40 Ways to Add Protein to Smoothies (without Powders!)

40 Ways to Add Protein to Smoothies (without Powders!)

Smoothies can be a wholesome snack or on-the-go meal packed with nutrition…right? Then why do you often feel hungry and your blood sugar crashing an hour after you drank one? If this sounds familiar, it may be time dial in your smoothie game and think about ways to add protein to your smoothies to keep you energized and satisfied!

image of a green smoothie and grapefruits in the background with text that reads "40 ways to add protein to smoothies (without powders!)"

I feel like we talk smoothies a lot! You guys know I’m a big fan of smoothies. I find that since 90% of American adults don’t eat the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (per the CDC in 2017), smoothies can be an efficient (and tasty!) way to pack in some more produce. And from the comments and emails I’ve received about my popular NTF 5-a-Day Green Smoothie that helps you get five servings of fruits and vegetables in one glass, I’d say many of you seem to agree!

Protein Plays an Important Role!

But as much as I adore produce (and all the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and so much other nourishment that comes with it!), there’s something else I find equally important to include in a smoothie: protein.

Consuming protein with a meal can help us feel more satisfied. Not to mention the MANY roles of protein in our bodies, like hormones, enzymes, cell and tissue structure, and so, so much more.

For more information on the role of protein in our bodies, check out this post I wrote detailing everything you need to know about protein.

Protein powders and other protein-rich supplements (like collagen peptides) are very popular options for easy ways to add protein to smoothies. But I know protein powders aren’t the solution for everyone. Many people don’t like the taste or texture of protein powders, some prefer whole, real food sources, and others just don’t want to buy or consume protein powders. Whatever the reason, that’s okay! But it’s still important to balance your smoothie with a little protein.

So, I’m sharing a resource I give to my clients with 40 ways to add protein to smoothies – without powders! You’ll see a wide variety of foods, from dairy products to nuts and seeds to even fruit and vegetables.

Before I share the list, I do want to know that the list is arranged by what I and my clients have often felt are acceptable amounts of these food sources to include in a smoothie – i.e. more than a couple tablespoons of nuts is going to add way more calories and healthy fats than protein, and may leave little room for other ingredients.

list of the top 10 smoothie protein booster real food ingredients, without protein powders.

Real Food Protein Boosters for Smoothies

  1. Cottage Cheese (1% milkfat, 1/2 cup, 81 kcal, 14g protein)
  2. Ricotta Cheese (part-skm, 1/2 cup, 171 kcal, 14g protein)
  3. Greek Yogurt (1/2 cup plain, nonfat, 67 kcal, 11.6g protein)
  4. Tofu (1/4 cup firm, 90 kcal, 10.9g protein)
  5. Regular Yogurt (1/2 cup plain, nonfat, 64 kcal, 6.5g protein)
  6. Hemp Seeds (2 tbsp, 111 kcal, 6.3g protein)
  7. Chia Seeds (2 tbsp, 138 kcal, 5g protein)
  8. Kefir (lowfat, plain, 1/2 cup, 52 kcal, 4.6g protein)
  9. Edamame (1/4 cup, 47 kcal, 4.5g protein)
  10. Pumpkin Seeds (2 tbsp, 85 kcal, 4.4g protein)
  11. Lentils (1/4 cup cooked, 55 kcal, 4.3g protein)
  12. Milk (1/2 cup skim, 43 kcal, 4.2g protein)
  13. Peas (1/2 cup, 59 kcal, 4g protein)
  14. Sunflower Seeds (2 tbsp, 102 kcal, 3.6g protein)
  15. Peanut Butter (1 tbsp, 96 kcal, 3.6g protein)
  16. Soy Milk (1/2 cup unsweetened, 40 kcal, 3.5g protein)
  17. Almond Butter (1 tbsp, 98 kcal, 3.4g protein)
  18. Cashews (2 tbsp, 105 kcal, 3.4g protein)
  19. Sesame Seeds (2 tbsp, 103 kcal, 3.2g protein)
  20. Pistachios (2 tbsp, 86 kcal, 3.1g protein)
  21. Garbanzo Beans (1/4 cup drained and rinsed, 53 kcal, 2.7g protein)
  22. Oats (1/4 cup dry, 77 kcal, 2.7g protein)
  23. Flax Seeds (2 tbsp ground, 75 kcal, 2.5g protein)
  24. Walnuts (2 tbsp chopped, 96 kcal, 2.2g protein)
  25. Quinoa (1/4 cup cooked, 56 kcal, 2.0g protein)
  26. Broccoli (1/2 cup, 15 kcal, 1.5g protein)
  27. Avocado (1/2 California avocado, 109 kcal, 1.4g protein)
  28. Banana (1 medium, 105 kcal, 1.3g protein)
  29. Cauliflower (1/2 cup, 16 kcal, 1.3g protein)
  30. Cacao Nibs (1 tbsp, 63 kcal, 1.3g protein)
  31. Sweet Potato (1/4 cup, 62 kcal, 1.1g protein)
  32. Dried Apricots (1/4 cup, 78 kcal, 1.1 g protein)
  33. Cocoa Powder (1 tbsp, 12 kcal, 1g protein)
  34. Spinach (1 cup, 7 kcal, 0.9g protein)
  35. Turnip Greens (1 cup chopped, 18 kcal, 0.8g protein)
  36. Spirulina (2 tbsp, 4 kcal, 0.8g protein)
  37. Cherries (1/2 cup pitted, 49 kcal, 0.8g protein)
  38. Raspberries (1/2 cup, 32 kcal, 0.7g protein)
  39. Zucchini (1/2 cup, 11 kcal, 0.7g protein)
  40. Kale (1 cup, 7 kcal, 0.6g protein)

