Protein is important. Especially for those of us who are active outdoorists, whether that means we’re into hiking, climbing, backpacking, kayaking, mountain biking or anything in between. Because getting optimal protein is important for recovery and maintaining (and gaining) strength and endurance (so you can really carve those lines the next time there’s fresh powder on the mountain or power up the next incline). in fact, peer reviewed studies show that a high-protein diet can be instrumental in maintaining lean body mass in athletes. And that includes outdoor athletes.
And with the ever growing popularity of plant-based and vegan diets (we’ve been vegan ourselves for 10 years now), the number of vegan protein powders has sky rocketed, which we’re not mad about. In fact, in my research for this post, I came across over 70 plant-based proteins on the market in the U.S. alone.
Of course, every protein powder has its pros and cons. Some use artificial sweeteners, some have more vitamins, minerals and BCAAs than others, some offer unique flavors, and prices can range from around a dollar to over three dollars a serving.
So with so many options, how do you choose what supplement to drop your hard-earned cash on? We’re here to help. In this ever expanding list of vegan protein powders, we’ll outline everything that matters including cost-per-serving, how they taste, and what other nutritious (or not) ingredients they contain. So let’s get crackin’! (And check back often for fresh new options that we’ll add as we try them–and we have tried all of these, so you can trust that our assessment isn’t based on some over-hyped Amazon reviews.)
Vegan Protein Powder Taste Test and Breakdown (Alphabetically)
Awesome Coffee ($2.67 per serving): A Welcome Caffeine Boost
Protein Per Serving: 13g
We kinda wished there was more protein per serving here, but we don’t have much to complain about when it comes to Awesome Coffee’s protein coffee. It’s a slightly sweet, totally vegan, creamy, frothy, quaffable beverage that has 135mg of caffeine plus 50mg of Ashwagandha. There are 4 grams of sugar, the rest is sweetened with monk fruit, which some (including me) think has a curious aftertaste, but after a few sips, I got over it. After all, the beverage itself is pretty dang tasty. The texture is a bit grainy, but that typically comes with the territory, so we’re not too bothered by it. The main downside in my opinion? That there are only 15 servings per bag. You do get a discount for ordering multiple bags at a time, and an additional discount if you subscribe for regular deliveries, so the brand does make it easy to keep your protein supply stocked. Best served cold and shaken.
What we like: It has a serious boost of caffeine with more protein, less fat and less sugar than one of those overpriced cups from Starbucks. It’s creamy iced coffee, but better!
Equate ($0.92 per serving): The Cheap One
Protein Per Serving: 30g
Let’s cut right to the chase. This is probably the worst protein powder I’ve ever had the displeasure of putting in my mouth. At least the vanilla flavor was. Which is why I was so surprised that the chocolate flavor was actually tolerably palatable. It’s worlds apart from its vanilla counterpart. We’re still not saying it’s amazing, but at home when you can blend it with peanut butter and banana, it’s not half bad, though may not be the most gentle on your digestive tract.
The Equate Plant Protein formula has a handful of thickeners in it that produce a fairly unpleasant consistency. The vanilla flavor is…ugh…all you can taste is the Sucralose and the unpleasantly pasty consistency. Even blending in a banana, peanut butter, and almond milk couldn’t fully cover the awful flavor or thin out the texture. The chocolate was fine.
Basically, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly protein, go with the chocolate. You’ve been warned about the vanilla.
Bonus: It contains additional vitamins, minerals, and 3 amino acids, has the highest protein content, and is super inexpensive.
Form Nutrition Performance Protein ($3.00 per serving): The Premium One
Protein Per Serving: 30g
Form has won a lot of awards and there’s a reason for that. And while it may not be the most expensive on this list, they make one of the, if not the tastiest and most well-balanced protein supplement out there. The flavors are anything but bland and without any unpleasant after taste, which is surprising given it’s whopping 30 grams of protein per serving. Another thing I like about the brand? They’re a certified B Corp. Not sure what that means? Check out this post on their website. Bonus: The packaging is also compostable, making it one of the most sustainable options.
What we like: Complete amino acid profile and 5 grams of BCAAs. 100% plastic free, compostable packaging and no plastic scoops. Honestly, get a food scale or just use a tablespoon already!
Garden of Life Raw Organic Chocolate ($2.54 per serving): A Good Balance of Flavor and Price
Protein Per Serving: 22g
This raw plant-based protein powder is the second grainiest on the list after the Vega (but still not bad from a palatability standpoint). Garden of Life is another brand you’ll see at grocery and health food stores pretty regularly, so it’s fairly accessible.
And while it advertises itself as a “shake” right on the tub and does contain some thickeners, it leaves something to be desired in terms of consistency and features only a light chocolate flavor. Even so, this one is a good “middle of the road” option: Not overly expensive and without too many compromises on flavor and texture.
What we like: It contains additional vitamins, minerals, essential and non-essential amino acids, plus probiotics and is raw.
