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Vegan Protein Powders, Ranked From Vulgar to Chuggable

I am in the process of doing something disgusting. I am intentionally trying to gain muscle. I’ve finally joined a strength gym! Okay. That’s not the gross part. It’s what you have to freaking eat to get there. I’m not used to jamming this much protein between my jaws, and I’m dying here! Look, I feel good when I eat high protein meals and track my little grams of macros and eat my salads and bananas and such, but at the end of the day, I always look at the amount of protein I was supposed to have eaten and what I’ve actually managed to consume and am flabbergasted. How does anyone do this? Enter: the solution most people are aware of that has been around for a very long time. Protein powder.

And so you know what I love in the year 2023? Feeling like I’m eating the slop The Nebuchadnezzar spits out for its crew in The Matrix at least once, maybe twice a day. That’s what these compiled foods like vegan protein powder bring to mind, and yet we do what we must for the gains! So, like the soy boy I am, I’ve been gradually accruing experience with various vegan protein powders over the past couple of years or so that I am going to share with you, mostly because they’re expensive and it might be nice to know just *how* chalky (because there is no getting away from things being a liiittle chalky with vegan stuff) something is going to taste before you drop some cash on the stuff.

I’m not a doctor, and neither is anyone else here. This article is not medical advice. You should definitely check with your doctor before taking any supplements. What this article is, however, is a ranking of vegan protein powders based exclusively on how they tasted when I ate/drank them. Also, apologies if one of these is not actually vegan. Most say “plant-based” so if you have particular things you need to look out for, please check the ingredients. Okay, let’s embark on our vegan protein powder journey!

Vega All-In-One Shake, Unsweetened Plain

vega all-in-one shake package

I Think This Is What Licking Oscar The Grouch Tastes Like

My ex left this in the pantry, and I have been trying to work my way through it. She didn’t want any artificial sweetener or flavor. Well, guess what? I do. I need it. Even after mixing this in with fruit in a shake, it still tastes wretched. I’ve even added maple syrup, and it tasted wretched and sweet. It’s vegetal and chemical in all the worst ways. I think this might be what vegan protein powder tastes like without added flavor and sweetener, but as humans, as people, there are some things we aren’t meant to know. I don’t need to ever see my guts outside of my body. I don’t need to experience the sight, the sound, the smell of that. I can just know they’re there, covered up oh so pleasantly by my skin. And it’s exactly the same thing when it comes to the unaltered taste of vegan protein powder.

Vega Protein and Greens, Vanilla

a jar of vega protein and greens, vanilla flavor

The Greens Might Just Be A Bad Idea

I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time. I know how to eat vegetables. I do eat vegetables. What, then, possessed me to think I needed to torture myself further by getting whatever these “greens” are mixed up in my protein situation? Vega’s impeccably standard “vanilla” flavor makes this serviceable, but in a post-apocalypse-nourishment kind of way. Vega Protein and Greens is not something we have to eat while we are still mid-apocalypse and have access to other options. You might like this if you struggle to prepare and consume enough greens for any reason, but otherwise, you can probably skip it.

Garden of Life: Raw, Organic Protein, Vanilla Chai Flavor

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein, Vanilla Chai

It Tastes Like a Cult Made It

But like…in a fine way? It tastes like it looks like it’s going to taste, if that makes sense. And look, I enjoy a chocolate shake once in a while, but actually, to achieve that effect, I’ll usually add some cocoa or hot chocolate mix to a vanilla shake. So, you’ll notice I am rarely ever buying a flavor other than vanilla. But you know what I will try? A shake with a little something different, like chai flavor, especially when I’m busy and I’m just mixing this with some almond milk and no fruit or anything and chugging it in between work meetings. Then, it’s nice if it’s not just vanilla.

KOS Vegan Protein Powder, Vanilla (Though I Am Curious About Birthday Cake and Used It for the Photo Because the Packaging Is Pretty)

a jar of KOS birthday cake flavored protein powder

A True Neutral

Okay, so the vanilla KOS stuff makes for a pretty good ‘nilla base to a fruit or other smoothie. It kind of has a creamier texture than most protein powders, so that’s especially nice. There is a really intense review of the stuff on Amazon that I don’t know what to think of, but the review also kind of invalidates the idea of  protein powders entirely, which, well, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because I am going to consume vegan protein powder and no one — not even someone claiming to be an extremely fit medical student in the Amazon reviews of this product — can stop me. I’m just trying to find a vegan protein powder that tastes halfway decent! KOS sure does taste exactly halfway decent. I only stopped using it because of what you’ll see in the next entry.

Vega Sport Protein, Vanilla

Vega sport protein package

Okay! We’re Getting There!

