Top 10 Vegetarian Protein Food Items for Muscle Building

protein vegetable

Build muscle with these 10 vegetarian protein sources!

If you’re a vegetarian or just want to eat healthier, it can be challenging to find protein sources that don’t come from animal products. However, there are plenty of plant-based options for vegetarians and vegans alike.

We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best vegetarian protein food items for muscle building.

Find the best vegetarian protein food items for your goal!

Most people know the significance of a high protein diet in muscle building. This awareness about the relevance of protein has persuaded people to include ample protein foods in their regular diets. Various protein supplements present in the market have made it furthermore convenient to meet individual protein needs.

But there is a famous notion that vegetarian foods are protein deficient, due to which it is difficult for vegans to have adequate dietary proteins. However, there are plenty of veg protein foods available.

The difference between vegetarian and non-vegetarian protein foods is because of their distinct quality of proteins.

Non-Vegetarian Protein Foods vs Vegetarian Protein Foods

The quality of proteins present in food depends upon various parameters, which include PDCAAS (Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score), Protein Efficiency Ratio, Biological Value, and Net Protein Utilization. These variables determine the quality of protein-based on their digestion and absorption in the body.

According to a report published on NCBI, following are the PDCAAS for foods mentioned below:

Non-Veg Foods PDCAAS

Veg Foods PDCAAS


Egg White- 1

Milk- 1

Beef- 1

Whey Protein- 1

Chicken Breast- 1

Casein- 1

Tuna Fish- 1

Soybean Concentrate- 0.99

Turkey Breast- 1

Black Beans- 0.75


Pea Flour- 0.69


Rolled Oats- 0.57


Whole Wheat- 0.40

Similarly, these foods have their individual biological values, etc. All these parameters together ascertain the quality of protein present in a particular food.

Whey and Egg proteins are considered the best protein foods based on the quality of protein present in them.

Below are some protein-rich vegetarian foods found in India, which should be added to regular vegan diets:

1. Cow’s Milk and Milk Products: Cow’s milk besides being an excellent source of good quality protein, is enriched with calcium, CLA, phosphorous and various other nutrients. It is low in fat in contrast to buffalo’s milk. Various milk products include Cottage Cheese, Buttermilk, Curd, Cheddar/Mozzarella Cheese, yogurt, etc. These are extremely beneficial for muscle gain regime when consumed as per individual requirements.

Some trainers recommend prohibiting milk from a regular diet. But remember, both casein and whey are part of milk and hence milk should form a part of high protein vegetarian diet plans. Even fat present in milk is essential, as everyone needs some amount of fat daily irrespective of one’s target. CLA (a fat present in milk) also helps in burning belly fat. The amount of protein in 100 ml of cow’s milk is 3- 4 g.

2. Soybean: Males are often recommended to debar Soy protein in the diet, because of its attribute of reducing testosterone levels. But the fact is, “extortionate daily consumption” of Soy protein affects male hormones. If consumed within permissible limit i.e. 20 g per day, it is as good for men as in the case of women. Although males should avoid drinking exclusive soy protein shakes as they may supply more “soy” to the body than the daily allowance.

Soy Protein is a highly digestible, a rich source of omega 6, fiber, iron, calcium, etc. A portion of 25 g of soybean provides around 9-10 g of good quality proteins.

Other soy foods are:

  • Tofu: 100 g provides 6-8 g of protein
  • Soy milk: 100 ml provides 3-4 g of protein.
  • Soy Flour: 50 g provides 15-16 g of protein. Addition of Soy flour to your regular flour adds to daily protein intake.

3. Pulses/ Lentils/ Beans: Pulses are incomplete proteins, i.e. they lack some essential amino acids. But for vegetarians, lentils are a major source of protein. They are rich in complex carbohydrates and loaded with fiber, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, and other nutrients, as well as phytochemicals (including saponins and tannins).

Lentil protein promotes the slow release of energy as well as contains iron which helps in transporting oxygen throughout the body enhancing metabolism. Pulses besides being high protein support weight loss when consumed in moderation. 25 g of pulses or beans provide 6-10 g protein.

4. Roasted Gram/ Chana: is also a rich source of energy and protein, and 25 g of it provides 5 g protein.
Sattu, flour made of roasted grams is also a very rich source of energy and protein and can be used to make various high protein vegetarian recipes.

5. Peanuts: contain 6-7 g protein per 25 g; however they also contain 12 g of fat. Peanuts can be adeptly taken as a good source of protein, contemplating the amount of fat in them.

6. Nuts: A serving of 25 g of almonds imparts 4-5 g of protein along with 12 g of fat, whereas 25 g walnuts contain around 2.5- 3 g of protein and 15 g of fats. Besides being loaded with micro-nutrients, it contributes to weight gain if consumed in excess.

7. Cereals/ Grains: Cereals refer to grains such as amaranth, quinoa, oats, ragi, wheat, etc. Most cereals contain 3-4 g protein per 25 g. This signifies that consuming grains too add to daily protein intakes.

Wheat consumption also adds to protein intake. Gluten present in wheat is an incomplete protein but it is very healthy for people who are gluten tolerant.

