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Our Picks for the Best Plant-Based Protein Powder in 2023:

For decades, whey protein powder has been the gold standard of protein supplements. Now, however, many people are turning to plant-based protein powder as an alternative to whey protein. These protein powders, which are derived from plant-based sources like peas, brown rice or hemp, serve as a smart and nutritious choice for those who are vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant or simply prefer the taste. Like whey protein, plant-based protein can also be used as part of a weight loss plan, to build muscle mass or to increase your protein intake if you’re not getting enough protein through food. This can be beneficial for people on plant-based diets, as these tend to be lower in protein intake compared to other diet types.

Yet, as plant-based protein powder continues to grow in popularity, this means there are more and more products on the market to choose from. Luckily, we’ve done the legwork to identify which plant-based protein powders truly rank supreme. Our best plant-based protein powder guide will dive deep into our top picks, and we’ve also asked registered dietitians to weigh in on the pros and cons of plant-based protein powder, plus what to look for in a quality product.

This content is meant to be informative, but should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention or treatment of health problems. Always speak with your doctor before starting any new supplement or exercise regimen.

Why I picked it:

The popularity of Transparent Labs stems not only from their high-quality products, but also from the transparency of their ingredients—as its name suggests. Reigning in as our best plant-based protein powder, Rice & Pea Protein by Transparent Labs meets all of these criteria. To begin with, Transparent Labs uses one of the best vegan proteins in this product, pea protein isolate, which increases muscle mass and reduces body fat. Pea proteins are also rich in iron, which is an essential mineral that the body needs for growth and development.

Transparent Labs Rice & Pea vegan protein contains 120 calories but 24 grams of protein, making it ideal for a quick post workout snack or afternoon pick-me-up, paired with some healthy fats and a high-fiber carbohydrate.

Plus, this protein is organic, soy-free and low-carb, great for those who are on a keto diet or counting macros as part of their fitness goals.

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Why I picked it:

Although whey has long been considered the king of muscle-building supplements, it doesn’t sit well with everyone… literally. Thankfully, it’s not the only option. When choosing a vegan protein powder, it can be hard to find one that tastes good and has the right amino acid profile—Swolverine Plant Protein does both.

This pea protein isolate and pumpkin seed blend contains 22 grams of protein, three grams of carbs and 2.5 grams of fat at only 130 calories, an ideal macronutrient profile for that post workout shake. Plus, the pumpkin seeds provide an added benefit of omega-3s, aiding in muscle recovery and inflammation. Swolverine Plant Protein currently comes in two flavors, chocolate cake and salted caramel.

Swolverine designs supplements for endurance athletes and active lifestyle enthusiasts alike. The brand stands by transparency in its ingredients, as it believes without straightforward labeling, “you’ll never truly know if the products you’re using and paying for, will even help you reach your goals.”

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Why I picked it:

Made with just five ingredients–organic rice protein, organic pea protein isolate, natural flavor, Himalayan rock salt and organic stevia–Transparent Labs Rice & Pea Vegan Protein offers one of the cleanest plant-based protein powders that works excellent for muscle recovery purposes. When taken immediately after working out, pea protein can promote muscle protein synthesis, which is responsible for muscle growth and recovery. It’s also a good source of iron with four grams per serving, or 20 percent of your daily value. Iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body and can be especially helpful for people following vegetarian and vegan diets, which tend to be low on iron. To take your recovery even further, Transparent Labs encourages stacking their products, or buying a group of products that complement one another for maximum effect and benefits.

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Why I picked it:

Swolverine Vegan Protein is our best plant-based protein powder for weight loss because it’s low in calories and fat, and provides an ideal amount of protein. A serving of this vegan protein powder contains less than 140 calories, while also packing in 22 grams of protein to fight hunger and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Additionally, Swolverine adds chicory root to this protein, a prebiotic fiber that has been shown to support weight loss by balancing gut bacteria.

It’s made from 100% plant-based ingredients, and it doesn’t have any of the additives or chemicals that other vegan protein powders may have. It’s also gluten- and soy-free, so it’s a good option for those following a strict diet.

Swolverine Vegan Protein comes in two flavors: chocolate cake and salted caramel, ideal for sweet tooths.

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Why I picked it:

If a one-size-fits-all protein powder just doesn’t cut it for you, Gainful Vegan Protein Powder can be fully customized to meet a variety of health and fitness goals, such as weight loss, building muscle or supplementing your diet. Before making a purchase, you’ll take a five-minute quiz that gathers your fitness level, nutrition goals and personal metrics. It also lets you note any dietary restrictions, like soy-free or lactose-free, to help design a product that meets your needs. Once your quiz is complete, Gainful calculates ingredients in ratios that can help you achieve your goals, and gives you a totally customized product with simple ingredients. There’s an option to add a green tea extract to your personalized protein powder, as well, which Kimberly Nanninga, RD, says can be beneficial for weight loss. “Green tea is a natural boost that can help regulate your metabolism,” she explains.

