6 of The Best Vegan Protein Powders
This year, I’ve made it my mission to test as many vegan protein powders as I can in a quest to find the best products on the market today. It seems that it’s a lot harder to find a delicious tasting vegan protein blend than it is a whey protein blend – a predicament not helped by the fact that there is also a lot less choice when it comes to flavours. However, not one to back down from a challenge, I felt positive that there had to be at least something out there.
Well, here’s the great news: there was! Quite a few, in fact! So today, I’m going to share my top picks so far. This has been quite highly requested over on my Instagram, so I really hope this is helpful for any newbies to the world of vegan protein powder.
Before we get onto the fun part, let’s take a look at the common constituents of a vegan protein powder. If not whey, what on earth is in them?
The answer: protein from plant sources! The most common of these are pea protein, rice protein, hemp protein and soy protein. A good protein powder will include a mix of two or more of these. This is because, of the nine essential amino acids (the ones that our body cannot produce endogenously), only a handful of these can be found in each source. But, by combining plant based protein sources, we can create a complete protein. Soy protein, however, is already a complete protein.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these common plant protein sources.
Pea protein is made from peas. Who’d have guessed, eh? Because it has an incomplete amino acid profile (see above), any decent protein powder containing pea protein should also include another plant protein source. Most commonly, it will be combined with brown rice or hemp protein. The taste is very earthy, so an unflavoured version of this protein is not very palatable.
Rice protein is a concentrated product extracted from sprouted wholegrain brown rice. This is achieved via a series of fermentation, filtration and enzymatic processing which allows the protein and fibre from whole grain rice to be released and made into a new product. Rice is naturally gluten free and allergen friendly, making it a great option for vegans and people with intolerances to gluten or soy. It’s one of my favourite plant protein powder sources.
Hemp protein is derived from the whole raw hemp seed, and is arguably the best of the plant based proteins in terms of its nutritional profile. It contains 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids. Not only this, but hemp protein provides the essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6 (these are essential fats that our body cannot make organically, so we need to get them from food or supplements) in a 3:1 ratio. Hemp protein is fairly easy on the taste buds with a nutty, earthy flavour. It tends to taste best when paired with a chocolate flavour, in my opinion.
Soy protein is the plant based protein source which most closely resembles the amino acid profile of whey protein. As mentioned above, it is already a complete protein. However, be mindful that it is often highly processed and is likely to come from genetically engineered soy. Soy contains a group of phytoestrogens (compounds found in plants that mimic the activity of oestrogen) called isoflavones, but the isoflavone content of a soy protein isolate depends on the method used to isolate it.
*Some research suggests that the isoflavone component of soy reduces the risk of breast cancer. However, with the exception of women who consumed a high intake of soy during adolescence, the majority of epidemiological studies (studies carried out in defined population groups) have not found that women with higher soy intakes are at lower risk of breast cancer.
Now that we’ve had a look at the most common sources of plant protein, let’s discuss some key differences between vegan protein powder and non vegan protein powder and a small caveat. And then -I promise!- we can get onto the vegan protein powders I recommend.
Something you may immediately notice about vegan protein powders is their price tag. Yep- it’s certainly a little higher than whey protein. Why? Well, I think it’s important to put this into context; Whey protein is cheap and easy to produce- it is a plentiful by-product of the dairy industry.
Secondly, the majority of consumers who purchase protein powder opt for whey protein blends. Of course a company making a product that is high in demand can afford to lower their prices a bit. Plant-based protein powders are currently a relatively niche product, meaning that fewer companies produce them (although demand is definitely growing – hence this post!). The companies that do manufacture them will need to set their margins higher in order to make a profit.
Lastly, whey powders are frequently pumped full of artificial flavourings and sweeteners. High quality ingredients (which are more likely to be found in plant based protein powders) require more care and attention to grow, source and purchase.