8. Seitan: Seitan is a substitute for meat products. It is made from gluten, the key protein present in wheat. It is a very good source of protein, 20 g of which provides 15 g of protein, no cholesterol, 0.4 g fat. Meat products might sometimes carry carcinogenic compound called HCA, which seitan does not.

9. Vegetables: Most vegetables lack proteins with the exception of a few, such as Peas, Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Mushroom, Broccoli and Brussel which contain around 2-4 g of protein per 100 g. However, vegetables are rich in micronutrients which also promote muscle gain. Overcooking can lead to loss of goodness they actually possess.

10. Vegetarian protein powder: A lot of people find it difficult to maintain a daily dietary intake of protein as per requirement. It is further challenging for vegetarians due to the higher demand for protein foods. Hence vegetarian protein powders such as Nutrabay Pure Series Whey, Optimum Nutrition (ON) Gold Standard 100% Whey, etc, can be added to the diet to meet the daily protein needs conveniently.

Foods with zero or negligible proteins:

  • Sugar
  • Oils and fats
  • Sago (Sabudana)
  • Most fruits (contains almost negligible protein) such as apples, strawberries, grapefruit, grapes, etc.
  • Vegetables like gourd vegetables, celery, onion, etc.

High Protein Vegetarian Diet Plan:

Meal Timing


Early Morning

Mixed Nuts & Seeds


Cow’s Milk with Protein Powder and Grains

Mid- Morning

Any Sprouts or Roasted Chana with Nuts/ Buttermilk


Green Salad, Tofu/ Paneer, Steamed Vegetable & Grains

Mid Afternoon

Coffee with some Nuts

Late Evening (Around 6-7 pm)

Veg Protein Supplement in Water


Daal, Steamed Vegetable & Grains (Optional)

Bed Time (2 hours before Sleep)


Quantity of foods in the plan differs as per specific targets, from person to person. High protein vegetarian foods consumed in moderation can easily form a part of weight loss diet, as most high protein vegetarian foods contain a moderate amount of fats.

How to Make Vegetarian Muscle Gaining Foods Taste Good?

To maintain a decent physique, it’s not mandatory to have a monotonous diet plan. A muscle gain diet plan can be made attractive by adding interesting high protein vegetarian recipes such as:

  • Moong/ Brussel sprout combined with Almonds, Walnuts, Sunflower seeds, etc.
  • Wheat Chapatis filled with Sattu (mixed with Garlic and herbs).
  • Yogurt with Nuts and a small amount of fruit.
  • Fresh Soya Chaap prepared at home (without all-purpose flour), can have it grilled with different herbs.
  • Steamed Broccoli, Mushrooms, Boiled Peanuts with Oregano/ Rosemary seasoning, served with Homemade Garlic Hungcurd, etc.

Conclusion: High Protein Vegetarian Food to Get the Same Amount of Protein as Non-Vegetarian Diet

Most non-vegetarian foods are abundant in good quality proteins, but they might carry carcinogens. However, many vegetarian foods are substantially rich in superior quality proteins and are naturally free from carcinogens, but some have a low protein score.

Nevertheless, most foods contain some amount of proteins. Even if a food has low protein score, it just means that the body would not be able to utilize the exact amount of protein consumed or will not get all essential amino acids needed, but will get some of them.

Hence, vegetarians should consume slightly more proteins than their actual requirement. Moreover pairing protein foods rich in different essential amino acids also help in making complete proteins.

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Which vegetarian food is best for muscle gain?

Plant based protein sources for muscle gain
Spirulina. Spirulina is a blue-green algae and king among proteins.
Seeds and kernels.
Peanut butter.
Nutritional yeast.
Nuts and peanuts.
Beans and Legumes.
Porridge oats.
Tofu and tempeh.

How can a vegetarian get enough protein to build muscle?

no steak required. Well-planned vegetarian diets that meet energy needs and contain a variety of plant-based protein foods, such as soy products, beans, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds can provide adequate protein for athletes without the use of special foods or supplements.

Which vegetarian food is highest in protein?

High-Protein Plant-Based Foods and How to Eat More of Them
Edamame. Total protein: 18.46 grams per cup (prepared from frozen)
Lentils. Total protein: 17.86 grams per cup (boiled)
Pinto beans. Total protein: 15.41 grams per cup (boiled from dried)
Mung beans.
Fava beans.
Lima beans.
Green peas.

What foods increase muscle size?

Lean meat. Animal products are usually a great source of protein, especially lean meats like chicken and turkey.
Dairy products.
Whole grains.
Beans and lentils.
Whey protein.

Which food gives more muscle?

A protein-rich diet is also important for muscle growth. Focus on lean protein sources like plant-based protein powder, lean meat, chicken, and fish. Try to eat or drink a protein source within 30 minutes of a workout.

How can a vegetarian build muscle fast?

Tips To Help You Follow The Vegetarian Muscle Building Diet Plan
Get Enough Calories. …
Swap Rice with Quinoa. …
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables. …
Keep Workouts Short but Intense. …
Include Nuts in Your Diet. …
Say Yes to Peanut Butter. …
Add Broccoli and Spinach to Your Diet. …
Consider Taking Iron Supplements.

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