For this review, I compared the top ten vegan meal replacement shakes on the market, including products from Ambronite, Ample, Garden of Life, Huel, Vast, Soylent, Super Body Fuel and Unico.
Benefits of Meal Replacement Drinks
While I’m not vegan, I often consume meal replacement drinks when I don’t have time for a proper meal. That’s usually when I’m traveling and don’t have access to healthy sources of food.
Other people may leverage these products to lose weight, or if they’re on a special diet (such as the ketogenic diet).
Whatever your reasons might be, a meal replacement shake can offer a convenient alternative to solid food or meal delivery services.
What Makes a Vegan Shake Healthy?
Manufacturers have saturated the market with mostly unhealthy products. So when you look for healthy meal replacement options, make sure to check the label for the following ingredients:
- Balanced macro-nutrients (fat, protein and carbs)
- Essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals
- Essential amino acids (vegan protein) to provide fuel for your muscles
- Healthy fatty acids (fat) to keep you satisfied
- Slow-digesting carbohydrates to control blood sugar levels
- Dietary fiber to help your digestive system
- Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose or sugar alcohols
- Soy and soy-based ingredients (see my article: Is Soylent Healthy?)
- Added sugar
Top 10 Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes
|Garden of Life||★★★☆☆|
|Super Body Fuel||★★★★☆|
Below is an alphabetically-sorted list of the top vegan meal shakes and powders on the market, followed by a side-by-side comparison of the most popular brands.
Ambronite – Drinkable Supermeal
- Organic and non-GMO
- Low in calories
- High in carbs and sugar
If you’d like to give Ambronite a try, make sure to use code MK and get 25% off your purchase.
Ambronite is a raw organic meal that consists entirely of organic,
Update: Ambronite recently launched a keto (low-carb) flavor of its meal replacement shake. It’s also plant-based but higher in fat and calories compared to the original formula. You can learn more about it in my review of the best keto meal replacement drinks.
While Ambronite delivers the right amount of protein per serving, it’s a little light on fat. As a result, you need 2.5 servings to get sufficient calories and fat to replace a meal.
That’s perfectly fine, but keep in mind that it increases the cost per serving by the same factor. That makes Ambronite the most expensive product in this review.
After I published this review, Ambronite was so kind as to send me some samples to try and taste. While Ambronite tastes entirely different from most of the other meal replacement drinks I have tried, I liked it.
When I mixed a single serving of Ambronite with water, I noticed that it was not as thick as Ample, Huel or Super Body Fuel. That makes sense because a single meal has 2.5x fewer calories, and is thus less dense.
From a taste perspective, imagine Ambronite to taste like a mix of oatmeal with fruits, finished with water instead of milk. Of course, you can always use coconut milk, almond milk or something else to tweak the taste and thickness of the shake.
I like Ambronite because it can serve as either a snack or a full meal, depending on how much powder you use. The single-serving packs are incredibly practical for traveling — just don’t forget to bring a shaker bottle to mix it in.
Nutrients in Ambronite
|Cost per 100kcal||$4.25|
Ample V – Plant-based Meal Replacement
- Uses only the highest-quality ingredients
- Balanced amounts of protein, fat and carbs
- Gluten-free and lactose-free
The major difference between Ample V and the original formula is the source of protein. The human body absorbs plant-based protein (including pea protein) slower than animal protein.
Plus, plant-based protein has, on average, a weaker amino acid profile than whey or egg white protein. That said, pea and brown rice protein are viable choices, and they are certainly healthier than soy.
Nutrients in Ample V
|Cost per 100kcal||$1.75 ($1.42)|
To save 15% off Ample, you can use Ample discount code MK15*. You can combine that with Ample’s subscription option, which saves you an additional 10%.
Garden of Life – Organic Shake
- Plant-based protein shake
- Raw organic, gluten-free and lactose-free
- Rich in micronutrients
- Does not replace a meal
- Contains sugar-alcohol as a sweetener
- Low in fat and carbs
I’m a fan of Garden of Life products — especially the probiotics they developed together with Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers*.