These ratings do not take into consideration the taste of the protein powder with water alone. This is because I personally don’t find protein powder mixed with water very palatable – plant based or otherwise. For me, it’s so much more enjoyable to be mixed with food e.g. mixed into porridge, or in a drink as a smoothie. In terms of both pre and post workout nutrition (which is when protein powders are most often consumed) protein AND carbs are essential, so it makes sense to me to consume the protein along with carbohydrate rich foods rather than as a standalone shake.
Alright. Now that we’ve got the ~actually quite important~ stuff out of the way, let’s have a look at my top picks!
Flavour I recommend? Chocolate Smooth.
Other flavours in this range: Unflavoured.
They say: ‘Vegan blend combines pea protein isolate, brown rice protein and hemp protein to deliver a premium quality, vegan protein powder with a range of essential amino acids and over 22g protein per serving.’
I say: If we forget about the truly awful strawberry flavoured protein powder I tried from a major sports nutrition brand at the beginning of my search, then the chocolate smooth flavour from MyProtein was my first successful foray into the world of plant based protein. I was so happy to have found this protein powder that I didn’t try another brand for months. To this day, it is still one of my go to vegan protein powders.
Price: This is the cheapest flavoured vegan protein powder I have found for the amount of product you receive. Most vegan protein powders clock in at over £25 for just 1kg or less, while this is £18.99 for 1kg or £39.99 for 2.5kg. Plus, MyProtein regularly have sales or offers on, meaning you can easily nab yourself a great deal.
Packaging: The vegan blend comes in the standard MyProtein packaging; a slightly shiny white pouch with blue accents. I’d sum it up as plain, simple and sporty looking.
Serving size: 30g, which gives you 33 servings per 1kg pouch.
Macronutrient profile: In terms of macronutrients, this is great. Per 30g scoop, you get 22g protein, 3.8g carbs and 1.5g fat. These values are calculated based on the unflavoured version of the product, but be aware that with flavoured varieties, these values can vary by up to 10%.
Best with: Soy yogurt and cashew butter, or porridge with 5g cocoa or cacao powder to take away the sweet edge. Skip: Smoothies, because the protein powder is a little too sweet.
Flavour I recommend? Vanilla.
Other flavours in this range: Chocolate.
They say: “Natural flavours only. Guar gum, which is a GMO-free, gluten-free, natural fibre that comes from the guar bean to give our shakes a creamy texture. We refuse to use xanthan gum and are proud to use sunflower lecithin instead of soy lecithin. Sunflower lecithin is the only kind of lecithin that can be obtained raw and chemical-free using a cold press system similar to that used with olive oil. We use sucralose as it is the most widely tested low calorie sweetener and approved by all food standard agencies in the world.”
I say: This vegan protein powder is by far the most expensive on the list. So why have I added it? Simply put, I think it’s worth it. I enjoy the taste, and I love the high quality, nutritionally dense ingredients. The combination of wild mushrooms like cordyceps, shiitake, maitake and reishi, plus the maca, bilberry and acai berry is just awesome, and not something I have seen in many other vegan protein powders on the market. InnerMost also have a great blog on their website, with playlists, recipes, interviews and ingredient spotlights. Be sure to check it out!
Price: £30 for 600g.
Packaging: The InnerMost packaging is beautiful! It looks so modern, eye catching and original. The ‘Health One’ is a baby blue coloured pouch with black lettering and a circular geometric background.
Serving size: 40g (or 4 scoops) which gives you 15 servings per 600g pouch.
Macronutrient profile: A great macronutrient profile with 31g protein, 2.5g carbohydrate and 1.4g fat per 40g scoop. However, 31g of protein is a LOT of protein when compared to our overall daily recommended intake, so I would recommend having a 20-30g serving at a time, which will also make the product go further.
Best with: Porridge and smoothies. Skip: Plant based yogurts- the flavour can get a bit lost.
Flavour I recommend? Vanilla.
Other flavours in this range: Chocolate.
They say: “Thanks to the input of Lomax personal trainers specialised in high-level nutrition planning, the Pro-Edge Formula takes another step forward in progressing your development not only by helping you grow faster, fitter and stronger, but by protecting what you’ve already worked hard for.”
