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Top 10 Complete Vegetarian Protein Foods with All the Essential Amino Acids

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
Powered by USDA Nutrition Data
Top 10 Complete Vegetarian Protein Foods with All the Essential Amino Acids

Protein is necessary for the proper growth, development, and repair of the human body.

Vegetarian foods can be a great source of protein, and contrary to popular belief, most plant-based sources of protein contain all the essential amino acids. When quantities of particular amino acids, like methionine and lysine, are low, combining these foods below helps to balance their amino acid content and make them even more complete.

This list provides the top 10 complete vegetarian protein foods, and assumes vegetarians eat dairy and eggs. If you are "pure vegetarian" or vegan, just leave these animal foods out.

Vegetarian foods high in protein include tofu, beans, lentils, yogurt, milk, cheese, green peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, peanut butter, eggs, and white button mushrooms. The current daily value (%DV) for protein is set at 50 grams per day and is meant as a general target for most people. People should eat 0.36g of protein per pound of body weight, and more if they are active.

Below is a list of vegetarian protein foods ranked by common serving size, for more vegetarian protein food ideas see the articles on high protein beans, high protein nuts, and protein rich vegan foods.


Vegetarian Foods High in Protein

A block of tofu

#1: Firm Tofu

Protein
per Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
43.5g
(87% DV)
17.3g
(35% DV)
24g
(48% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Firm Tofu
Medium soft tofu provides 40% DV per cup.
Soft tofu provides 36%DV per cup.
1 cup of tempeh provides 67% DV.

Note: The amount of protein in tofu can range between 4.8g (10% DV) to 17.3g (35% DV) per 100 gram serving (or a little less than 1/2 cup). See the nutrition comparison of 10 common tofu brands. To find more, use the detailed nutrient ranking of all vegan foods high in protein.
Lentils

#2: Lentils

Protein
per Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
17.9g
(36% DV)
9g
(18% DV)
15.6g
(31% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Lentils (Cooked)

More Beans High in Protein (%DV per cup)

Lentils (36%), White Beans (35%), Split Peas (33%), Pinto (31%), Kidney Beans (31%), Black Beans (30%), Navy Beans (30%), Chickpeas (Garbanzo) (29%), and Lima beans (29%).
See more beans and legumes high in protein.
Plain yogurt with raspberries

#3: Low-Fat Yogurt

Protein
per Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
14g
(28% DV)
5.7g
(11% DV)
20.5g
(41% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Non-fat Yogurt
Low-Fat Milk and Unsweetened Soymilk provide 30% DV per 16oz glass.
Cheddar cheese slices

#4: Non-Fat Cheddar

Protein
per Oz
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
9g
(18% DV)
32.1g
(64% DV)
40.9g
(82% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cheddar Cheese (Non-fat Or Fat Free)

Other Cheese High in Protein %DV per oz (28g)

Romano (18%), Parmesan (16%), Swiss (15%), Mozarella (15%), Provolone (15%), Gouda (14%). Cottage Cheese provides 28% DV per 1/4 cup.
Green Peas

#5: Green Peas

Protein
per Cup Cooked
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
8.6g
(17% DV)
5.4g
(11% DV)
12.8g
(26% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Green Peas
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

#6: Seeds (Squash and Pumpkin Seeds)

Protein
per 1oz Handful
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
8.5g
(17% DV)
29.8g
(60% DV)
10.4g
(21% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Roasted Squash And Pumpkin Seeds (Unsalted)

Other Nuts and Seeds High in Protein %DV per oz

Peanuts (14%), Almonds (12%), Pistachios (12%), Sunflower Seeds (11%), Flax Seeds (10%), Chia Seeds (9%), and Cashews (9%).
See more high protein nuts.
A bowl of quinoa

#7: Quinoa

Protein
per Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
8.1g
(16% DV)
4.4g
(9% DV)
7.3g
(15% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Quinoa Cooked

Other Whole Grains High in Protein %DV per cup cooked

Kamut (20%), Teff (20%), Whole Wheat Pasta (18%), Buckwheat (11%), Brown Rice (11%), and Barley (7%).
See the list of whole grains high in protein.
Peanut Butter

#8: Peanut Butter

Protein
2 Tblsp
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
7.7g
(15% DV)
24.1g
(48% DV)
8.2g
(16% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Peanut Butter (Chunk Style)
Eggs

#9: Eggs

Protein
in 1 Large Egg
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
6.3g
(13% DV)
12.6g
(25% DV)
16.2g
(32% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Hard Boiled Eggs
1 egg white provides 7% DV.
1 cup of hard boiled eggs provides 34% DV.
White Button Mushrooms

#10: Mushrooms

Protein
per Cup Cooked
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
3.9g
(8% DV)
3.6g
(7% DV)
27.5g
(55% DV)
Source: Nutrition Facts for White Button Mushrooms (Stir-fried)

Other Mushrooms High in Protein %DV per cup cooked

Portabella (8%), and Shiitake (7%).

See All 200 Vegetarian Foods High in Protein

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Top 10 Complete Vegetarian Protein Foods with All the Essential Amino Acids

More Complete Protein Rich Foods for Vegetarians

FoodServingProtein
#1 Natto100 grams39% DV
(19.4g)
#2 Tempeh100 grams41% DV
(20.3g)
#3 Soy Protein Isolate100 grams177% DV
(88.3g)
#4 Toasted Wheat Germ100 grams58% DV
(29.1g)
#5 Spirulina100 grams115% DV
(57.5g)
#6 Falafel100 grams27% DV
(13.3g)
#7 Cocoa Powder100 grams39% DV
(19.6g)
#8 Whey Powder100 grams26% DV
(12.9g)

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Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.