Stock

Confession: I Prefer Better Than Bouillon to Homemade Stock

Why Better Than Bouillon is better than everything.

May 16, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

The amount of broth and stock I use in my kitchen on a weekly basis is approximately the volume of all of the Great Lakes, put together. Broth is the basis of an absurd amount of my recipes and in my cooking, whether it be soup, stew, stir-fry, risotto, sautéed vegetables—you name it. I’ve made my own stock from scratch, I’ve used a gazillion gallons of broth from cartons and cans, and I’ve also resorted to a bouillon cube in a pinch.

(This is a judgment-free broth/stock zone. Purists or haters, move along—no bouillon shaming here.)

And then one day, like many others, I became intrigued with a little line of jars called Better Than Bouillon. At first I scrunched up my face. I thought: Bouillon, at least in cube form, isn’t all that spectacular to begin with. So to be better than it already feels like a whisper of a promise, a pretty low bar.

But ever the stock-obsessive, I decided to give it a solid shot...and let me tell you! Not only is Better Than Bouillon truly better than bouillon, it’s a lot better than bouillon.

Photo by Amazon

First of all, it actually tastes like chicken (or beef or vegetables, depending on the flavor you buy), not just salt. So that’s a major “better” right there. Unlike other brands of bouillon, it actually has real ingredients. The vegetarian base, for instance, is made with carrots, celery, onions, and tomatoes. Interestingly it even specifies “garden” carrots, celery, onions, and tomatoes. (I’d like to see that garden.)

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Top Comment:
“I adore Better than Bouillon. I use the chicken, the beef and the vegetarian all the time. I'm excited to learn that there are lobster and clam versions. I have recently come to love Knorr's Caldo de Tomate con sabor de Pollo which I picked up at a Mexican grocery store. It is clearly what makes restaurant Mexican rice so delicious. It does contain MSG. Also good old Campbell's consomme is a wonderful flavor enhancer. It is very concentrated and a can will usually last me for three dishes.”
— Lynn D.
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Is it salty? Sure, but so is canned or boxed broth, and like them, Better Than Bouillon is available in reduced-sodium versions (some of which also happen to be organic). The organic, reduced-sodium chicken, beef, and vegetable bases have 50-percent less sodium than their regular counterparts.

Anyway, if you’re worried about sodium, you could easily get away with using less, sometimes significantly less, than the package suggestion of one teaspoon per eight ounces boiling water.

If I’m cooking grains or rice in broth, for instance, I’ll use a teaspoon of BTB in four cups of water, which is still plenty to lend a nice little oomph of flavor (and then you can also skip salting). A dab in a sauce ups the ante perceptibly. If you’re making a soup or stew with broth and adding in various other ingredients like meat, vegetables, and seasonings, then one teaspoon of bouillon per two cups of water is more than suitable.

Some outlets may just carry the three basic flavors—chicken, beef, and vegetable—but in total there are 24 types of BTB (if my count is correct), which fall into the categories: Premium, Organic, Vegetarian, and Reduced Sodium. (These are not exclusive of each other.) Other flavors include a chicken-free chicken base, a garlic base, a lobster base, a mushroom base, and a clam base. I’m more than a little excited to give them all a whirl, but my favorite by far is the chicken.

A jar of Better Than Bouillon, once opened, will keep in the fridge for many months. That, for me, is one of the greatest benefits of keeping it on hand. There is a “best if used by” date on each lid, and for the most part at the time of purchase those dates are at least 18 months away, at least in my experience.

The Better Than Bouillon line is also available in various sizes, which is handy as you contemplate your refrigerator real estate against your broth usage. A restrained 3.5 ounces, a reasonable 8 ounces, and my favorite, 16 ounces (which contain a whopping 76 one-teaspoon servings, which measures out to about 76 cups of stock, or 19 quarts).

Here’s some math to consider as you contemplate your optimal BTB jar size: If you were sticking to the one teaspoon per one cup of water ratio (again, usually a little generous), then an 8-ounce jar would yield 38 cups of broth, which is equal to 9 1/2 quart-sized cartons of broth or 38 8-ounce cans. Think about how often you go through that quantity of broth, and there’s a good guideline. (Also: That’s a hell of a lot of storage space you just reclaimed.)

