So you’ve decided to go keto and vegan? Talk about a double whammy. Figuring out how to get enough protein while cutting carbs and avoiding animal products altogether sounds like an impossible task. But don’t worry, it absolutely can be done. The key is focusing on plant-based sources that are also low in net carbs and high in protein.
Things like nuts, seeds, nut butters, and plant-based protein powders are about to become your new best friends. In this article, we’ve rounded up the top 10 keto vegan protein sources to add to your diet. Whether you’re looking for something to spread on your zucchini toast in the morning or add to a salad for lunch, you’ll find plenty of options here to boost your protein intake the vegan keto way.
What Is Keto Vegan Protein?
Keto vegan protein comes from plant-based sources that are low in carbs and high in protein.
For the vegan keto diet, focus on foods like:
-Tofu: This soy-based meat substitute has about 10 grams of protein per half cup and only 2 net carbs. Look for extra-firm tofu to use in stir-fries or as a meat replacement.
-Seitan: Made from wheat gluten, seitan contains a whopping 30 grams of protein per half cup and only 2 grams of carbs. Use it in place of meat in many recipes.
-Nut butters: While high in fat, nut butters also provide protein. Look for unsweetened versions of peanut or almond butter with around 7 grams of protein and 3 net carbs per 2 tablespoon serving.
-Plant-based protein powders: Powders made from pea protein, rice protein or hemp protein pack 20 grams of protein or more per scoop. Add to smoothies for an easy protein boost with little carb impact.
Following a balanced low-carb vegan diet with these nutritious plant-based sources of protein will keep you feeling full and satisfied while achieving your keto goals.
Figuring Out How Much Protein You Need
To stay in ketosis, you’ll want to aim for around 30-50 grams of protein with each meal.
For most people, that works out to roughly 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, shoot for 75 to 135 grams of protein total. The exact amount depends on your activity level, lean body mass, and personal goals.
It’s best to spread your protein out over 3 meals, rather than loading up at one time. Some of the top keto-friendly, vegan protein sources include:
- Tofu (6 grams per half cup): Tofu can be grilled, baked or stir-fried. Add it to salads, veggie bowls or noodle dishes.
- Seitan (20 grams per 3 ounce serving): Seitan is made from wheat gluten and has a chewy, meaty texture. Use it in place of chicken, beef or pork.
- Nut butters (8 grams per 2 tablespoon serving): Nut butters like almond or peanut butter are easy to add to smoothies, oatmeal or yogurt.
- Hemp seeds (10 grams per 3 tablespoon serving): Toss hemp seeds on salads, oatmeal or yogurt for an extra boost of plant-based protein.
Getting enough protein and maintaining ketosis as a vegan can be challenging but focus on these wholesome, natural sources and you’ll be well on your way to keto success, vegan-style.
Top Keto Vegan Proteins for a Ketogenic Diet
Soy is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids our body needs. Soy-based foods like tofu, tempeh, and edamame are staples of a vegan keto diet.
- Tofu is made from coagulated soy milk and comes in soft, firm, and extra-firm varieties. Firm or extra-firm tofu works best for keto recipes as they have less moisture. Tofu can be grilled, baked, stir-fried or blended into sauces and dressings.
- Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. It has a meaty, savory flavor and texture. Tempeh can be marinated and grilled or added to salads, chili and stir fries.
- Edamame are boiled soybeans in the pod. They make a great snack with just a sprinkle of salt. Edamame has antioxidants, plant-based protein, and fiber.
Soy also comes in the form of soy curls, soy milk, and other meat substitutes like soy-based sausage, burgers and hot dogs. When choosing soy products, look for non-GMO and organic options with no added sugar. Soy can contribute to inflammation in some people, so consume in moderation.
Nuts are a perfect keto-friendly snack that provide healthy fats and plant-based protein. Some of the best options for keto vegans include:
Almonds are a nutritional powerhouse. Just 1 ounce contains 6 grams of protein and 14 grams of fat. They’re also high in magnesium, which many keto vegans lack. Enjoy them raw or roasted, but watch your portion sizes as almonds are easy to overeat.
Seeds are nutritional powerhouses for vegans on the keto diet. They contain healthy fats, protein, and minerals like magnesium and zinc. Some of the best options include:
- Chia seeds: Just 1 ounce contains 5 grams of plant-based protein and 9 grams of fiber. Sprinkle on yogurt or add to smoothies.
