Blog Diets Vegan B12 Foods Vegan: Richest Vitamin B12 Foods For Vegans

B12 Foods Vegan: Richest Vitamin B12 Foods For Vegans

Although a meatless diet is linked to many health benefits, it also has drawbacks. One of them is that the diet makes it difficult to get enough of certain nutrients. As a vegan diet is plant-based, you tend to miss out on nutrients that are not often found in plants but typically found in animal products. One such nutrient is vitamin B12. Nutritionists have warned vegans of an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. To prevent this, they recommend taking vitamin B12 from supplements or fortified vegan foods. 

This read will analyze the best B12 foods vegans can eat. Take a look!

Vegan Foods High in B12

Before we look at these foods, we need to understand some things. First, we need to comprehend what vitamin B12 is and what a vegan diet entails. So, let’s get started.

What Is a Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet only contains plant-based foods. It forbids the consumption of foods from animals (15). So, if you do decide to go vegan, you must avoid animal products at all costs and stick to a plant-based diet.

The restriction of animal products also includes condiments, sauces, and seasoning. Those that are made from animals are off-limits, such as mayonnaise that contains eggs. Similarly, honey, cheese, ghee, butter, anchovy paste, and bonito flakes are also a no-no.

Here is a list of some common foods vegans don’t eat (15):

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish and shellfish such as clams, mussels, and crabs
  • Eggs
  • Milk and other dairy products such as ice cream
  • Honey
  • Mayonnaise that is made with eggs
  • Butter and cheese

Instead, they consume the following foods (15):

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes and lentils
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetable oils
  • Dairy alternatives such as coconut, almond, and soy milk
  • Rice, bread, and pasta

It should be noted that just because a food is vegan doesn’t mean that it is vegan vitamin B12-rich. So before we look at such foods, let’s understand what this vitamin is and why you need it.

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What Is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin like other B vitamins. This means that it dissolves in water and travels through your bloodstream (5). Unfortunately, your body does not make this vitamin, so you need to get it from vitamin B12 foods or supplements.

Interestingly, your body can store this vitamin for close to four years (5). However, it excretes any excess or unwanted vitamin B12 in the urine.

You need this vitamin as it helps with various body functions, including (5):

  • Maintenance of normal functioning of the brain and nervous system
  • Production of red blood cells
  • Improved cardiovascular health by reducing homocysteine levels
  • Creation and regulation of DNA
  • Cell metabolism and energy production
  • Prevention of anemia
  • Improved bone health and osteoporosis prevention
  • Prevention of major congenital abnormalities
  • Reduced risk of diseases such as macular degeneration

b12 foods vegan  

What Foods Are High in B12 for Vegans?

Unfortunately, most foods that are rich in vitamin B12 are animal products. These include salmon, liver, clams, beef, eggs, ham, chicken breast, low-fat milk and yogurt, beef, and trout (4).

However, these foods are forbidden when following a vegan diet. Therefore, you can’t consume these foods to obtain this vitamin, which puts vegans at high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Again, this vitamin is not often found in plant foods. This may make you wonder how a vegan can get enough vitamin B12. 

Here is a detailed food list of vitamin B12 foods from vegan sources:

Fortified Foods

Medical News Today acknowledges that most vitamin B12 vegan foods are fortified plant-based foods (1). Fortified foods contain added minerals, vitamins, and micronutrients that don’t occur naturally in the food (16).

There are several reasons why these nutrients are added to foods. Firstly, some foods may lack certain nutrients such as vitamin B12 and lead to vitamin B12 deficiency if another source is unavailable. Secondly, the body cannot make its own micronutrients, which means you must get them from your diet (16).

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The most common fortified vitamin B12 vegan foods include breakfast cereals and non-dairy milk (16). These fortified foods usually also have other added nutrients such as vitamins D, E, B6, and A, in addition to vitamin B12 (16).

Nutritional Yeast

Another excellent source of vitamin B12 for vegans is nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is obtained from a yeast species called Saccharomyces cerevisiae (15). Another form of this yeast species is known as brewer’s yeast.

Some people use the two terms interchangeably, but nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast are not the same (15). Nutritional yeast is grown on sugar beets, whey, or blackstrap molasses. It is dairy and gluten-free and has a wide array of benefits, including (15):

  • Boosting Energy. Vitamin B12 in nutritional yeast helps boost energy, which enables you to perform your daily activities. However, make sure you read the labels because some manufacturers fortify this product with vitamin B12 while others do not.
  • Improved Skin, Nail, and Hair Health. Nutritional yeast contains nutrients that may help combat brittle nails, hair loss, acne, and other skin problems that are experienced during adolescence.
  • Promoting a Healthy Pregnancy. Nutritional yeast fortified with folic acid on top of vitamin B12 supports a healthy pregnancy by preventing congenital abnormalities and supporting fetal growth.


