When we think of veganism, the elimination of animal products comes to mind. Other than that, most of us associate this eating process with weight loss. The vegan diet has long been praised as being one of the best ways to eat for weight loss – probably due to the lower content of fat and higher intake of dietary fiber. However, have you ever considered eating this way for weight gain? While the lack of animal products can make gaining weight harder, it is not at all impossible. Making a conscious effort to look at which foods you are eating will help you gain weight in no time. In this article we will cover some of the best high calorie vegan foods that you should consider adding to your meal plan if you wish to gain weight.
How Many Calories Should A Vegan Eat?
Before listing down the best vegan high calorie foods for weight gain, how many calories should you consider eating per day as a vegan?
First thing to note is that your diet of choice has absolutely nothing to do with how many calories you should consume in a day. The daily recommended calorie intake differs from person to person and it’s determined by a number of factors including your age, sex, height, weight, and amount of physical activity (5).
To know how many calories you should eat per day to gain weight
- Start by downloading a reputable calorie counting app to your phone
- Track your eating habits for about a week – Try eating as you normally would as this will give you a good estimate/average.
- At the end of the week, you should have a good average of how many calories you generally consume a day. Basically your calorie maintenance if you have been maintaining your weight.
- Add 300 to 500 more calories a day to this average number
Remember that weight gain and weight loss work in generally the same way. To lose weight, you are usually advised to eat on a calorie deficit – eating fewer calories than your body needs/burns a day.
Weight gain on the other hand works in the opposite way. To successfully add weight, you need to eat on a calorie surplus – consuming more calories through food and drink than our body burns in a day through exercise, movement and your basic metabolic functions.
What Are The Best High Calorie Vegan Foods?
Some high calorie vegan foods to gain weight that should be in your pantry include
- They are nutrient dense, providing our bodies with high-quality plant-based protein, healthy fats, fiber, minerals, tocopherols, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds.
- Nuts are also rich in antioxidants and have been suggested to lower the risk of illnesses such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, cancer, gallstones, diabetes and may even lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation.
|Serving Size||Calories (kcal)|
|Pecans||1 oz/28 g||196|
|Peanuts||1 oz/28 g||166|
|Cashews (unsalted)||1 oz/28 g||166|
|Walnuts||1 oz/28 g||185|
|Hazelnuts||1 oz/28 g||176|
|Macadamia||1 oz/28 g||203|
|Pistachios||1 oz/28 g (without shell)||162|
|Brazil Nuts||1 oz/28 g||185|
|Pine Nuts||1 oz/28 g||188|
Aside from whole nuts, nut butters are also great high calorie vegan foods for weight gain. Nut butters can be used in a variety of ways including in smoothies, salad dressing, for making healthy baked goods like brownies and cookies, as a snack with a side of fruit or veggies, etc.
Whole nuts can also be consumed as a snack – while raw, or added to dishes such as salads, stir-fries, stews, and curries and even stirred into vegan yogurt with cereal or fruit for a more filling daytime or after dinner snack.
Yes, avocado toast is great – but this is not the only good way to consume this creamy and delicious fruit. Some other ways to eat this fruit in your vegan diet include
- By itself – Cut in half, sprinkle with some salt and chili flakes and enjoy
- Add to smoothies to make it thick and creamy. Works well for people who do not like (or have) bananas
- As vegan “ice cream”
- Making guacamole
- In baking – Avocados work great as vegan substitutes for shortening, butter, eggs, and oils.
- As a substitute for mayo and sour cream which are both not vegan
Half an avocado has 120 kcal, is rich in healthy fats and nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and folate (1).
Made from toasted hulled sesame seeds, which are then grounded into a paste and some oil added to it, tahini is a delicious nutty flavored paste whose origins have been traced to Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines.
This paste is used as a key ingredient in making both hummus and baba ganoush but can also be used in making dips, spreads and dressings for various dishes. With a calorie count of 89.2 kcal per tablespoon and just 3.18 g of carbs, it is clear to see why tahini is one of the most popular high calorie low carbs vegan foods.
Ps. Tahini is a great high calories vegan substitute for people who cannot use nut butters due to allergies. It is also packed with rich nutrients like calcium, potassium, phosphorus and more (26).
