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Friday, March 5, 2021

What’s the best vegan protein powder in the UK? We tested 6 in 5 ways to find out

We took the best vegan protein powders in the UK market and tested them in multiple recipes to see which would win the ultimate protein powder showdown.

A staple in vegan households that enjoy convenience and/or fitness, protein powder seems to come in all shapes and forms these days. From soy-free to earthy and nutty, there’s a flavour profile to suit all taste buds without ever making nutritional sacrifices or messing up macros.

The Vegan Review tested six of the best vegan protein powders in the UK to find out which works best in five different applications and name our overall favourite. The testing has taken months, due to us not being willing to waste any open products, but finally, the results are in. Here’s our Ultimate Vegan Protein Powder Showdown.

Read our article about the heavy metals found in some vegan protein powders.

How do they taste made as per packet directions?

best protein powderUnless you are used to supplementing your diet with protein powder, it can take a little while to grow accustomed to the taste. Not many people claim to crave a thick shake when they’re thirsty, so although these powders don’t tap into an easy snack or naughty treat vibe, they are ideal for busy, active or macro-aware vegans everywhere.

We tried to select vanilla from each brand, to keep things as uniform as possible, but Bio-Synergy doesn’t come in that flavour, so we chose peanut, as the most neutral alternative. We also made all of the shakes with organic oat milk for an accurate datum.

Liberto

An organic pea protein powder, Liberto is soy-, GMO- and gluten-free. Easy to mix, light in flavour but with an overarching sweetness, the Liberto was a tiny bit artificial for our liking. However, after the first couple of shakes, we quickly adjusted to the almost birthday cake frosting taste. We are big fans of an alternative flavour from Liberto, but this would do in a pinch.

Per 40g serving:
23.5g protein
152kcal
2.9g saturated fat

3/5 — silky, smooth and sweeter than expected.

Purition

Soy-, GMO- and gluten-free, Purition ticks appropriate boxes but then adds in a very earthy and nutty flavour to the mix. It also packs a fibre wallop (be aware if drinking before exercise) and has a rather nice ‘bitty’ texture. The great thing about Purition is that it actually tastes healthy and doesn’t have any trace of synthetic sweetness, thanks to the pea, hemp and seed base. But it doesn’t give as much protein as the other brands.

Per 40g serving:
15.1g protein
187kcal
3.2g saturated fat

4/5 — nutty and tasty, but a bit disappointing in terms of protein amount.

Vega

Gluten- and GMO-free, Vega stands out from the crowd by being a unique blend of protein, fruit and vegetable powders, so drinking it feels a bit like topping up your energy tanks and getting your five-a-day too. Full of omega-3, calcium, vitamins D and B12 and a dash of flax for a healthy digestive system, this one feels really well thought out. It also tastes excellent. There is some stevia added for sweetness, but it isn’t overpowering and nor is the vanilla too artificial. A big thumbs up.

Per 34g serving:
22g protein
139kcal
0.7g saturated fat

5/5 — delicious, packed with protein and almost no fat.

Form

The first thing to note here is the packaging. Because it is gorgeous. If you need your kitchen counters to look great, this is probably the choice for you, so a big kudos to the design team here, especially for making the packet compostable. The powder itself is gluten-, soy- and GMO-free, and brings brown rice protein into the conversation.

Not too sweet and shockingly thick, even when made with water, the taste is an acquired one. The strange thing is, we acquired it well within a week. But just look at the nutritional stats. A massive protein injection with almost zero fat and low calories. This is ideal for anyone looking to manage weight.

Per 40g serving:
30g protein
154kcal
0.2g fat

4/5 — an almost perfect product but with an acquired taste.

Bio-Synergy Lean and Green

Arriving in amazing packaging, this felt like a really special vegan protein powder, and it certainly seeks to make clean supplements easy to get. With no hemp or soy, the ingredients list here is reassuringly short and nothing is hard to recognise either. The Himalayan pink salt was a surprise, but not an unwelcome one.

The taste, however, was a bit disappointing. Perhaps the green tea extract and stevia aren’t playing ball together but the result is a simultaneously dry and synthetically sweet-tasting mouth that we really were not fans of. On its own as a drink and made with water? This was not our favourite.

