Rewind to just a few years ago, and most people had never even heard of plant based protein powders.
Whilst you could walk into your local supplement store to find the shelves stocked with countless animal and dairy based protein powders; vegan options were considered far too ‘niche’ for the mainstream. At best, you’d be lucky to find an overpriced soy protein powder tucked away in a corner somewhere.
But in recent years, vegan protein powders have seen a surge in popularity thanks to the growing awareness of the health benefits of a plant based diet. Combine this with the decline in popularity of dairy based products (such as whey protein), and it’s no surprise to see so many people making the switch to a plant based protein.
How do you find a great vegan protein?
Here’s what you should be looking for when choosing a plant based protein powder:
Which Products Have We Tested?
To help you find the right vegan protein powder for you, we’ve compared 10 of the most popular vegan proteins, which are available on the UK high street or can be delivered to UK addresses.
We chose products to ensure a wide variety of protein sources, to suit a wide variety of budgets and fitness goals. They are listed here in order of descending test scores.
Please note that test scores are a percentage of a maximum score of 60 points.
**BEST PREMIUM PROTEIN
**BEST TASTING PROTEIN
**BEST ALL ROUNDER
|Sunwarrior Warrior Blend
**BEST UNFLAVOURED PROTEIN
|Bulk Powders Complete Vegan Blend
**BEST BUDGET PROTEIN
|Vega Sport Performance Protein
|MyProtein Vegan Blend
|Pulsin Raw Hemp Protein
**BEST SINGLE INGREDIENT PROTEIN
|That Protein Chocolate Brown Rice Protein
|Reflex Nutrition Vegan Protein
|Sci-MX Pro V-Gain
Once our comparison was complete, we grouped the protein powders into categories and decided on the following winners:
Best Budget Protein
If you’re on a tight budget, it can be tempting to go for a cheap soy or rice protein powder. However, based on the reasons we mentioned above, we do not think these protein powders represent good value for money due to the potential negative health impacts.
When searching for a budget protein powder we wanted to find a product that had a high protein content at a relatively low cost. It also had to have a complete amino acid profile to ensure it was suitable for post workout recovery.
We eventually narrowed our search down to two products: MyProtein Vegan Blend, and Bulk Powders Complete Vegan Blend. Nutritionally speaking, it was almost impossible to split them. Both contained 22 grams of protein per scoop, each with a complete amino acid profile. Bulk Powders was slightly higher in carbs and total calories, so this is something to keep in mind depending on your goals.
Both tasted reasonably good, however Bulk Powders did have a smoother texture. We found the MyProtein blend a little grainy. Bulk Powders is also sweetened with stevia, as opposed to the MyProtein blend which is sweetened with sucralose, of which there are potential health concerns.
It is for this reason that we crown BulkPowders Complete Vegan Blend the best budget protein powder. At £19.99 for a one kilo pouch, it certainly won’t break the bank.
Best Premium Protein
If you’re after a more high end protein powder, it’s important to know what you are looking for. A higher price tag doesn’t necessarily equate to a higher quality protein powder!
After studying the more premium end of the protein powder market, there were only two products that really justified their high price tag. These were Sunwarrior Warrior Blend and PERFORM Raw Plant Protein.
The first and most obvious benefit to both of these protein powders is that they are both raw. Raw protein powders means more nutrients, easier digestion, and as we mentioned earlier, and more balanced amino acid profile.
Both of these protein powders are complete proteins. However, PERFORM does contain 25g of protein per scoop, compared to only 19g per scoop in Sunwarrior. Further, PERFORM also contains 6 grams of BCAAs, which are key amino acids when it comes to muscle building.
PERFORM also takes it further when it comes to additional ingredients. The addition of turmeric extract helps improve recovery after workouts, the digestive enzymes mean that it is absorbed much more easily. It boasts a “Superfood Protein Complex” consisting of cold pressed hemp protein, spirulina and cracked cell-wall chlorella. Finally, PERFORM contains Himalayan Salt which provides key electrolyte support, particularly effective if you have a high sweat rate.
Both PERFORM and Sunwarrior Warrior Blend are 100% natural, non GMO, and sweetened only with stevia. PERFORM edges it when it comes to taste, but we’ll come onto that later.
Best Unflavoured Protein
If you’re looking for an unflavoured protein powder, Sunwarrior Warrior Blend is a great bet. It has a smooth texture compared to other plant proteins, making it ideal for post workout smoothies and shakes. Neat Nutrition Vegan Protein also has a good taste, but at £34.99 for a basic unflavoured vegan protein it was hard to justify this being the overall winner.
Best Single Ingredient Protein
If you want a simple, single ingredient protein, we recommend going for a cold pressed hemp protein. It may not pack the protein punch of pea and rice, but it does contain a complete amino acid profile which is all important for that post workout recovery. Hemp is also rich in key minerals, essential fatty acids, and is relatively cheap too.
Pulsin’s Raw Hemp Protein gets our vote in this category.
Best Tasting Protein
After trying hundreds of vegan protein blends for taste, we experienced delicious protein powders, terrible protein powders, and everthing in between! Unfortunately, most of them were closer to the ‘terrible’ category than they were to the ‘delicious’ one.
In general, it’s much harder to find a great tasting plant protein than it is to find a great tasting whey protein. But they are out there – you’ve just got to know where to look.
That Protein’s Chocolate Protein has a nice rich chocolate taste, but is a little grainy. Vega Performance Protein had a smoother texture, but the chocolate flavour wasn’t as pronounced. The chocolate version of PERFORM combined the best of both worlds, with a delicious smooth texture and a well rounded chocolate flavour.
We also enjoyed Neat Nutrition’s Chocolate Flavour Protein, which had the bext mixability and was as smooth as many whey proteins. However this is likely due to the presence of xanthan gum, which may cause digestive upset in some people, so tread carefully. This protein powder also had a great well rounded chocolate flavour.
For something more fruity, check out Sunwarrior’s Berry Protein. This is a particularly refreshing change from the usual chocolate and vanilla flavours. If you do want to stick with a safer option, Madagascan Vanilla PERFORM wins the vote thanks to it’s versatility.
Bulk Powders Vegan Blend chocolate peanut flavour is another one to check out, particularly if you like to blend your shake with banana and almond milk. This flavour combination is one of the best we have tried and we would definitely recommend it for those on a budget.
Overall though, our vote for the best tasting protein powder goes to PERFORM. Both flavours are delicious, the texture is ultra smooth, and there’s no earthy aftertaste. Which brings us nicely onto our final category…
Best All Rounder
Thanks to the exceptionally high protein content, the highly impressive amino acid profile, the squeaky clean ingredients list and the delicious taste, PERFORM gets our vote as the best all rounder when it comes to protein powders. If you can afford it, we highly recommend making the investment.
Notable runners up include Sunwarrior Warrior Blend, Bulk Powders Vegan Blend, Pulsin Hemp Protein and MyProtein Vegan Blend. Remember that our opinion is not definitive, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works best for you!