No Whey! Discover the Best Tasting Vegan Protein Powder
Protein powders, especially vegan ones, used to have a bad reputation for a bitter, chalky and unpleasant aftertaste.
Nowadays, the best tasting vegan protein powder can come in a variety of flavors. You will think you’re having a naughty treat rather than a healthy supplement shake.
Let’s take a look at why you may need to add more protein to your diet. Plus, we’ll select five of the best tasting plant based protein powders on the market today.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Protein is often called the building blocks of the human body. Every cell in your body features protein as an important component.
The human body uses protein to build and repair the tissues. Your body also uses protein to make hormones, enzymes and other important chemicals in the body. Protein is used to build bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
How Much Protein Is Needed?
Just like fats and carbohydrates, protein is classified as a “macronutrient,” meaning we need relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals are only required in smaller quantities and referred to as “micronutrients.”
As we all know, the body stores fat and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, this it not the case with protein. When it has insufficient protein, the body has no backup supply to draw on.
Harvard Medical School recommends that you should consume 0.8 grams of protein a day for each kilogram of body weight. This translates to 0.36 ounces per pound of body weight. To work out your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36.(1)
The Challenges of a Vegan Diet and Protein
Complete protein sources, or high quality proteins, provide all the essential aminos for protein synthesis in our body. These are normally found in animal-based foods. Meat, poultry, dairy and fish are all considered to be complete protein sources.
When you choose to become a vegan, you are not only eschewing the animal food trade, but you also forsake many high quality sources of protein. In a recent list of the top 10 foods highest in protein content, only three came from plant-based foods.(2)
Working on a basis of 50 grams of protein being the daily value (%DV), a 6-ounce chicken breast came top, with 109 %DV (54.5 grams). The next three foods included lean pork chops with 105 %DV, tuna at 102 %DV and beef at 97 %DV. It’s not until number five that you find firm tofu with 87 %DV of protein.
In 2016, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggested that a vegan diet could meet the nutritional requirements of adults, children and pregnant or lactating women.(3)
Despite this report, many people find that plant-based nutrition makes meeting their protein needs difficult. Therefore, using a vegan protein powder is an excellent way to have peace of mind that your daily protein requirements are met.
For comprehensive information on veganism and vegan diet, check out this detailed post! Vegan recipes included!
Do Vegans Need Protein Powder?
Although most plant-based protein are incomplete, which means they do not provide all the essential amino acids, there are several sources of protein that can ensure you meet your protein RDA.
- Tofu, tempeh, edamame
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Ezekiel bread (4)
Soy is the only complete protein which provides all the essential amino acids. It can be difficult to incorporate all these foods in sufficient quantities into your diet. However, high-quality products incorporate a wide variety of plant-based protein sources to provide all the essential aminos.
Many vegans turn to vegan protein powders because they make it simple to reach daily protein requirements. The best tasting vegan protein powder can be consumed as a shake in the morning, a meal replacement for lunch or an energy boost after workouts.
Are All Vegan Protein Powders the Same?
Traditionally, those protein powders you may have seen as luminous shakes at the gym are whey, or derived from animal bones or meat. Not only can whey taste unpleasant and cause an upset stomach, being dairy-based, it won’t fit your vegan diet. As for meat or bone sources of protein, do I really need to go there?
In turn, pure vegan protein powders based on isolated, concentrated proteins have a gritty and often murky taste. To eliminate this drawback, many producers resort to adding a few grams of carbohydrate to improve the taste. This is not necessarily a bad thing because the carbs are rapidly absorbed and help you restore your glycogen levels depleted after a workout.
With taste issues out of the way, the best tasting plant based protein powder can be a great option for vegetarians and vegans. It’s not just about the vegan values, they can also be ideal for those who are lactose-intolerant, or simply somebody who is looking to cut down on dairy or animal-based products.
However, not all plant-based protein powders are created as equal. Different sources contain varying qualities of protein, differing amino acids and consequently, distinct flavors.
The Different Types of Vegan Protein Powder
The best way to find a complete vegan protein powder is to look for blends which combine all the different aminos.
Brown Rice Protein
This 100 percent plant-based protein is gluten-free, low in fats and carbohydrates and can be digested more easily. Although it is high in many essential amino acids, especially methionine, it is low in lysine.
For this reason, a vegan protein powder which only uses brown rice protein is often combined with pea protein. This is high in lysine and other branched-chain amino acids. Together they form a protein powerhouse.
Whole grain brown rice protein also offers the benefit of extra fiber, vitamins, folates and the amino acids only found in the grain. Organic brown rice protein tends to have a subtle and sweet flavor, which many people say reminds them of rice milk.
This protein powder is made using yellow split peas, a legume which is high in fiber, free of cholesterol and gluten-free. Always try to opt for organic, non-GMO peas, to make sure you’re not getting any unwanted extras in your powder.
