Protein-Packed Trail Foods for Vegetarians and Vegans

The environmental impact of eating meat has changed many hikers into herbivores. Meat should not be the only source of protein included in a well-balanced diet. These protein-packed foods below do not contain any meat or animal-based products, but they are sure to keep you feeling full and strong.

When I turned vegetarian about a year ago, I had many people asking how my diet would affect my hiking hobby. Well, it hasn’t. First off, a hiker should consume more carbs and good fats to keep the body feeling full for longer and to keep energy level highs. However, that does not mean that protein should be ignored. Having a vegetarian or vegan diet does not correlate with being weak. As long as you get enough complete protein to sustain your hike, run, or workout, there is no reason why an herbivore can’t be just as strong as a meat-eater. Also, these trail foods for vegetarians and vegans are perfect for anyone with any diet. You won’t even notice the lack of meat or animal-based foods with these delicious and healthy alternatives.

1. Oatmeal

Protein amount of cooked oats: 6g per 1 U.S. cup

Oatmeal is a great trail food breakfast. However, oatmeal can be boring and bland if left alone. Therefore, add a variety of different foods, such as dried fruits, seeds, or granola, to not only add extra protein but to also add some flavor.

bowl of oatmeal

Cooked oatmeal with blueberries / Photo credit: Danielle Segura via Flickr

2. Nut (or Seed) Butter

Protein amount of peanut butter: 8g per 2 tbsp

Nut butter, especially peanut butter, sure has its place as a popular trail food. However, peanut butter is not the only butter that should be considered as a viable protein option. In many trail towns, peanut butter is the most likely of the nut butters to be found in a convenient store or general store. However, if you have the option, walnut, almond, cashew, and sunflower seed butter are great and delicious alternatives. The only downside of nut butter is that it can get quite heavy in a backpack in large quantities. However, powdered peanut butter flakes are available for backpackers seeking a lightweight option.

peanut butter trail food

Peanut butter / Photo credit: Denise Krebs via Flickr

3. Quinoa

Protein amount of cooked quinoa: 8g per 1 U.S. cup

Quinoa is an interesting little seed that does resemble the look and texture of a grain. Add cooked quinoa to your dinner of mac ‘n cheese or your oatmeal breakfast for added protein. The amazing thing about this seed is that it is a complete protein! Check out our No Bake Quinoa Bar recipe!

cooked quinoa

Cooked quinoa / Photo credit: Daniel Lobo via Flickr

4. Bean/Lentil/Quinoa Pasta

Protein amount of cooked bean pasta: ~10g in 2oz

Although this vegetarian gem might not be available in all trail towns, if you have the option, purchase pasta made from beans, lentils, or quinoa. Some pasta brands market it as ‘protein plus‘ pasta. The pasta tastes and looks like normal noodles but has an incredible amount of protein. In some stores, certain brands of boxed mac ‘n cheese are made with similar pasta noodles.

quinoa pasta box

Quinoa pasta / Photo credit: Oomni via Flickr

5. Nuts

Protein amount of peanuts: 7g in 1oz

Protein amount of almonds: 6g in 1oz

Along with nut butter, nuts are a great snack to tag along on any adventure. Make GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts) or create a fabulous trail mix with a variety of dried fruits and granola. Now, every nut does have a different protein amount but peanuts and almonds are some of the nuts with the highest protein amount and are the most readily available.

mixed nuts

Mixed nuts / Photo credit: s58y via Flickr

6. Protein Bars

Protein amount in one Clif Bar: 10g in one bar

Protein bars are a great way for vegans and vegetarians to meet their daily amount of protein. However, not all protein bars are vegan; many of them contain whey protein. However, one of the most popular protein bars for hikers, Clif Bar, is a vegan protein bar!

vegan clif bars

Clif Bar rainbow / Photo credit: Richard Thomas via Flickr

Note for vegetarians: If you are are on a vegetarian diet, protein-packed animal based foods, like cheese, eggs, milk, and yogurt, can contribute to your protein amount.

What are your favorite vegetarian or vegan trail foods?


Nature Foods for vegetarians. Vegetarian and Vegan Backpacking food.

Sports Nutrition: Clif Bars Builders protein bars.

Backpacking Vegetarian or Vegan? Outdoor Herbivore Blog. /vegetarian/vegetarian-backpacking

Lots of Vegan Backpacking Food Ideas.  Vegan Backpacking Gear. Gossamer Gear.

Healthy Snack Recipes. 4 Protein Rich Nut Butters. Anna Sward. Body /fun/healthy-snack-recipes-4-protein-rich-nut-butters.html

Madison Dragna

Madison Dragna

Madison is a long distance hiker and devoted yogi. She completed the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and Corsica's treacherous GR 20 in 2014. When she's not traveling, she enjoys life as a freelance writer in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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Madison Dragna