Protein shakes are a common beverage, and people usually drink them to add more protein to their diet quickly and conveniently.

Protein shakes are especially popular among weight lifters and those trying to build muscle. While mixing protein powder with liquid is the most common way to make them, you may be wondering if you can build a protein shake without powder.

Some people may not have protein powder on hand, want more food-based options, or have digestive issues when consuming protein powder.

This article discusses how to create high protein shakes without using protein powder.

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One of the most common uses of protein shakes is to promote muscle growth. Individuals who lift weights and engage in resistance training may drink a protein shake before or after a workout.

Getting enough dietary protein is important for preventing muscle breakdown and promoting muscle growth (1).

Indeed, studies suggest that engaging in resistance training and supplementing with protein shakes can help muscle growth and enhance recovery (2).

People may also drink protein shakes if they’re concerned about meeting protein needs through food alone, recovering from illness or surgery that increased protein needs, or if they want to lose weight (3).

In its simplest form, a protein shake contains protein powder mixed with water or another liquid.

There are tons of protein powders on the market, including dairy-based ones like whey and casein, and plant-based ones, including pea, hemp, soy, and rice proteins.

Protein powders vary in how much protein they provide, but most offer 20–30 grams per scoop. In addition to protein, these powders may have added vitamins and minerals, flavorings, and sweeteners (4, 5).

However, a protein shake doesn’t necessarily need to include protein powder. You can blend plenty of high protein foods for a tasty high protein shake.


Many people drink protein shakes as a way to help build muscle. Protein shakes are typically made from protein powder, but they don’t need to be. There are lots of high protein foods you can use in shakes instead.

There are plenty of high protein foods you can use to make a quick and healthy protein shake.

What’s more, high protein foods may also include beneficial nutrients and compounds that get stripped away during the processing of protein powders. One example is fiber found in whole peas but not isolated pea protein.

Here are some great sources of protein to include in homemade protein shakes:

  • Milks: cow’s milk, ultra-filtered milk (like Fairlife brand), pea milk, soy milk, hemp milk
  • Other milk products: Greek yogurt (dairy or nondairy), cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, kefir
  • Soy products: edamame, silken tofu, soy butter
  • Nuts and seeds (or nut and seed butters): peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans, almonds, hemp seeds, chia seed, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Grains and beans: oats, quinoa, white beans, black beans, lentils

Food sources of protein to add to shakes include nuts and seeds, milk products, Greek yogurt, tofu, and beans.

Protein powder offers a concentrated and convenient source of protein.

However, there may be several reasons you want to avoid or limit them. You may not have powder on hand, don’t have access to a good quality powder, want a less processed option, or have digestive issues with powders.

Plus, good quality protein powders can be expensive. Therefore, some food sources of protein may be more affordable, especially if you drink protein shakes often.

Furthermore, protein powders may vary in quality since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not tightly regulate protein powders.

Some protein powders may contain (6, 7, 8):

  • excess amounts of sugar or other sweeteners
  • ingredients you are allergic to
  • different amounts or types of ingredients than what’s listed on the label
  • toxins and heavy metals
  • substances that are banned by athletic organizations

Manufacturers are responsible for labeling and evaluating safety. As a result, products could contain ingredients or substances not listed on the label or in different amounts than listed (7).

However, this is not the case for all protein powders. The composition of protein powders varies widely across brands.

Purchasing a protein powder from a reputable company that a third party has tested for purity and safety is one way to ensure you are getting a quality product.

A few third-party seals of approvals include United States Pharmacopeia (USP), Informed Choice, Consumer Labs, and NSF International.


There may be several reasons for wanting to skip the protein powder. Also, depending on the brand and quality, some protein powders may contain too much sugar, allergens, heavy metals, or banned substances.

If you’re looking for a delicious protein shake that doesn’t use powder, try one from this list!

The amount of protein in each shake was estimated based on information from the USDA FoodData Central (8).

Note that if you substitute cow’s milk with a plant based alternative, the total protein content may be lower.

Chocolate Banana Protein Shake (17 grams of protein)

Combine the following ingredients in a blender:

  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of creamy almond butter (or other nut/seed butter)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon (7.5 grams) of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240 mL) of cow’s or plain soy milk

Peanut Butter and Jelly Protein Shake (22 grams of protein)

Combine the following ingredients in a blender:

  • 1 cup (150 grams) of frozen mixed berries
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons (11 grams) of rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) of milled flaxseeds
  • 1 cup (240 mL) of cow’s or plain pea milk

Strawberry Ricotta Protein Shake (19 grams of protein)

Combine the following ingredients in a blender:

  • 1 cup (150 grams) of frozen strawberries
  • 3/4 cup (160 grams) of ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons (14 grams) of honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) of cow’s milk (or milk of choice)

Green Tofu Protein Shake (41 grams of protein)

Combine the following ingredients in a blender:

  • 1 cup (140 grams) of frozen peas
  • 1 cup (30 grams) of spinach
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) of frozen mango
  • 8 ounces (250 grams) of silken tofu
  • 1 teaspoon (7 grams) of honey or maple syrup
  • 1 cup (240 mL) of cow’s or plain soy milk, plus more to thin

Pineapple White Bean Protein Shake (32 grams of protein)

Combine the following ingredients in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) of frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) of cooked white beans
  • 1/2 cup (140 grams) of plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons (9 grams) of shredded coconut
  • 1 cup (240 mL) of cow’s or plain soy milk

Homemade protein shakes can be made with nut butter, silken tofu, milk, cheese, and beans in lieu of powders. The shake recipes on this list contain approximately 17–32 grams of protein.

Protein shakes can be a good option for those looking to build muscle or otherwise increase protein intake.

Although typically made with protein powders, there are many food sources of protein that you can add to your shakes instead.

If you need some inspiration, try nut butter, milk products, beans, silken tofu, and others listed in this article.

Just one thing

Try this today: Keep your pantry stocked with protein sources so that you always have something on hand to make a shake. Nut and seed butter, beans, silken tofu, and some types of soy, pea, or hemp milk are shelf-stable and last a while.

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