You can also obtain vitamin B12 from tempeh. This is a soy-based food that is mainly used as a meat alternative (9). Unfortunately, soybeans do not contain any vitamin B12, which means the amount of this vitamin that is found in tempeh is produced during fermentation (11).

Research has further revealed that tempeh has varying amounts of vitamin B12 depending on its preparation method. It was found to be highest in tempeh that’s made in the lab through inoculation of the commercial starter into sterile soybean (11). The science behind this is that the isolated bacteria known as K. pneumoniae is responsible for the production of this vitamin.

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This inference was based on the fact that pure mold never produces the vitamin in the sterile broth, soybean, or medium used (11). However, that’s not to say that tempeh is not an excellent source of this vitamin (9).

Tempeh and other soy products are associated with numerous health benefits, including (9):

  • Reduced Cancer Risk. Tempeh has soy isoflavones such as phytoestrogens, which may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, particularly when combined with the antioxidant properties of tempeh.
  • Improved Heart Health. This food may help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and inflammation.
  • Improving Insulin Resistance. Better insulin sensitivity is linked to better blood sugar control and reduced disease risk.
  • Managing Menopause Symptoms. WebMD acknowledges that soy may help relieve hot flashes associated with menopause.

Read more: 16 Vegan Alternatives for Cheese to Transform Any Meal You Crave

Vitamin B12 Supplements

Vegans can also acquire this vitamin by taking vitamin B12 supplements. However, you should always consult your doctor before you take these or any supplements. If you take more and exceed the required daily limit, it may lead to toxic and severe effects (4).

You must also understand drug interactions with these supplements. For example, some medications that are used to treat peptic ulcer disease can affect the absorption of this vitamin. This includes drugs such as h2 receptor agonists, proton pump inhibitors, and metformin (4).

Some people are unable to efficiently absorb enough vitamin B12 through the gastrointestinal tract and require injections to avoid deficiency. Your doctor can help determine if oral supplements or injections would be beneficial to you. 

b12 foods vegan  

Daily Vitamin B12 Intake Requirements

As previously mentioned, vitamin B12 is essential for various functions such as red blood formation and the creation and regulation of DNA. Daily vitamin B12 requirements vary depending on age. 

Any individual above 14 years is advised to consume 2.4 micrograms daily (4), pregnant women are advised to get 2.6 mcg, and breastfeeding women need 2.8 mcg daily (4). If you don’t get enough of this vitamin, you risk vitamin B12 deficiency.

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Medical News Today acknowledges that vitamin B12 deficiency can permanently and potentially severely damage the brain and nervous system, although this is uncommon (4). Even a smaller drop can trigger some deficiency symptoms.

The most common symptoms are anemia, memory problems, depression, fatigue, and confusion (4). However, these could also be symptoms of other conditions. 

Further signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include (4):

  • Anemia
  • Swollen, inflamed tongue
  • Headaches, fatigue, or weakness
  • Numbness and tingling sensations in the hands and feet
  • Memory problems, confusion, or difficulty concentrating
  • Depression

Infants with this deficiency may exhibit the following symptoms (4):

  • Reflex problems
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Irritation
  • Growth problems if left untreated
  • Unusual movements such as face tremors

You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the listed symptoms. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency can result in permanent brain and nerve damage if it goes untreated (4).

How to Get an Adequate Vitamin B12 Amount As a Vegan

Getting the recommended amount of vitamin B12 as a vegan can be pretty challenging. You may not be consuming enough vitamin B12 vegan foods to help you reach this target. Remember that even a minor deficit may have adverse effects.

So, to achieve an adequate amount of vitamin B12 as a vegan, experts suggest eating fortified foods in two or three sittings instead of one big meal. However, they recommend getting help from a registered dietitian for better insight into the best-fortified foods with this vitamin (4).

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What Is Vitamin B12 Good for?

Vitamin B12 plays a fundamental role in many aspects of health. It can support the normal function of nerve cells and is required for DNA synthesis and red blood cell formation. Some roles this vitamin plays are:

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May Boost Energy

Vitamin B12 supplements are among the most touted vitamins for energy and tiredness. One of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue, so correcting that could help boost energy (10). However, if your vitamin B12 status is adequate, supplementing it is unlikely to have any effect.

