25 Best Vegan Amino Acid Sources

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Samuel Anthony
Apr 6, 2023
6 bowls of whole food plant-based protein sources including nuts next to the word protein

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

They form chains and bind to form proteins used by our bodies for a range of functions.

Protein may be best known for its role in muscle building and fitness gains, but it is far more integral to our well-being than that.

What are the 25 best vegan amino acids sources?

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a great vegan source of amino acids and provides a range of B vitamins and minerals. Many vegans use nutritional yeast to add a nutty, cheesy flavour to their dishes.

Protein (per 100g): 45g

Fat (per 100g): 7g

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are a nutritious allrounder with lots of protein and brain-boosting beneficial omega fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6. In addition, hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth, which is a massive benefit for sustainability. Hemp seeds are a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids (see below).

Protein (per 100g): 32g

Fat (per 100g): 49g


Seitan is a vegan meat (sometimes called wheat meat) substitute made with wheat gluten, the main protein in wheat. It is high in protein and very low in fat.

Protein (per 100g): 25g

Fat (per 100g): 0.6g

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter may be primarily a source of fat, but it also can deliver a lot of protein alongside it. In addition, many fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.

Protein (per 100g): 22g

Fat (per 100g): 50g


Pistachios are the seeds of the pistachio tree and are related to cashews. Pistachios are another great source of beneficial fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Protein (per 100g): 21g

Fat (per 100g): 46g


Almonds are rich in antioxidants, calcium, vitamin E, amino acids and fibre and are a nutrient-dense food source. Primarily, almonds are a source of beneficial fatty acids.

Protein (per 100g): 21g

Fat (per 100g): 53g


Tempeh is an Indonesian vegan staple food ingredient made with fermented soybeans, a process that makes the starches easier to digest. Rich in amino acids and nutrients, tempeh adds a nutty, meaty flavour and texture to vegan dishes.

Protein (per 100g): 20g

Fat (per 100g): 11g

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are rich in iron, zinc, fat-soluble vitamins, magnesium, antioxidants, beneficial unsaturated fatty acids, and amino acids.

Protein (per 100g): 19g

Fat (per 100g): 19g

Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are a great addition to your day, with high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3, which are great for your mind and body, alongside essential amino acids.

Protein (per 100g): 18g

Fat (per 100g): 42g


Tahini is a nut butter made with sesame seeds rich in calcium, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. Tahini is a main ingredient in hummus, along with chickpeas.

Protein (per 100g): 17g

Fat (per 100g): 53g

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are rich in soluble and insoluble fibre, which can be great for normalising your blood cholesterol, gut health and microbiome. They also provide nearly one-fifth of their weight in amino acid content.

Protein (per 100g): 17g

Fat (per 100g): 31g

Cashew Nuts

Cashew nuts are rich in zinc and beneficial fatty acids and are an ideal protein-rich addition to any meal.

Protein (per 100g): 15g

Fat (per 100g): 46g


Walnuts are shaped like a brain for a reason: they provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for healthy cognitive function. Alongside a lot of fatty acids, walnuts are a great protein source.

Protein (per 100g): 15g

Fat (per 100g): 65g

Wholewheat Flour

Wholewheat flour is a protein-rich ingredient used to make bread and pasta and thicken sauces. Wholewheat is typically richer in nutrients and fibre, which is excellent for your gut. Wholewheat flour is a lean protein option to use in cooking.

Protein (per 100g): 13g

Fat (per 100g): 2.5g


Oats make for a great start to the day with beneficial carbohydrates for a gentle energy release. They are also rich in beta-glucan, which could benefit those with diabetes as it regulates blood glucose.

Protein (per 100g): 13g

Fat (per 100g): 6g


Edamame beans are whole soybeans harvested before they are fully ripe. They are rich in folate, copper, protein, calcium, iron, magnesium and several other minerals.

Protein (per 100g): 12g

Fat (per 100g): 5g


Tofu is a bean curd made with soybeans that is incredibly rich in calcium, iron, protein and beneficial phytoestrogens.

Protein (per 100g): 10g

Fat (per 100g): 5g


Lentils can add plenty of fibre and bulk to a dish and boast high iron levels. They also contain a reasonable amount of amino acids per serving.

Protein (per 100g): 9g

Fat (per 100g): 0.4g


Chickpeas are the primary ingredient for hummus and falafel and are a nutritious source of lean vegan amino acids with less than 3g of fat per 100g.

Protein (per 100g): 9g (roughly half a tin can of chickpeas)

Fat (per 100g): 2.6g

Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are another protein source that boasts a broad nutritional profile. They are delicious in a curry, chilli or jambalaya and contribute to your daily fibre goals.

