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

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

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. When quantities of particular amino acids, like methionine and lysine are low, combining pulses with grains balances their amino acid content and makes them "complete". For example, combining lentils with rice or hummus with wholewheat bread.

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.

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. The current daily value (DV) for protein is set at 50 grams per day and is meant as a general target for most people. People should eat 0.36g of protein per pound of body weight, and more if they are active.

Below is a list of vegetarian protein foods ranked by common serving size, for more vegetarian protein food ideas see the articles on high protein beans, high protein nuts, and protein rich vegan foods.

Vegetarian Foods High in Protein

A block of tofu1 Firm Tofu
Protein
per Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
43.5g
(87% DV)
17.3g
(35% DV)
24g
(48% DV)

More Tofu High in Protein

  • 20g (40% DV) per cup of medium soft tofu
  • 18g (36% DV) per cup of soft tofu
  • 34g (67% DV) per cup of tempeh (fermented tofu)

Note: The amount of protein in tofu can range between 4.8g (10% DV) to 17.3g (35% DV) per 100 gram serving (or a little less than 1/2 cup).

See the nutrition comparison of 10 common tofu brands. To find more, use the detailed nutrient ranking of all vegan foods high in protein.

Looking for a brand with this much protein? Try House Foods Tofu.

Lentils2 Lentils
Protein
per Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
17.9g
(36% DV)
9g
(18% DV)
15.6g
(31% DV)

More Beans High in Protein

  • 17.4g (35% DV) per cup of large white beans
  • 16.3g (33% DV) per cup of split peas
  • 15.4g (31% DV) per cup of pinto beans
  • 15.2g (30% DV) per cup of black beans
  • 15g (30% DV) per cup of navy beans
  • 14.7g (29% DV) per cup of large lima beans
  • 14.5g (29% DV) per cup of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

See more beans and legumes high in protein.

Plain yogurt with raspberries3 Low-Fat Yogurt
Protein
per Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
14g
(28% DV)
5.7g
(11% DV)
20.5g
(41% DV)
  • 15g (30% DV) protein per 16oz glass on unsweetned soymilk
  • 15g (30% DV) protein per 16oz glass of low-fat milk
Cottage Cheese4 Cottage Cheese
Protein
per 1/2 Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
11.8g
(24% DV)
10.5g
(21% DV)
25.8g
(52% DV)

Other Cheese High in Protein

  • 10.2g (20% DV) per oz of grated parmesan
  • 9.3g (19% DV) per 1/2 cup of ricotta
  • 9g (18% DV) per oz of non-fat cheddar

See the list of cheese high in protein.

Green Peas5 Green Peas
Protein
per Cup Cooked
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
8.6g
(17% DV)
5.4g
(11% DV)
12.8g
(26% DV)
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds6 Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
Protein
per 1oz Handful
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
8.5g
(17% DV)
29.8g
(60% DV)
10.4g
(21% DV)

Other Nuts and Seeds High in Protein

  • 6.9g (14% DV) per 1 oz handful of peanuts
  • 6g (12% DV) per 1 oz handful of almonds
  • 6g (12% DV) per 1 oz handful of pistachios
  • 5.5g (11% DV) per oz of sunflower seeds
  • 5.2g (10% DV) per oz of flax seeds
  • 4.7g (9% DV) per oz (~2 tbsp) of chia seeds
  • 4.3g (9% DV) per oz of cashews
See more high protein nuts.
A bowl of quinoa7 Quinoa
Protein
per Cup
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
8.1g
(16% DV)
4.4g
(9% DV)
7.3g
(15% DV)

Other Whole Grains High in Protein

  • 9.8g (20% DV) per cup of kamut
  • 9.8g (20% DV) per cup of teff
  • 7g (14% DV) per cup of whole wheat pasta
  • 5.9g (12% DV) per cup of oatmeal
  • 4.4g (9% DV) per cup of grits

See the list of whole grains high in protein.

Peanut Butter8 Peanut Butter
Protein
2 Tblsp
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
7.7g
(15% DV)
24.1g
(48% DV)
8.2g
(16% DV)
Eggs9 Eggs
Protein
in 1 Large Egg
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
6.3g
(13% DV)
12.6g
(25% DV)
16.2g
(32% DV)
  • 1 egg white provides 7% DV
  • 1 cup of hard boiled eggs provides 34% DV
White Button Mushrooms10 Mushrooms
Protein
per Cup Cooked
Protein
per 100g
Protein
per 200 Calories
3.9g
(8% DV)
3.6g
(7% DV)
27.5g
(55% DV)

More Mushrooms High in Protein

  • 4g (8% DV) per cup of cooked portobello
  • 3.5g (7% DV) per cup of cooked shiitake
  • 3g (6% DV) per cup of oyster mushrooms
  • 2g (4% DV) per cup of morels
  • 2g (4% DV) per cup of cremini
  • 1.5g (3% DV) per cup of enokis

Note: Cooking reduces the water content of mushrooms, allowing you to eat more mushrooms and more protein per cup.

See the curated list of vegetables high in protein.

See All 200 Vegetarian Foods High in Protein

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A printable one-page list of vegetarian foods high in protein including tofu, beans, lentils, yogurt, milk, cheese, green peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, peanut butter, eggs, and white button mushrooms.

More Complete Protein Rich Foods for Vegetarians

FoodServingProtein
1 Soy Protein Isolate100 grams177% DV
(88.3g)
2 Spirulina100 grams115% DV
(57.5g)
3 Toasted Wheat Germ100 grams58% DV
(29.1g)
4 Tempeh100 grams41% DV
(20.3g)
5 Cocoa Powder100 grams39% DV
(19.6g)
6 Natto (Fermented Soybeans)100 grams39% DV
(19.4g)
7 Falafel100 grams27% DV
(13.3g)
8 Whey Powder100 grams26% DV
(12.9g)

About the Data

Data for the curated food lists comes from the USDA Food Data Central Repository.

You can check our data against the USDA by clicking the (Source) link at the bottom of each food listing.

Note: When checking data please be sure the serving sizes are the same. In the rare case you find any difference, please contact us and we will fix it right away.

About Nutrient Targets

Setting targets can provide a guide to healthy eating.

Some of the most popular targets include:
  • Daily Value (%DV) - The %DV is a general guideline for everyone and accounts for absorption factors. It is the most common target in the U.S. and is the target on the nutrition labels of most products. It is set by the U.S. FDA.
  • Reference Dietary Intake (%RDI) - The Reference Dietary Intake (RDI) is a customized target accounting for age and gender. It is set by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. The RDI for amino acids is set by the U.N. World Health Organization. The daily value (%DV) builds on the reference dietary intake to create a number for everyone.
  • Adequate Intake (%AI) - Sets a target for Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. The Adequate Intake is also set by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. It represents a number to ensure adequacy but lacks the same level of evidence as the Reference Dietary Intake. In short, the number is less accurate than the RDI.
  • See the Guide to Recommended Daily Intakes for more information.

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View more food groups with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

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Data Sources and References

  1. U.S. Agricultural Research Service Food Data Central