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If you’re landing on our guide to making protein shakes without protein powder, you may be fresh out of the best protein powder for smoothies. Or perhaps you aren’t too keen on protein powder—and if that’s the case, our expert testers (including certified nutritionists and registered dietitians) have hand-selected the best whey protein powder and best vegan protein powder on the market. 

You may also be seeking a holistic food-first approach1 to your diet and want to start with a homemade protein shake, milkshake, or smoothie. Before we go over specific recipes, let’s dive into some smoothie staples and see how much protein you get from each ingredient.

High Protein Smoothie Ingredients

If you’re looking to stock your refrigerator and pantry with protein-rich foods, the chart below is your guide to how many grams of protein are in common grocery store items like full-fat plain Greek yogurt, whole milk, and plant-based protein sources like nut butters and black beans. 

In addition to the protein content, you’ll also find fat and carbohydrate content to aid you in meal planning and knowing which foods are rich with omega-3 and healthy fats. We used MyFitnessPal to collect the data on the chart below. 

RELATED: Best Weight Loss App

Serving sizeProtein FatsCarbs
Plain Greek yogurt6 oz16 g9 g7 g
Cottage cheese1 cup23 g9 g7 g 
Kefir1 cup11 g2 g20 g
Hemp seeds3 tbsp9 g14 g3 g
Chia seeds1 tbsp2 g4 g4 g
Flax seeds1 tbsp1.7 g4 g3 g
Sunflower seeds¼ cup7 g18 g8 g
Peanut butter2 tbsp7 g16 g8 g
Almond butter2 tbsp6 g16 g7 g
Cashew butter2 tbsp5 g16 g8 g
Cow’s milk (whole)1 cup8 g8 g12 g
Almond milk1 cup1 g2 g3 g
Coconut milk1 cup> 1 g5 g7 g
Soy milk1 cup7 g4 g3 g
Cashew milk1 cup1 g2 g1 g
Silken tofu ¼ cup6 g2 g 2 g
Medjool date2 dates1 g1 g30 g
Black beans½ cup7 g1 g19 g
Chickpeas½ cup6 g2 g 20 g
Raw spinach or kale1 cup> 1 g0 g1 g
Avocado Cut in half2 g8 g1 g
Banana 1 medium1 g0 g26 g

Protein Shake Recipes Without Protein Powder

You can use the chart above to help up your protein intake in your next smoothie or as a swap-this-for-that guide. Using the chart, you can determine which liquids and nut butters are your best option. 

While many of the whole-food ingredients featured in these recipes are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, the micronutrients vary per ingredient.For example, whole milk from a cow contains about 300 milligrams of calcium per serving whereas soy milk contains 60 milligrams. 

Banana and Almond Smoothie Recipe 

We adapted the recipe below from a Daily Harvest smoothie bowl. It includes parsnip chunks—a relative of carrots—that offer a slightly nutty flavor to complement the almonds, cashews, and flax seeds. If you don’t have parsnips on hand, omit them altogether. 

RELATED: High-Protein Vegetables 

Cinnamon Banana Bread Protein Smoothie Recipe

Recipe Instructions

In a blender you’ll combine: 

  • 1 cup liquid of choice 
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 oz cubed parsnip
  • 1 oz almonds 
  • 1 oz cashews
  • 1 oz flax seed 
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs 

Recipe adapted from Daily Harvest 

Silken Tofu Fruit Smoothie Recipe

Silken tofu is Japanese-style tofu with a softer consistency than Chinese-style tofu (or soybean curd tofu). It’s often used in stir-fries and soups, but can also be blended into a smoothie. The recipe below is very basic and can be adapted to what frozen fruit you have on hand. 

RELATED: Best Soy Protein Powder

Vegan Blackberry Smoothie by Dave Bell at hurrythefoodup.com

Recipe Instructions

In a blender you’ll combine: 

  • ½ cup liquid of choice
  • 2 cups mixed frozen fruit
  • 1 ripe banana (or frozen banana) 
  • 8 ounces silken tofu

Recipe adapted from The Endless Meal

Simple Creamy Green Smoothie Recipe

The spinach and avocado in this recipe offer vibrant green color, tons of dietary fiber, and a few grams of protein. Hemp seeds, chia seeds, and nut butter pump up the protein factor, while the Medjool date provides sweetness (and 1 gram of protein each) in this green smoothie. 

Green Protein Smoothie Recipe

Recipe Instructions

In a blender you’ll combine: 

  • 2 cups liquid of choice
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp nut butter of choice
  • 1 medium banana, frozen 
  • 1/2 of an avocado cut in chunks (frozen if possible)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 medjool dates, pitted

Recipe adapted from Walder Wellness 

Black Bean Cocoa Powder Protein Smoothie Recipe

You may be thinking: What the heck are black beans doing in this recipe? Black beans are a vegan-friendly way to add protein and are often blended or mashed in plant-based recipes (including black bean brownies!). If you’re using canned beans, we suggest grabbing a can of salt-free beans and rinsing them well before adding them to the blender. The Medjool dates and banana will add sweetness to contrast with the Earthy flavor of the black beans. 

Chocolate Brownie Protein Smoothie Recipe

Recipe Instructions

In a blender you’ll combine: 

  • 1 cup liquid of choice (whole milk, soy milk, etc)
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 1 banana (ripe or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 3 medjool dates

Recipe adapted from the blog of Whitney E. RD 

How To Make Protein Shakes Without Protein Powder: Final Thoughts 

The recipes featured in our guide to making protein shakes without protein powder include whole foods without artificial ingredients or sweeteners. The amount of protein in each smoothie varies depending on the liquid and nut butter you choose. You can use the chart to help calculate how much protein is in each recipe. 

Many of the ingredients featured in these recipes are also plant-based, vegan-friendly, and gluten-free. 

How To Make Protein Shakes Without Protein Powder: FAQs

Can I have a protein shake without protein powder?

One of the most protein-rich alternatives to protein powder is plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for a smooth, creamy texture to your protein drink or smoothie. You can also get creative by adding liquid of your choice, frozen fruit, nuts or seeds, and vanilla extract or maple syrup for added flavor. 

How can I get protein without protein powder?

Without protein powder, it’s still possible to make a protein shake from foods like yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit, nut butters, and veggies. Making protein shakes is a convenient way to supplement whole foods high in protein, like red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds. 

What is the No. 1 rated protein shake?

Our product testers at Garage Gym Reviews have tested nearly all the top brands on the market. We have hand-selected top picks for best protein shakes, whey protein, and plant-based protein powder, to name a few. 

References 

  1. Burd NA, Beals JW, Martinez IG, Salvador AF, Skinner SK. Food-First Approach to Enhance the Regulation of Post-exercise Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Remodeling. Sports Med. 2019;49(Suppl 1):59-68. doi:10.1007/s40279-018-1009-y

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