20 Easy Bean Substitutes (Plant Based + Protein Powered)

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Did you know that there are several bean substitutes that contribute plant based protein?

Find out what they are, and ways you can use them in this dietitian written article!

Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for medical or dietary advice. Talk to your doctor about any health concerns, food allergies, dietary changes, and before starting new supplements. Individuals with food allergies should discuss appropriate foods with their healthcare providers. See our Disclaimers for more details.

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Text reads: 20 Easy Bean Substitutes Plant Based + Protein Powered. There are pictures of a hand holding almonds, peanuts, seitan package, Amys split pea soup, and a measuring spoon with chia seeds.

Are Beans the Same Legumes?

Beans are a type of legume, but not all beans are legumes.

Let’s try to clarify this a bit further:

  • Beans: Beans are plants that come from the fabaceae family. When you picture a bean, you commonly think of species in the phaseolus plant family. Examples include kidney, pinto, and back beans. This is a more narrow sense of the term ‘bean’ (1).
  • Legumes: These are any edible plants in the fabaceae (leguminosae) family. They include various types of beans, lentils, peas, etc(2).

For purposes of this article, we are going to keep it super simple:

A bean shall be defined as any food with the name ‘bean’ in it! Common names for beans you might have noticed in stores include:

  • Black beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Great Northern Beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Adzuki Beans
  • Cranberry Beans
  • Refried Beans
  • Navy beans
  • Lima Beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Broad beans
  • Soy Beans (and products made from soybeans, like tofu, soymilk, temeph, and edamame)

Benefits of Beans

Cooked beans are very nutritious. Some benefits include:

  • Vitamins and minerals: Beans contain a variety of vitamins and minerals such as non heme iron, various B vitamins, potassium and phosphorus.
  • Antioxidants: Beans contain polyphenols – antioxidants that help fight free radicals in our bodies(3).
  • Fiber: Beans are a high fiber food! Many contain at around 6 grams of fiber per serving. Fiber is important for gut health and bowel regulation.
  • Often Inexpensive and Accessible
  • Plant based protein: Beans are high in carbohydrates, and also contain a decent amount of plant based protein. They typically provide at least 6 grams per half cup serving. Since they are often cheap and easy to find, they can make a great protein packed additions to a meal.

If you didn’t notice, beans are incredible! I wouldn’t take them out of my diet unless I was personally allergic to them.

Still, variety is the spice of life! So, if you are vegan, or want to add other plant based + protein packed sources (beyond beans) check out this epic list!

Bean Substitutes (Epic Plant Based List)

Here’s a quick list of protein powered foods without the word ‘bean’ in them!:

  • Lentils
  • Split Peas
  • Green Peas
  • Seitan
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Chia Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Ground Flaxseeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Tahini/Sesame Seeds
  • Vegan Protein Powder (Bean-free)
  • Oats

FYI: This list contains foods with at least 3 grams of protein per the portion listed below.

If you are looking for a similar protein amount as beans, check out sources with at least 6 grams of protein or more (the amount in about half a cup of garbanzo beans). You also could use a combo of ingredients. For example: a half cup of oats with 1 ounce of peanuts. ‘Substitute’ does not mean these foods have the same nutrients as beans.

Lastly, I didn’t list fruit or any non starchy vegetables (like cauliflower florets), because they are low in protein per typical serving. These foods are healthy and contribute antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber (they just don’t have lots of protein)!


  • Protein (per half cup, cooked): 9 grams

I grew up eating lots of lentils (‘dal’)!

These are very similar in nutrition content to beans. They are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and have a decent amount of plant based protein.

If you are new to cooking with legumes consider lentils! They often cook faster than beans.

Split Peas

hand holding Amys split pea soup.
  • Protein (per half cup, cooked): 8 grams

Split pea soup anyone? These mighty peas actually have more protein than green peas! Now you know 😉

Green Peas

  • Protein (per half cup, cooked): 4 grams

These vibrant vegetables don’t just add color to your plate! They also contribute a decent amount of plant protein with a touch of sweetness.

One of my favorite chip-like snacks is actually green pea based! Find out what it is and check out my review here.


hand holding a package of Upton naturals seitan.

Looking for a super high protein plant based food? This is it!

Seitan even has a similar texture to meat. So if you are looking for that, try adding it places you would use meat!

FYI: if you are gluten free, you won’t want to have this option. Seitan is made from wheat gluten.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast has been lovingly nick-named ‘nooch’ by several fans!

It imparts a cheesy and nutty flavor that makes it awesome recipes when you miss dairy cheese, but are vegan! I personally sprinkle it almost every time I eat popcorn!


hand holding walnuts

Walnuts are fairly bland-yet, add somewhat of a ‘meaty’ taste to vegan roasts and patties! Pair it with some other ingredients on this list like oats and lentils, to make it higher in protein!

These nuts are unique in that they provide a decent amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega 3 fatty acid (learn more in my ‘no fish diet’ article here).


hand holding peanuts

Did you know that peanuts are legume-botanically speaking? Yep!

They have a higher fat content, like other nuts, and several similar nutrients so we often think of them like nuts.

Whether by themselves or as a spread, 1 ounce has a similar amount of protein as a a half cup of beans!


