7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)

Vegan. Plant-based. Flexitarian. Whatever you call it, eating less meat and more plant-based protein is in. In fact, one 2016 study found that 55 percent of Americans wanted to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet that year. And, as those who follow my Instagram have probably realized, I'm one of them.

While I still sometimes eat meat and don't worry about sticking to a strict "vegan" diet with baked goods or processed foods, I've enjoyed experimenting with more vegan protein. The only problem? Tofu and I...well, we don't get along (in taste or my body's reaction to it). What's a girl to do? Find other ways to get protein, of course!

7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)

Today, I thought I'd share my top seven favorite sources of vegan protein - that aren't tofu! Ready to dive in? Just have a bib on hand!

1. Banza Pasta

First off, I had to share one of my favorite gluten free pastas lately: Banza. I first discovered this brand when a box was included in my monthly Love With Food delivery (PSA: if you've never heard of Love With Food, check out my in-depth reviews here and here!). More recently, Banza contacted me about receiving free products in return for a review...and, of course, I couldn't type "yes" quick enough. 

Banza pasta is actually pasta made mostly of chickpeas, which means it's an A+ source of protein. In fact, one-fourth a cup of their rotini pasta (the kind I received) boasts 14 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. My favorite part, though, is the flavor. Compared to my typical rice pasta, Banza tastes a lot heartier. It holds up well when baked in my slow cooker mac n' cheese or just boiled on the stove top (which only takes 8-10 mins - score!).

7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)
Banza = bumpin' up the flavors!
As you could probably guess, my fave way to enjoy Banza is in vegan mac n' cheese with my homemade cheese sauce. However, it also tastes delish with pesto, spinach and extra chickpeas (got your protein, bro?) or even tossed in a salad. There really are as many options as there are Banza shapes!

2. Chia Seeds

If I had to list the foods I always eat everyday, chia seeds would be at the top of the list. True, I had never heard of chia seeds before my celiac diagnosis, but once I met Mamma Chia, I've never looked back. 

Chia seeds respectively provide more omega-3, antioxidants, calcium, potassium, protein and fiber than salmon, blueberries, milk, bananas, soy beans and flax seeds. Basically chia seeds prove that good things come in small packages. I always throw in one or two tablespoons of chia seeds into my batch of smoothies. This not only bumps up the protein, but also makes my smoothies even thicker - just how I like 'em!

Chia seeds are also a MUST if you're cravin' thick and fluffy (oatless) oatmeal. The chia seeds expand and suck up the moisture, giving your oatmeal a lot of volume even if you use the same amount of ingredients as usual. Chia seeds are also a secret weapon for vegan baking, especially if you're allergic to flax seeds like I am. Instead of an egg, you can mix together one tablespoon of ground chia seeds with three tablespoons of water, as seen in my paleo and vegan pancakes.

7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)
My fave pancakes...
Chia seeds may not sound the most appetizing and, whenever my sister sees me eating them she still says, "You're going to grow a chia pet in your stomach!" But, really, chia seeds are as delicious as they are versatile for a gluten free, plant based chef.

3. All the beans!

I've written about the magic of beans before, but this post wouldn't be complete without mentioning them as a source of vegan protein. When I first started eating beans, my stomach was not a fan (and I think you can fill in the blanks on what I'm talking about). However, I kept eating just small amounts of beans along with small amounts of meat/fish, and my stomach slowly adapted

Since I seem to be sensitive to fodmaps, I still have to watch how much I eat of certain bean types beans like chickpeas. However, I love trying out new ways to get my protein. As I've shared on my Instagram, my latest addiction is smashed black beans with potatoes and chips (for some killer creaminess and crunch).

7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)
My latest love...
One pro tip: you can also freeze your beans if, like me, you don't eat cans at a time (now that would be dangerous). Simply distribute your beans equally in a sealed plastic bag and freeze them in a layer. This let's you break off a chunk of beans and defrost just that portion whenever you like! It also keeps the beans from going bad, which saves money in the long run. Talk about a win/win.

4. YoFiit Nutritional Bars

When you hear the phrase "protein bars," you probably don't think of "vegan" right after. While there are certainly plenty of bars relying on whey or other dairy/animal-based proteins, though, vegan protein bars are becoming more common

Recently, YoFiit reached out to me to try their new vegan (gluten free, nut free and soy free) nutritional bars. I immediately loved their ingredient list, which includes items like oats, quinoa, pea protein, cacao, and goji berries - all while offering 7 to 15 grams of protein, around 12 grams of fiber and added probiotics! I also like that they sell three different "types": a lemon coconut protein bar, an apple cinnamon morning fibre bar and a choco goji midday energy bar. Admittedly, these weren't as tasty as some of the other bars I've tried. The lemon coconut bar seemed to have a medicinal aftertaste, and the cacao goji is an acquired taste because of the bitter dark cacao. The apple cinnamon is my hands-down fave - which came as a huge surprise since I'm usually not a big apple girl!

7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)
In smoothies and granola!
As for how to use, you don't have to simply eat the bars whole! In fact, I hardly ever do that unless they're my emergency snack as I'm out running errands. Instead, I like crumbling the bars on my morning smoothie bowl or my nightly yogurt parfait for an extra hit of protein. You can even use protein bars as the secret ingredient to baked goods like homemade granola or my chocolate mug cake. Your loved ones won't even be able to tell that you snuck extra protein into their treat!  