However, if improving gut health is your goal, it’s important to note that Gainful protein powder doesn’t offer the addition of probiotics into its personalized formulas at this time. The protein powder itself comes unflavored and unsweetened, but includes six optional flavor boosts to give you a different flavor each day.

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Sources of Plant-Based and Vegan Protein

Plant-based protein powder is made from a variety of natural sources that include nuts, whole grains and legumes. Some popular plant-based protein powders are pea, brown rice and hemp protein, but many plant-based protein powders often include a protein blend of multiple sources to deliver a complete protein, since few plants contain all essential amino acids. Only a handful of plant proteins, like quinoa, can be classified as complete proteins since they include all nine essential amino acids that the human body needs to grow and repair tissue. These are the most common sources of plant-based protein and the wellness benefits that they can provide:

Pea protein

Pea protein powder is a popular form of plant-based protein derived and extracted from yellow peas and green split peas. This blend of pea protein can be a beneficial addition to your daily diet, since peas are easy to digest and tend to be easy on the stomach (though there are always exceptions). In fact, research shows that pea protein can be digested just as efficiently as casein or whey protein, thanks to its essential amino acid profile that’s similar to the one found in milk protein. Plus, pea protein has a host of benefits: It’s good for your heart, offers antioxidant support and regulates intestinal bacteria activities (AKA promotes a healthy gut).

Seed protein

Seed protein can be derived from a number of sources including chia, sunflower and pumpkin seed protein, or it can include a blend of different seeds (like hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds). Many of these seeds are true superfoods and offer a healthy amount of fiber, protein and monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, which can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure when consumed as part of a healthy diet. Some people even turn to hemp seed protein powder in particular for its blood pressure benefits, and it’s often used as part of a diet to help reduce blood pressure. Pumpkin seeds are also used to help prevent diabetes, although more research is needed to further explore this potential benefit of the popular seed protein.

Brown rice protein

Brown rice protein is ultra-high in fiber and healthy carbohydrates, and is a top source of plant-based protein. Many people also turn to it for its fat-decreasing benefits and its ability to increase lean body mass. However, the pros don’t stop there. Brown rice can also reduce risk for diabetes, decrease high cholesterol, protect your heart and offer antioxidant support. While brown rice protein may not be the most effective plant-based protein for bulking up, it’s one of the best, if not the best, choice for those with weight loss goals who consume plant protein.

Hemp protein

Hemp is a pretty notable buzzword right now, but did you know this plant offers quite a bit of vegan protein? While not as prominent as pea and brown rice protein, researchers at Cornell University note that this newcomer to the plant protein scene is pretty dense with the stuff, yielding about “25 to 30 percent protein.” One study also found that hemp also contains naturally occurring anti-inflammatory qualities to it. 

Spirulina protein

Sourced from algae, Spirulina is naturally rich in antioxidants, essential amino acids, vitamins and protein, with studies pointing to its immune-boosting potential. However, this vegan protein may not have as much protein per serving compared to other plant proteins.

Soy protein

When it comes to high protein powered by plants, it’s hard to beat soy. Soy protein is considered to be a “complete protein” similar to that of whey protein, but contains less essential amino acids. Even still, it may be a viable option for those looking to work on creating muscle mass since it contains leucine, an essential branched chain amino acid responsible for protein synthesis and thus, muscle building.

Chickpea protein

Chickpeas naturally contain protein and a complete profile of all the essential amino acids your body needs. While chickpea protein is less popular than other plant-based proteins, it’s an alternative to those who prefer to stay away from soy or seed-based proteins.

What To Avoid In a Vegan Protein Powder

As with any supplement, there are things you’ll want to steer clear of when deciding which plant-based protein powder to purchase. While many plant-based protein powders come with a host of wellness benefits, they can also be high in carb and fat content when compared to whey or other animal-based protein powder. (Although, higher fat content may be an attractive quality for those who follow the keto diet.) Before buying a plant-based protein powder, it can be a good idea to calculate your overall macronutrient intake—or how much protein, carbs and fat you’re consuming—with a calorie counter app to make sure you’re within your desired ranges.

Still, it’s not just carbs and fat content that you’ll want to keep an eye on. “I recommend avoiding anything with artificial sweeteners, dextrins or maltodextrins, soy protein and vegetable oils,” explains dietitian Megan Hansen, RD. “Other ingredients like psyllium, gums, fillers, sugar alcohols and even natural flavors are unnecessary and for many can cause bloating and gas.” It’s also a good idea to check that your protein powder is being third-party tested, she adds, since some plant-based protein powders are known to be high in heavy metals. In fact, data shows that more than 75 percent of plant-based protein has measurable levels of lead.