I feel like this one tastes so much better than the other Vega products. I don’t know what they did with their “sport” formula, or if this is purely a product of this being the only one in their line that I’ve tried that does not also contain greens, but it’s a lot better. Makes a good shake. Still chalky, but whatever. The vanilla flavor is chemical-y, sure, but it’s nice and prominent. I switched to this after KOS when I realized Vega somehow squeezed an additional 10 grams of protein into about the same serving size.

Four Sigmatic Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder, Creamy Cacao

four sigmatic organic protein powder package

Cream of Mushroom!

This stuff makes a lot of claims that I cannot speak to. It’s got mushrooms in it! They’re supposed to do things! I got this as a sample at one point via something or other, though, and I tell you, I have never forgotten how damn creamy this fucker was. It tasted like having a chocolate fast food shake from what I can remember of such things (lactose intolerance sucks). I thought it would be more expensive, also, but it’s less per ounce (just by a couple cents) than the Vega sport. So, if this seems like your thing, maybe look for an individual single-serve packet to give it a try. I suspect, based on how other people in my life feel about what I consume, that I tend to really, really like bitter/earthy flavors and have a higher-than-average tolerance for them. So, if earthy flavors bother you, I might be a little careful with this one. I do think the chocolate flavor is strong though and largely takes care of the fact that there’re powdered mushrooms snuck (featured prominently) in here though.

Ghost Vegan Protein Powder, Pancake Batter

a container of ghost protein powder in pancake batter flavor

Everyone Thinks This Sounds Gross But It’s GUZZLABLE AS FUCK

As a friend said: “I would not normally think about drinking pancake batter.” And you know what, friend? Yes. You are correct. That’s not a “normal” thought. Or it wasn’t, until I started drinking this every day. Honestly, you might think Ghost’s “cereal milk” flavors sound good, but just the thought of that makes me want to throw up! I can’t have cow’s milk and haven’t in a long time, though, so that might be why I’m so disturbed by the flavor. You might like it! I tried this brand because they happen to make my favorite energy drinks which also have mysteriously accurate flavors. What kind of chemists are these people employing?

As far as this vegan protein powder goes, the texture and flavor together really have not been beat by any other powder for me. This is what I’m currently drinking. And yes! I have done like a half-and-half mix of this and instant pancake powder to make actual pancakes and it was only a little weird! It was like I added pancake flavor to my pancakes. Meta.

So, now, we might be at the end of our journey through vegan protein powders I have personally consumed, but we are definitely only at what is likely the beginning of my gym rat journey where I am now enjoying drinking down “pancake batter” flavored “shakes” almost daily. A final note is that this one also tastes great blended with pancake-appropriate fruit like strawberries, blueberries, or bananas (and peanut butter!).

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Nico

Nico Hall is Autostraddle's and For Them's Membership Editorial and Ops Dude, and has been working in membership and the arts for over a decade. They write nonfiction both creative and the more straightforward variety, too, as well as fiction. They are currently at work on a secret project. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's their website, too.

Nico has written 226 articles for us.

29 Comments

    • If you’re just looking for the basics (protein powder + milk of choice), go for a Blender Bottle. They’ve got basically a springy metal ball whisk included that does a great job mixing and aerating. I bet you could even add purchased fruit purees to it, if you’re looking for a little more variety.

    • Sometimes I mix mine with yogurt to make a kind of smoothie bowl. I think you could manage this with a whisk. Also, as said above, you can mix protein powder into pancake or waffle batter.

  1. I read the fit medical student review of KOS and I am…not better for it. But I liked the roundup! I actually like protein powder just because I like the taste, not because of actual fitness reasons. I personally prefer whey but definitely have had some good vegan options too. Pancake batter for sure sounds like the yummiest on the list (also, I am a chronic batter/dough eater and I will die on that hill!)

  2. This is why I really prefer whey-based protein powder; I don’t know about the lactose content. Mix powder with a cup of soymilk and a good juice and you’re good to go.

  3. I have done a lot of first-hand research here. Vega being at the top of the ouch list made me feel so seen. Get Orgain Chai Latte Protein Powder. Mix it with coffee or your fav plant milk and feel like you got the fanciest drink. You’re welcome.

  4. You should get a Ninja Creami machine and make your protein shakes into protein ice cream! That is the only thing that has gotten me to consume a decent amount of protein in a day… but I am a complete sucker for ice cream!! It completely takes care of the chalky grossness of protein shakes. I tend to use totally unflavored fava bean protein powder and add in whatever flavors float my boat on a particular day…. be it a christmassy chocolate orange, regular chocolate, mint chocolate chip, vanilla, orange creamsicle, etc… the world is your oyster!

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