Well-designed, plant-based diets can provide a rich source of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. While it’s completely possible to reach your desired protein intake without supplementing, athletes of any diet — vegan or omnivorous — can find it useful to reach for the best vegan powder instead of preparing a high protein snack.
The truth is that out of the three macronutrients, protein is typically the hardest to prepare and the toughest to find on-the-go, and that goes double for folks whose protein sources lean on soy, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. Whatever your diet, protein powders are inexpensive and convenient, especially if you’re trying to support an athletic lifestyle.
If you’ve decided to go the protein powder route, we’ve listed the six best vegan protein powder options you can find on the market today. Keep reading to find out why we chose these powders so you can select the option that best suits your individual needs.
- Best Vegan Protein Powder Overall: Legion Plant+
- Best Vegan Protein Powder for Athletes: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Plant-Based Protein
- Highest Protein Vegan Protein Powder: Inno Supps Clean Vegan Protein
- Best Tasting Vegan Protein Powder: Pure Food Plant Based Protein Powder
- Best Vegan Protein Powder for Antioxidants: Vega One Organic All-in-One Shake
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine.
Best Vegan Protein Powder Overall: Legion Plant+
We assessed the protein sources, additives, protein per calorie, and more to decide the best overall vegan protein powder, and the option we landed on did not disappoint. Here’s why Legion’s Plant + — formerly known as Thrive — took the top spot.
Legion Plant+ Highlights
Legion made good with their pea, rice, quinoa, and hemp based protein powder. This combination produced a terrific amino acid profile — it’s a complete protein, it has all nine essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts. But there’s not just protein here, they’ve added “ten additional nutrients that vegan diets tend to lack” like Vitamin B12, iron, and Vitamin D, in addition to ergogenic aids (read: workout ingredients) like beta-alanine and creatine. There are also no artificial ingredients, just 5 grams of carbs with 25 grams of protein, and it contains four digestive enzymes to improve absorption and reduce the likelihood of bloating.
Who Should Buy Legion Plant+
- People who find vegan protein powders are usually too high in carbs — this has a remarkable 5 grams of them for 25 grams of protein.
- Vegans who find they need to supplement with B12 and iron will be happy this product has a high amount of both.
- Folks who take pre workouts for beta-alanine and creatine will enjoy their inclusion here. (They aren’t stimulants and don’t need to be taken pre workout; they accumulate in the body.)
- Anyone who avoids artificial flavors and sweeteners will be happy with their total absence in this product.
- Those who experience indigestion with plant-based powders may benefit from the added digestive enzymes.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Plant+
- Some may find the “all natural” taste to be a little too… natural tasting.
- If you avoid gum, you won’t love the xanthan here.
It digests well, it’s jam packed with nutrients, it has ergogenic aids, and the protein-per-calorie ratio is off the charts for a vegan protein. Legion Plant+ is the best of the best.
Best Vegan Protein Powder for Athletes: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Plant-Based Protein
Athletes usually don’t mind protein powders on the higher carb side. What’s usually important is whether or not the product is tested for banned substances, a quality that’s unusually rare when it comes to plant based supplements.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Plant-Based Protein Highlights
The main reason we like Gold Standard for athletes is because it’s one of the rare protein powders that’s been certified by Informed Choice. This means the facility has been tested for banned substances — all the ones that are banned by the World Anti Doping Alliance. But it’s also surprisingly low carb for a vegan protein powder, it’s soy free, naturally flavored, and it contains some extra B12 and iron, nutrients that can be tricky to get among the plant based. Bonus: the product is certified organic.
Who Should Buy Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Plant-Based Protein
- Low carbers: with about 5 grams of net carbs per 24 grams of protein, this is relatively low carb for a vegan protein.
- People who supplement with iron and B12: there’s about 20% of the daily intake of both in a serving, along with a day’s worth of Vitamin C to help with absorption.
- Athletes: this product has ben certified by Informed Choice, meaning the facility has been tested for banned substances.
- Those who prefer organic food: this is 100% organic, even the gum and the stevia.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Plant-Based Protein
- There are three kinds of gum, which might cause digestive issues for some.