How To Choose the Best Vegan Protein Powder for You

At the end of the day, the best plant-based protein powder for you will depend on your dietary needs, personal preferences and health and fitness goals. There’s no such thing as the perfect supplement for everyone because what may work for you may not work for someone else. Consider these factors when selecting a plant-based protein that fits your needs and lifestyle:

Dietary needs

If you’re looking to build or maintain muscle mass, Robert Iafelice, MS, RDN and nutrition expert at SET FOR SET, recommends looking for a plant-based protein powder with around two grams of leucine per serving. “Leucine is the key amino acid that triggers muscle protein synthesis, and best used post-workout,” he explains. There’s also some debate as to whether or not added sugars are always bad, since some people prefer sugar following a hard workout, but Iafelice suggests being cautious. “Best are natural sweeteners such as stevia, erythritol or monk fruit.”

For those eating vegetarian or vegan diets, Hansen suggests seeking out a plant-based protein powder with a complete amino acid profile, which is usually a blend of different protein sources. “A good rule of thumb is if amino acids aren’t mentioned on the label, it’s not a complete protein,” she says. “I especially like plant-based protein powders labeled for ‘sport,’ because this typically means there is enough of the amino acid leucine in the product to trigger muscle protein synthesis. The amount of leucine required for your body to go into muscle building mode is 2,500 milligrams, but most plant-based protein powders have less than 1,000 milligrams.”

If you follow a gluten-free diet, be sure to buy a product made without gluten ingredients that’s processed in a facility with no gluten. It’s also important to consider your overall protein intake needs. If you’re planning on using plant-based protein powder as a meal replacement, be sure to buy a product with higher grams of protein per serving (such as 20 to 30 grams), micronutrients and carbohydrates to help you stay full and energized.


Pendelton says a simple protein powder with minimal ingredients is always your best option. This helps you steer clear of unnecessary fillers and additives like artificial flavors, which can tack on extra calories, sugar and carbs. She also recommends being wary of marketing gimmicks. “I would recommend a more basic plant-based protein powder without a lot of added ‘superfood’ ingredients that are very common now,” she says, “as these are typically more expensive and you don’t tend to get any meaningful amount of ‘superfoods’ in the powder.”

If you avoid animal sources altogether, Kim Beals, PhD, RD, CSSD also recommends looking for nutrients that are typically deficient in vegetarian diets. “Plant-based protein powders should contain ‘shortfall nutrients’ or nutrients under-consumed, such as calcium, iron, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12,” she explains. Soy is another controversial ingredient that some people steer clear of, since soy can cause hormonal disturbances and increase your risk for cancer. If you avoid soy, be sure to select a product that’s soy-free.


Budget is an important factor to consider, especially if you plan on using plant-based protein powder daily. While there are many budget-friendly plant-based protein powders available on the market, you may want to consider splurging for a higher-quality product if your budget allows, since these products are more likely to have undergone additional safety testing and include cleaner ingredients (hence the higher price point). Unfortunately, plant-based protein powders tends to be more expensive than their whey counterparts, since there is less demand and they’re harder to make.

Quality and safety

Check that any products you purchase and consume, including supplements like protein powders, have been properly tested to ensure their quality, purity and safety. This helps guarantee that what you’re putting into your body won’t have harmful substances or that these products have been produced in a way that could negatively impact your health.

One way to help guarantee purity of products is to look for specific labels and third-party testing, says Mary Wirtz, MS, RDN, CSSD. “When looking for a plant-based protein powder, you want to opt for one that is NSF-certified or Informed Choice for Sport,” she explains. “These verifications imply that the product has been third-party tested for purity and is free from specific banned substances and contaminants.” As a registered dietitian, Wirtz urges her clients to avoid any plant-based protein powders that are not third-party tested. Another way to help guarantee quality products is to seek out protein powders that are certified USDA Organic or non-GMO, the latter of which means a product has been created without any genetic engineering.

Health & fitness goals

Buying a plant-based protein powder that aligns with your health or fitness goals is the best way to ensure that any product you buy will help you achieve your goals. Protein powders tend to come in two different categories that include more general protein powder (i.e., the kind you’ll throw into a smoothie with some peanut butter) and mass gainers. Mass gainers are designed specifically to help people bulk up or gain weight, and these are much higher in calories, protein, carbs and fat (one serving of a mass gainer supplement, for example, can pack in up to 750 calories). If your goal for using protein powder is to lose weight or simply supplement your protein intake, it’s best to stick to a more traditional protein powder that’s lower in calories and carbs.

