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

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN

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.

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.

The current daily value (%DV) for protein is set at 50 grams per day and is meant as a general target for most people. 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. For more see the article on vegan protein foods

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Vegetarian Foods High in Protein

A block of tofu1. Firm Tofu
1 cup (252g)200 calories (139g)100g
87% DV (43.5g)48% DV (24g)35% DV (17.3g)
  • Medium soft tofu provides 40% DV per cup.
  • Soft tofu provides 36%DV per cup
  • 1 cup of tempeh provides 67% DV.
See more plant based vegan protein foods.

Nutrition Facts for Raw Firm Tofu.
Beans2. Beans and Lentils (Lentils)
1 cup (198g)200 calories (172g)100g
36% DV (17.9g)31% DV (15.6g)18% DV (9g)

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.

Nutrition Facts for Lentils (Cooked).
Plain yogurt with a raspberry3. Dairy (Non-Fat Yogurt)
1 cup (245g)200 calories (357g)100g
28% DV (14g)41% DV (20.5g)11% DV (5.7g)
Low-Fat Milk and Unsweetened Soymilk provide 30% DV per 16oz glass.

Nutrition Facts for Low-Fat Yogurt.
Cheddar cheese slices4. Cheese (Non-Fat Cheddar)
1 oz (28g)200 calories (127g)100g
18% DV (9g)82% DV (40.9g)64% DV (32.1g)

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.

Cheddar Cheese (Non-fat or Fat Free).
Green Peas5. Green Peas (Cooked)
1 cup (160g)200 calories (238g)100g
17% DV (8.6g)26% DV (12.8g)11% DV (5.4g)
A bunch of squash seeds6. Nuts and Seeds (Squash Seeds)
1oz handful (28g)200 calories (35g)100g
17% DV (8.5g)21% DV (10.4g)60% DV (29.8g)

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.

Nutrition Facts for Roasted Pumpkin and Squash Seeds.
Quinoa7. Whole Grains (Quinoa)
1 cup (185g)200 calories (167g)100g
16% DV (8.1g)15% DV (7.3g)9% DV (4.4g)

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.

Nutrition Facts for Quinoa (Cooked).
Peanut Butter8. Peanut Butter
2 tblsp (32g)200 calories (34g)100g
15% DV (7.7g)16% DV (8.2g)48% DV (24.1g)
Whole eggs9. Eggs
Per Egg (50g)200 calories (129g)100g
13% DV (6.3g)32% DV (16.2g)25% DV (12.6g)
  • 1 egg white provides 7% DV
  • 1 cup of hard boiled eggs provides 34% DV

Nutrition Facts for Hard-Boiled Eggs.
Mushrooms10. White Button Mushrooms (Cooked)
1 cup (108g)200 calories (769g)100g
8% DV (3.9g)55% DV (27.5g)7% DV (3.6g)

Other Mushrooms High in Protein %DV per cup cooked

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

Nutrition Facts for White Button Mushrooms (Stir Fried).
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Top 10 Complete Vegetarian Protein Foods with All the Essential Amino Acids

More Complete Protein Rich Foods for Vegetarians

#1 Natto68% DV (34g) in 100grams37% DV (18.4g) in 1 cup (95g)
#2 Tempeh67% DV (33.7g) in 100grams42% DV (21.1g) in 1 cup (104g)
#3 Soy Protein Isolate50% DV (25.1g) in 100grams105% DV (52.7g) in 1oz (~4 tblsp) (60g)
#4 Toasted Wheat Germ17% DV (8.3g) in 100grams30% DV (15.2g) in 1 oz (52g)
#5 Spirulina8% DV (4g) in 100grams79% DV (39.6g) in 1 tblsp (69g)
#6 Falafel5% DV (2.3g) in 100grams16% DV (8g) in 1 falafel (60g)
#7 Cocoa Powder2% DV (1.1g) in 100grams34% DV (17.2g) in 1 tblsp (88g)
#8 Whey Powder2% DV (1g) in 100grams15% DV (7.3g) in 1 tblsp (57g)

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Data Sources and References

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