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8 Practical Alternatives to Protein Powder

Protein powder is a go-to for many people on specialized diets – whether on a ketogenic diet, living a vegetarian or living a vegan lifestyle, or looking to add muscle, all can make use of protein supplements. Unfortunately, if you either don’t like the taste or texture of protein powder or are just out of the stuff, you’ll be looking for alternatives.

Here are 8 practical protein powder replacement options.

1. Yogurt

Coming in a variety of forms, yogurt is great on its own or mixed into a smoothie. You can also use yogurt as a topping or incorporate it into the sauce of a dinner dish.

Be on the lookout: If you’re on a carb-restricted diet, watch the add-ins.

2. Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are heralded as fantastic protein sources and really are a one-stop-shop for nutrition. They go great with any dish and are perfect for stuffing a wrap.

Again, though, the amount of protein varies by type. Here are a few solid options:

  • Soybeans- They are at the top of the list, boasting about 14g of protein per 1/2 cup. If eating in the form of edamame, though (immature soybeans), you are likely looking at about half that.
  • Tempeh- Pressed “loaf” made from fermented soybeans contains approximately 15g per 1/2 cup. You can also opt for soy milk.
  • Tofu- A “loaf” made from condensed soy milk, which is pressed, akin to the process of making cheese, contains about 8g of protein per 3.5 oz. per serving.
  • Lentils, Great Northern Beans, and Split Peas- Are also on the higher end of the protein scale, with approximately 8-10g of protein per 1/2 cup.
  • Navy beans- Contain about 7.5g per 1/2 cup.
  • Peas- They are on the lower end, with approximately 4g per 1/2 cup.

Look Into Pea Powder: It is worth noting that pea powder, like this kind found on Amazon, is a good option for those with allergens looking for an alternative milk source, as they typically do not provoke a response.

3. Cottage Cheese

The great thing is that when added to a smoothie, the taste of cottage cheese pretty much disappears for the most part. It also acts as a thickener and can give the final result a soft-serve ice cream texture.

Or, if you decide to make it a stand-alone meal and don’t like the taste of cottage cheese on its own, try adding some lemon or fruit. I used to grab and go a fruit yogurt and cottage cheese to mix together at mealtime. This was my go-to meal during heavy training weeks. Again, you’ll want to watch the sugar in whatever you’re adding if you’re restricting carbs.

Pro Tip: Low-fat cottage cheese can also be used as a substitute for other higher-fat cheeses like ricotta in some dishes if you’re watching your fat intake.

4. Eggs or Egg White Powder

Eggs are an excellent way to add fat and protein. Packing anywhere from 5-8 grams of protein per egg, depending on the size, these little gems can add protein quickly. They also include fat – about 3.5 – 6.5g per egg, depending on size.

As a bonus, eggs also include Omega-3 acids, with the amount depending on the size of the egg and the diet the hens are fed. Look for eggs labeled with their DHA content if you want to boost your Omega-3s; this indicates that the hens have been fed an enriched diet.

Try Egg White Powder: If you want a powder substitute for typical protein powders, egg white powder, like this kind found on Amazon, is a “hidden” gem that remains off the radar. Many bodybuilders use it to put on muscle fast without gaining tons of fat or feeling overly full throughout the day.

5. Seeds and Grains

Seeds are a great protein-rich snack. Many can be blended into smoothies with a bit of extra processing. Here are a few types to try:

  • Pumpkin Seeds- With pumpkin seeds, you’ll get 14 grams of protein in 1/3 of a cup. Sunflower seeds will give you 11.8g of protein in 1/4 cup. And chia seeds will provide you with 5.6 grams in a spoonful. Mixed with water, chia seeds can replace an egg in vegan cooking.
  • Flax seeds- These have about 1.9g in a tablespoon. Flax is rich in Omega-3 acids and provides about 3g of fiber per tablespoon. Flaxseed oil can be substituted for other types of oil in salad dressings, dips, and sauces. It is not a good choice for cooking, though, as it has a low smoke point. When exposed to high heat, it can form harmful compounds.
  • Oats- Oats have about 5.9g of protein per 1/2 cup. Instant oatmeal, due to its slightly smaller portion size, has about 3.3g of protein. While considered an incomplete protein because oats do not contain all amino acids, oats do have significant protein, fiber, and B vitamins. They can also be turned into oat flour for those looking for an alternative to standard flour.
  • Quinoa- Another option for those looking to grain for a protein source. Boiled quinoa has about 4g of protein in 1/2 cup. A gluten-free complete protein, quinoa contains all amino acids, unlike most other grain options. Use quinoa as an alternative to rice or couscous, mix it into a stuffing recipe, or use it like a porridge. You can also use it sprinkled in salads.
  • Hemp Hearts- Also often used as a protein option. These are the inner part of hemp seeds and contain a little over 3g of protein per tablespoon. These are also high in healthy fats and low in carbs and can be blended into a smoothie, mixed into a pie crust, or sprinkled on a salad. They can also be found in the form of milk and powder.

6. Protein Bars

If you want something a bit more substantial as a protein source but want to avoid animals, don’t completely discount protein bars. They are actually getting better and better as time goes on. You no longer have to absorb umpteen grams of sugar either.

Specialized snack bars provide a convenient source of protein without the need to mix or stir. Here are my three top brands:

I recommend trying Aloha Bars first. They are some of the best-tasting bars I’ve ever tried.

7. Nuts

Whether whole, crushed, or sliced as a garnish or as part of a baked dessert, nuts are an excellent source of protein in nut butter or nut flour.

On the low end, macadamias and pecans provide under 3g per ounce; on the high end, pistachios, almonds, and peanuts provide 6g or more per ounce. Nuts are an excellent low-sugar snack for those with diabetes, but you will want to watch out for salt and fat if your diet limits those.

Drink Your Nuts? Almond milk is another option, but you’ll want to watch out for added sugar. They come in a shelf-stable version (Amazon market link).

8. Leftovers

This applies to those of you just looking for a quick replacement for protein, not necessarily a power replacement.

Have some of that leftover chicken, beef, or whatever meat you enjoy can carry over nicely into the next day as an easy breakfast or snack. This is going to be especially helpful if you’re not used to having protein at that time. Or, use meat instead of a lower-protein option that is your usual go-to.

The fact of the matter is that just going old school and eating “real” protein is a solid option if you want to fill fuller through the day and don’t have time to fit in 5 or 6 meals. Beef, chicken, and fish all pack a nutritional punch and have about 24g of protein in a 3 oz. per serving.

Bottom Line

If you aren’t a fan of protein powder, don’t despair – just start experimenting with one of the many other options you have. There’s sure to be one that works for you.

Let me know what you choose in the comments below, and thanks for reading!