino acids that your body needs.      

The next step would be to find a product that aligns with your health and fitness goals. Protein powders are generally divided into two categories: protein supplements and mass gainers. Protein supplements aim to exclusively top up your protein intake, whilst mass gainers are designed to also deliver a hefty dose of calories and a bulk of different nutrients that support muscle growth. If your primary aim is to lose weight, aim for the regular protein powders, particularly those that are lower in carbohydrate. 

Another aspect to look into is supporting ingredients. The best vegan protein powders will come with a host of vitamins, minerals and other functional ingredients, such as digestive enzymes to support gut health.          

Choose a product that tastes well and easily blends with other ingredients. Lastly, consider the price. Although the best vegan protein powders do not necessarily have to come with a hefty price tag, they’re usually of better quality and they may include more supporting nutrients. If you have a highly specific fitness goal, you may be better off investing in a more expensive product that caters to your needs and circumstances.    

The benefits of using vegan protein powder

Calculating the correct amount of protein you need depends on several factors; your body weight, your age and how physically active you are. An average person will need 0.75g of protein per kg of body weight, increasing to 1-1.2g in the over-65s. People who train a lot will need even more – about 1.2-2g per kg of body weight.

To boost your protein consumption Dr. Dehghan recommends starting with whole foods. “The easy way to increase your protein intake is to start with regular food,” she said. “You can easily increase your protein intake by just adding hemp seeds, tofu or any other protein source to your smoothies or meals.”

If you feel that you still want to add extra protein to your diet, then Dr. Dehghan lists soy and pea proteins as her first recommendations. “Both have been around for a long time and most studies use soy or pea protein powders to compare with whey protein. Another one of my favorites is protein powders that use a combination of different protein sources, for example, pea and brown rice.”

While there is a lot of advice out there on when to consume your protein, Dr. Dehghan said concentrating on getting enough protein and calories should be the main focus. “As the sports dietitian Dan Benardot says, we humans are energy-first systems, meaning that if we don’t increase our caloric intake to meet the increased demand during exercise, any excess protein will be utilized as fuel and not for muscle synthesis. This is why increasing calorie intake should be top priority for anybody who’s engaging in physical activity, even before deciding on protein shakes.”

This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.

Patricia Carswell is a freelance journalist specializing in health and fitness. She has written for a huge variety of national newspapers, magazines and websites, including Healthy, Top Santé, Women’s Fitness and fitandwell.com (opens in new tab), and writes a monthly column for British Rowing’s content hub. She’s the founder and host of rowing blog and podcast, Girl on the River, where guests have included Sir Matthew Pinsent and multiple Olympian Frances Houghton MBE. She keeps fit by rowing, walking, and wild swimming, and is at her happiest when on or in the water.

With contributions from

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