Ranking the best vegan protein powder of 2023

Ranking the best vegan protein powder of 2023


Many vegans are on the lookout for the best supplemental sources for vegan protein.

Though it used to be a nightmare to try to find quality vegan protein powder, that’s not the case anymore.

Though whey protein (derived from cows) is still the dominant protein source in protein powder supplements, there are a plethora of great vegan protein powders out there, and they aren’t just for vegans.  

People with milk allergies, severe lactose intolerance, or simply an interest in getting a different amino acid profile might want to look into vegan protein powder too.

Wondering what the best vegan protein powders are? We’ve got you covered. Our research team has reviewed and ranked the top vegan protein powders on the market, plus taken a close-up look at the advantages and disadvantages of vegan protein powder.

Rankings

Last updated: June 8, 2023
Vegan protein powders considered: 23
Hours of research: 47
Experts reviewed: 6
Scientific papers referenced: 14

1. Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Rice and Pea Protein

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There are plenty of vegan protein powders out there, but they rarely contain the expert sourcing and care we see with Transparent Lab’s Organic Vegan.

Inside Organic Vegan you’ll find USDA certified organic pea and brown rice protein as well as natural flavors and natural sweeteners.

No cheap soy protein. No artificial anything. No shortcuts. Organic Vegan comes in both chocolate and vanilla flavors, providing 24 grams of quality protein per serving. Without a doubt, this is BodyNutrition’s #1 vegan protein powder on the market.

2. Ladder Plant Protein Powder

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Ladder plant protein is a vegan friendly powder that is free of lactose and NSF-certified for purity. One of the unique advantages of this vegan protein is that it offers a complete profile of essential amino acids. This ensures your muscles get the nutrition they need to recover and perform.

Each serving also contains probiotics to ensure a healthy gut and optimized digestion.

3. Naked Pea Protein

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Yes, there are other pure pea protein products out there, but can they make the claims that Naked Pea Protein does? It’s non-GMO, sourced from farms in North America, and it proudly advertises its independent lab testing that verifies its purity and its lack of contaminants like heavy metals.

4. Garden of Life Raw Protein and Greens

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As is usually the case, Garden of Life puts out a very strong protein product for vegans. Their Raw Protein and Greens blend combines sprouted brown rice protein, pea protein, and chia protein with Garden of Life’s hallmark, their proprietary blend of greens.

Adding more vegetable nutrients to your diet is never a bad thing, and doing it in conjunction with a diverse mix of vegan protein sources is even better.

5. Vega All-In-One Shake

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If you’re looking for a little something extra, Vega’s got it. It’s a pea and hemp protein based protein powder that has the added benefit of fiber and a blend of vitamins and minerals. To top it off, it’s sweetened with stevia for taste and has fruit concentrates added for antioxidant power.

6. BulkSupplements Pure Pea Protein Powder

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Straight and simple, like the rest of BulkSupplements’ products, their pea protein is exceptionally pure and has zero adulterants, fillers, or flavorings.

Purists and minimalists will love this one, but if you want a little more flavor with your protein, there are some better options.

7. Orgain Plant-Based Organic Protein

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Orgain includes rice, pea, chia seed, and hemp protein for a robust amino acid profile, and keeps the carb content low with sugar alcohols instead of sucrose or fructose to sweeten the mix.

There isn’t much in the way of additional nutrients, but if you want a protein shake that is creamy and flavored so it doesn’t taste like chalk, Orgain is a solid choice.

8. NOW Sports Pea Protein

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Now Sports is a straight and simple, no-nonsense vegan protein powder. There’s only one ingredient, and it’s non-GMO yellow pea protein isolate, the purest and most concentrated form of protein.

If you know that all you need is pure protein, NOW sports is the way to go.

9. VeganSmart All-In-One

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VeganSmart takes the crown for the most diverse vegan protein profile. It’s got hemp, pea, chia, potato, and chlorella protein, plus a good vitamin and mineral mix.

Strict paleo and low-carb enthusiasts will scoff at the sugar content (a relatively mild five grams per serving and 14 grams of total carbohydrates), so it’s not for everyone, but if you aren’t on the low carb bandwagon, it’s a good choice.

10. Promix Vegan Complete

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Promix is a blend of pea protein and sprouted brown rice protein. Other than that, the only real unique aspect about it is its inclusion of 200% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin B.

However, without the other B complex vitamins, or any larger micronutrient strategy, it feels like more of a gimmick than a selling point.

Category winners

Best vegan protein overall: Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein

Transparent Labs is our top overall pick thanks to its simple but effective formulation. Too many protein powders are bloated with additives—instead, Transparent Labs provides a simple and all-natural vegan protein powder that still tastes great thanks to natural cocoa powder and stevia. 

