Protein is so important for good health, but unfortunately many vegans struggle to get enough. Protein is essential for maintaining and growing muscle mass, as well as other body tissues and chemicals like hormones and neurotransmitters. Also, the essential amino acids we get from protein provide their own unique benefits, too — like helping with brain function or exercise recovery (1).
Ready-to-drink protein shakes (and protein bars for that matter) make it much easier to get a quick protein boost when you’re on-the-go, or when you don’t have time to eat a full meal. If you’re trying to build muscle, protein shakes are also helpful after a workout (2).
Although we don’t recommend drinking them daily because they are highly processed, ready-to-drink protein shakes can definitely be an invaluable part of your diet on occasion.
In this article, we’ll share how to choose the best vegan protein shake, along with a few of our favorites. As always, be sure to speak with a healthcare provider prior to making any changes to your diet, supplement, or exercise routine.
Our Picks at a Glance
- Best overall: Orgain Plant Protein Shake
- Best organic: Purely Inspired Organic Protein Plant Based Nutritional Shake
- Best high protein: OWYN Pro Elite Vegan High Protein Shake
- Best pea protein: Ripple Vegan Protein Shake
- Best vegan meal replacement: Soylent Meal Replacement Shake
- Best with fiber: Evolve Plant Based Protein Shake
- Best flavors: ALOHA Organic Protein Drink
What to Look for in a Vegan Protein Shake
Here are a few things to be mindful of when you’re choosing a vegan protein shake:
- Protein content: The most important consideration for any protein shake, of course, is its protein content. Some drinks may be marketed as “nutrition drinks” or smoothies, but they don’t necessarily contain a significant amount of protein. Look for shakes that contain at least 20 grams per serving.
- Added sugar content: While nearly all ready-to-drink protein shakes contain some added sugar to make them taste better, you want to avoid options that contain large amounts of added sugar. Added sugars have been linked to weight gain, dental problems, diabetes, and many other health problems. Ideally, look for products that contain 5 grams of added sugar or less per serving (3).
- Flavor selection: Flavor matters, and you want a protein shake that comes in a variety of flavors — or at least one flavor you really like (or that’s easy to modify, like vanilla).
- Ingredients: Ready-to-drink protein shakes are highly processed, but some feature healthier ingredients than others. Due to their nature, most ready-to-drink protein shakes don’t contain simple ingredients like some other foods may. But for the most part, it’s still best to avoid shakes that contain additives like artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors.
- Certifications: You may be interested in certain certifications, like Certified Gluten Free, USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, or Certified Vegan. If you participate in competitive sports, you may also want to look for a shake that is Informed Sport certified or NSF Certified for Sport. These certifications ensure that the shakes are free of banned substances.
Here are our top picks for ready-to-drink vegan protein shakes.
1. Best Overall: Orgain Plant Protein Shake
20 grams of protein per 11 ounce bottle
Orgain is a well known supplement brand that offers a variety of different protein drinks and powders. Their Plant Protein Shakes are made with pea protein and sweetened with monk fruit extract, with 0 grams of added sugar. They also contain an Organic Fruit and Vegetable Blend that provides some extra nutrients and antioxidants.
Orgain Plant Protein Shakes are also Certified Plant Based, so you can be confident that they’re 100% free of animal products.
It’s available in Creamy Chocolate, and most reviewers seem happy with the taste.
2. Best Organic: Purely Inspired Organic Protein Plant Based Nutritional Shake
20 grams of protein per 11 ounce bottle
If you prefer organic products, you’ll be pleased with these Purely Inspired Organic Plant Based Protein Shakes. They’re USDA Organic certified, and very reasonably priced.
These shakes provide 20 grams of protein from a combination of pea protein and brown rice protein, and no added sugar. Instead, they’re sweetened with stevia leaf extract.
You can purchase them in French Vanilla or Chocolate, but there are a lot of mixed reviews for taste. Some people are happy with them, but other reviewers say that they are bitter and have a chalky texture.
3. Best High Protein: OWYN Pro Elite Vegan High Protein Shake
35 grams of protein per 12 ounce bottle
If you’re trying to build muscle, recover from an injury or illness, or just up your protein intake, you may need more protein than a typical shake can provide. These shakes from OWYN feature 35 grams of protein from pea protein and organic pumpkin seed protein. The shakes are sweetened with monk fruit extract, and free of added sugars (4).
Additionally, they contain omega-3 fats from flaxseed oil, and extra nutrients and antioxidants from spinach, kale, and broccoli.
OWYN shakes are also Non-GMO Project Verified and free of the eight most common food allergens.
They’re available in three flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, and No Nut Butter Cup. Reviewers say they’re very filling and taste good overall, but they are thicker than other protein shakes.
4. Best Pea Protein: Ripple Vegan Protein Shake
20 grams of protein per 12 ounce bottle
Ripple’s protein shakes are made with 100% pea protein, making them a great choice for vegans who may have allergies to soy. These shakes are sweetened with cane sugar, so they do contain some added sugars — to the tune of 9 grams per serving. If you’re trying to limit sugar, you may need to pass on these.
However, one bottle of Ripple also provides 30% of the Daily Value (DV) for iron — a mineral that may be difficult for some vegans to get enough of (5).
Ripple’s protein shakes are also highly rated for taste. They’re available in Chocolate, Vanilla, and Coffee flavors.
