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Vegetarian Keto Diet: How to Make It Work

Is it possible to follow a vegetarian keto diet?

The simple answer is yes. But it takes a little extra thought. While a traditional keto diet typically involves protein from animal sources, it is possible to avoid meat while following a keto meal plan. In fact, the biggest component of the ketogenic diet is fat, which you can easily get from vegetarian foods.

Overall, the keto diet focuses on eating real, whole foods. You’ll focus on leafy green veggies, low-sugar fruits, plant-based protein, and lots of healthy fats.

Whether or not a long-term vegetarian keto diet is healthy is another story. Long-term vegetarian keto could result in protein deficiencies and not getting enough calories. But for a short period of time, it’s doable — as long as you have the right information, tools, and foods available to you.

Get ready to dive into a vegetarian-friendly keto food list — one macronutrient at a time.

Carbohydrates for a Vegetarian Keto Diet

Besides getting plenty of healthy fats, keeping your carb intake to a minimum is one of the most important factors on the keto diet. Avoid carb-heavy snacks and meals, cutting out any foods that will spike your blood sugar considerably. This includes, but is not limited to, refined carbs like sugar, flour, bread, cereal, and potato chips. Adjusting to this way of eating may seem difficult at first, but like anything else, it just takes some getting used to.

Carbs to Avoid on Keto

On keto, you’ll eliminate high-carb, starchy vegetables, sugar, candy, and grains (even whole grains). Here are some carb sources to remove from your home and kitchen:

  • Pastas
  • Breads
  • Chips, crackers, and pretzels
  • Tortillas
  • Rice
  • Sodas
  • Cereals
  • Any other packaged foods with refined sugars or flours
  • Fruit juices and most fruits
  • White potatoes, sweet potatoes
  • Starchy vegetables

Carbs to Enjoy (In Moderation) on Keto 

On a vegetarian keto diet, you’ll enjoy the same carbohydrates as those on a “regular” keto diet. These include low-sugar fruits, full-fat yogurt and dairy products, and low-carb veggies.

Low-Carb Vegetables

Low-carb veggies have plenty of health benefits. Low-carb leafy vegetables provide dietary fiber, keep you full, and are packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals. Plus they’re extremely low in carbs.

To keep your meals fresh and exciting, experiment with how your veggies are prepared. Try some raw atop a salad, and roast others in coconut oil with plenty of seasonings. Be sure to check the Perfect Keto recipe library for more ideas.

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Swiss chard
  • Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Artichokes
  • Summer and winter squash
  • Red and white cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic

Low-Sugar Fruit

Because of its sugar content, fruit should be eaten in moderation on keto. Some fruits, however, are lower in carbs (and therefore sugar) than others. Berries and avocado are much lower in sugar than apples, bananas, or watermelon, and therefore can be enjoyed sparingly.

  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Avocado

Condiments, Dressings, and Spices on the Vegetarian Keto Diet

Condiments, spices, and some salad dressings don’t quite fit into any macronutrient category. However, they’re important to mention because they can give plenty of flavor to your meals. Here are a few condiments you might want to keep stocked in your fridge on your vegetarian keto diet:

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  • Coconut aminos (a gluten-free substitute for soy sauce)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauces
  • Yellow mustard
  • Mayonnaise (look for brands made with cage-free eggs)
  • Sugar-free ketchup
  • Sauerkraut (free of sugars)
  • Sugar-free or low-sugar high-fat salad dressings

Dried and fresh herbs and spices are also keto-friendly. Try adding these to your keto meals for a punch of flavor:

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Cilantro
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Lemon or lime juices
  • Pepper and salt

Protein on a Vegetarian Ketogenic Diet

There are plenty of high-protein foods that do not come from animal products. Here’s a comprehensive list of vegetarian protein sources to try on keto:

  • Eggs
  • Full-fat dairy
  • Tempeh
  • Lentils
  • Natto
  • Miso
  • Nuts and seeds (discussed further below)

A few final things to note here: If you eat soy products, try to stick to high-quality, non-GMO sources (like organic tempeh). If you find your protein needs still aren’t being met, you could supplement with an organic rice or hemp protein powder.