Per 30g serving:
23.23g protein
111kcal
0.35g fat

2/5 — tempting nutrition but the taste is hard to overlook.

The Protein Works

Gluten and wheat-free, the Vegan Protein range has a lot of flavours and the vanilla creme powder sounded tasty. Unfortunately, it was by far our least favourite. Cloying and far too sweetened, it had a nasty synthetic aftertaste that took forever to leave our mouths. Some of the more adventurous flavours may taste nicer but this one made it obvious that it was the lowest priced in the group.

Per 30g serving:
25g protein
111kcal
0.1g fat

1/5 — impressive macros but the taste means we would not buy this again.

Test winner: Vega

Energy balls

protein ballsWhen you want to up your protein intake but the idea of mixing endless shakes seems like a hassle, whipping up a batch of healthy energy balls is the way to go.

Into the food processor goes a handful of Medjool dates (pitted), a small spoonful of organic fairtrade cacao powder, a sprinkling of chia seeds and a generous scoop of peanut butter. Blend until combined and that’s your base, ready to add your protein of choice to. We added one (10g) scoop of each of our powders, to see which tasted best.

Liberto

Mixed well with our base and didn’t create any lumps. The taste was a touch overpowering though. The sweetness of the powder was all we could taste, even over a dark roasted peanut butter. Some might like a sugary feel, but it was too much for us.

2/5 — just a little too sweet.

Purition

Being quite textured, the Purition was noticeable but comparable to the chia seeds already included. Being the least sweet powder, it worked really well in the energy balls and stayed neutral in taste while simply topping up the protein levels.

5/5 — a perfect addition that was all but unnoticeable.

Vega

Hmmm. Unfortunately, the vanilla flavour that was so delightful in the shake was lost in energy balls. Perhaps with some added vanilla bean paste, this would have been more of a success but the powder didn’t seem to blend well and left a floury taste in the mouth. Not awful, but not as great as we hoped either.

3/5 — room for improvement with the vanilla levels.

Form

This vegan protein powder might actually be made of magic because it disappeared into the energy ball mix. It couldn’t be tasted, there was no smell and with the low fat and high protein levels, it made for a perfect energy ball. Actual perfection.

5/5 — amazing, nothing more to say.

Bio-Synergy Lean and Green

Hurrah. After not setting our hearts alight in the shake test, the Bio-Synergy protein worked well in energy balls. The peanut flavour made it simply come together with the nut butter and made it almost undetectable. There was a slightly synthetic aftertaste that wasn’t great, but was bearable.

3/5 — the taste is hard to overlook.

The Protein Works

Yikes. Another disappointment here, as the powder simply did not blitz and mix into the energy ball base without creating huge lumps (not great when you eat one). We tried again with a protein powder paste and that improved things but the taste was still less enjoyable than all the others.

2/5 — very hard to incorporate.

Test winners: Purition and Form

Read our Ultimate Showdown for the best peanut butter in the UK.

Overnight oats

best protein powder ukEasy, quick and taking all of the chore out of making breakfast, overnight oats have come to be more than just a chance to flex your food stylist muscles. After all, if you’re not posting pictures of your creations, did you even make them?

For our ‘overnights’, we used almond milk, steel-cut organic oats, vanilla bean paste, and swirled homemade cherry compote and a sprinkle of chia seeds through our jars before settling in the fridge until the next morning. We added one scoop of each protein powder, to see which worked well. Top tip: mix your protein and milk before combining with everything else.

Liberto

What a cheeky addition. The Liberto protein made our overnight oats taste like a melted ice cream, and we loved it. It really felt as though we were eating dessert for breakfast, but it was still healthy and set us up with plenty of energy for the day. Brilliant.

5/5 — a sweet treat to start the day.

Purition

Something about the earthy taste didn’t work well with our oats. It almost felt as though there was too much going on, with a nutty and bitty powder, soft oats and chia seeds. There was a lot to clean out of our teeth after breakfast. Not great before Zoom meetings.

2/5 — a bit too busy for the first meal of the day.