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It might have been a little known pseudo grain a little over five years ago, but today, quinoa is one of the most popular whole grains known today. Not only is it one of the very few complete plant-based proteins out there – i.e. plants that contain all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own (23, 9) -, but it’s also gluten free making it very popular among not only vegans and vegetarians, but also those who need to avoid gluten too.
One cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, 8.14 g protein, 3.55 g of fat, and 39.4 g of carbs with 5.18 grams of fiber. It is also high in nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, folate, calcium, and potassium (22).
You can use quinoa to make porridge, in salads, as a base of buddha bowls, as taco ‘meat’, to make burger patties, to thicken soups and stews, etc. the opinions are endless.
Lentils And Legumes
Lentils and legumes are an absolute staple in any vegan diet as they are not only a main source of protein, but also a fantastic source of healthy complex carbohydrates and fiber.
|Type of Bean/Legume||Calories (per 100g)|
|Red lentils (raw)||358|
|Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)||211|
|Cannellini (aka white beans)||188|
|Lima beans (aka butter beans)||165|
|Fava (aka broad beans) cooked by boiling and salted||110|
Please note that these numbers may differ from brand to brand so be sure to read the nutrition info of any can or packet of beans or lentils you buy at the store to be sure of how many calories you’ll be getting per serving.
Of all the high calorie vegan foods for weight gain on this list, rice is most likely one of the cheapest. While white rice is the easiest to find, other varieties like brown, wild and black rice are also a good option to have in your pantry. Not only do these varieties add a lovely pop of color to your meal, but unlike white rice, they are complex carbs with more fiber making them much healthier for you.
|White rice||1 cup/158 g||204|
|Wild rice||1 cup/164 g||166|
|Brown rice||1 cup/195 g||238|
If you are looking to gain weight, zero calorie cooking sprays should not be on your grocery list. Instead, stick to healthy cooking oils such as avocado, sesame, olive or coconut oil. A tablespoon of these oils adds approximately 120 calories to your dish/meal.
Although fruits are generally low in calories and thus might not qualify as high calorie vegan foods, some tend to be high in carbs or fats and are therefore good for weight gain.
Some fresh and dried fruits that you should add to your vegan weight gain diet include
- Dried runes
- Dried apricots
- Dried figs
Aside from these, other vegan high calorie foods that you should definitely consider include potatoes and sweet potatoes, oats, as well as soy products like tofu and tempeh.
What Are Some Easy High Calorie Vegan Meals?
Now that we have a better understanding of high calorie vegan foods for weight gain, here are some simple recipes to help you better understand how to incorporate these foods into your daily/weekly diet.
Spicy Chickpea & Potato Curry
- 1 diced yellow onion
- 3 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 potatoes – peeled and cubed
- ½ cup cooked chickpeas
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 diced red bell pepper
- 1 medium broccoli head – cut into florets
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 1-inch ginger piece – peeled and grated
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp red chili flakes
- Juice of ½ lime
- Fresh parsley leaves, to garnish
- Vegan yogurt, to serve
- Place a pot on medium heat and add the onion, garlic and 1 tbsp vegetable broth. Sauté for 5 minutes and do not forget to stir frequently
- After the 5 minutes, add your potatoes, turmeric, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and chili to the pot. Cook while stirring frequently for another 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add more vegetable broth after every 1 minute of cooking.
- Add your coconut milk curry paste, chickpeas, peas, bell pepper and any remaining vegetable broth. Stir everything well to combine and cover, leaving it to boil.
- Once it starts boiling, reduce your heat to low and let your meal simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the broccoli and spinach and cook for another 5 minutes – still over low heat.
- Turn off the heat, add the lime juice and stir to combine one last time.
- Serve to a bowl, add a dollop of your vegan yogurt of choice and parsley on top and enjoy. You can have this as is or with some rice or quinoa.
This makes 3 servings (30).
Calories for 1 serving: 480. Fats: 19 g. Protein: 15 g. Carbs: 70 g.
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- 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
- 3 medium-sized red beets
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt divided
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 4 sprigs kale
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 avocados
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- One 400 g can black beans
- ½ cup Buddha bowl dressing
- 4 tbsp pomegranate seeds
- 2 tsp black sesame seeds
- Cilantro to garnish
- Micro greens to garnish (optional)
- Start by preheating your oven to 200 ° C. Then peel and dice your beets and sweet potatoes.
