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

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

Protein is necessary for the proper growth, development, and repair of all tissues in the human body.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are nine amino acids that are considered essential, meaning that you must eat them because your body cannot synthesize them on its own. A protein is considered "complete" if it contains all nine of these amino acids. (1)

Vegetarian foods can be a great source of protein. In general, animal foods contain all nine essential amino acids in relatively high quantities. Plant foods also contain all nine, but they often have lower amounts of particular amino acids. For example, grains contain lower amounts of lysine, while legumes contain lower amounts of methionine and cystine. Because of this, plant foods are sometimes considered to be "incomplete" sources of protein. However, combining multiple different plant foods can give you adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids. (2) Examples include combining lentils with rice, or hummus with whole wheat bread. Use the complete protein calculator to make sure your foods contain 100% of the recommended daily intake for amino acids.

This list provides the top 10 complete vegetarian protein foods. For the purposes of this list, we assume that "vegetarian" refers to a person who does not eat meat or fish, but does eat dairy and eggs.

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 50 grams per day. (3) This is considered to be a healthy target amount for most people.

However, a specific person's protein needs depend on many factors, including their body size and how physically active they are. The USDA recommends a more specific target of 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36 to get your personalized protein target. If you're an athlete or are very physically active, then you may need more protein than this. You can use this online calculator to provide a personalized estimate of your protein needs.

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
per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(87% DV)
(35% DV)
(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
per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(36% DV)
(18% DV)
(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
per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(28% DV)
(11% DV)
(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
per 1/2 Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(24% DV)
(21% DV)
(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
per Cup Cooked
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(17% DV)
(11% DV)
(26% DV)
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds6 Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
per 1oz Handful
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(17% DV)
(60% DV)
(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
per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(16% DV)
(9% DV)
(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
2 Tblsp
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(15% DV)
(48% DV)
(16% DV)
Eggs9 Eggs
in 1 Large Egg
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(13% DV)
(25% DV)
(32% DV)
  • 1 egg white provides 7% DV
  • 1 cup of hard boiled eggs provides 34% DV
White Button Mushrooms10 Mushrooms
per Cup Cooked
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(8% DV)
(7% DV)
(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.

Printable One Page Sheet

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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

1 Soy Protein Isolate100 grams177% DV
2 Spirulina100 grams115% DV
3 Toasted Wheat Germ100 grams58% DV
4 Tempeh100 grams41% DV
5 Cocoa Powder100 grams39% DV
6 Natto (Fermented Soybeans)100 grams39% DV
7 Falafel100 grams27% DV
8 Whey Powder100 grams26% DV

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 daily value (%DV) is a general guideline for consumption that will prevent deficiency of a particular nutrient in most people. The %DV refers to the percentage of an amount that's found in a single serving of a food. It also accounts for absorption factors. It is set by the U.S. FDA.
  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (%RDA) - The RDA sets an average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97.5%) healthy individuals. It's more specific than the daily value, and varies by age and gender. The RDA is set by the US National Instutites of Health.
  • Reference Dietary Intake (%RDI) -The reference dietary intake is similar to the recommended daily allowance, but is specific to age and gender. The RDI for amino acids is set by the U.N. World Health Organization.
  • Adequate Intake (%AI) - This value is primarily used in reference to omega-3 and omega-6 fats. The Adequate Intake is set by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. Because there is less evidence to determine the ideal targets for consumption of these nutrients, the specific amount is considered to be less reliable. Using the term Adequate Intake, rather than one of the other terms, helps to emphasize that the ideal intake of that particular nutrient has not yet been scientifically determined.

See the Guide to Recommended Daily Intakes for more information.

Want to set your own targets? Sign up for an account and set custom targets in the daily meal planner.

Use the ranking tool links below to select foods and create your own food list to share or print.

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

Data Sources and References

  1. Michael J. Lopez; Shamim S. Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids. Mohiuddin. National Library of Medicine.
  2. François Mariotti1 and Christopher D. Gardner. Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets—A Review Nutrients. 2019 Nov; 11(11): 2661.
  3. U.S.FDA - Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels
  4. U.S. Agricultural Research Service Food Data Central
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