The Best Plant Based Protein Sources
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The Best Plant Based Protein Sources

You know plants are good for you, but how do you know which ones are the best plant based protein sources? Comparing plants to plants is literally comparing apples to oranges. There are so many factors to consider based on the entire nutrient profile of the plant. If you eat a predominantly (or solely) plant based diet, I bet you’ve wondered which ones pack the best protein buck for their caloric weight.

How do you really know the best plant based protein sources?

I literally spent an hour googling “the best plant based protein sources” and all I could find was list after list and pages and pages of plants with paragraph style descriptions about how much protein they carried per serving and other nutrient benefits. That is helpful information, but as a weight loss expert, of course I’m also interested in which ones really are “the best” sources per their total energy density (a.k.a how many calories I have to eat to get that protein).

Comparing Peanut Butter to Broccoli

I mean, peanut butter has a decent amount of protein with just over 4g “per serving.” But it also comes with 94 calories and 8g of fat for one 1 Tbsp. Yes, it’s totally plant based and healthy fat and I’m not healthy fat phobic. But if I relied on peanut butter to be one of my best plant based protein sources, I’d have to consume over 1000 calories of it to hit my minimum protein requirement for the day (120 lbs/2.2 = 54kg x .8g = 44g protein).

By comparison, broccoli has only 2.6g protein “per serving.” But that serving is only 31 calories for an entire cup! To hit my minimum daily protein requirement, I’d only have to consume 532 calories. I totally get that eating 11 Tbsp of peanut butter or 17 cups of broccoli would be a super whacky way to hit protein requirements, but I hope it helps illustrate my point of the vast differences amongst the best plant based protein sources.

The Best Plant Based Protein Sources

Leveling the Playing Field with Plant Protein Density

Because I couldn’t find a chart out there that ranked these pants based on their protein per calorie (a.k.a protein density), I decided to create one. Enter Excel! I created a spreadsheet and listed all the plants most commonly associated with being high in protein. I recorded the serving size along with total calories, grams of fat, sugar and also fiber (just for fun, those were not weighed into the protein density equation). Then I divided the total grams of protein per serving by the number of calories then multiplied it by 100 so that the numbers were more comprehendible. 

The Best Plant Based Protein Sources

How to Read and Use This Chart

It’s pretty simple really. The number of grams listed next to the plant is the number of grams of protein you’d get if you ate 100 calories of that food, regardless of he physical size of the serving. You won’t use this chart to help calculate your protein consumption for the day, because the serving sizes are so vast and different. But you can use it to eyeball the most protein dense plants, and make sure you’re incorporating them into your plant based diet.

Making Plant Based Eating Even Easier

Generally, a vegan and/or vegetarian diet are very healthy with the roots being in massive amounts of plant consumption. Regardless of your diet philosophy, you’d be hard pressed to argue that eating more plants isn’t the BEST way to rapidly improve not only diet quality, but also your health and wellbeing. If you’re new to the idea, be sure to checkout the plant based menu plans I have as resources to ensure you’re diet stays well balanced!

>>Get Your Plant Based Menu Plan Now<<


What are your favorite sources of plant based protein? Based on this chart, are they higher or lower in protein density than you originally thought? Please comment below, I’d love to hear! 

Teresa Marie Howes, BS, CPT, HHP
Teresa Marie is a nutrition expert, fitness enthusiast and health coach. She is backed with a BS in Nutrition, an MBA, a CPT from ACE and 16+ years of experience in the weight loss and wellness space. She is the founder and lead contributor of this site and coaches clients across the globe on how to achieve better health and more happiness by implementing the 4 Universal Diet Truths of her Clean & Colorful Concept.

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  • pbeamyPaul

    Hi Teresa, I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, but I do appreciate this article. It’s great to have this chart for the best sources of plant based protein. My favorite sources of plant based protein would have to be broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower and baked beans.

    • Teresa

      Hey Paul, thank you for the note! I’m so happy you found this valuable! Eating more plants is always a good idea 🙂 Have a great day!

  • Ghazale

    its a great article well presented.

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