Cost of Vegan Protein vs. Animal Protein

By October 15, 2014Food, Nutrition
lentils protein

If you are looking for vegan sources of protein, there is no shortage of options – like hemp seeds, chia seeds, and spirulina. But, the last time I checked, hemp seed cost $18 per pound! That seems like an incredibly expensive way to get protein on the vegan diet.

lentils proteinOne common myth about the vegan diet is that you’ve got to eat a bunch of (expensive) specialty foods to stay healthy. In reality, a healthy vegan diet tends to look more like a poor person’s diet, full of cheap foods like rice, beans, lentils, and seasonal veggies.

So, when looking at vegan proteins, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of listing the vegan foods with the most protein, I’m listing the vegan proteins which are cheap and readily available. Yes, this took a lot of math! But, as a result, we can see that you don’t need to eat expensive superfoods to be a healthy vegan. Here they are!

 

Cheapest Vegan Sources of Protein

I did a lot math to calculate how much vegan protein costs per gram. I looked at typical vegan protein sources, as well as vegan superfoods. Based on the most current prices, these 5 vegan foods are the cheapest sources of vegan protein (read on to see how I calculated the cost, and also how much other sources of vegan protein cost):

  • ROLLED OATS: 0.7 cents per gram/protein
  • DRY BEANS: 1.1 cent per gram/protein
  • DRY CHICKPEAS: 1.1 cents per gram/protein
  • DRY LENTILS: 1.6 cents per gram/protein
  • BROWN RICE: 1.9 cents per gram/protein

To put this in perspective, here is how much animal protein costs:

  • Steak: 4.5 cents per gram protein
  • Ground Beef: 4 cents per gram/protein
  • Milk: 2.7 cents per gram
  • Ham: 2.6 cents per gram
  • Eggs: 2.5 cents per gram
  • Chicken: 1.5 cents per gram/protein

As you can see, the only animal protein which comes close to vegan food in terms of cost is chicken. And that’s not the cost for organic chicken! So, you’d be paying even more if you wanted to avoid all of the antibiotics they put into chicken.

All of the listed vegan proteins are staples in my diet. They are super cheap to buy (especially if you are buying in bulk) and can be found in just about any supermarket. As if this weren’t good enough, these cheap vegan proteins also happen to be loaded with other much-needed nutrients, like all the calcium which is surprisingly found in oats and the iron found in beans, lentils and chickpeas. Want a good vegan source of tryptophan? Look no further than brown rice!

Now, these foods might not be as exciting as superfoods like chia seeds or as tasty as nuts. But, with the help of some seasonings, cheap vegan food can still be exciting and delicious!

The next time someone tells you that going vegan is too expensive, just tell them to eat these foods – and to buy some herbs and spices. Still worried that going vegan is too expensive? Then read this post about how to save money when going vegan.

 

How Much Does Vegan Protein Cost?

Here is the breakdown of how much vegan sources of protein cost per gram. I’m not trying to discourage you from eating any of these foods — I just want to put things in perspective. Some vegan superfoods, like chia, might be expensive as a source of protein, but you are also getting a lot of omega 3, so the cost may be worth it to you.

*Prices obviously vary depending on factors like where you live. I did my best to find average prices for each product. For the specialty products like spirulina, I went with the lower cost of the products. Unless specified, these prices are for conventional food, not organic. I took some of the prices from the Bureau of Labor Statistics here

 

CHIA: 13 cents per gram/protein

  • About $8 per pound
  • 1 ounce = 4 grams protein
  • $0.13 per gram of protein

 

HEMP SEEDS, HULLED: 11 cents per gram/protein

  • About $18 per pound
  • 1 ounce = 10 grams protein
  • $0.11 per gram of protein

 

FROZEN PEAS: 8.1 cents per gram/protein

  • $1.31 per pound
  • 1 pound = 16 grams protein
  • $0.081 per gram of protein

 

SPIRULINA POWDER: 7.8 cents per gram/protein

  • About $20 per pound (454 grams)
  • 1 tbsp (7 grams) = 4 grams protein
  • $0.078 per gram of protein

 

ORGANIC QUINOA: 7.4 cents per gram/protein

  • $4.78 per pound (price for organic quinoa at Wal-Mart)
  • 1 pound dry quinoa = 64 grams protein
  • $0.074 per gram of protein

 

PEPITAS: 6.2 cents per gram/protein

  • 1 pound = $5
  • 1 ounce = 5 grams protein
  • $0.0625 per gram of protein

 

TOFU: 6.2 cents per gram/protein

  • About $2.50 per pound
  • 1 pound = 40 grams protein
  • $0.0625 per gram of protein

 

ORGANIC SOY MILK: 6 cents per gram/protein

  • $1 per liter (You can buy organic soy milk at the dollar store!)
  • 1 cup = 4 grams protein
  • $0.06 per gram of protein

 

PEANUT BUTTER: 2.4 cents per gram/protein

 

BROWN RICE: 1.9 cents per gram/protein

  • $0.78 per pound (source)
  • 1 pound = 8 cups cooked
  • 1 cup cooked = 5 grams protein
  • $0.0195 per gram of protein

 

DRY LENTILS: 1.6 cents per gram/protein

  • About $2.00 per pound dry
  • 1 pound dry = 7 cups cooked
  • 1 cup cooked = 18 grams protein
  • About $0.29 per cup cooked
  • $0.016 per gram of protein

 

DRY BEANS: 1.1 cent per gram/protein

  • About $1.00 per pound dry
  • 1 pound dry = 6 cups cooked
  • 1 cup cooked = 15 grams protein
  • $0.011 per gram of protein

 

DRY CHICKPEAS: 1.1 cent per gram/protein

  • About $0.79 per pound
  • 1 pound dry = 6 cups cooked
  • 1 cup cooked = 15 grams protein
  • $0.011 per gram of protein

 

ROLLED OATS: 0.7 cents per gram/protein

  • About $1.00 per pound
  • 1 pound dry oats = 5.7 cups dry
  • 1 cup dry oats = 26 grams protein
  • $0.007 per gram of protein

 

What About Vegan Protein Powders?

It is absolutely possible to get enough protein on the vegan diet without taking supplements.   But, as someone who recently began exercising intensely (hooray for me!), I understand that supplements can help give you that extra boost of nutrition when diet alone doesn’t cut it. I did a bit of research and found that, as far as cost per gram of protein goes, vegan protein powders aren’t always as expensive as they seem.

Here are some of the cheapest vegan protein powders:

 

Nutribiotic Rice Protein: 2.6 cents per gram/protein (Buy Here)

nutribiotic protein powder

 

Jarrow Organic Brown Rice Protein: 3.7 cents per gram/protein (Buy Here)

jarrow brown rice protein powder

 

Nutiva Hemp Protein: 4 cents per gram/protein (Buy Here)

nutiva hemp protein

 

Jarrow Optimal Plant Protein: 4.6 cents per gram/protein (Buy Here)

jarrow optimal plant protein

 

 

 

 

About Diane Vukovic

Diane Vukovic is a vegan mom, health nut, and kitchen diva. When she's not deducing veggie nutritional facts, she's probably dancing crazily with her daughter or traveling somewhere in Europe.

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