McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

Buying a plant-based protein powder? Here are common plant-based protein powder reviews from a dietitian nutritionist.

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive about smoothie recipes or my smoothie bowls is about which superfoods or protein powders I use. I’ve had this huge review in mind to personally taste test as many vegan/plant-based protein powders I could get my hands on, and today this post is the result of it. This Guide to Plant-Based Protein Powders is not a review of whole food sources of protein (check out this post on 10 Plant-Based Proteins for some of those sources). Instead this guide is a review of plant-based protein powders for adding to smoothies, baked goods, and other popular recipes. 

As a Dietitian Nutritionist, whole foods are a top priority in my book when it comes to getting the most from your nutrition. However, there is certainly a time and place where protein supplementation can be beneficial to your diet. For example, you may benefit from using protein powders if you’re an athlete or a very active individual, if you’re transitioning into vegetarian/vegan diets, or if you’re on the go and need a quick snack/meal. You can also benefit from plant-based protein powders if you’re on a specific fat loss program like many of my clients or just want to curb a sweet tooth and bump the protein content in your favorite smoothies with some awesome flavors.

Notice how I say the word supplement when talking about protein powders? Protein powders are meant to supplement the diet not become the “staple” or sole source of protein in your diet. Ideally you will also be getting protein from whole foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, or your choice of organic animal proteins.

How To Buy The Best Plant-based Protein Powder

We reviewed the following plant-based proteins on the following factors using a grading scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest or highly recommended:

  1. Taste: taking into account overall texture, flavor, and general variety
  2. Quality: of the ingredients and food sources of protein
  3. Grams of protein per serving: also looking at amino acid content, aka the building blocks of protein. My golden standard is 20 grams of protein per serving which would get a 5 in this review.
  4. Ease of use: how flexible the powder can be used in your diet and how well it mixes with liquids
  5. Price: cost per serving. A 5 denotes a protein powder on the more expensive end of the spectrum.

Brand: Vega

Vega Sport

Flavors: chocolate, berry, and vanilla

  • Taste: 3 — Creamy texture, tastes good with a slight stevia/sweetener taste to it, and a powerful flavor.
  • Quality: 3 — Protein content  from pea protein, chia seed, alfalfa, and sprouted brown rice protein (over 5000 mg BCAA’s).
  • Nutrition: 5 — 25 grams of protein per scoop
  • Use: 5 —Best used for smoothies, puddings (just by mixing with a little almond milk and enjoying with a spoon since it’s rather thick like pudding), or mixed with water as a drink.
  • Cost: 4

Vega One

Flavors: french vanilla, chocolate, vanilla chai, and natural

  • Taste: 2 — This protein is a bit gritty for my liking and has a pretty strong flavor.
  • Quality: 3, but a 5 if you’re looking for a multi-vitamin mixed with a protein powder. Protein content from pea protein, chia seed protein, sprouted brown rice protein, chlorella, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and maca. Contains antioxidant blend, green blend, omega-3 blend, digestive and probiotic enzymes, and vitamins/minerals for a more complete “meal” protein supplement.
  • Nutrition: 4 — 17 grams of protein per scoop
  • Use: 3 — Best used mixed with water or almond milk to thin out as a drink.
  • Cost: 5

Vega Smoothie

Flavors: berry, tropical, vanilla, chocolate, and natural

  • Taste: 3 — I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to flavors, so my favorites were the vanilla and chocolate. The tropical tango and berry were a little strong for my taste buds.
  • Quality: 3 — Protein content from pea protein, chia seeds, hemp seed, sprouted brown rice protein.
  • Nutrition: 3— 15 grams of protein per scoop
  • Use: 4— Best used mixed with water or almond milk to thin out as a drink. Can easily add to smoothies (as intended) for a boost in protein content.
  • Cost: 2