5. Best Vegan Meal Replacement: Soylent Meal Replacement Shake
20 grams of protein per 14 ounce bottle
Soylent is a vegan protein shake that’s specifically designed to be used as a meal replacement. It contains 400 calories, which is significantly more calories than the other shakes on this list. With these added calories, it’s more filling and is a better choice for replacing a full meal. It also provides 20% of the DV for several vitamins and minerals.
The protein in Soylent comes from soy protein isolate, so it’s not appropriate for people with soy allergies. It’s also sweetened with allulose, a natural indigestible sugar. However, it also contains the artificial sweetener sucralose. Some artificial sweeteners may affect gut health, but so far the jury’s still out on sucralose — more research is needed (6, 7).
Still, Soylent has great reviews for taste and is available in several different flavors: Original, Creamy Chocolate, Banana, Strawberry, Mint Chocolate, Cafe Mocha, Cafe Chai, and Vanilla.
6. Best with Fiber: Evolve Plant Based Protein Shake
20 grams of protein per 11 ounce bottle
Evolve Plant-Based Protein Shakes contain protein from pea protein, along with 10 grams of fiber. The combination of protein and fiber may help you feel more full, making these shakes a really great choice if you’re trying to lose weight (8).
Evolve shakes are also Non-GMO Project Verified and Vegan Certified. They contain a small amount of added sugar from cane sugar, but are also sweetened with stevia leaf extract.
Available flavors include Chocolate, Chocolate Caramel, and Vanilla Bean. Other flavors are available if you purchase from the Evolve website. Most reviewers say the shakes taste good, but some say the texture is a little chalky.
7. Best Flavors: ALOHA Organic Protein Drink
20 grams of protein per 12 ounce bottle
ALOHA’s vegan protein drinks come in interesting flavors, like Chocolate Sea Salt, Coconut, and Ice Coffee — as well as Vanilla. They’re made from coconut milk, pea protein, and brown rice protein, and sweetened with coconut sugar — so they do contain a small amount of added sugars (but no artificial ingredients). These shakes also contain medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which may be helpful for weight loss by increasing how much fat your body can burn (9).
Additionally, ALOHA shakes are USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Vegan, and Fair Trade Certified.
Reviewers are mostly happy with the taste, but some say that all the drinks have a hint of coconut flavor thanks to the coconut milk they contain.
Other Vegan Protein Sources
Protein drinks are great when you need a meal in a hurry, or after you’ve just finished a weight-lifting session, but we don’t recommend that they become a key part of your diet. This is because they are highly processed, and we always advocate for real, whole food over processed alternatives.
Here are some other good sources of protein for people on plant-based diets.
Soy proteins, like tofu and tempeh, are excellent choices. They are both really versatile and fairly inexpensive.
Tempeh, which is made from fermented, pressed soybeans, is much higher in protein than tofu. However, tofu is more readily available at most grocery stores, and also has a milder taste (10).
Soy foods are rich sources of healthy fat, fiber, and nutrients, too. They make a balanced addition to nearly any vegan meal.
As a vegan, plenty of protein in your diet is likely to come from foods in the legume family: beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soy. Peanuts are technically legumes as well, but we tend to use them more like tree nuts and seeds.
Fortunately, legumes are extremely versatile. You can add a generous scoop of cooked legumes to each meal for extra protein, form them into burger patties or meatballs, or puree them into sauces, dips, or spreads.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are also great sources of protein. While they’re a little too expensive and calorie dense to use as a key protein source, a sprinkling of seeds or a scoop of nut butter can add a little extra protein to each meal and snack — and that can add up.
Additionally, nuts and seeds contain healthy fat, fiber, and nutrients — making them a great addition to your pantry for quick snacks or meal accompaniments.
Some grains are relatively high in protein too, like quinoa and kamut. While they’re not as protein-rich as other sources like soy or lentils, including these grains in your meals can provide a little extra protein boost (11, 12).
Meat, Cheese, and Egg Substitutes
There are many different meat, cheese, and egg substitutes available now, too. While we enjoy eating these foods, and they can be good sources of protein, they are more highly processed than some of the other foods we’ve mentioned.
For that reason, it’s better to enjoy these foods occasionally, rather than make them a mainstay in your diet. Researchers have found that highly processed foods are linked to weight gain and a number of chronic diseases (13).
Protein Shake FAQ
Vegan protein shakes can be an effective tool to help you get more protein in your diet or serve as a quick on-the-go meal or snack. Vegan protein shakes may also help you with muscle growth and muscle recovery, just like animal-based proteins (2).
Yes, but you should look for one that is marketed as a meal replacement shake, like Soylent. These are typically higher in calories and protein, making them more filling and a closer approximation to a meal than other types of protein shakes.
Vegan protein shakes can be a helpful tool for weight loss. They are low in calories and portion controlled, so they may make it easier to stick to a reduced calorie diet. Still, a more sustainable approach to weight loss is to focus on real food ingredients, minimally processed foods, and eating in a moderate calorie deficit that promotes slow, gradual weight loss.
About the Author
SaVanna is a registered dietitian and freelance writer from Little Rock, Arkansas. Her professional interests include whole food diets and holistic nutrition, and she’s written for many high profile media outlets and brands. She enjoys gardening, cooking, and weightlifting in her free time. Read more about SaVanna.