How We Chose the Best Vegan and Plant-Based Protein Powders

We chose products for our list of the best plant-based protein powders based on a number of factors. First, we considered taste, price, protein content, ingredient lists and amino acid profiles. We also took into account which plant-based protein powders were best for specific health or fitness needs, such as pregnancy, muscle gain or weight loss. Lastly, we factored in quality and safety of all products, brand reputation, customer reviews and testing processes.

Plant-Based Protein Powders FAQs

Is plant-based protein powder better than whey?

While whey protein is often hailed as the gold standard of protein powder, registered dietitians have mixed responses as to whether or not one type of protein powder is better than the other. Some say it depends on the buyer, while others lean in favor of whey protein. Iafelice believes whey protein ranks superior, especially when it comes to fitness goals. “Nothing beats whey protein,” he says. “It has all the amino acids in proper proportions.”

Compared to whey and other animal proteins, Iafelice says plant protein is lower in leucine, one of three essential branched chain amino acids that promotes muscle synthesis when used post-workout, which leads to muscle gain. Animal-based protein sources, on the other hand, have a higher amino acid profile according to recent data (for comparison, whey protein has 43 percent, while oat protein has less than half at 21 percent). Most animal-based proteins are also complete protein sources, which are proteins that include all nine essential amino acids.

Other dietitians and nutritionists believe it ultimately comes down to the quality of ingredients and ingredient lists to determine which protein powder type is better. “There are a lot of protein powders on the market that are highly processed, regardless of whether they are whey protein or plant-based protein,” Nanninga says. “Whey protein powders, in my opinion, are great for the young or middle-aged athlete or strength trainer that has regular digestion. In my 13 years as a dietitian, I have also found that high-quality plant-based protein powders are better-tolerated by females and easier on the digestive system. They both have a place.”

Should I switch to vegan protein powder?

Whether or not you should switch to plant-based protein powder will ultimately depend on your health goals, needs and personal preferences. If you follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet and aren’t getting enough protein from whole foods, incorporating a plant-based protein powder can be a great way to increase your protein intake. Likewise, if you avoid animal products for other reasons, switching to a plant-based protein can be a safe way to steer clear of them. 

Even if you eat animal sources, some people may benefit from a plant-based protein powder, especially if they need to eat dairy-free for inflammation reasons, or if whey protein just doesn’t sit well with their stomachs. Then, there’s taste. Many plant-based protein powders rival the taste and texture of their animal-sourced competitors, leading people to switch to them, but that’s ultimately a matter of personal preferences.

Does vegan protein cause inflammation?

In general, vegan, plant-based protein shouldn’t cause inflammation, unless you have an allergy or sensitivity to the protein source, such as oats or hemp. In fact, Pendleton says many vegan protein powders can do quite the opposite. “Whole food sources of plant proteins are known for being rich in fiber, micronutrients and phytonutrients associated with lower inflammation,” she explains. This includes nuts, legumes and whole grains, among other whole food sources.

Can you build muscle with vegan protein powder?

As long as you get enough protein (15 to 30 grams of protein at each meal), Pendleton says vegan protein powder can be effective at building muscle. “Muscle protein synthesis is stimulated by protein intake and exercise,” she explains. “As long as the protein intake is sufficient, plant-based protein powders can help build muscle.” In fact, research shows that consuming whey protein instead of plant-based protein or vice-versa doesn’t have any bigger impact on muscle strength and mass, as long as enough total protein is consumed overall.

Is vegan protein powder actually healthy?

Vegan protein powder sourced from plants can offer substantial amounts of protein with every serving, and can offer a healthy alternative to animal-sourced proteins. This can especially be beneficial for those with allergies to dairy, eggs and other animal proteins. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, are sensitive to dairy or simply enjoy the taste of plant-based protein, there’s a reason plant-based protein powders are so popular. Plant-based protein comes with a host of anti-inflammatory benefits and can be just as nutritious as whey or other animal-based protein powders, especially with the right blend of protein sources. It can also be used to reduce body weight or build muscle. If you’re thinking about switching to vegan protein powder or you’re looking for a new product to try, be sure to consult our list of best vegan protein powders for our top picks and what makes them superior.

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of publish time.

Ashley Zlatopolsky


Ashley Zlatopolsky is a Detroit-based writer and editor. She writes about health, wellness and fitness for Sports Illustrated, Real Simple, Healthline, Greatist, SELF and more. Previously, she worked as a branded content strategist at USA TODAY. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys dancing, kickboxing, strength training and running. This author is writing sponsored content paid for by Pillar4 and not affiliated with Sports Illustrated.