As far as their Organic Shake & Meal Replacement powder is concerned: I think it’s a good protein shake, but it doesn’t replace a meal due to a lack of calories and fat.
You’d have to consume five servings to get the same amount of fat as found in other meal replacement shakes. To work around that issue, you can certainly add a few teaspoons of olive or avocado oil. That will increase both the fat and calories to acceptable levels.
Nutrients in Garden of Life Organic Shake
|Sugar||Less than 1g|
|Irritating ingredients||Erythirtol (sugar alcohol)|
|Cost per 100kcal||$1.10|
Huel – Vegan Meal Replacement Powder
- High in protein and low in sugar
- Low cost per serving
- Gluten-free and lactose-free
- Contains artificial ingredients
- No organic ingredients
With 500 calories per serving, Huel (one of the primary Soylent competitors) offers a filling meal replacement drink that’s vegan-friendly and doesn’t contain lactose.
Huel also provides a gluten-free formula, which is the one I reviewed. The primary sources of protein in Huel are oats, peas, flaxseed and brown rice, which reduces its paleo score slightly.
If mixed with water, the unflavored version of Huel tastes like oatmeal (made with water). I consider the taste of oats to be somewhat neutral, but I appreciate that others may want to add some flavor by blending Huel with fruits or cocoa powder.
You could also use nut milk instead of water, but doing so decreases the convenience factor of using Huel while traveling. The Starter Kit comes with a booklet that contains a couple of recipes that can help you add different tastes to the shake.
Huel is also available in a variety of flavors, but I prefer the unflavored and unsweetened version because the flavored ones contain sucralose.
Both the flavored and unflavored versions also have:
- Artificial flavors
- Guar and xanthan gums
I can swallow the artificial ingredients and gums (pun intended), but I have an aversion to artificial sweeteners such as sucralose. Contrary to popular opinion and previous research, sucralose may change how the body reacts to glucose — for example, after eating carbohydrates.
It’s worth noting that Huel launched a ready-to-drink version to complement its powdered cousin. I haven’t tried that yet, and I probably won’t. That’s because, just like the flavored Huel powder, the pre-bottled drink has sucralose.
Nutrients in Huel Powder
|Cost per 100kcal||$0.53|
Vast – Plant-Based Keto Shake
- Keto AND vegan-friendly
- USDA Organic
- Zero artificial or inflammatory ingredients
- Ready to drink
- Incredibly pleasant taste (the kids agree)
- Has to be refrigerated
- Provides only 220 calories
Vast is a brand I just recently learned about. They make an interesting meal shake that’s both ketogenic and vegan — not something you see a lot, because most vegan meal replacement shakes contain too many carbohydrates to be classified as keto-friendly.
Vast is different, which is what sparked my interest in the product.
So, I accepted their PR person’s offer to send me a sample pack to try. The shipment arrived in a well-insulated cardboard box, because Vast is ready to drink and contains perishable ingredients — which means it has to be refrigerated.
I know that limits its use cases. For example, I can’t simply toss a couple bottles into my suitcase when I travel. At the same time, it means that Vast doesn’t require any preservatives (natural or otherwise) or special processing methods to keep the product shelf-stable.
We’ve been using Vast as a snack replacement. One bottle has about 220 calories, which means it won’t replace a full meal and I can have one either in lieu of a snack or after a light lunch.
I let the kids try most of the products I receive for testing, and I’m happy to report that both of them liked Vast.
Speaking of taste, Vast is available in three flavors:
- Cookies and Cream
- Coconut Cashew
- Dark Chocolate
- Matcha Latte
- Mocha Latte
- Vanilla Bean
Chocolate was my favorite but all the ones I tried tasted delicious.
Nutrients in Vast (Dark Chocolate)
|Cost per 100kcal||$2.40|
If you’d like to try Vast you can use discount code MIKEK15 or MIKEK30 to get $15-30 off your 6 or 12 pack!