Brand: Garden Of Life

Raw Fit

Flavors: Spiced vanilla chai, chocolate mocha

  • Taste: 2 — A little “chalky” for my liking, but when mixed into my smoothies I couldn’t tell the difference! I really enjoyed the unique flavors especially the chocolate mocha. I should note, the “chalky” flavor comes from all of the great sprouted grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Quality: 5 — Protein content from an organic sprouted blend of brown rice protein, amaranth, flax seed, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, garbanzo bean, pumpkin seed, lentil, adzuki bean, flax meal, sunflower seed, chia seed, sesame seed. An amazing array of sprouted nuts, seeds, and grains for the protein sources.
  • Nutrition: 5 — 28 grams of protein per scoop. Contains added herbal, vitamin/mineral, and probiotic blends.
  • Use: 4 — Best for smoothies or mixed with water or almond milk to drink.
  • Cost: 3

Raw Protein

Flavors: original, vanilla, chocolate, vanilla chai

  • Taste:3 — I can speak to the vanilla, chocolate, and vanilla chai. All were relatively the same rating on my scale for flavor and texture. A bit “chalky”, but when mixed with something you couldn’t really tell. (I should note, the “chalky” flavor comes from all of the great sprouted grains, nuts, and seeds).
  • Quality: 5 — Protein content from an organic sprouted blend of brown rice protein, amaranth, flax seed, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, garbanzo bean, pumpkin seed, lentil, adzuki bean, flax meal, sunflower seed, chia seed, sesame seed. An amazing array of sprouted nuts, seeds, and grains for the protein sources.
  • Nutrition: 4 — 17 grams of protein per scoop. Contains added vitamins, minerals, and digestive blends.
  • Use: 4 — Best for smoothies or mixed with water or almond milk to drink.
  • Cost: 3

Brand: Plant Fusion

Phood 

Flavors: chocolate caramel, vanilla

  • Taste: 4 — Most original flavors I’ve come across thus far with protein powders and they’re all delicious. My favorite out of this bunch was the chocolate caramel.
  • Quality: 4 — Protein content from pea, artichoke, sprouted amaranth, and sprouted quinoa.
  • Nutrition: 4 — 18 grams of protein per serving + carbohydrates and fat. Contains added energy, EFA, vitamin/mineral, and digestive blends.
  • Use: 4 — Best for smoothies or with almond milk or water as a drink.
  • Cost: 4

Plant Fusion, original

Flavors: Chocolate raspberry, chocolate, cookies n’ creme, unflavored, vanilla

  • Taste: 4 — Most original flavors I’ve come across thus far with protein powders and they’re all delicious. My favorite out of this bunch coming from a chocoholic was cookies n’ creme. The texture reminded me a bit of Sunwarrior Warrior Blend, which I’m familiar with. It was great overall!
  • Quality: 4 — Protein content from pea, artichoke, sprouted amaranth, and sprouted quinoa.
  • Nutrition: 5 — 21 grams of protein per serving (4500 mg BCAA’s)
  • Use: 4 — Best for smoothies, with almond milk or water as a drink, or as a protein pudding (mixing the powder with almond milk to a “pudding” consistency.
  • Cost: 4

Brand: Sunwarrior

Original

Flavors: chocolate, vanilla, natural

  • Taste: 2 or 3 — It’s a bit chalky due to the only protein source coming from a grain (sprouted rice), but when mixed with a smoothie I couldn’t tell the difference.
  • Quality: 5 — Protein content from raw whole grain brown rice protein.
  • Nutrition: 4 — 15 grams of protein per scoop.
  • Use: 3 — Mixes best with water or almond milk for a drink.
  • Cost: 3