- In a large bowl, mix your spices – sweet paprika, turmeric, coriander, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and ½ teaspoon salt – together. Dump your potatoes into this bowl and toss till your vegetables are well coated with the seasoning.
- Transfer the potatoes to a baking tray. On the same tray, add your beets and sprinkle everything with some salt and black pepper. Pour vegetable oil on everything and toss one more time.
- Transfer the tray to the oven and bake for 25 minutes – till the vegetables have turned a lovely golden brown.
- As the potatoes and beets bake, prepare the kale, chop them and transfer them to a large bowl. Add a bit of salt and 1 tsp lemon juice and massage the kale for about 30 seconds until it starts to wilt.
- In a small bowl, cut and dice your avocado before pouring some lime juice on it.
- Once everything is done assemble your bowl with the roasted vegetables, kale, beans, brown rice, and avocado before topping with the dressing.
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds, black sesame seeds, cilantro and micro greens and enjoy.
This recipe makes enough buddha bowls for 4 servings (29).
Calories for 1 serving: 611. Fats: 36 g. Protein: 15 g. Carbs: 66 g.
How To Get High Calorie Counts As A Vegan?
The best way to get a high calorie count while on this eating plan is to include the above mentioned calorie dense food in your diet.
Do not be tempted to go for vegan junk foods as an aide. Junk food -whether vegan or not – is a bad idea. These foods are not only full of empty calories, but they also have too much salt, unhealthy fats, and added sugar. Research has also shown that junk food may be a catalyst in issues such as (27, 28).
- Unhealthy weight gain and obesity
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Higher chances of heart diseases and stroke
- Increased risk of some types of cancer
- Higher mortality aka decreased lifespan
- Lethargy and poor concentration
- Tooth decay, etc.
What Are Some High Calorie Raw Vegan Foods For Weight Gain?
While raw veganism tends to work great for weight loss – albeit with some side effects like higher risk of malnutrition, tooth decay, fertility issues and weaker bones and muscles – it doesn’t work very well for weight gain.
The main reasons behind this is that
- Many raw vegan foods are both low in calories and carbs – You need a high intake of healthy carbs and calories to gain weight.
- Most high calorie vegan foods for weight gain require cooking – Foods like rice, oats, quinoa, beans and lentils require some or even extensive cooking which is prohibited on this diet.
Due to these reasons, gaining weight as a raw vegan is very hard. We would advise you to add more cooked foods to your eating plan if you wish to see the number on the scale go up.
The Bottom Line
Gaining weight solely on a plant based diet is not as hard as many people assume it is. While veganism is rich with low-calorie, low-carbohydrate foods, you can still still find many high calorie vegan foods to help with your goals. As long as your diet is rich in these foods – and you add more weight lifting to your exercise plan – you should reach your weight goal in no time.
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!
- Avocado, raw (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Black beans, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Brazil nuts (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Broadbeans (fava beans), mature seeds, cooked, boiled, with salt (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Calories (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Cashews, unsalted (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Chickpeas, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Composition of Nuts and Their Potential Health Benefits—An Overview (2023, mdpi.com)
- Editorial: Protein Crops: Food and Feed for the Future (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Hazelnuts (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Health Benefits of Nut Consumption (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Kidney beans, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Lentils, pink or red, raw (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Lima beans, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Macadamia nuts (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Nuts, walnuts, english (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Peanuts, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Pecans, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Pine nuts (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Pinto beans, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Pistachio nuts, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Quinoa, cooked (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Quinoa: Nutritional, functional, and antinutritional aspects (2014, tandfonline.com)
- Rice, brown, cooked, no added fat (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Rice, white, cooked, no added fat (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Tahini (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- The Hidden Dangers of Fast and Processed Food (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Impacts of Junk Food on Health (2022, kids.frontiersin.org)
- Ultimate Vegan Buddha Bowl (2021, happykitchen.rocks)
- Vegan Thai Potato Curry (Spicy) (2022, nutriciously.com)
- White beans, NFS (2022, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Wild rice, cooked (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)