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

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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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.


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Vegetarian Foods High in Protein

1 Firm Tofu
A block of 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.
2 Lentils
Lentils

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.
3 Low-Fat Yogurt
Plain yogurt with raspberries
Low-Fat Milk and Unsweetened Soymilk provide 30% DV per 16oz glass.
4 Non-Fat Cheddar
Cheddar cheese slices

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.
5 Green Peas
Green Peas
6 Seeds (Squash and Pumpkin Seeds)
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

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 Cahsews (9%).
See more high protein nuts.
7 Quinoa
A bowl of quinoa

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.
8 Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter
9 Eggs
Eggs
1 egg white provides 7% DV.
1 cup of hard boiled eggs provides 34% DV.
10 Mushrooms
White Button Mushrooms

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

#1 Natto 39% DV (19.4g) in 100grams
#2 Tempeh 41% DV (20.3g) in 100grams
#3 Soy Protein Isolate 177% DV (88.3g) in 100grams
#4 Toasted Wheat Germ 58% DV (29.1g) in 100grams
#5 Spirulina 115% DV (57.5g) in 100grams
#6 Falafel 27% DV (13.3g) in 100grams
#7 Cocoa Powder 39% DV (19.6g) in 100grams
#8 Whey Powder 26% DV (12.9g) in 100grams

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View more food groups with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

Data Sources and References

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

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