Lastly, be wary of packaged vegan and vegetarian meat substitutes. These packaged products typically contain unwanted and unnecessary ingredients, and have a high carb content.

Fats for Vegetarians in Ketosis

When trying to enter a state of ketosis, fats should make up the bulk of your calories. Luckily, most high-fat, high-quality foods come from plant-based sources, including nuts and seeds, oils, and dairy products.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are fantastic sources of both protein and fat. Be sure to choose mostly low-carb and high-fat nuts and seeds, as some are higher in carbs than others. Check out this full guide to nuts on the ketogenic diet for further information.

Some high-fat, low-carb nuts and seeds include:

  • Pecans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Coconut (unsweetened)
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Nut butters made from any of the above

Other nuts and seeds should be eaten in moderation. These have a higher carb content than those listed above. These include:

  • Peanuts
  • Pistachios
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
Best Nuts for a Vegetarian Ketogenic Diet

Healthy Oils and Other Non-Dairy Fat Sources

The right types of oils are great for a ketogenic diet because they’re made entirely of fat. MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides) are a type of fat that’s easily broken down and metabolized for energy. This can help improve mental clarity, athletic performance, and negate the side effects of keto flu[*][*].

MCTs can be found in coconut oil and other healthy oils. Otherwise, you can supplement with it through Perfect Keto’s MCT Oil Powder, which can easily be mixed into your morning smoothie.

Other beneficial oils include:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • MCT oil
  • Macadamia oil
  • Flaxseed oil

Remember, there are plenty of foods with a healthy fat content beyond oils, nuts, and seeds. These include:

  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Cocoa butter
  • Coconut cream

Dairy and Eggs 

If you tolerate dairy, it is perfectly acceptable to consume on keto. Simply choose high-quality, full-fat dairy products from organic, grass-fed sources whenever possible. Some keto-friendly egg and dairy products include:

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Full-fat, hard cheeses like parmesan, Swiss, and cheddar
  • Full-fat, soft cheese like brie, Monterrey jack, mozzarella, feta, and goat cheese
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Eggs (make sure they’re pastured or free-range and preferably omega-3-enriched)
  • Full-fat unsweetened Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt

Vegetarian Keto Meal Ideas

Now that you know which foods are included in a vegetarian keto diet, here are some keto-friendly recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Breakfast ideas:

  • Vegetables and eggs with avocado fried in coconut or olive oil
  • Egg frittata with asparagus and avocado
  • Vegetable and feta omelet fried in coconut or olive oil
  • Smoothie made from coconut cream, berries, ice, full-fat yogurt, almond butter, and stevia extract

Lunch ideas: 

  • Egg salad with added avocado
  • Mixed greens salad with avocado, mozzarella, pesto, olives, bell pepper, onions, a few nuts, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil dressing
  • Vegetarian low-carb Greek salad with feta, tomatoes, onions, olives, fresh Greek spices, and extra virgin olive oil
  • Stir-fried cauliflower “rice” with salmon

Dinner ideas: 

Can You Follow Keto as a Vegan?

Great question. Since a vegan diet is even more restricted in terms of eating any animal products (including eggs and dairy), going keto as a vegan is highly impractical and takes a lot more thought. It is very difficult to sustain a healthy ratio of protein and fats as a keto vegan. However, if you consume plenty of fats from healthy oils, nuts and nut butters, avocados, seeds and seed butters, and coconut, it is possible. But again, it’s very challenging.

Vegetarian Keto is Possible, But Not Recommended

It’s true — following a vegetarian diet on keto is possible, but over time is a very restrictive diet that might not meet your caloric or protein needs. If you’re planning on following a vegetarian diet long-term, please consult with a qualified doctor or nutritionist.

Being vegetarian and staying in ketosis takes more thought and a lot of preparation. Overall, you should focus on eating plenty of high-quality fats; high-fiber, low-carb vegetables; and getting enough protein through plant-based sources.

