How do you find proteins other than soy based proteins?

How do you find proteins other than soy based proteins?

Ask Annika! 

How do you find proteins other than soy based proteins?   I worry about soy being genetically modified but would like to try other vegan proteins. 

What a fantastic question and I immediately thought of all the proteins I incorporate into my own diet as well as the very vigorous discussion about the over-emphasis on protein.  This is a frequent topic in vegan circles because inevitably if you mention you are vegan or eat plant based somebody is going to question whether you possibly meet all your protein requirements.

I also know some people are, for good reason, very concerned about soy consumption and minimizing intake of soy products if not eliminating them completely.  I love eating tofu and I’ve been drinking soy milk for many years. When I became vegan and began to research not only nutrition but also GMO concerns I had similar worries about soy.  One thing I did was to ease up on soy products a bit and learn to diversify.  I began buying other plant based milks (such as almond, hemp, oat) and non-dairy creamers that weren’t soy based. I still eat tofu regularly but did cut back a bit to allow other proteins into my diet regularly.  I am often on the lookout for The NON-GMO project label on products (particularly soy).

Also, as far as I understand, with The DARK Act recently passing, the terrain for GMO labeling is increasingly murky but Certified Organic products must, by definition, be free of GMO material. USDA Organic standards mandate that farmers and processors “Do not use genetically modified ingredients.” So I am always on the lookout for organic labeling as well. The soy products I usually buy have a NON-GMO label, an Organic label (Certified Organic, USDA Organic or 100% Organic) or both.


An example of two tofu products available at one of our local grocery stores- Nasoya (above) is USDA Organic and NON-GMO project verified and (below) is tofu from a local Tofu producer also labeled NON-GMO. Many tofu companies seem to recognize that the GMO issue is a critical one for their consumers.


A bit more about soy…

Here is a (in my opinion) fantastic piece about myths and misinformation about soy at the Free from Harm website.

A Vegan Doctor Addresses Soy Myths and Misinformation

In this piece Dr. Wilson notes that:

“Currently, 81% of the global soybean crop is genetically modified, and approximately 85% of all GMO soybeans end up in farmed animal feed. The GMO soy consumed by farmed animals is utilized as a source of protein by them, and does not just magically evaporate in the slaughterhouse or the milk processing plant. It ends up on your plate.
But while an alarming percentage of soybeans are genetically modified, the claim that “all soy is GMO” is one of the great soy myths. Of the soy directly consumed by humans, non-GMO soy foods such as tofu, tempeh and soy milk are widely available in stores which offer soy products, and they are clearly labeled non-GMO.”

If, based on this information coupled with your own research, you are comfortable to continue to enjoy cooking and baking with soy, as I do, I highly recommend The Cornucopia Institute Organic Soy Card. I would definitely take a moment with that list, first looking for brands that you regularly buy and then figuring out based on the scores and information if you might want to start using another brand. The higher rated companies on this scorecard usually have products that are a little bit pricier than the lower rated ones and from personal experience I think it is well worth it for quality, flavor as well as feeling comfortable about who is producing the soy products I consume.

Now, for vegan based forms of protein (including soy based ones for those interested)- here are my personal favorites!

Seitan is one of my absolute favorites. It is perhaps an acquired taste and I would say if you have had it and didn’t like it, keep an open mind and try it again or buy it to play with in your kitchen on your own terms.  Seitan is rich in protein and also satisfies that specific texture craving that many (yes even vegans) sometimes want in their dishes.  I like to generously sautée or fry up seitan and serve with a grain and some veggies.

Spinach is one of my favorite vegetables and when I decide to cook with and eat with it, I use a lot, also ensuring that it is a protein rich meal.  I will often take an entire frozen bag and lightly simmer it down with some Braggs Amino Acids and eat with some rice for a couple of meals in one day.

Peas are another favorite vegetable of mine. I will easily eat 2 or 3 servings in a day when I decide to cook with it and will often use it in a stir fry or creamy salad mix.

Chickpeas are a staple in our house.  We make hummus regularly and are learning to use the beans in different ways for creative dishes.

Cashews or Almonds are a nice and easy protein rich little snack. I almost always have container of one of these nuts in the house to nibble on and also love to use them in cooking.

Tempeh (soy based) is high in protein and one of my favorites to work with and eat.

Hemp Seeds are so delicious and like other hemp based food products, rich in protein.  I love making a beautiful bowl of hemp seeds, nuts and berries mixed in some chilled plant based milk.

Black Beans are among my favorite fillings for tacos or burritos as well as just mixed into a bowl of rice. I also enjoy making a nice rich, warming black bean soup.

Nutritional Yeast (or “nooch”) is a popular staple in vegan pantries. I didn’t realize until putting together this post how rich in protein it is.  I love a bowl of popcorn generously sprinkled with Braggs Amino Acids (or sometimes just Olive Oil) and a few tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast. If I am in the mood for a cheesy macaroni this is often what I will use too.

Edamame (soy) are delicious just lightly boiled as a snack.

Lentils are, from what I am observing, a very versatile protein source, but I have barely scratched the surface of what you can do with them and will often just eat them with a grain and some sea salt and pepper.

Those are just some of my personal favorites. There are many other very rich sources of vegan protein that I haven’t listed simply because I haven’t started using them a lot – peanut butter comes to mind. There are a number of fantastic lists online for Vegan sources of protein that I still study myself such as this one at

The guys over at Thrive Cuisine have a great resource and guide for Vegan Proteins. Check it out here.

Reed Mangels PhD, author of the seminal “The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book” also has a great article on Protein in the Vegan Diet.

Happy Cooking & Thank You for the Question!

Below- some of my most memorable vegan, protein rich dishes!

Pecan Crusted Seitan with Rice & Salad

Pecan and Garlic Crusted Seitan on top of Rice, Wild Greens and Tomatoes

Home Cooking

Seitan Picatta

Seitan Picatta with Orzo and Tomatoes

Home cooking


Hummus- we are huge fans of hummus!

Home Cooking


Sweet Potato & Lentil Terrine with zucchini, squash, broccolini, pepitas & tzatziki sauce

Juniper Restaurant at the Fairmont hotel, Washington DC


Tofu Scramble with Spinach & Grains

Room Service at the Fairmont hotel, Washington DC


Chickpea Salad on cracker

At home cooking


Seitan Wings in Curry Peanut Cilantro Sauce 

Pizza J’s, Providence, Rhode Island


Tempeh Nachos with Chao Cheese, Tomatoes and Green Onions

Home Cooking


Seitan Skewers 

Candle 79, NYC

ABC_2839 (2)

A side of Smoked Tempeh

 Harlow on Hawthorne, Portland, Oregon

Ask Annika is a space on this blog  devoted to fielding questions about vegan ethics, transitioning to vegan lifestyle, plant based diets and related issues. Send in your questions here

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