- There’s not a lot in the way of ingredients for digestive health, like enzymes and probiotics, if that’s a priority for you.
Optimum Nutrition has managed to make a vegan protein powder that’s low carb, low cost, and organic, which is a very rare combination. Add all that to the extra micronutrients and the Informed Choice certification and you’ve got a solid pick for anybody.
Highest Protein Vegan Protein Powder: Inno Supps Clean Vegan Protein
Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with carbs in a protein powder, but the protein content is usually why you consume the product. If you want the most protein for the calories — as in, the fewest calories coming from carbs and fat — this is our pick.
Inno Supps Clean Vegan Protein Highlights
With 25 grams of protein per scoop and just 2 grams each of fat and carbs, this offers about the same amount of protein per calorie as your average whey protein powder — a very rare feat. Most of the protein comes from pea, known for being very high in branched chain amino acids, but there’s a lot more going on in this product: there are five digestive enzymes to help with absorption, there are six added minerals for hydration and bone strength, and there are over a dozen powdered fruits and veggies to help increase the antioxidant content. This could improve recovery time, inflammation, and muscle soreness.
Who Should Buy Inno Supps Clean Vegan Protein
- Anyone on a low fat, low carb, or low calorie diet: each scoop contains 100 calories of protein and just 25 calories from carbs and fat, which is unusual for (typically high carb) vegan protein powders.
- Folks who struggle with indigestion and bloat may prefer products with digestive enzymes, like this one.
- Anyone who wants to supplement with a greens powder will be glad that this has over a dozen of the ingredients that form the foundation of greens powders, like chlorella and barley grass.
- On that note, those who struggle with sore muscles in the days following a workout may like the extra antioxidants here.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Inno Supps Clean Vegan Protein
- Penny pinchers: on a per serving basis, this is one of the pricier protein powders.
- Some find the flavor more savory than they were expecting, though this could make it a good pick for those who are tired of overly sweet protein.
It’s extraordinarily hard to bring the carb count down this low on a vegan protein powder, but Inno Supps has pulled it off, all while adding a bunch of antioxidants and micronutrients as well.
Best Tasting Vegan Protein Powder: Pure Food Plant Based Protein Powder
Especially if you prefer vanilla- or berry-flavored protein powders, there’s a good chance you’ve been disappointed with the flavor profile of vegan protein powders. Because they’re usually so high in seeds and legumes, the flavor is typically quite nutty and earthy, which can work well with chocolate but not so well in other profiles.
Pure Food Plant Based Protein Powder Highlights
It’s notoriously tough to get a good vanilla vegan protein powder: they’re often made from grains and legumes, and while that earthiness can work well with cocoa it often overpowers vanilla.
Not so with Pure Food Company. While the protein comes from the usual places — pea, brown rice, and hemp — Pure Food takes the unusual route of using lucuma powder and mesquite to make for a refreshingly enjoyable, richly flavored product that provides about 20 grams of protein for every 5 grams of net carbs. So it’s pretty low carb, it has 30 percent of your daily iron, it’s all natural, all organic, and there are some Bacillus probiotics for gut health.
Who Should Buy Pure Food Plant Based Protein Powder
- Those who like things simple: Pure Food Company has just seven all natural ingredients.
- People interested in improving gut health: the ingredients include probiotic bacteria along with a noteworthy 4 grams of fiber.
- Anyone tired of the nutty flavoring that usually accompanies vanilla vegan protein powder.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Pure Food Plant Based Protein Powder
- If you’re really invested in probiotics, you might be bothered that there’s no information regarding how much probiotic bacteria it contains.
- People with very sensitive allergies: the product is manufactured in a facility that processes common allergens like eggs, tree nuts, and wheat.
The moment it met our lips, we knew Pure Food had made something different. It’s no exaggeration to say that it changed our minds about what vegan protein powders could be: we had always assumed vanilla had to taste like nuts, but now we know there’s an alternative.
Best Vegan Protein Powder for Antioxidants: Vega One Organic All-in-One Shake
Are there any products out there that combine the best of a protein powder, meal replacement, and greens powder? There are a few, but we think Vega came up with the best balance.
