Cholesterol precipitation from supersaturated bile is the earliest and determinant step in the formation of cholesterol gallstones, which is thought to be diet-dependent. Bile composition, appearance and growth of cholesterol crystals were studied in fresh gall-bladder biles from pigs adapted to four different protein-containing diets over 3 weeks: 160 g dietary protein/kg as casein (C16; n 6), or as soyabean-protein concentrate (S16; n 6), or a mixture of both protein sources (casein–soyabean protein, 70 : 30, w/w) (CS16;n 6), or 320 g of the mixed protein/kg (CS32; n 6). Moreover, all four diets contained 3 g cholesterol/kg and 50 g β-cyclodextrin/kg as modifiers of bile composition towards cholesterol pro-crystallization. Cholesterol precipitation was most active after the high-protein diet, CS32, and the casein diet, C16, and lowest after the soyabean-protein diet, S16. It was intermediate after the mixed diet, CS16, but still much lower than in the former two groups. These diet-induced variations were suggested to be mediated through modifications in the biliary profile of bile acids, whereas all other biliary constituents studied were essentially unchanged. The fasting level of plasma cholesterol was lowest in both 160 g protein/kg diets containing soyabean protein (S16 and CS16), highest for the high-protein diet CS32, and intermediate for the C16 diet. These results should encourage clinical studies on the effect of soyabean protein, or other vegetable proteins, for primary or recurrence prevention of cholelithiasis at its earliest stage.