I say: I couldn’t love this vegan protein powder any more. It tastes absolutely incredible stirred through porridge made with almond milk, which is my favourite way to consume this protein post workout. The vanilla flavour is sweet without tasting sickly, and there is absolutely no grittiness in texture. The flavour also manages to totally bypass the earthy flavour so common with vegan protein powders. I also love that they use gluten free oats, making it accessible for people with gluten allergies or intolerances. It is expensive, but in my opinion, worth it.
Price: £34.99 for 908g. If you register for their newsletter, you’ll get 15% off of your first purchase. Score!
Packaging: The matte charcoal coloured bag with black and white lettering is super sleek and expensive looking. It looks very unisex, so I can see it appealing to women and men equally- not that the appearance of the protein pouch should ever influence your purchase!
Serving size: 30g, which gives you roughly 30 servings.
Macronutrient profile: 22.5g protein, 4.1g carbohydrate and 0.8g fat per 30g serving. I love that this is low fat, as this will help the protein to be digested easier pre and post workout. Fat, whilst essential in any diet, is slower to be digested than protein and carbohydrate and can therefore impede the speed at which we digest them. We want to digest protein and carbohydrate nice and quickly before and after exercising, so in this case, low fat is a good thing.
Best with: Porridge and a dollop of cashew butter! Skip: Mixing with yogurt. The subtle flavour can get lost.
Flavour I recommend? Mixed Berry.
Other flavours in this range: Chocolate and Natural.
They say: “Revolution foods raw protein blend is derived from high quality plant protein sources. A great addition to a healthy diet or a perfect post exercise recovery shake. Our synergy of protein, digestive enzymes and natural plant fibres make a unique plant based protein with a superior amino acid profile.”
I say: Berry flavoured vegan protein can be really tricky to get right. It’s either way too sweet, or it doesn’t even taste like berries at all. But Revolution Foods have nailed it with this formula. It’s just the right sweetness and tastes delicious either stirred through plant based yogurt or whizzed up into a smoothie.
Price: £24.99 for 1kg, or £9.99 for 250g.
Packaging: Really fun and colourful, the Revolution Foods packaging sums up the brands natural, whole foods approach perfectly.
Serving size: 30g (or 1 scoop), which gives you roughly 33 servings.
Macronutrient profile: 21.3g protein, 2.4g carbohydrate and 1.7g of fat per 30g serving.
Best with: Plant based yogurt: I like to use 200g soy yogurt with 15g of the protein stirred through, topped with some nuts and seeds. Smoothies: I like to use a full 30g scoop with some frozen forest fruits and almond milk. Skip: Mixing with porridge.
Flavour I recommend? Cappuccino.
Other flavours in this range: Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry and Cacao Cream.
They say: “AbsoRice not only tastes delightful compared to other vegetable protein powders, but it is also surprisingly lactose free, gluten free, has no added sugars and contains only natural sweeteners (stevia)! It is a reliable option for vegans as it contains no animal sources or GMO-s. It is an amazingly effective choice for those who want to build muscle because of its complete amino acid profile, high protein content (72%) and high concentration of BCAA-s.”
I say: I first came across the AbsoRice brand via the fabulous Ethical Panda, which sells a range of ethical vegan food products. Unlike the other vegan protein powders, which I had either come across directly or heard about before purchasing, I had never seen or heard anything about this brand- so I was super intrigued. The thing I love about this vegan protein powder is that there is the option to buy 500g. Most vegan protein powder brands offer minimum sizes of around 1kg, which is a bit of a disaster if you don’t get on with the product for one reason or another. It’s a lot easier to make your way through 500g worth of product than 1kg of product. Taste wise, there is definitely a hint of cappuccino there, but the pea protein does also come through somewhat. Texture wise, it is very thick, which makes it fantastic for smoothies.
Price: £12.50 for 500g. A total steal!