Vega One Organic All-in-One Shake Highlights
This shake sits somewhere between a meal replacement, a protein powder, and a greens powder. It’s still pretty low in calories and has more protein than carbs or fat, but in addition to a nice 20 grams of protein per scoop it delivers a day’s worth (or more) of eight important nutrients like Vitamin K and Vitamin D, there are 4 grams of fiber, and then there are the antioxidants. Every scoop delivers (in the form of powder) carrot juice, spinach, acerola cherry juice, chard, kale, pomegranate juice, blueberry juice, acai, quinoa sprouts, chia seeds, maca root, spirulina, and more.
Who Should Buy Vega One Organic All-in-One Shake
- Those who like extra micronutrients with their protein.
- Anyone who likes powdered fruits and veggies (aka greens powders) will be very happy with this product.
- If digestive health is important to you there’s prebiotic fiber, probiotic bacteria, and a good four grams of fiber in every scoop.
- This is one of the few vegan protein powders that tastes pretty great with water.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Vega One Organic All-in-One Shake
- Want minerals, not just vitamins? This product is pretty low in minerals. Besides 30% of your iron, the label only notes it’s 15% RDI or less in calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
- Penny pinchers: this is on the pricier side for a vegan protein powder.
- Those with very sensitive allergies or those who don’t want their vegan products anywhere near animal products may not love the fact that it’s made a facility that processes peanuts, dairy, soy, egg, and tree nuts.
Vega is one of the best known companies in plant based supplements and their All-in-One Shake is a good example of how thoughtfully they design them for the market.
How We Decide the Best
We’re just talking about protein powders, here. We aren’t looking at meal replacements, micronutrient supplements, or fat burners, we’re just looking at protein sources. Still, there are pros and cons for these supplements that we did weigh when deciding the best.
Protein per calorie
Compared to whey protein, it’s much more difficult to create a vegan protein powder that’s low in carbs and fat. For this reason we don’t criticize these supplements too much for containing carbs, but it remains true that people buy them as a source of protein. The amount of protein you get per calorie is the main factor, here. Take it into account when you look at the price of different vegan protein powders.
Micronutrients in Protein Powders
No, these aren’t vitamin supplements. However, it’s fair to say that it’s a bit trickier (though far from impossible) to get certain nutrients on a plant-based diet, particularly calcium, iron, and Vitamin B12. If a product is a decent source of these, it gets extra points.
Whether it’s because of lectins, gums, or sweeteners, protein powder can be tough for some people to digest. We draw attention to whether or not a product contains gums or sweeteners and consider it a nice addition if the ingredients list includes digestive enzymes or probiotic bacteria, which may reduce indigestion.
Naturally, this is an important component of selecting your go-to product. People often look at the price of powders but it’s better to consider the price of the proteins. Protein powders contain lots of ingredients including fats and carbohydrates. We mention price of protein per gram for each product. Depending on whether or not they’re organic or all-natural, vegan proteins typically cost between 6 and 9 cents per gram of protein.
Sourcing of Vegan Powders
While it’s unlikely to confer any additional nutritional benefits, many vegan powders use only organic ingredients which brings some customers peace of mind as far as farming best practices go.
Should You Avoid Soy in a Vegan Protein Powders?
Debate continues to rage about whether or not soy is a bad idea, with the arguments revolving around the phytoestrogens present in soy. The term refers to isoflavones that may interact with human estrogen receptors, which many interpret to mean that soy messes with your sex hormones.
The truth is that the vast majority of research has found that soy won’t lower your testosterone or increase your estrogen. A meta analysis of fifteen placebo-controlled studies, which included participants eating up to 70 grams of soy protein per day, concluded
neither soy foods nor isoflavone supplements alter measures of bioavailable T concentrations in men. (1)
As for athletes, a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that compared athletes consuming 50 grams of soy or whey per day for twelve weeks found no difference in testosterone levels between the two groups.(2) Note that they were taking soy concentrate, which is far higher in phytoestrogen than your standard tofu or tempeh.
In any case, the fear of soy has resulted in a vegan protein powder industry where very few products contain it anyway, and none of the products we’re reviewing today use soy as a source of protein. As an FYI, though, it doesn’t look like it would matter if they did.