Pea protein is one of the highest of all amino acids, yet low in the methionine found in rice protein powders.
Flavorwise, pea protein powder leaves a lot to be desired, with many complaining of it tasting like dust or having a chalky texture. It doesn’t taste like smashed peas, but— fortunately—the neutral taste mixes well with water and other flavors.
Soy protein, made using soybeans, is a complete protein which contains all the essential amino acids. In a similar way to animal sourced proteins, like whey or casein, soy protein is especially good at boosting muscle repair after vigorous exercise. This type of protein can also be used to slow down muscle loss related to age.
Soy protein has been found to contain isoflavones which have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.(5)
However, it may be advisable to speak with your doctor before starting to use a soy protein powder as some can contain GMOs, which are harmful to your health. Too much soy has also been blamed for abnormal hormone levels, especially in men.
Soy protein tends to have a strong, nuttier flavor than others, and can also have a grainy texture. Different brands may include other additives, with some a little smoother than others—it’s a case of trying many to find the one you like.
It may come from the same plant as cannabis, but we’re not talking about a hallucinogenic protein. What hemp protein powder does offer is a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, although it also has higher fat levels.
Hemp protein powder contains all the essential vitamins, but is a lower quality protein compared to other sources, due to its low digestibility. The PDCAAS (protein digestibility corrected amino score) is a recognised standard of the quality of a protein source.(6)
Hemp protein only scores 46–51 percent, compared to the 85 percent score of pea protein, and therefore doesn’t offer the same level of aminos.
Hemp protein has a slightly nutty, plant-like flavor to it, nuttier than flax seed. If you mix it with liquid, you will need to leave it longer before drinking, or it will taste gritty. Many people mix it with fruits or non-dairy milks, to hide that “green” flavor.
What to look for in a tasty vegan protein powder
Protein itself is not exactly synonym with tastiness and if you also take the vegan aspect into consideration, then many will surely be tempted to say it is impossible to find something remotely palatable.
Fortunately, there are products out there which tick the right boxes in terms of the following aspects.
Flavor – While some people may not find flavor essential when it comes to powders, most of us cannot get past it. There should be a balance between healthy and tasty, so it is recommended to search for products with natural flavors and avoid artificial ones which swarm with preservatives.
Aftertaste – One of the biggest challenges when it comes to vegan protein powders is how to improve the sensation it leaves after use. To avoid a bad aftertaste, make sure you read the ingredient list carefully and choose products with no artificial ingredients or thickeners that may impact the taste.
Mixability – A high-quality powder should be easily blended into a smooth texture that can be just as easily digested to provide the necessary protein intake, no matter the base. Gritty or lumpy results are not to be associated with a tasty product.
Sweetness – Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, it is always better to feel a sweet taste than a chalky one. So, you may opt for vegan protein powders that include natural sugars such as fructose as long as they do not exceed 10 grams of sugar per serving.
How to Improve the Taste of Vegan Protein Powders
By itself, no pure plant-based protein powder is particularly appetizing. The best tasting vegan protein powders will normally have added extras, like natural sweeteners, to make it more palatable. Be careful of added ingredients if you are trying to lose weight, as extra carbs or sugars will add to the calorie count of the resulting shake.
Natural sweeteners to add to the drink yourself include peanut butter or fresh fruits. Peanut butter also acts as thickener if the drink is too watery, whereas chopped fruit or fruit juices will add extra fiber too. Banana is a popular fruit because of the strong flavor and the thickness of its pulp.
Stronger flavors, like cocoa powder or vanilla, can also be used to mask the unpleasant flavor of some protein powders. Half a teaspoon of a spice—like cinnamon or nutmeg—can also help, or try adding some sugar-free syrup, like that used for homemade soda or flavoring coffees.
DIY Protein Powder
If you’ve had enough of buying the classic protein powder flavors, only to be disappointed, you could always try enhancing the final taste right at home.
For example, you can add one or more of the following ingredients which also increase the protein content per serving: spirulina, cocoa powder, maca, oats, almonds, quinoa flakes or sunflower seeds.
For extra flavor, add raw vanilla bean powder, maca powder for its caramel flavor or goji berry for a tart taste and extra nutrition. You could also use lucuma for a maple taste and vanilla powder or acai powder for that chocolatey berry taste. Ginger, cinnamon or stevia could also be used for flavor enhancement.
Simply mix your preferred source of protein with your choice of amino add-ons and flavor enhancers, then store in the refrigerator. You could also use your protein in the following ways:
- Breakfast oatmeal — add a scoop of a vanilla protein to your morning bowl of oatmeal for an early morning boost.
- Homemade protein balls — add peanut butter to oats and a homemade protein powder of your own choice. Once the batter is thickened, roll into bite-sized balls.
- Apple slices — put some sliced apple in a ziploc bag, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and some homemade protein powder and shake. A tasty mid-morning protein boost you can take to the office.