May Prevent Pregnancy Complications

Deficiency of vitamin B12 while pregnant may increase the chances of low birth weight or preterm birth (7). Adequate vitamin B12 level is essential for a healthy pregnancy.

May Enhance Bone Health

Bones with low mineral density can become weak over time. This may increase the risk of osteoporosis (1). Maintaining an optimal level of vitamin B12 may support bone health.

May Reduce the Risks of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that can compromise central vision (6). A sufficient level of vitamin B12 may reduce the risks of macular degeneration. 

May Help Prevent Neurodegenerative Disease 

A deficiency of vitamin B12 may be a risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases in older adults (13). This could be because vitamin B12 helps avoid elevated homocysteine levels in the blood, which may contribute to brain atrophy and dementia or memory loss (8).

B12 is found naturally in animal products such as poultry, fish, and eggs. Fortified food items such as cereals and plant-based milks may also contain B12. You should consult a doctor before you begin a B12 regimen.

Read more: Cracking the Perfect Vegan Quesadilla Recipe

b12 foods vegan  


  • What should I eat if I have B12 deficiency?

If you have B12 deficiency, you should include some essential food items in your meal plan. These can include liver, the absolute champion of B12, and other meats. Seafoods such as tuna, sardines, and salmon can also help fill the B12 gaps. Nutritional yeast and breakfast cereals are other food items that can help with B12 deficiency. 

A doctor or a registered dietitian can recommend dietary changes, supplements, or injections, depending on the severity of your deficiency and other factors.

  • Do almonds have B12?

Almonds don’t contain any  B12. However, they’re rich in calcium, magnesium, protein, fiber, and vitamin E. Due to this powerful combination, almonds can help people lose weight and control blood sugar levels. 

Individuals who are looking for healthy snacks for weight loss should include almonds in their diet plans. They’re satisfying and scrumptious to munch on.

  • Does avocado have B12?

Avocados are rich in healthy fats. They contain dietary fiber and other vitamins that are needed to fuel the body in the best possible ways. One-third of a medium-sized avocado contains 80 calories. It also has around 20 more vitamins and minerals, which makes it an excellent choice for those who are looking for nutritious snacks. 

While they don’t contain vitamin B12, avocados are an excellent source of dietary folate, another essential B vitamin that shares some functions with vitamin B12.

  • What foods should I avoid for B12 deficiency?

No particular foods are “bad” for vitamin B12 deficiency, but some substances could hinder absorption or contribute to its deficiency. An excessive intake of alcohol or consuming a limited dietary variety could increase the risks of B12 deficiency (12). This indicates that you should focus on expanding your food sources and opt for fortified foods such as nutritional yeast and breakfast cereals.

  • Does vitamin B12 give you energy?

Yes, it can!

A deficiency of vitamin B12 has often been associated with low energy levels and fatigue. B12 intake plays a crucial role in converting food into energy and supporting red blood cell function. 

There is limited scientific evidence for the potential of B12 to boost energy in the absence of a deficiency. It doesn’t instantly give you a kick like caffeine or glucose does, but this essential nutrient can keep the body well-nourished and help you avoid the side effects of a deficiency, such as anemia and fatigue.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins. Unfortunately, it is found in significant amounts in animal products, which is restricting for vegans as they don’t eat any animal products. B12 foods a vegan can eat include fortified foods with vitamin B12, tempeh, nutritional yeast, and vitamin B12 supplements. We recommend talking to your doctor and registered dietitian for more insight.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. 7 Myths of Osteoporosis (2017,
  2. 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Almonds (2023,
  4. Best vitamin B12 foods: Supplements and RDA (2020,
  5. Everything you need to know about vitamin B-12 (2017,
  6. Macular Degeneration (2023,
  7. Maternal vitamin B12 in pregnancy and risk of preterm birth and low birth weight: A systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis (2017,
  8. Neuroenhancement with vitamin B12-underestimated neurological significance (2013,
  9. The Health Benefits of Tempeh (2020,
  10. The Many Faces of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Deficiency (2019,
  11. The source and content of vitamin B12 in the tempehs (1990,
  12. Vitamin B12 (n.d.,
  13. Vitamin B12 Deficiency: An Important Reversible Co-Morbidity in Neuropsychiatric Manifestations (2015,
  14. What are the benefits of nutritional yeast? (2018,
  15. What Is a Vegan Diet? (2021,
  16. What to Know About Fortified Foods (2020,