[Become an expert: read our complete guide to soy and testosterone.]
Before Buying a Vegan Protein Powder
A lot of people aren’t quite sure where to keep their expectations when purchasing a protein powder. Here are a few things to keep in mind before making you click “buy.”
Soy Isn’t a Big Deal
None of the protein powders we listed contain any soy at all. The reason many avoid or limit soy is because of fears that it may increase your body’s estrogen or decrease your testosterone. However, dozens of studies have failed to find this effect when consuming up to 70 grams of soy protein a day. (4)(5)
Plant-Based Proteins Can Be Tough on Sensitive Stomachs
Sure, some people have issues digesting dairy, but it’s also not uncommon to experience bloating or cramps with vegan protein powders. If that’s you, it’s worth sticking to a protein powder that includes digestive enzymes, like Legion Plant+ or Inno Supps.
Vegan Proteins Are High in BCAAs
All of these protein powders contain plenty of branched chain amino acids, the ones that are most closely linked to muscle protein synthesis. While some vegan proteins (like many nuts) are low in these amino acids, it’s untrue that high quality vegan proteins don’t exist. Don’t worry about the “quality” of these supplements.
Chat to a Physician
Before making any big changes to your diet or supplement regimen, it’s smart to speak with a physician first to make sure it’s the right decision for you.
Best Vegan Powder – Wrapping Up
Plant-based protein powders have even more variety than whey products — the protein sources, the added micronutrients, and the wide variety of macronutrient profiles make selecting a supplement a surprisingly difficult task. We’ve tried an awful lot of them and think we’ve landed on the best possible list of the best possible vegan protein powders.
Related Best Protein Powders Content
- The 7 Best Whey Protein Powders for 2019
- What’s the Difference Between Grass-Fed Whey Vs. Regular Whey?
- More Protein: How Strength Athletes Can Save Time, Money, & Hassle on Nutrition
- Whey Versus Casein: Which Is Better for Strength and Muscle Gain?
- Orgain Organic Protein Plant Based Powder Review — Creamy and Vegan?
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Vs. Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein — A Pretty Easy Winner
Other Great Protein Powders Reviews
- Designer Protein Native Whey Isolate Review – Rating: 8.4/10
- FitMiss Delight Protein Powder Review – Rating: 7.5/10
- AllMax IsoFlex Whey Protein Review – Rating: 8/10
- BulkSupplements Whey Protein Isolate Review – Rating: 8.5/10
- Raw Grass Fed Whey Review – Rating: 8.1/10
- PrettyFit Whey Protein Powder Review – Rating: 7.9/10
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the best vegan protein powder?
Legion’s Thrive is our top pick. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, it’s all natural and derived from proteins like pea, rice, quinoa, and hemp, ensuring a broad spectrum of nutrients and amino acids. It’s also non-GMO and adds some beta-alanine and creatine for sports performance.
Are soy protein powders bad for you?
Unless you have a sensitivity, there’s no compelling evidence that a daily dose of soy will impact testosterone levels or reduce performance.
A meta analysis of fifteen placebo-controlled studies, which included participants eating up to 70 grams of soy protein per day, concluded
neither soy foods nor isoflavone supplements alter measures of bioavailable T concentrations in men.
Is organic protein powder better than non-organic?
While there’s an argument to be made for organic animal products, there’s not much evidence that organic vegan products provide more nutrition benefits. However, organic farms don’t use synthetic fertilizers and insecticides, so they may be better from an environmental standpoint — just not from a nutritional one.
1. Oben J, et al. An open label study to determine the effects of an oral proteolytic enzyme system on whey protein concentrate metabolism in healthy males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Jul 24;5:10.
2. Muss C, et al. Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34(1):38-46.
3. Zhou Z, et al. Inhibition of Epithelial TNF-α Receptors by Purified Fruit Bromelain Ameliorates Intestinal Inflammation and Barrier Dysfunction in Colitis. Front Immunol. 2017 Nov 10;8:1468.
4. Hamilton-Reeves JM, et al. Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis. Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug;94(3):997-1007.
5. Kalman D, et al. Effect of protein source and resistance training on body composition and sex hormones. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Jul 23;4:4.