Gnarly Vegan Meal Replacement ($3.84 per serving): The Tasty One
Protein Per Serving: 20g
If you’re not familiar with Gnarly, you should be. They make one of the tastiest meal replacements out there. And it is a meal replacement. As in, there’s lots more than just protein in here. Another thing I like about the brand? They create their products with outdoor pursuits in mind.
This protein shake thickens when mixed and is smooth for a protein powder. It’s sweetened with stevia and evaporated cane juice and the chocolate flavor is one of the more decadent on this list with a subtle stevia aftertaste.
What we like: It contains additional vitamins, minerals, and all 9 essential amino acids. It’s a meal replacement, after all, not just a protein supplement. Plus the flavor is bomb and the stevia aftertaste is minimal.
Green Regime Elite Protein ($2.00 per serving): Perfect for Blended Shakes
Protein Per Serving: 25g
With a full amino acid profile, excellent macros, vitamins, minerals and a dash of fiber, there’s little to complain about with this meal replacement. And while we didn’t find the chocolate flavor very…chocolately…it was probably the most neutral-tasting protein on this list, despite it’s high protein content and added greens, meaning it’s perfect for adding your own touches for a delicious protein smoothy whether that’s berries and greens or banana and peanut butter.
What we like: This protein packed meal replacement is also packed with extra goodness like organic broccoli, parsley, cabbage, kale, and maca root. Excellent price.
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LyfeFuel Performance Shake ($2.50 per serving): Well rounded for the price
Protein Per Serving: 25g
At around $2.50 a serving, this performance shake isn’t a bad deal thanks to the 25 grams of protein and the added vitamins, minerals, berry and greens blends. Unfortunately, what those things don’t add is flavor. Light on chocolate flavor, this powder is pretty bland even when shaken with our favorite plant-based milk, but if the price is right, it’s still worth considering. It also comes in a Vanilla Chai flavor which had us scratching our heads: Vanilla? Maybe. Chai? Not so sure.
What we like: The fairly approachable price and all the essential aminos, vitamins, berry and greens blends. The sweeteners, coconut sugar and stevia, were noticeable but not over powering.
NOW Sports Plant Protein Complex ($1.40 per serving): The Best on a Budget
Protein Per Serving: 22g
NOW is a brand you’ve probably seen in the vitamin aisle of your local grocery store. The brand produces a wide range of products at approachable price points. One such product is their plant-based protein complex. While this is the grainiest vegan protein powder on the list, it doesn’t feature the intense sweetener taste that plague some of the others as it’s sweetened with a combination of xylitol and stevia.
Unfortunately, it does tend to separate if you don’t drink it immediately. This isn’t a problem at home if you’re blending it with other things like banana and peanut butter (our fave protein shake mix-ins), but for outdoor recreation purposes, you’ll probably want to give it a shake before each sip. So while the texture may not be ideal, it’s a great value for quick and easy protein.
What we like: It contains additional vitamins, minerals, essential and non-essential amino acids, plus is budget-friendly.
Vega Sport Berry ($3.41 per serving): Peanut Butter Jelly Time
Protein Per Serving: 30g
Vega is a widely recognized plant-based protein powder. They offer lots of flavors and formulations (including ones for gut health), but for this test, we tried multiple flavors including Vega Sport in Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Berry, and Vega Original Protein in Creamy Chocolate. While all the flavors were tasty when mixed with our favorite plant milk, the one that stood out to me was the Sport Berry flavor. Why? Because when blended in a smoothie with banana and peanut butter, it’s like drinking a peanut butter jelly sandwich, which is absolutely delicious.
As for taste? Smooth without any significant Stevia aftertaste and surprising berry taste thanks to the strawberry, tart cherry, and beet powders (which doesn’t make it taste like beets).
What we like: 5g BCAAs per serving, extremely high in protein per serving, and was gentle on the stomach unlike some other proteins containing Stevia or artificial sweeteners. Looking for something a little gentler on your wallet? Check out their new Original Protein.
Bottom Line and Our Favorites
Did you happen to see the pattern here? While not true every time, in general, you get what you pay for when it comes to vegan protein powder. The higher up in price we go, the better the flavors tend to be and the more palatable the texture.
While all of these vegan protein powders are perfectly valid options for shoring up your protein intake (except maybe the Equate), our top three (in no particular order) are Vega, Form, and Gnarly. Though if it’s caffeine you’re after in conjunction with protein, Awesome Coffee is definitely an easy-drinking winner (and definitely doesn’t need mixed with anything but water), making it a great choice for a quick and easy start on trail days.
If you’re specifically looking for a meal replacement, Gnarly takes the gold. It tastes great and contains 20g of protein and 200 calories per serving, which should help you recover after a long day of outdoor activity.
So that’s it! What vegan protein powder should we take a look at next? Let us know in the comments! We’ll be updated this list frequently, so check back any time you’re ready to try something new! So fuel up and wander on
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