- Low cost-per-serving
- Available ready-to-drink or as powder
- Contains cheap and unhealthy ingredients
- Uses soy as its primary source of protein
- Has artificial ingredients, including sweeteners
Soylent was originally pioneered by Rob Rhinehart. Conceptually, it’s based on the idea that one can make nutrition simple, cost-effective and comprehensive.
In practice, Soylent is a vegan meal replacement drink that asks “What if you never had to worry about food again?” and has become a successful Silicon Valley business that manufactures an “all-you-need” nutritional shake.
The mission of Soylent is to expand access to quality nutrition through food system innovation. Unfortunately, the company fails miserably in the “quality nutrition” department, as you’ll learn in a moment.
Soylent offers its meal replacement drink in liquid or powdered form. Plus, Soylent is available in three different flavors and a caffeinated version:
- Café Coffiest (original + coffee)
The powder comes in either resealable pouches and contains five 400-calorie servings, or in a tub that includes a dozen 400-calorie servings. For traveling by plane, the powder would be my first choice as you can’t bring liquids in your carry-on luggage.
But for other types of travel, one could comfortably bring the bottled version of Soylent as it doesn’t have to be refrigerated prior to being opened. For this comparison, I only tried the original formula.
Soylent is very transparent when it comes to its labeling. The company spells out what rules and regulations its ingredients are compatible with (and which ones they aren’t).
- Vegan, animal-free
- Lactose-free: Soylent doesn’t use milk protein
- Uses Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
- Made in the U.S.
Soylent is not:
- Certified kosher
- Free of artificial flavors
- Allergen-free (it contains soy and gluten, albeit less than 20 PPM of the latter)
Unfortunately — and despite the company’s laudable transparency — Soylent is not a healthy product, as you can read here.
Super Body Fuel – Super Fuel
- Contains zero sugar
- Excellent blend of macronutrients
- Requires two tablespoons of oil to increase the fat and calories
- Price indicates the company might use lower-quality ingredients
- Should be refrigerated for two hours before consumption
Super Fuel uses a combination of oats and brown rice as its primary source of protein. To bump up the calories and to increase the amount of protein it contains, you have to add two tablespoons of olive or avocado oil before mixing it with water.
The nutritional information below assumes two tablespoons of olive oil, the cost of which I did not include in the cost per serving.
Nutrients in Super Body Fuel
|Cost per 100kcal||$0.50 (without added oil)|
- Delicious flavor options
- Quality formulation
- Beautiful packaging
- Hypoallergenic (soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and non-GMO)
- Relatively high price point
- Carb content is higher than most other options
- Low in calories
Gemini is a brand-new, plant-based vegan meal replacement solution from the Los Angeles boutique wellness brand UNICO Nutrition.
What I like about Gemini is its delicious taste — I tried the chocolate version — and its utilization of three different protein sources.
As you can see, Gemini is relatively expensive and doesn’t have a lot of calories because it’s lacking fat. However, the latter can be easily fixed by just mixing it with a few tablespoons of avocado oil.
Overall, I like Gemini and would recommend it to anyone who follows a vegan lifestyle. To learn more about Gemini, check out my review.
Nutrients in Unico Gemini
|Nutritional Info||2 Scoops|
|Cost per 100kcal||$2.55|
Download Comparison Table
Here’s a preview of a detailed comparison table I created. You can download a PDF version here.
Ample vs. Soylent
Comparing Ample vs. Soylent is like comparing a grass-fed burger in a lettuce wrap to a Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese from McDonald’s. The products are similar, but not the same by any stretch of the imagination.
Ample Meal makes an effort to use only healthy ingredients, which tend to be expensive to source and process. Soylent, on the other hand, tries to achieve the same goals with cheaper ingredients (such as soy). When it comes to diet, cheap ingredients are often unhealthy, and Soylent is no exception.
From a cost perspective, a 400-calorie serving of Ample Original is more than twice as expensive as Soylent. But for the higher price, you get healthy ingredients.