Best-tasting vegan protein: Ladder Plant Protein

With its combination of cocoa, monk fruit extract, and only a tiny amount of sugar, Ladder Plant Protein has a great taste and texture that doesn’t rely on artificial flavors and additives. With both pea and pumpkin protein, it’s hard to beat if you want a great-tasting and functional vegan protein powder. 

Best vegan protein with a complete amino acid profile: Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein

For a full profile of amino acids, we like Transparent Labs. Using both rice and pea protein allows it to cover all of its bases when it comes to the essential amino acids, leaving you with no nutritional disadvantage compared to an animal-based protein.

Best vegan protein for women: Ladder Plant Protein

Ladder uses a great blend of protein sources for comprehensive amino acid coverage, and has barely any sugar. It’s an excellent choice for female athletes, and for women looking to shed fat while maintaining muscle mass.

Best vegan protein for weight loss: Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein

For weight loss, you want protein that provides a complete amino acid profile with no added sugar. Transparent Labs knocks it out of the park on this front, delivering a great vegan-friendly protein powder that uses calorie-free stevia as a source of sweetness instead of sugar.

Best vegan protein for athletes: Ladder Plant Protein

Thanks to the combination of pumpkin and pea protein, Ladder boasts an impressive array of amino acids to boost post-workout recovery. On top of that, it keeps the carb content super low, making it great for staying lean while adding strength. 

Who should buy vegan protein powder?

If you are on a vegan diet, it can be tricky to get enough protein from a variety of sources unless you are a very skilled cook. Unlike animal sources of protein, like beef, chicken, or dairy, vegan foods tend not to have a balanced amino acid profile. Here’s who should consider a vegan protein powder:

People who need high protein intake but eat little or no meat. As such, it can be tough to get all of the essential amino acids on a regular basis, particularly if you have high protein needs, unless you’re constantly rotating your protein sources across foods like corn, beans and legumes, and tofu.

While not all vegan protein powder products contain a full range of all of the essential amino acids, by outsourcing some of your amino acid needs to a consistent source from the protein powder, you can adjust the rest of your diet to cover the few missing amino acids.

Some (though not all) vegan protein powders take care of this for you by using multiple plant-based protein sources to deliver a complete essential amino acid profile.

Vegan and vegetarian athletes who have high protein turnover. Vegan protein powders are nearly essential for athletes and others who have high protein turnover, as a vegan diet can make it tough to get the very concentrated protein delivery that an omnivore could get from eggs, fish, or other protein-dense foods.

Again, while it is possible to eat a protein-focused vegan diet without supplementing, taking a vegan protein powder can make it a lot easier to get the protein you need, for example right after finishing a workout at the gym.

People looking to make vegan-friendly meal replacement shakes. Since traditional ingredients like milk and yogurt are off the table when it comes to making healthy meal replacement shakes for vegans, a protein powder is a great addition to ensure you’re getting quality sources of amino acids.

How we ranked

To rate the best vegan protein powders on the market, we first aggregated a list of all of the options that were 100% vegan. Then, among all the products out there, we narrowed the field by looking at these criteria:

Only sources with high protein concentration. We only included products that used the best plant-based protein sources with the highest concentration of protein (as a percentage of total weight) and the best, broad-spectrum amino acid profile.

The highest-quality vegan protein sources are soy and pea protein, so we eliminated all protein powders that did not contain at least one of these two sources of protein. That left us with two broad categories of protein powders: pure single-ingredient protein powders, like Naked Pea, and blends that included multiple sources of protein, which might include rice protein, hemp protein powder, and chia seeds.

Balance of single-ingredient products and multi-ingredient blends. Depending on your supplementation goals, either one of these categories might be a good fit for you. Pure protein products tend to have a higher concentration of protein per gram, but blends have a better amino acid profile and can offer additional benefits. For these reasons, we rated products from each category with slightly separate criteria.

Purity was of the utmost importance for single-ingredient proteins. For single-source vegan protein products, we used purity as the metric: did the protein come from a non-GMO or organic source? Was there independent lab testing for purity? Is the packaging engineered to keep out oxygen and preserve the integrity of the amino acids?

These were the kinds of questions we asked when rating these protein powders. We had high standards for purity and quality of ingredients, so we picked only the very best from these products.

Supplement design was key for multi-ingredient vegan protein powders. For multi-ingredient vegan protein powders, we looked at the range of protein sources, plus other beneficial ingredients like fiber.

Great taste without too much added sugar. We also kept an eye on flavoring: these protein powders should taste good, but not use too much added sugar. Since using plant-based flavoring is important to many vegans and vegetarians, we had a preference for protein powders that used ingredients like stevia as opposed to artificial sweeteners.