Packaging: The protein comes in a small, white rectangular box decorated with stripes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it’s not particularly exciting. Inside the box is a foil bag containing the protein powder. It’s quite awkward to open and scoop out compared to the standard pouch style where there’s ample space to dig your scoop in and out.
Serving size: 30g (or 1 scoop), which gives you roughly 16 servings.
Macronutrient profile: 22g protein, 3.6g carbohydrate and 0.9g fat per 30g serving.
Best with: In a smoothie. Unfortunately, I’d advise giving porridge or yogurt a wide berth from this protein, as it is so thick that it just doesn’t mix, and the taste isn’t the best either. However, in a smoothie, it is absolutely delicious! Here is my favourite of late:
10g milled flaxseeds
250ml almond milk
20g AbsoRice Cappuccino Flavour
…This is a great smoothie to start off with when you’re first beginning to add veg to your smoothies, as lettuce has a very mild flavour.
Flavour I recommend? Chocolate Salted Caramel.
Other flavours in this range: None.
They say: Dairy free, vegan, smooth in texture, awesome tasting protein powder for use in smoothies, cooking, or to be enjoyed as a shake. Made from rice, pea and hemp protein, this versatile protein will leave you satisfied and well on your way to getting enough essential protein in your diet.
I say: Ok, so the first time I tried this vegan protein powder, I really noticed the salted component of the salted caramel. Perhaps my taste buds were hypersensitive on this particular day, because the subsequent times I’ve tried it, both myself and my boyfriend have found ourselves wondering if this was the best chocolate flavoured vegan protein powder we’ve tried.
Price: £26 for 1kg.
Packaging: Unlike every other vegan protein powder on this list, this Awesome Supplements blend comes in a large white tub. The tub is pretty bulky and imposing in terms of taking up a fair chunk of space in the cupboard or on your counter, and feels to me very body builder-esque in style. The word “awesome” written across the front of the tub looks clean and attractive, despite the bold, shouty capital letters.
Serving size: 30g, which gives you roughly 33 servings.
Macronutrient profile: 22g protein, 1.6g carbohydrate, 1.7g fat.
Best with: My favourite way to have this protein is in a simple shoothie. Erm, what in the hell is a shoothie? It’s a word I just made up two seconds ago to describe a drink which is not as basic as a shake made of milk/water and protein powder but not as full to the brim with ingredients as smoothies often are. I thought of it first, guys. Wait, should I patent this?? Because flavoured protein powders are often sweet enough without the addition of fruit, this is how I have recently found myself preferring to consume them as a drink. Here’s a favourite recipe, which makes a small serving. Simply blend it all together in a blender cup:
100ml plant based milk
Up to 50ml water
10g milled flaxseed
15g natural smooth peanut butter
5g cacao powder
25g Awesome Supplements Chocolate Salted Caramel Protein
I like to have something like this as an afternoon snack. The protein from the protein powder and peanut butter plus the fibre from the flaxseed is a great way to keep that 3pm blood sugar slump at bay!
Notable mention: The Protein Works have a custom protein powder generator tool. In short, this allows you to make up your own plant based protein. You get to choose the ratio of each protein source, as well as a bunch of add ins. My boyfriend and I tried this about a year ago, and it wasn’t a huge success. But hey, maybe we got the ratios wrong! If you have the time to do the research into the optimal ratios and combinations, I think this could be a really fantastic tool. Beware though, the price isn’t locked- it changes depending on which ingredients you add in, so it could be pricey. My advice? Check it out, do your research, and experiment!
…And that’s a wrap! Once again, I hope this post was helpful. I think protein powder preference is a really personal thing, so if the first product you try doesn’t float your boat, don’t give up immediately. There are a lot of options on the market now, and more companies are emerging with vegan blends all the time, so there’s bound to be something you like out there.
…And if you’re not about that protein powder life (which is definitely no bad thing!) and would rather get your plant based protein exclusively from natural sources? Then look no further than my post on the Best Vegan Protein Sources (And How to Cook With Them!), my friend. I’ve got ya covered.
Are there any other delicious vegan protein powders I should know about? Leave a comment below!
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