- Hemp seeds: 3 tablespoons pack 10 grams of protein and 14 grams of fat. Blend into hummus, pesto or nut butters.
- Pumpkin seeds: A 1/2 cup serving has 12 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat. Roast with chili powder and cumin for a crunchy snack or topping for salads.
- Flax seeds: Grind 2 tablespoons and add to oatmeal, granola or muffins. They provide 8 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat per serving.
- Sunflower seeds: Enjoy 1/2 cup for 10 grams of plant protein and 14 grams of fat. Add to trail mix, granola bars or eat them straight out of the shell.
Nuts and seeds should be consumed in moderation due to their high calorie density. Aim for 1 to 2 ounces a few times a week to boost your protein intake in a balanced way. Buy raw, unsalted versions and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.
An excellent source of vegan protein is spirulina. This blue-green algae contains about 60-70% protein, which is higher than most plant-based options. Two tablespoons of spirulina powder contain about 15 grams of protein, so adding it to your morning smoothie or oatmeal is an easy way to boost your protein intake.
Spirulina is also high in iron, and many other minerals like magnesium, potassium, and manganese. It contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds as well. The nutrients in spirulina may help reduce heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
Some people find the taste of spirulina unpleasant, so mixing it into strongly flavored foods and beverages is recommended. You can add it to smoothies, juice, nut milk, guacamole, hummus and pesto to mask the flavor. As with any supplement, check with your doctor before adding spirulina to your diet.
5. Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is a vegan protein powerhouse. Two tablespoons contain 8 grams of protein and B vitamins, including B12.
Nutritional yeast is made from deactivated yeast and has a savory, cheese-like flavor. It contains all nine essential amino acids our body needs. Sprinkle it on salads, pasta, popcorn or avocado toast. Fortified nutritional yeast provides vitamin B12, an important nutrient for vegans and vegetarians.
Look for nutritional yeast in the bulk section of health food stores or buy pre-packaged. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Nutritional yeast will last 6-12 months. Buy nutritional yeast fortified with B12 and other B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.
6. Protein-rich vegetables
Some of the best keto-friendly, vegan protein sources are vegetables. Load up your plate with:
- Spinach – With 5 grams of protein per cup, spinach packs a punch. Include it in salads, stir fries or blend into pesto.
- Asparagus – A cup of asparagus spears has 4 grams of protein. Roast or grill for a quick side dish.
- Mushrooms – A cup of cooked mushrooms contains around 2 grams of protein. Mushrooms work well in many recipes like omelets, soups, and curries.
- Artichokes – A medium artichoke has 4 grams of protein. Steam or bake and enjoy the heart and leaves.
- Broccoli – With 2 grams of protein per cup, broccoli is a great vehicle for melty cheese or creamy sauces.
- Green beans – A cup of green beans offers 2 grams of protein. Blanch, steam or stir fry.
Veggies are naturally low in carbs and fat, so they make perfect keto-friendly protein sources. Experiment with different cooking methods and recipes to find new ways to enjoy these nutritious, protein-packed plants.
Seitan, also known as wheat meat, is made from wheat gluten and provides an impressive amount of protein for vegans and those on a keto diet.
Seitan contains about 20g of protein per 3 ounce serving. To make seitan, wheat flour is washed in water until all the starch dissolves, leaving behind gluten, the stretchy protein that gives bread its chewiness. The gluten is then cooked in broth to make a chewy, meaty plant-based protein.
Seitan can be purchased pre-made, found in the refrigerated section of health food stores, or made at home. When buying or making seitan, look for low-carb versions without a lot of added sugar or starch. Seitan can be baked, grilled, steamed or sautéd and used in place of meat in many recipes. Its texture is very similar to meat, so it works well as a substitute in dishes like stews, curries and stir fries.
For keto vegans, seitan should be consumed in moderation due to its high wheat content, but when eaten occasionally, it can be part of a healthy high-protein, low-carb diet. Try seitan with lots of non-starchy veggies for a balanced keto-friendly meal.
Mushrooms are a keto vegan’s best friend. Portobello, shiitake, oyster—the options are endless. Mushrooms are:
- Low in carbs: Most varieties have only 2-3 grams of carbs per cup.