Homemade Protein Shakes
Many of the protein powders we looked at are designed to be drunk as a shake. Unfortunately, most commercial shakes taste very similar to those slimming meal replacement shakes you can buy. Adding protein-rich vegetables or fruits of your own choice can take away that artificial powdered taste.
Using a vegan milk, like soy, almond or cashew milk, you can add either a commercially bought or homemade protein powder. Put into a blender with some ice cubes, hemp or chia seeds for extra protein, and some chopped fruit for fiber. Adding a cup of water can help loosen up the shake to be more drinkable. Add peanut butter to sweeten.
Dark green leafy vegetables can also be used to make a protein shake at home. Add some extra protein powder for that protein boost—ideal for consumption after a workout. The extra amino acids will help speed up your muscle repair and recovery after strenuous exercise.
The Best Tasting Vegan Protein Powder
If you still think vegan protein powders taste like dust, we have rounded up the best tasting plant based protein powders out there at the moment. Some of them are even made from that dreaded pea protein.
If you like the taste of chocolate, this organic plant-based protein is the best tasting vegan protein for you. Infused with Peruvian organic cacao, it also contains coconut milk, Himalayan pink salt, stevia and organic monk fruit.
Using a combination of pea protein, quinoa, and pumpkin, flax and chia seeds, it is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids. Added fiber and extra digestive enzymes ensure the digestive system runs efficiently.
- USDA organic, gluten and soy free.
- 20g of protein in each serving
- Less than 9g of carbs, so it’s perfect for most diets
- Contains tree nuts—not suitable for people with nut allergies
This raw vegan protein powder from Sunwarrior uses a complete protein blend of cranberry, hemp and pea protein powders. You can choose from three flavors, including vanilla, chocolate or natural flavor, with stevia used to add sweetness.
Coconut added to this powder fuses medium-chain triglycerides with a complete amino profile, rich in arginine, lysine, leucine and other branched-chain amino acids. For the more active, this is the perfect protein mix, aiding better muscle recovery.
- Addition of cranberry and pea protein makes it easily digestible
- Multiple flavors to choose from
- The natural flavor is ideal for blending with your own choice of flavors
- Can go clumpy, especially when used with soy or almond milk
This vegan protein powder has actually won awards as the best tasting plant based protein powder. It’s been developed by dancer, Lola Sherunkova and health expert, Davide Gariboldi, who wanted to strike that balance between health and flavor.
Available in a choice of vanilla bean or chocolate, each serving packs 15 grams of protein from that classic combination of brown rice and pea. With only 110 calories per serving, this is the perfect protein powder if you are trying to lose weight but need a low sugar energy boost.
- Great creamy flavor, yet very low in calories
- Only uses stevia and natural raspberry as sweeteners
- Over 21 superfoods that provide valuable probiotics and antioxidants
- Whole chia seeds can get stuck in teeth and add gritty texture
Available in a choice of chocolate, vanilla bean or raspberry chocolate, this contender for best tasting vegan protein powder uses a combination of four plant-based proteins. Pea protein isolate, artichoke, organic sprouted amaranth and quinoa powder offer a complete protein.
This powder provides 4,500 mg of those all important BCAAs and 3,350 mg of L-glutamine. A proprietary enzyme blend makes it easier to digest. This is the ideal vegan protein for trying to lose weight yet build muscle.
- Complete amino acid profile and rich in BCAAs and L-glutamine
- 21g of protein in every serving
- Easy to blend with no lumping ingredients
- Contains fructose, which may sometimes cause digestive problems
As a coffee lover, for me this may be the best tasting plant based protein powder. Containing only what you need (OWYN), it provides 20 grams of protein from a blend of pea, pumpkin and chia seed with all nine essential aminos.
An added superfoods green blend uses kale, spinach and broccoli, with 500 mg of omega-3s. The other benefit is it uses only 4 grams of sugar, from organic cane sugar and the natural sweetener of monk fruit.
- Allergen-tested to reduce inflammation on the body—safer for people with food allergies
- 1 billion CFU probiotics reduce muscle damage due to vigorous exercise
- Low sugar, free of sugar alcohols and other GMO ingredients
- More expensive than other options on the market
Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean your protein powder shakes have to taste nasty. The best tasting vegan protein powder we have looked at here all include the full amino profile you need from a protein supplement, with a choice of flavors.
For the price and quality of protein blend used, the Kos Organic Plant Based Protein Powder is the best tasting plant based protein powder for us. It has a delicious natural chocolate flavor and easy mixability. The cacao used in this protein powder is so rich you could also try baking with it, adding extra flavor to your desserts.
Moreover, the protein count of 20 grams pers serving is relatively high compared to other vegan powders on the market while the calories count of 120g is pretty decent. Great taste also comes with a highly nutritious content of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B, C, D or selenium and manganese.