If you’re struggling to get enough calories, you can consider supplements such as a vegetarian protein powder or MCT powder.

If you find yourself in need of meal ideas, be sure to check out this extensive list of recipe ideas.

Perfect Keto also offers plenty of snack options that are vegetarian-friendly to hold you over between meals. To get started, consider creating your own vegetarian keto bundle to help get you through any adjustment period and succeed on keto.


47 thoughts on “Vegetarian Keto Diet: How to Make It Work

    1. Thanks very much, Brian, for the contact information. Excellent news for reducing weight and maintaining good health. This is a great website and reference.

      Good health to you!

  1. Hi, thank you for this post, I’ve been wanting to do the Keto Diet but held back because of the meat protein involved…now I can use this as a guide so happy I found your blog.

    1. I am happy to read about vegetarians on keto but you didn’t mention tofu as a protein option. I do like to eat organic tofu. Would that be a problem?

  2. This is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.

    Short but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  3. Great help- will it mess me up if i do vegan keto and intermitten fasting three or four fays a week? I already fast every Thursday. I am a clinical nutritionist and an athlete

  4. Hell9 .. just diagnosed with a meningioma which my neurologist says has exacerbated epilepsy/partial brain seizures. He wants to put me on seizure meds but I am seriously against medication with short and long term side effects. I’ve been off and on ovo-vegetarian/vegan throughout my life and right now I can barely eat chicken so nearly ovo-vegetarian again,

    My question: A keto diet, I have been reading, is supposed to be the super star for brain seizures and epilepsy. Is this true? I wish I had a doctor or someone to help guide me with this but there is so much details but not as many direct assistance.

    Thanks so much in advance!

  5. Hi

    I have been banting (LCHF) for a few months now (no comments on that please, very similar to keto) and would like to stop eating meat. I’ll still eat fish. Anyway, the protein isn’t the question. I don’t want to eat too many carbs. How big should a salad be? A breakfast bowl, or a soup bowl or 3 cups? How much steamed brocolli, for example; a cup? How many cups of steamed veg a day? I obviously won’t live on steamed veg, I’m just trying to get my portions sorted in my head.

    Thanks so much!

  6. How can I print off a copy of this to take to grocery store so I don’t have to hand write every item? Seeking healthier form of Keto that the Cardio Dr will allow with stents in place…does NOT WANT many saturated fats so thinking that vegetarian or even vegan may be the way to achieve compliance and wt loss. I have lost 30 since stent placement 2 years ago but have stalled out and asked about KETO – met a lot of resistance but agreement if I can get sat.fats down in my choice of foods.

  7. Excellent info., I read that some starches if they become ‘resistant’ are not so bad like cold pasta salad, cold potatoes salad etc.- does this allow for some wiggle room vis-a-vis total carb calories?

    1. Hi Joaquin, great questions. It depends if those starches raise your blood sugar – most starchy vegetables tend to raise blood sugar levels which you want to avoid as much as possible.

  8. Looking for ideas for protein following a Keto vegetarian diet! I already eat lots of eggs and the other options tempeh and natto are soy derived which I avoid due to thyroid problems. Any other ideas pls??☺️

    1. Lentils are a bit higher in carbs. They have 2.5 g total carb (1.5 net) per 1 tbsp boiled which is about 20g total carb per 1/2 cup. They do have a good amount of fiber though so may not be bad in moderation and smaller amounts.

  9. Great article. I think it will help a lot. I want to do the keto diet for my type 2 DM but I’m a vegetarian, not vegan, so I don’t think it will be too difficult to figure out. I’d love to see some more examples of meals to refer to at the beginning.

  10. I plan to lose around 20kgs and want to give keto diet a try. What is the maximum time period for which a keto diet can be followed in one go?

    1. Hi Saakshi, I would recommend adopting keto as a lifestyle rather than a “diet”…there is no max. – it all depends on your goals and what you’d like to get out of it!