Vega

Maybe because Vega has fruit powders included, it blended really well with the cherry compote. There was a balance of flavours that worked beautifully, but there was a bit of an aftertaste. Something a bit vegetal somehow, but it wasn’t bad enough to not want to eat more.

3/5 — delicious, packed with protein and almost no fat.

Form

This was not an application that Form was designed for. Being fairly neutral in taste and very low in fat, the protein simply brought nothing to the meal apart from a powdery and dry mouthfeel, which was a letdown.

2/5 — didn’t add enough positives to warrant another try.

Bio-Synergy Lean and Green

Now, this was a weird one. We kept flitting between liking the taste and not liking it, but eventually, we landed on the fact that there was a Horlicks-type flavour happening. It wasn’t unpleasant per se, but it was strange and made for some interesting eating faces as we tried to figure it out.

3/5  — odd but not awful.

The Protein Works

In overnight oats, this vegan protein powder actually worked. It didn’t overpower anything, added some extra vanilla notes and a little more sweetness, which was perfectly balanced by the use of sour cherries in the compote. Was it the best thing we’ve ever eaten? No, but we were happily surprised that this powder worked in some way.

3/5 — middle-of-the-road success.

Test winner: Liberto

Pancakes

vegan protein pancakesSunday pancakes are a sacred covenant in our house and we have our recipe dialled in for the perfect vegan fluffy breakfast treats. Adding protein powder was considered to be something of a sin, but did any of our tests prove worth the risk?

As with the rest, we added one scoop to our pancake batter and used a standard plain flour-plant milk-baking powder recipe with no sugar.

Liberto

Similarly to the overnight oats, the sweet vanilla flavour here worked really well in pancakes. With a little agave drizzled on top, these were sweet, fluffy and slid down easily. It was a bit strange to feel ready for a long bike ride after a stick of pancakes though.

5/5 — full-on flavour and fluffiness.

Purition

The flavour here worked well because our pancake batter had no sugar in. The nutty, seedy taste of the Purition blended well with the mixture and created a very neutral yet still satisfying dish. If anything, it made the pancakes taste healthier? Which made us forgo the syrup too.

3/5 — not quite a Sunday treat, but good to eat.

Vega

Something was a bit amiss here. We’ve been really pleasantly surprised by Vega in most tests, but here, it left a slightly sour taste that we can only assume came from bringing heat into the mix. It wasn’t hugely terrible, but it was noticeable and we would stick to other recipes.

2/5 — a taste that fell flat.

Form

Similar to Vega, heat did something a little strange here and amplified the Horlicks-like taste. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but we struggled to find how best to balance it, eventually settling on a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream. We’re not shy about having dessert for breakfast but it all started to feel a bit like hard work.

2/5 — it was masking the taste, not balancing it.

Bio-Synergy Lean and Green

A winner. The peanut flavour and the smooth-mixing powder formula made for a rich pancake batter that tasted great hot. We decided to go all out and add a little jam instead of agave, for the full PB&J vibe and it worked super well. A firm favourite.

4/5 — PB&J saved the day.

The Protein Works

There’s that really synthetic flavour again, rearing its head to linger in the mouth. The aftertaste is such a shame as the mix itself worked well and created a silky batter that was easy to work with and flip.

1/5 — an aftertaste nobody asked for.

Test winner: Liberto

Breakfast smoothies

vegan protein shakeFinally, we wanted to go back to drinks and give each vegan protein powder an opportunity to shine when mixed with fresh fruit and veggies. Few people drink protein simply mixed with water, so we thought it was only fair to zing things up.

We used oat milk, a standard single portion of protein powder, a banana, a handful of spinach, a generous handful of frozen red berries, a sprinkling of spirulina and a drizzle of vanilla bean paste.

Liberto

The powder struggled to be heard above the other flavours but for most people, that’s no bad thing. We would have liked a bit more of the vanilla to come through, but the smoothie was glossy, fresh and didn’t leave any strange taste in the mouth, so it was a perfect way to start the day.

3/5 — good but not noticeable.