- High in nutrition: Mushrooms provide B vitamins, copper, potassium, and antioxidants.
- Heart healthy: Mushrooms contain compounds that can help lower cholesterol.
- Waistline friendly: Mushrooms are low in calories but fill you up due to their water content and fiber.
- Versatile: You can grill, roast, stir fry or add raw mushrooms to salads.
For the keto vegan, mushrooms should be a staple in your diet. Their meaty texture and savory flavor make them ideal for replacing meat in many recipes. Sauté them with olive oil, garlic and herbs for a quick bolognese sauce over zucchini noodles or add them to chili and stews. Mushrooms give a major umami boost to any dish.
With the variety of mushrooms available, you’ll never get bored. Experiment with different types and preparations. Mushrooms are naturally keto and vegan, so you have full creative license. Your taste buds and waistline will thank you.
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds, and it’s a perfect keto-friendly vegan protein source. Two tablespoons
of tahini contain about 6 grams of protein and 14 grams of healthy fats, with only 2 net carbs.
- Tahini can be used as a spread on low-carb bread or wraps, or as a dip for fresh veggies. Its rich, nutty flavor pairs well with lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs.
- Add tahini to salad dressings, marinades, and sauces for a boost of creaminess and nutrition.
- Blend tahini into smoothies for a protein punch. The earthy sesame flavor works great with chocolate, coffee, and banana.
- Tahini is highly versatile and shelf-stable, so stock up and use it in place of peanut butter in many recipes.
With healthy fats and plant-based protein, tahini is a keto vegan’s best friend. Keep a jar on hand for an easy nutrition boost anytime.
10. Lupini beans
- Lupini beans
Lupini beans are a great source of plant-based protein for keto vegans. They contain about 40% protein and lots of fiber, with almost no net carbs.
Just half a cup of cooked lupini beans has a whopping 20 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. They have an earthy, nutty flavor and a texture similar to chickpeas. Lupini beans work well in salads, stews, and even as a snack on their own. You can find them canned or pre-cooked in some grocery stores and most health food stores.
To prepare lupini beans, simply rinse and drain the canned or pre-cooked beans. Their tough outer skin needs to be removed before eating, so squeeze each bean between your fingers to pop the skin off. Season the beans with olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Lupini beans stored in brine can be high in sodium, so rinse them well or look for a low-sodium option.
Lupini beans provide plant-based protein and lots of fiber, so they help keep you full and satisfy your hunger. Add lupini beans to your keto vegan diet for an extra boost of nutrition.
Tips for Getting Enough Keto Vegan Protein
As a vegan on the keto diet, getting enough protein can be challenging. Here are some tips to boost your protein intake:
Focus on plant-based protein sources like nuts, seeds, nut butters, and plant-based meat alternatives. Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and nut butters like almond or sunflower seed butter are all great options.
Choose vegan meat substitutes wisely. Some popular brands of plant-based meats and burgers contain too many carbs for keto. Look for options with less than 5 grams of net carbs per serving.
Add extra protein to meals. Sprinkle hemp or chia seeds on salads, nut butters or nut-based sauces to veggie dishes, and nut or seed flour to baked goods.
Consider vegan protein powders. Pea protein, hemp protein, and nut-based powders can help you meet your needs without excess carbs. Look for unsweetened versions with minimal additives.
Track your intake. Use a food tracker to make sure you’re getting at least 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day from vegan and keto-friendly sources. Most vegans need to aim for the higher end of this range.
With some meal planning and the right plant-based foods, you absolutely can follow a keto vegan diet and get enough protein. Focus on nutritious whole foods, and don’t be afraid to supplement when needed. Your body and mind will thank you!
You now have a solid list of protein sources to choose from on a keto vegan diet. Whether you prefer nuts and seeds, plant-based protein powders, or bean and grain alternatives, you can easily meet your daily protein needs following a balanced keto vegan meal plan. Remember, variety and moderation are key. Rotate through different options from this list to ensure you get all the amino acids you need and don’t get bored.
Following a keto vegan diet may require some extra effort and planning upfront, but the health and environmental benefits make it worth it. Stay motivated by connecting with others on the same journey, trying new recipes, and tracking your progress. You’ve got this! Stick with it and you’ll be reaping the rewards of your dedication in no time.