  11. Hi! I’ve got severe PCOS and I’ve got Epilepsy too and I am planning on going on this diet as I’ve heard it’s amazing for those who have it 🙂
    I’m a vegetarian but I don’t eat eggs as I’m allergic to them.
    Also, I’m in Zimbabwe where a lot of the protein options are super hard to find.
    Which lentils do you think have the least amount of carbs that I can incorporate into my meals? Also, do you think I could have half a protein shake with every meal to get that protein in my diet?
    I’ve been searching and searching the internet but I can’t seem to find any help. So, any help would be incredibly appreciated!

    Thank you ❤️

    1. Hey Jamie, great to hear that you’re going keto!! As far as lentils go, what are the different types you’re referring too? In terms of the protein shake, yes you can definitely have a protein shake as long as it’s low in carbs and you are adding enough fat to it – having a bunch of protein at once could hinder your ability to get and stay in ketosis so you always want to pair protein with fat to minimize the blood sugar response.

  12. Hi, I have a partial complex seizure disorder and a form of muscular dystrophy. I want to lose about 20 or 30 lbs. I am mainly vegitarian, but I occasionally eat meat. Can the two be mixed? If so how? How do you get fiber and calcium? I will eat cheese and drink milk. I am very interested in this to see if will help my seizures.

    1. Hey Madison, you’ll want to check with your doctor on this first. I can say that eating lots of fibrous vegetables will aid in your fiber consumption and when you do eat meat, choosing the highest quality, fattier cuts will be key to getting all the beneficial nutrients you need. You could also try out our Greens Powder which will help with consuming a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. You can check that out here: Additionally, the scientific literature behind keto and seizure control is very extensive and many many people have found success with it. But like I said – it’s best to check with your doctor first.

  13. I am just learning about keto. Help a girl out, do I have a calorie limit and how do I know I am eating too much protein aka what is too much? Is there any way this can backfire and I gain weight from eating all this fat?

    1. Hi Sarah, depending on your goals it may be useful to utilize our macro calculator which you can find here: You’ll enter all of your info, set a goal, and it will give you a good starting point of how much protein, fat, and carbs you should be aiming for in a day. I would definitely start off with this and than adjust as you go. Hope this helps!

  14. Hi, thanks for advice. I had to have a kidney out a couple of years ago. The other one functioning fine. Is it ok to go Keto? Am also worried about high protein affecting kidney.
    Thank you!1

    1. Hey Emma, I would definitely recommend consulting with your doctor and doing some more research on your own. However, keto isn’t high in protein, it’s high in fat and moderate in protein. So as long as you are keeping that protein intake moderate and fats higher, I don’t see why not. But again, talk with your doctor and definitely reach out to others who may have more experience in that area. Good luck!

  15. I’m ready to get started so thank you for this information. I am concerned about the amount of fat as I get pains in my gallbladder if I eat a fat laden meal. Could the fat be spread out as small meals several times a day?

    1. Jean, yes the fat can be spread out through out the day. You could also look into ox bile supplementation which seems to help many people struggling with fat digestion.

  16. I have been Keto few months as non-meat eater. Using blood keystones meter not reaching therapeutic Keto & not able to develop muscle. Daily intermittent fasting, so 2 meals/day. Trying to lose some wt. Exercise. Inputting macros. My mercury hi so don’t want to eat tons of fish. Eat dairy. I’m smallish female. Keeping carbs < 25, protein 55, fats 60-65. Kcal 1000ish. Worried about no muscle. What to do?

    1. Hi Cathy, first red flag would be that you’re not consuming enough calories. I would try upping your calorie intake a bit with good fat and proteins sources and see if that helps!

  17. This is very attention-grabbing, You are a very professional blogger. I’ve joined your feed and stay up for in search of more of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

  18. Generic Worcestershire sauce is a fish based sauce made with Anchovies. Make sure you find one suitable for vegetarians.

  19. Hi, cheese is a migraine trigger for me. What can I substitute with as vegan cheese is made with potato starch? I eat mainly plant based..with fish and eggs, minimal dairy. Cheers

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