Pecans are one of my favorite nuts to add to oatmeal bowls!

They are one of the lower proteins packed option on this list, so if you are trying to add in some extra protein, you could add more nuts, seeds, or even bit of protein powder to that oatmeal bowl!


hand holding almonds

If you need a quick snack, a piece of fruit and 1 ounce serving of almonds adds a similar amount of protein as 1/2 a cup of garbanzo beans!


hand holding cashews

Cashews are such versatile nuts. They blend well and contribute a creamy texture!

They can serve as a protein packed addition to a vegan alfredo sauce or cashew cheese.


Protein (per 1 ounce): 6 grams

What’s more fun: eating them or cracking the shells?

I personally enjoy some pistachios almost every evening. 😋

Chia Seeds

a measuring spoon with chia seeds in it

Add some plant powered protein to a home made fruit spread by soaking in some chia seeds, make chia pudding, etc!

Pumpkin Seeds

1 ounce of pumpkin seeds may even exceed the protein content of several other beans!

Hemp Seeds

These seeds sure know how to pack a lot of protein in a tiny serving (and they also come with a good dose of ALA too).

Ground Flax Seeds

a measuring spoon with ground flaxseeds in it

Pro tip: look for ground instead of whole flax seeds. Whole flaxseeds may not be get digested through the digestive system.

Ground flaxseeds are a great source of omega 3 fatty acid- ALA.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds aren’t just for ball games. Add them to dishes that need a little protein boost and crunch.


picture of quinoa with a fork in it
  • Protein (per half cup, cooked): 4 grams

Did you know that quinoa is botanically a seed? Still, it’s often put in a similar category of whole grains.

This protein powered option also contributes some carbohydrates packed with fiber and pairs nicely with other veggies, nuts and peas, etc in salad!

Tahini/Sesame Seeds

Did you know that Tahini/sesame seeds also have a decent amount of calcium? I love to use tahini as a base for a sauce, or to spread over falafels.

Vegan Protein Powder (Bean-Free)

  • Protein (per serving): Variable, often at/over 10 grams

Many protein powders don’t use protein from foods that have ‘bean’ in the word! (protein powders with the word ‘bean’ may include soybean based ones). For example, some protein powders use nuts, seeds, and/or pea protein.


hand holding oats
  • Protein (per half cup, cooked): 3 grams

Oats go beyond oatmeal bowls!

Use them with other ingredients on this list to add bulk, extra protein and nutrients to vegan recipes like lentil roasts, peanut butter muffins, cookies, etc!

Bean Free Recipes

All of the recipes below have (at least) around 6 grams of protein per serving – a similar protein content to half a cup of garbanzo beans!

Vegan Protein Cookies
Cookies that are protein packed (say what?!) Yep! Vegan protein powder and almond flour help to pump up the protein in this tasty treat.
Get Baking!
picture of vegan protein cookies near a glass of a white appearing beverage. Photo Credit: Nicole Addison, RD, MHSc
Overnight Chia and Flaxseed Pudding
A pudding that contains around 6 grams of protein per serving? Yep! This one makes for a nice snack, addition to breakfast, etc.
Start Mixing
Overnight chia and flaxseed pudding in a jar. Picture from Melissa Nieves, RD, LDN, MPH
Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Oatmeal
Need some breakfast inspo? Check out this spin on a classic breakfast bowl!
Get Inspired
oatmeal raisin oatmeal dry mixture in a jar with a bow
Easy Creamy Vegan White Lasagna Soup
Can't decide between lasagna and soup? Why not combine the two in this high protein recipe?
Yes Please!
Vegan white lasagna soup in a bowl. Photo credit: Tori Vasko
Lemon Lentil Soup
Tired of chili? Check out this hearty lentil soup!
Get Cooking
lentil soup in a bowl with herbs nearby.
Vegan Buffalo “Chicken” Sandwich with Homemade Seitan
Seitan shines in the protein department, and stars in this sandwich!
Check It Out Here
Red Lentil Tortilla Wraps Recipe
Bump up the protein content by using lentil instead of white flour for your tortillas!
Find Out How It’s Done
red lentil tortillas folded over on a cutting board
Zesty Quinoa Salad with Cumin & Lemon
Rethink your idea of a salad with this colorful quinoa based one
Get it Here
quinoa salad in a bowl with a tomato nearby.
Split Pea Salad Recipe for Summer
Split peas aren't just for soup!
Try Somethin’ Different Here!
Split pea salad in a bowl with a serving spoon.
Tahini Pasta Recipe (Vegan Pasta with Tahini Sauce)
Move over nac n' cheese! (tahini's in the house)!
Snag the Recipe
picture of vegan mac and cheese.

Did you find this article helpful? Did you save any recipe? Let me know which one you used below!
If you liked this article, there’s more to read from the Vegan Nutrition Library! We discuss other topics like:
Vegan Honey Substitutes
Grounding Foods
Types of Vegans
Gifts for Vegan Cooks
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2 thoughts on “20 Easy Bean Substitutes (Plant Based + Protein Powered)”

  1. I prefer getting my protein and fibre through a variety of sources so this article is perfect for me! Thank you for sharing

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