Real Food Protein Smoothie Recipe Inspiration

I’ll be the first to admit that the majority of these foods don’t have the same protein content as a protein powder. But what’s important to note is how quickly protein can add up if you’re intentional when selecting your smoothie ingredients. See for yourself! Check out some of my favorite high protein smoothie recipes below that all contain over 20 grams of protein:

black forest protein smoothie with cocoa powder and a cherry on top

Black Forest Smoothie

  • 1 cup frozen, pitted cherries (1.6 grams)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach (1.8 grams)
  • 1 cup skim milk (8.4 grams)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (1 gram)
  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat greek yogurt (11.6 grams)
  • 1 tsp honey (0 grams)

TOTAL PROTEIN: 22.4 grams

Raspberry Parfait Smoothie

  • 1 cup raspberries (1.4 grams)
  • 1/2 banana (0.6 grams)
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower (1.3 grams)
  • 1/2 cup regular plain, nonfat yogurt (6.5 grams)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (4.2 grams)
  • 1/4 cup oats (2.7 grams)
  • 1 tbsp almond butter (3.4 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (0 grams)

TOTAL PROTEIN: 20.1 grams

Green Giant Smoothie

  • 1/2 avocado (1.4 grams)
  • 1/2 cup broccoli (1.5 grams)
  • 2 cups spinach (1.8 grams)
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini (0.7 grams)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds (5 grams)
  • 1/4 cup firm tofu (10.9 grams)
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots (1.1 grams)
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint (0 grams)

TOTAL PROTEIN: 22.4 grams

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato (2.2 grams)
  • 1/2 cup fat free, plain cottage cheese (14 grams)
  • 2 medjool dates (0.9)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (4.2 grams)
  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds (6.3 grams)
  • 1/4 cup dry oats (2.7 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (0 grams)

TOTAL PROTEIN: 30.3 grams

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (14 grams)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (4.2 grams)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder (2 grams)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (3.6 grams)
  • 1 cup spinach (0.9 grams)
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini (1.4 grams)
  • 1 tsp honey

TOTAL PROTEIN: 26.1 grams

You can also check out these NTF smoothie recipes with real food protein sources in other posts:

Share your favorite smoothies with real food protein ingredients in the comments! And if you found this post valuable, please save it to Pinterest and share with your community on Facebook and Instagram. Thank you, and live well!


All nutrition information gathered from the USDA FoodData Central nutrient database.

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