After rating single-source and multi-ingredient protein powders separately, we pooled our results. Most of the products that made the final rankings were from the multi-ingredient category, thanks to the strength of their diverse amino acid profile and the opportunity to provide fiber and other useful extras, but several pure pea protein powders made the list nonetheless.

These protein powders represent the best options out there for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone else who wants a top quality plant-based protein.

FAQ

Q: Why should you use vegan protein powder?

A: Vegan protein powders are great if you can’t get a good quantity of protein in your diet as a vegetarian or vegan.

They are also surprisingly popular among regular people who eat a normal diet (i.e. omnivores) who have dairy allergies or severe lactose intolerance and can’t consume the most popular forms of protein powder (casein and whey protein), which are both dairy-based.

Rotating through a wide variety of amino acid sources can get tiring for vegans and vegetarians, and many high-protein vegan foods (such as beans) are also high in fiber, which makes them hard to consume in large amounts.

As such, vegan weight lifters, athletes, and bodybuilders tend to rely on protein powder even more heavily than their omnivore counterparts.

Q: What is the healthiest vegan protein powder?

A: If your focus is to get a vegan protein powder that is as healthy as possible, you want to look for a single source plant based protein. In our research team’s rankings, we found that pure pea protein had the best balance of amino acids and purity.

We particularly liked Naked Pea, Bulk Supplements, and Now Sports’ versions of pea protein. These products have a slight edge over the competition, but in the grand scheme of your overall diet, any high quality vegan protein powder is going to be very healthy compared to the kinds of protein sources you’d see in a typical Western diet, like corn-fed, high-fat beef.

Q: Do you need vegan protein powder?

A: Plenty of vegans get along just fine without taking protein powder. However, if you are active, and especially if you are an athlete, you might want to invest in a vegan protein powder.

It is theoretically possible to maintain a high protein diet as a vegan, but the reality is that many vegans aren’t successful at this endeavor without supplementation.

One study, for example, found that a substantial proportion of the male vegans in their study had only “marginally adequate” protein intake (1).

Moreover, their urinary excretion of the amino acid taurine was extremely low compared to non-vegans. While these findings don’t necessarily mean that vegans are worse off, it does suggest that vegans with high protein needs may want to consider a vegan protein powder.

Q: What is a good vegan protein powder for bodybuilding?

A: For bodybuilding, you want an ultra-pure vegan protein source. Balance in amino acids is actually not all that important, since a vegan bodybuilder is likely to be on a very high protein diet to begin with, so meeting minimum amino acid levels across the board is less likely to be an issue.

For this application, we recommend one of the pure pea protein products in our rankings, like Bulk Supplements, Naked Pea, or Now Sports Pea Protein.

These offer the highest amount of protein per unit mass, and are not cut with any flavoring agents, fiber, or other ingredients.

If you are looking for something you can mix up directly with water, try Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein or the Vega All-In-One Shake. While these products add a marginal amount of carbohydrates and fiber, they have the added benefit of being pretty tasty with nothing but tap water added.

Q: What is a good vegan protein powder for weight loss?

A: For weight loss, you want a vegan protein powder that has a balance of amino acids so you can use it as a meal replacement.

On top of that, some fiber is useful to get an extra appetite suppressant effect from the dietary fiber. Among the products our research team reviewed, some of the best vegan protein powders for weight loss include Battle Ready Fuel, Garden of Life Raw Protein and Greens, and Vega All-In-One Shake.

All of these products include multiple different sources of protein, and thus a wide range of amino acids. They all also include nice bonuses like dietary fiber or vitamins and minerals, making them easily functionable as meal replacement shakes.

Q: Is there a difference between vegan protein powder and plant-based protein powder?

A: Functionally, no, there is no difference between a vegan protein powder and a plant-based protein powder. By definition, all plant-based protein powders must be vegan (after all, if it is not plant based, it has to be animal-based).

Different brands may advertise certain products as either vegan or plant-based to appeal to slightly different markets, but if you look closely, you’ll find that all vegan protein powders are plant based, and vice versa.

Related articles

Recap

Vegan protein doesn’t need to mean suboptimal nutrition. By choosing a vegan protein supplement with a complete amino acid profile and good digestibility, you can get the same benefits as you’d get from a high-quality animal protein.

The best vegan protein sources are soy and pea protein powders, so make sure at least some of your vegan protein intake comes from these sources.

By using scientifically-validated guidelines for selecting your protein dosage per day and selecting the right supplement, you can set yourself up for achieving your personal health goals.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 vegan protein recommendation, click here.



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