5. Nuts and seeds

Speaking of snacks, nuts and seeds are perhaps the easiest way to snack on plant based protein. While all nuts and seeds provide a degree of protein, some superstars include:

  • Pumpkin seeds - 28.8 grams of protein per 100 grams of seeds
  • Peanuts - 24.4 grams of protein per 100 grams
  • Pistachios - 21 grams of protein per 100 grams
  • Almonds - 21.2 grams of protein per 100 grams
  • Sunflower seeds - 19.3 grams of protein per 100 grams
As my Instagram followers know, I'm also a huge fan of nut and seed butters (I mean, who isn't?!?), ranging from sunbutter to cashew butter. They all offer varying amounts of protein, so eat what tastes best to you! 

Now, the more interesting part: how to eat them. For a savory meal, you can turn whatever nuts or seeds you have into a pesto (like with my Seed-Stuffed Pesto). If you combined this with a serving of Banza pasta - bam! Protein = met. My favorite way of eating nuts and seeds, though, will always be trail mix and homemade granola.

7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)
Pesto + roasted potato wedges = <3

Trail mix is an easy food you can take anywhere and enjoy anytime. You can also customize it to your taste buds (my personal favorite: cashews + sunflower and pumpkin seeds + shredded coconut + dried pineapple and raisins). As for granola, well, my various recipes reflect how completely addicted I am. You can sprinkle granola on smoothies or yogurt, eat it as a cereal or simply scoop it from the bag (pairing it with nut butter for even more protein)! When dessert can be healthy, the world truly is a better (delicious) place...

6. Quinoa and Buckwheat

Now, both of these function as grains but are actually seeds - making them delicious, protein-packed alternatives to rice. In particular, quinoa offers 4.4 grams of protein per 100 grams (along with high levels of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and folate) while buckwheat boasts 3.4 grams of protein as well as plenty of manganese, magnesium, and copper. 

Quinoa and buckwheat are also super versatile. You can buy quinoa flakes and buckwheat flakes, which are epic oatmeal alternatives. I used to eat quinoa flakes (upgraded with a variety of fruits, but butters and trail mix) for breakfast every morning. My mom, meanwhile, is still happily riding the buckwheat-flake train, eating a simple bowl of microwaved buckwheat flakes, banana, cinnamon and honey every morning.

7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)
No description needed...
You can also eat quinoa and buckwheat in savory forms, cooking them on the stove top and using them on top of salads or as the base of a stir fry or pilaf. You can also grind the grains into flour for baked goods like my pancakes or veggie-loaded pizza. And, since basically everything can go into granola, you can also toss raw buckwheat groats or quinoa into your granola batter.

7. Spirulina

Finally, last but not least, spirulina - which is also the highest source of plant based protein today. As I've written before, spirulina is actually an algae. However, this is one algae you do want to see in your food: spirulina is composed 60 to 70% of protein and offers high amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium and iron.  

Compared to the other ingredients on this list, I definitely would not suggest eating spirulina straight. The taste isn't awful (in my opinion), but it's definitely a lil' funky. Instead, try to sneak in teaspoons of spirulina wherever you can. Add a small spoonful to your smoothie, which will not only boost the protein but also create a gorgeous green color

7 Gluten Free Sources of Vegan Protein (That Aren't Tofu)
When "ice cream" = plant based protein, life is good!
You can also mix spirulina into your yogurt, (oatless) oatmeal, chia seed pudding or bliss balls/banana bombs. Just remember that less is more (because it's better to get some spirulina than add so much, you can't even eat what you created!), and add more according to taste. While spirulina's health benefits are probably best when left uncooked, you can also experiment with spirulina in baking

Sure, sometimes cooking with plant-based protein is harder than just grilling a steak. However, vegan protein can be just as delicious - and easy to use - as meat once you know what sources to look for and how to get creative in the kitchen. 

And if you're ever craving a protein-packed breakfast that isn't eggs...just remember that you can't go wrong with a spirulina smoothie bowl topped with granola, chia seeds and nut butter! 

*I received products from Banza and YoFiit in return for an honest review. However, all opinions, recipes and photographs are my own.*

What's your favorite way to eat your protein? What plant based proteins do you enjoy? Help me get inspired by commenting below! 

Comments

  1. THANK YOU for this post!! As a vegan I have heard those sentences ("but where do you get your protein", "you must be iron deficient", "is there ANYthing you can eat?!") so many times -.- Personally, I get my protein mainly from legumes, grains and nuts, but all your other sources are great too!

    Have a lovely day :)

    *Maisy

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    1. THANK YOU for your comment! So glad you could relate. And legumes, grains and nuts are always winners.

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  2. This is a great list! Like Maisy said, so many people have no idea of the world of delicious and healthful options there are out there for vegans and vegetarians! I actually had vegan comfort food last weekend in the form of a seitan "Philly Cheese Steak." :)

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    1. That philly cheese steak sounds amazing! And definitely a surprising vegan option ;) I always love discovering new substitutes for traditional foods, whether for a vegan diet, an allergen, etc. Thanks for commenting and have a great week!

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  3. Great list! I personally love tofu, but I love all of these as well! I don't even miss meat - granted I've been a vegetarian for over half of my life.

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    1. It's amazing how different people thrive on different diets, right? One of my college roommates was addicted to tofu...she would probably cook and eat a pan of it every night for a snack! Thanks for commenting and have a great week!

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  4. This is an awesome post. Specially when I have my allergy test next week. Never heard of Banza, that was new to me

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