Is Whey Protein Vegan Friendly?

Protein provides energy and builds lean muscle—it is essential in your diet. Whey protein is considered one of the best protein powders on the market, and it is used by athletes around the world. 

However, vegans are always hesitant to try new things before knowing if they are vegan-friendly.

In this article, we are going to learn everything about whey protein to help answer the question: Is whey protein vegan?

Is Whey Protein Vegan?

Whey protein isn’t vegan friendly because it is derived from milk, which makes it animal-based. During the process of cheese-making, whey is the liquid that is separated from the curd.

Although it has many health benefits and can help you lose weight and build muscle, you shouldn’t consume whey protein if you follow a vegan diet.

Products That Use Whey Protein

Whey protein isn’t vegan-friendly, so you need to avoid food and products that use this protein as an ingredient if you are following a vegan diet. 

All dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese) include whey protein. Other products also include whey protein as one of their ingredients that you might not be aware of. 

Nutritional Formulas

Whey protein is one of the main ingredients used in many nutritional formulas like infant formulas, and it is also used in many dietary supplements.

Salad Dressing

Many salad dressings add whey protein powder to their ingredients—they usually opt for flavorless powder.

Baking Goods

Bread, crackers, cookies, muffins, and various other baking goods use whey protein because it stabilizes foam, volume, and emulsions.

You should always check the list of ingredients in any of these products before you purchase to make sure that they don’t include whey protein, especially since many brands advertise themselves as vegans but still use non-vegan proteins.

Although companies like Beyond Meat are currently developing plant-based versions of animal products, there is still no such thing as vegan whey protein.

Plant-Based Alternatives to Whey Protein

Animal-based products contain all the essential amino acids our bodies require to stay healthy. Vegans can find plant-based alternatives to supply the body with its protein needs so they won’t suffer from any deficiencies. 

Thankfully, there are many plant-based alternatives to whey protein, such as rice, hemp, pea, soy, and many other proteins that can supply the body with protein. These proteins can also help athletes who are looking for plant-based powders to build muscle.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is derived from cannabis plant seeds, but don’t worry, any chemicals that provide a high have been removed. Hemp also contains many healthy minerals like zinc, iron, and magnesium.

Brown Rice Protein

Brown rice protein powder is very popular because it isn’t expensive and you can easily find it. Just like whey protein, brown rice protein powder can also help with muscle growth.

Sunflower Seed Protein

Sunflower seed protein contains high levels of essential amino acids (except for lysine).

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are used in baked goods, smoothies, and porridges and are also used to make protein powders. These seeds contain vitamins and minerals, and the powder can aid digestion.

Pea Protein

Pea protein comes from yellow split peas. It is a great source of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). This protein has many health benefits like lowering your blood pressure and helping you lose weight since it makes you feel full.

Pumpkin Seed Protein 

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of healthy fats and protein. They also contain minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc. 


What is whey protein?

Whey protein is a natural liquid component that comes from cow’s milk. During the cheese-making process, certain enzymes must be added to the milk to separate its two main protein components: the curd (the solid component of milk) and the whey (the liquid component).

The whey is then filtered and dried into a protein powder that is used in many products like food supplements, cheese, dairy products, protein bars, baby formula, and sports nutrition beverages.

What is the difference between whey protein and plant-based proteins?

Whey protein is animal-based and it contains many of the essential amino acids that your body needs. Plant-based proteins, on the other hand, usually lack certain essential amino acids. 

Protein can be harder to get as a vegan, and when sourcing plant-based protein, you need to look for the amino acids too, either added to the protein or from elsewhere.

Plant-based proteins are a better option for those who are lactose-intolerant Plant-based protein generally has fewer calories and is easier to digest than whey protein. However, vegan proteins contain less calcium than whey proteins.

Whey protein vs vegan proteins, which is better?

The answer to this question depends on your lifestyle, diet, and personal preference. As a vegan, you don’t consume any animal-based products, which makes plant-based or vegan proteins the better option for you. 

As long as you are getting everything your body needs, a vegan protein is as good as whey protein.

Can vegan protein powders help promote muscle growth?

Yes, vegan protein powders can help promote muscle growth.

Are plant-based proteins healthy?

Yes, plant-based proteins are very healthy and a great substitute for animal-based proteins.

Is whey protein vegetarian?

Yes, whey protein is vegetarian. Although vegetarians don’t consume animal products, they consume products that come from animals like dairy, honey, or eggs.

What is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian lifestyle?

Vegetarians don’t consume any animal products—no seafood, meat, or poultry. However, they consume animal byproducts like eggs, honey, and dairy products since no animals are slaughtered in the process (though they often look for by-products from animals that are not mistreated).

Vegans on the other hand don’t consume animals or animal by-products, since they involve the exploitation and cruelty of animals.

How can I tell if a product is vegan or not?

You can tell if a product is vegan simply by looking at the list of ingredients. Even if the label says vegan, you should still check the ingredients. For this reason, you should familiarize yourself with all non-vegan substances.

The same applies to medication, if you follow a strict vegan diet, you should inform your doctor to prescribe a vegan alternative.

Final Verdict

Is whey protein vegan friendly? Whey protein isn’t vegan-friendly because it comes from cow’s milk, which makes it an animal-based product; thus, not vegan. However, you can still get your protein from plant-based proteins and supplements.

Brett White
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