Purition

We could taste the nuttiness of the Purition through the fresh fruit and it was delicious. A nice and natural balance to the sweetness of the other ingredients, including the oat milk, this was a not-too-sweet powder with a good texture was just the ticket.

5/5 — interesting, tasty and filling.

Vega

The fruit and vegetable powders came through and worked alongside their fresh counterparts perfectly here. Vega has really nailed the concept of bringing protein, vitamins, and fruit and vegetables all together into a multi-use powder that does you some good. The little vanilla punch was lost, but the zinginess of the fruits was amplified nicely.

5/5 — hits a fresh note that protein often lacks.

Form

Form shone again here by simply adding some glossy thickness to the smoothie and not interfering with the taste in any other way. Given the low calorie, non-existent fat content and staggeringly high protein injection that Form offers, adding it to a fruit smoothie makes perfect sense as it would be a great breakfast for anyone watching their weight.

4/5 — added substance but not taste.

Bio-Synergy Lean and Green

Peanuts and fruit can be a strange combination, but add in spinach too and it wasn’t a great taste. The texture was nothing to sniff at, but there was a flavour that made each mouthful a little hard to swallow. You know when you pause before swallowing and it gets more difficult to bring yourself to actually go through with it? That!

2/5 — peanuts, strawberries and spinach: apparently not a dream team.

The Protein Works

We thought we had found the perfect use for this powder until a few seconds after swallowing, when the synthetic aftertaste kicked in. Somehow exacerbated by the iron-rich spinach, it made for some interesting grimaces, but that’s the best thing we can say.

1/5 — that weird aftertaste again.

Test winner: Purition and Vega

Price and availability 

Taste-testing is fun but it’s pointless to only compare like-for-like. We wanted to give a far more rounded overview of the differences found in a variety of price points and we also wanted to be sure that we were testing products that are easily sourced.

This taste test was conducted by a very active vegan family and while we cannot besmirch the energy-giving properties of any of the brands, we think there was a notable difference in powder quality and versatility.

Liberto

Available online and in stores from Holland and Barrett, you can also find Liberto on the Ocado site. Or, of course, you can buy direct.

Prices vary from £10 to £14.99 for a 280g pouch.

Purition

Purition has been selling direct for years, offering significant discounts if you buy three or more pouches, but you can also snap it up from Boots and Holland and Barrett.

Prices start at £16.65 when you buy three or more bags direct from Purition, or are £22.95 for singular buys of the 500g pouches.

Vega

Holland and Barrett and Boots have cornered the in-store market here too, and direct purchase is not an option. Online retailers such as Whole Foods and Planet Organics are Vega stockists if you don’t have a physical option nearby.

At £31.99 for 612g, it is on the expensive end of the spectrum, but bear in mind that it did perform well in most tests.

Form

Available to buy direct or from Planet Organics, you’ll need to plan ahead of time to make sure you don’t run out of Form. But there is free shipping over £40, so grab a couple of pouches and you’ll be set.

520g of this vegan protein powder comes in at £26.

Bio-Synergy Lean and Green

Whether you buy direct or through an online sports retailer like Wiggle, you can get your protein fix quickly with Bio-Synergy. Flavours are a little limited currently, with just three to choose from, but they are varied enough to guarantee that you’ll enjoy one of them.

£34.99 for 908g makes Bio-Synergy great value.

The Protein Works

Only available to buy directly from the company, you’ll find that delivery options are good and there are usually active discount codes to take advantage of.

Normally £16.99 for 500g, at the time of going to press, there was an offer price of £10.18 live on The Protein Works’ website.

None of the companies paid to take part in this test for the best vegan protein powder, but some did supply free products for the trials. This is strictly not an advertorial, but an objective taste test.

Read our Ultimate Showdown for the best oat milk in the UK.

Amy Buxton
Amy is a committed ethical vegan, raising a next generation compassionate human with her husband and beloved dog, Boo. A freelance writer with a background in PR, she decided to use the COVID lockdown period to refocus her client base and has come to The Vegan Review as a senior writer and editor. "What we should be doing is working at the job of life itself" is Amy's mantra, courtesy of Tom from The Good Life.

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