Protein (per 100g): 9g

Fat (per 100g): 0.5g

Garden Peas

Peas are a familiar western staple rich in carbohydrates and protein. They are also a good source of antioxidants.

Protein (per 100g): 5.4g

Fat (per 100g): 0.2g


Quinoa is a nutritious, fibre-rich carbohydrate that releases energy slowly and keeps you feeling full.

Protein (per 100g): 4.4g

Fat (per 100g): 1.9g


Broccoli brings a powerful combination of vitamin C and iron alongside a range of amino acids.

Protein (per 100g): 2.4g

Fat (per 100g): 0.4g

Brown Rice

Brown rice contains greater fibre and nutrient content than white rice and is a source of (some) protein. While not rich in amino acids, they show how even staple carbs can provide at least some protein.

Protein (per 100g): 2.3g

Fat (per 100g): 0.8g


Mushrooms have recently been used more frequently as meat substitutes for vegan dieters as they offer a delicious fleshy texture and provide some protein with very little fat content.

Protein (per 100g): 2.2g

Fat (per 100g): 0.5g

What are essential amino acids (EAAs)?

There are nine essential amino acids.

In this context, essential means these amino acids are ones your body needs to function but cannot make for itself.

Therefore, we must source these within our diet.

The nine essential amino acids are:

  1. Histidine - this amino acid is vital to the immune system and crucial during the early developmental stages of life.
  2. Isoleucine - assists in releasing energy, helps you heal, and improves the function of the circulatory system.
  3. Leucine - is involved in the growth and building of strong muscles and synthesising growth hormones in the body.
  4. Lysine - can regulate cholesterol levels and plays a role in repairing damaged or old tissues.
  5. Methionine - this amino acid is excellent for the skin, hair, and nails. It can help with your body's defences and growing and repairing tissues.
  6. Phenylalanine - a precursor for several neurotransmitters, including dopamine and noradrenaline. It is also involved in the formation and activity of many proteins and enzymes.
  7. Threonine - a range of functions that benefit the teeth, metabolism of fatty acids, protecting the liver, and some positive impact on mood-related disorders.
  8. Tryptophan - helps the brain and nervous system and is a precursor for serotonin and melatonin, which regulates a healthy sleep cycle and improves mood.
  9. Valine - this amino acid benefits day-to-day bodily functions, including cognitive, and can prevent muscle breakdown when working out.

Is plant-based protein better quality than animal-based protein?

Regarding the definition of "protein quality", we must consider several factors, including (to an extent) the individual's goal.

A fitness fanatic wishing to gain muscle while shedding fat may view high-quality proteins as containing the most amino acids with the fewest fatty acids or total fat content.

Generally speaking, plant-based protein sources are lower in fat and better suited to those wishing to shed fat while gaining muscle mass.

While plant-based amino acids typically come with far less fat and saturated fat, they are slightly harder for our bodies to digest.

Animal protein is absorbed more readily by the body, but a vegan can grow muscle at the same rate as a meat eater, as the diet on the whole makes a significant difference.

When you consider the studies into plant-based proteins and their effect on overall health outcomes, longevity and cardiovascular well-being, it is clear that plant-protein sources provide a significant benefit over animal proteins when consumed as part of a broad, balanced diet.

Ultimately, all nine essential amino acids come from plants, and these plant proteins each benefit the body.

How do they measure the quality of amino acids or proteins in vegan food sources?

The quality of amino acids is measured using different methods, each with pros and cons.

Generally, assessing protein quality focuses on bioavailability and digestibility as key factors.

Many methods for measuring amino acid quality rely on comparing it against an ideal, such as with the Chemical Score method.

Others rely on assessing changes to an individual's weight compared to their protein intake throughout a short trial, such as with the Protein Efficiency Ratio.

The most widely accepted and utilised method is the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation (IAAO) technique based on our ability to digest and absorb that amino acid.

Where do vegans get their protein?

Yes, this question is semi-ironic.

Hopefully, by this point, the answer is clear: from plants.

Vegans and plant-based dieters get their protein from various plants, like the world's largest and strongest land animals.

All nine essential amino acids can be found in plants and easily sourced on a plant-based or vegan diet.

All plants contain protein, and eating a broad range of whole foods as part of a balanced diet should result in more than ample amino acid daily intake.


Lonnie L

Mr. Anthony I like your article! Please create more vegan articles stating how cost effective it would be to list the amino-acids as an important part of the nutritional label, when vegans are (Food Combining) for proper plant based protein nutrition.

Certified Plant-based nutritionist Sam Anthony
Samuel Anthony

That is a great idea! Of course I will :)

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