I like the earthy taste of Ample, but Soylent arguably tastes better. That’s most likely due to the extra sugar it contains, which I would rather not drink. On the bright side, Soylent comes in various flavors and even has a caffeinated version.
When I travel, I usually do so by plane. So, I like the fact that Ample’s powder is pre-bottled and I can easily take it through airport security in my carry-on luggage. My good friend Felipe, who initially introduced me to Soylent, has a slightly different travel pattern.
For him, the ready-to-drink option Soylent offers is quick and easy. Ultimately, it depends on your circumstances what delivery option is more convenient: powder or ready-to-drink.
Before I started writing this comparison, I had a slight preference for Ample. That was mainly due to its paleo-compatibility and the convenience of having the pre-bottled powder I could throw into my carry-on luggage.
The lower price of Soylent is very enticing, and I considered ordering a case. But after having refreshed my memory about how bad soy is, I decided against it.
As a result, I would recommend Ample over Soylent. That said, there are indeed much unhealthier breakfast options — like a sugar-loaded bowl of cereal. In those cases, I would pick Soylent if Ample was not an option.
Huel vs. Soylent
Huel vs. Soylent seems to make for an interesting comparison, because they both offer vegan meal replacement drinks. But their similarities are only superficial.
The unflavored and unsweetened version of Huel beats Soylent from a health perspective, because Huel uses oats, pea protein and brown rice protein instead of soy. Even if you’re on a paleo diet, you can likely get away with Huel’s protein sources for the benefit of getting an otherwise clean product.
From a taste and texture perspective, the products are on different ends of the spectrum. Huel’s texture is influenced by the milled oats, and that’s how it tastes and feels in your mouth. Soylent is available pre-bottled or as a fine powder and thus tastes more like a silky shake than a meal with wholesome ingredients.
I like the taste of oatmeal and have no problems with Huel. If you’re not a fan of oats, just add some fruits. Or, instead of using water, mix Huel with cashew or almond milk.
The flavored versions of Huel use sucralose, an artificial sweetener, so I would recommend against those. From a health perspective, that additive drops the product to the level of Soylent.
Ample V vs. Huel
Ample V offers higher-quality ingredients, which you can see reflected in its price. Both products use oats, but the texture of Ample V is smoother than that of Huel, which relies mostly on milled oats.
Honestly, I don’t have a clear preference when it comes to taste and texture between Ample V and Huel, but I’d consider Ample V the overall winner due to its healthier ingredients and the lack of artificial flavors.
Depending on your diet, Ample V has a more favorable ratio of macronutrients, including higher amounts of protein and fat with lower amounts of carbohydrates.
Ambronite vs. Ample
Ambronite and Ample V are entirely different products, even though they use similar sources of protein.
Both products are naturally free of lactose and gluten, and don’t contain any artificial ingredients. In my opinion, Ample V has a slight edge over Ambronite because it has few carbohydrates and sugar and offers more fat.
On the other hand, you get more fruits and vegetables from Ambronite, which is the primary reason for its higher carb and sugar content.
The taste and texture of both products are as different as night and day. While Ample V has an earthy but smooth texture, Ambronite offers a flavor explosion of all the fruits, nuts and seeds it contains. Ambronite also tends to be more liquid, of course, depending on the amount of water you add.
From a cost perspective, Ambronite is much more expensive.
Ambronite vs. Soylent
In the comparison of Ambronite vs. Soylent, the clear winner in all categories — except for price — is Ambronite.
Ambronite is more expensive, but is the healthier product because it doesn’t contain soy and is free of artificial ingredients and gluten.
Ambronite comes in powder form, and you have to mix it with water or your favorite nut milk. While the single-serving packs are convenient for traveling, you’ll have to bring a shaker-bottle to mix your drink.
Soylent is available as a powder, but also pre-bottled. The latter is convenient for use at home, but you can’t bring the bottles through airport security.