Warrior Blend

Flavors: chocolate, vanilla

  • Taste: 5 — My favorite from this bunch is the vanilla. It seems to go well with everything. The texture is really thick and creamy, which is great for adding to smoothies. Sunwarrior is typically the protein I use in my Stripped Green Smoothie Bowls because of the wonderful thick texture it provides.
  • Quality: 5 — Protein content from the Sunwarrior proprietary blend of raw organic pea protein, cranberry protein, organic hemp seed protein. Features great quality organic, sprouted, and raw variations.
  • Nutrition: 4 — 17 grams of protein per scoop
  • Use: 4 — Best for smoothies, baked goods like pancakes, puddings, desserts, or mixed with almond milk/water for a drink. This one is unique because of the protein blend. It’s water-loving, so it gets really think which is great for smoothies.
  • Cost: 3-4

Brand: Manitoba Harvest

Hemp Protein 70

Flavor: natural, chocolate, and vanilla

  • Taste: 3 — It tastes as hemp protein “should” taste, a bit of grittiness to it, earthy, nutty, and slightly sweet (I can only speak for the natural flavor as this is what I tried). Overall I love using hemp protein in baked goods, raw desserts, snacks, etc.
  • Quality: 5 — Protein content from hemp protein.
  • Nutrition: 5 — 20 grams of protein per serving (70% by weight) with added omega-3 fats
  • Use: 4— Best for smoothies, mixed with almond milk/water, baked, adding to hot cereals, and other desserts. I find this protein along with Sunwarrior is easy to sneak into baked goods and other types of homemade snacks such as my Chewy Superfood Hemp Protein Bars.
  • Cost: 3

Brand: Tone It Up

Flavors: Chocolate, coconut, and vanilla

  • Taste: 5 — I love this brand of protein, the flavors like vanilla and chocolate, are subtle and taste delicious on their own when mixed with water or almond milk and even better when in a smoothie, smooth texture
  • Quality: 5 — with all organic ingredients this is a winner for me, plus the ingredients listed are minimal which means you have less processing issues to worry about
  • Nutrition: 3 — 15 grams of protein per serving
  • Use: 5 — this is one of my favorites because you can make a solid protein pancake and baked goods without it changing the flavor dramatically
  • Cost: 4

Brand: Nutra Organics

Thriving Protein

Flavors: vanilla and chocolate

  • Taste: 5 — Delicious taste, smooth texture, and blends well with water or almond milk.
  • Quality: 4 — Most of the ingredients are organic, all certified gluten free, dairy free, etc.
  • Nutrition: 2-3 — 14.5 grams of protein per serving. Has a lower amount of protein than most other plant-based protein powders per serving.
  • Use: 5 — I found this best used in smoothies or mixed with water or almond milk for a quick on the go shake.
  • Cost: 3

Brand: NOW Sports

Pea Protein

Flavors: natural, chocolate, vanilla

  • Taste: 4 — Nothing fancy with the flavor, but it’s a clean taste and a whole food protein to mix with smoothies.
  • Quality: 5 — NOW foods does third party testing for quality so I really love that about this brand as a whole. There’s only one ingredient in here which is pea protein.
  • Nutrition: 4 — 24 grams of protein per serving (4,200 BCAA’s)
  • Use: 5 — Best for smoothies and baked goods.
  • Cost: 2

Which plant-based protein powder should I use?

It depends on what your goal is but in general, this is a good start for where and how to use these protein supplements:

  • Which plant-based protein powders to use for meal replacements? I recommend Phood, Vega One, Ka’ Chava, Garden of Life Raw Fit
  • Which plant-based protein powders to use for meal additions or supplements?  I recommend Vega Sport, Plant Fusion, Vega Smoothie, Vega One, Sunwarrior Warrior Blend, Sunwarrior Original, Garden of Life Raw Protein, Hemp Protein 70

The Verdict

The top NS Approved protein powders:

  1. Tone It Up
  2. Nutra Organics
  3. NOW Pea Protein

I hope you all loved this guide and review as I get SO many questions about my favorite protein powders to use and what the differences of them are. Bookmark this post or share it with a friend for later! Do you like guide reviews such as these? Comment below so I know to do more of them!

xx McKel

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, Nutrition Stripped wasn’t paid or compensated in any way to review these products, we just want to create an amazing product resource for you so you know how to purchase protein powders!