Overall, Ambronite is a better and healthier product, and I would choose it over Soylent every time.
Soylent vs. Ensure
As much as I’m not a fan of Soylent, it beats Ensure’s crappy shakes any day of the week. Ensure shakes “shine” through either high-carb or low-fat formulas, and neither one is what you should be looking for.
Soylent, on the other hand, provides the right balance of all three macro-nutrients (protein, fat and carbs) and is overall the less-bad choice, in my opinion.
Vegan vs. Traditional Meal Replacement Drinks
In case you’re new to the vegan lifestyle, let me clarify what the characteristics of a healthy vegan meal shake are.
In a nutshell, vegans don’t use products from animal sources. From the perspective of a plant-based diet, that means avoiding such things as:
- Animal protein (whey, beef or egg white)
- Animal-based sweeteners, such as honey
In comparison to traditional meal replacement drinks, vegan meal shakes contain plant-based protein from soybeans, brown rice or peas, as well as alternative sweeteners such as maple sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, they are not the same. Protein powders are just that: protein. They don’t contain any fat and they shouldn’t contain carbs. As a result, you can’t use protein powder as a substitute for a meal.
Losing weight is a byproduct of a healthy dietary lifestyle, which may include (but doesn’t require) meal replacement shakes.
Plant or vegan protein has an incomplete amino acid profile. In other words, vegan protein doesn’t have all the amino acids your body needs to thrive and build muscle. As a result,
Keep that in mind when you buy vegan protein powder. You can learn more about vegan protein in this article.
That’s unlikely! Even though meal replacement shakes can be an excellent addition to your dietary tool belt, they aren’t meant to be used as an exclusive source of nutrients. I always recommend trying to get all the minerals, vitamins and other micronutrients you need from real food.
Any food that contains carbohydrates (starches and sugars) raises your blood sugar. Most vegan meal replacement drinks are relatively high in carbs, which is why I prefer keto meal shakes. Unfortunately, keto meal replacement shakes are usually not dairy-free and thus not vegan-friendly.
The good news is that plant protein doesn’t raise blood sugar the same way carbs do. So don’t worry about how many grams of protein your shake has.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fat, and omega 3 fatty acids in particular. However, chia seeds are also a source of antinutrients, which mitigate some of their benefits.
Soy protein is highly-processed and inflammatory, and is an overall poor choice for a healthy vegan diet. The reason why many brands use it is because it’s so cheap to manufacture. I recommend staying away from all soy products, including soy protein.
Huel is transparent about the fact that it uses conventionally grown, as opposed to organic, ingredients. The primary reason why the company decided to go the conventional route is cost. Huel’s goal is to deliver a nutritious meal at a low price.
By using only organic ingredients, Huel would have to charge more for its product. I appreciate that not everyone can afford pasture-raised meats and organic produce, and consider Huel an excellent alternative to products containing only those ingredients. It’s also worth noting that Huel is non-GMO, even if they don’t advertise it as such.
Best Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes
Maintaining a vegan lifestyle can be challenging — especially in situations where you don’t have access to healthy food choices that meet your dietary requirements, or when you’re trying to count calories for the purpose of losing weight.
In all of those cases (and others), vegan meal replacement shakes can help keep you nourished and satisfied. While I don’t follow a vegan diet, I often recommend Ample, which contains premium ingredients at a reasonable price. Ambronite is on the same quality level, but it’s much more expensive.
If you’re looking for less expensive options, try Huel or Super Body Fuel. What I can’t recommend are Garden of Life and Soylent.
The former doesn’t have sufficient calories to replace a meal, and it contains sugar alcohols (which upset my stomach). Soylent is a combination of unhealthy and cheap ingredients and should have no place in a healthy diet.
If you decide to give some of the products from this review a try, I’d appreciate if you shared your feedback with other readers and me by leaving a comment below.
I’m a healthy living and technology enthusiast.
On this blog, I share in-depth product reviews, actionable information and solutions to complex problems in plain and easy-to-understand language.