So, Better Than Bouillon is better than bouillon. But is it as good as boxed or canned broth? In general, I think so. And is it as good as homemade? Well, let’s be reasonable. But let’s also think about how likely we are to make 38 (or 76) cups of homemade broth, not to mention the freezer space needed to store it.

It’s hard to deny a smart kitchen shortcut when it’s there calling for our embrace. The least we can do is make room in our hearts (and our fridges) for these little jars.

Are you a Better Than Bouillon fan, too? Tell us in the comments below.

This post contains products that are independently selected by our editors, and Food52 may earn an affiliate commission. For more unsponsored grocery-store love letters, click here.

Bonus Recipes

Sold? Here are some recipes to put your new favorite pantry item to work (for each cup of stock called for, replace with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon plus 1 cup water):

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Author of The Mom 100 Cookbook and themom100.com blog. A New Yorker, cook, and mom, I don't sit still very much.

25 Comments

Jodie W. May 18, 2019
BTB tastes like homemade, except with added saltiness. I like mixing the two.
 
Kristen May 18, 2019
I just spent half the day making homemade beef stock for the freezer, but ALWAYS have chicken and beef BTB on hand. It’s super handy and flavorful!
 
Michael W. May 17, 2019
This stuff rocks! Been using it for years.
 
Carmela May 17, 2019
Please share how you would use the Lobster base...thanks.
 
alison P. May 17, 2019
yes! i love this stuff. i've been recommending it for years. when i first discovered it, i felt like it was my guilty little secret. it's much more flavorful than boxed broth, and more economical, too.
great in cous cous, rice, gravy- you name it!
 
cookycat May 17, 2019
Love BTB use it in many dishes. It really adds something to each dish.
 
Beth G. May 17, 2019
We love this stuff. It's so much more versatile than broth because you can add it to anything without adding a lot of extra moisture. We buy the chicken btb at Costco and always have it on hand, but the mushroom might be our new favorite. It adds great earthy flavor.
 
Rachael A. May 17, 2019
BTB is awesome. It also cuts down on those non-recyclable boxes stock comes in. I make my own and freeze it, but BTB comes in handy when you need a little flavor boost, or don't want to defrost a whole quart of stock when you need half a cup for a recipe.
 
Nathalie D. May 17, 2019
I’ve only started using it recently. I add it to chicken bones and trimmings when I make a stock from leftovers and I get the viscosity I want plus the flavor from the Better than bouillon. My husband does the shopping so I’m
At his mercy for type - usually roasted chicken.
 
Michele K. May 17, 2019
Have been using the vegetable version to cook germinated brown rice for quite a few years--awesome! Both the regular & lo-salt are good when I make minestrone & don't have time to run to the store for broth.
 
Sue S. May 17, 2019
I have used the chicken beef mushroom and lobster....I am never without the chicken and beef my only regret is the chicken needs to come in a vat size...It is delicious with so many uses...
 
Rene May 17, 2019
Can one buy this product in UK.?
 
HalfPint May 17, 2019
Love BTB. I always have a jar of the chicken in my fridge. I use the beef in my meatballs and meatloaf. And didn’t know that there is a mushroom. Gonna have to look for it :)
 
Chaz May 17, 2019
Better Than Bouillon might be convenient, but it's loaded with hidden MSG. See this article from the Food Renegade: http://www.foodrenegade.com/decoding-labels-better-than-bouillon/
 
cyanpineapple May 17, 2019
Yes, that's what makes it delicious. This is a food publication, not a pseudo-science fear-mongering publication.
 
Beth G. May 17, 2019
It would be hard to make a meat or vegetable stock without is considering MSG occurs naturally in many vegetables and cooked meats. 🤔
 
judit H. May 16, 2019
Love BTB , try to always have it on hand at home or in the moyorhomr!
 
cyanpineapple May 16, 2019
When broth quality is essential (say in a risotto or a clear brothy soup), we still tend to use our homemade broth, but... we add BTB. Chicken, veggies, spices and Better than Boullion gives it that extra oomph to take it over the top. If we're making something where the broth is generally overshadowed by other flavors and just serves to be a more flavorful liquid than water, we use BTB. We keep chicken, beef and vegetable on hand at all times, but I recently got roasted garlic and LOVED it last night in Alison Roman's chickpea turmeric stew.
 
Barbra F. May 16, 2019
I really love the no-chicken chicken flavor it's the best. Started using it when all my kids became vegetarians. I love mushroom and turkey is great around Thanksgiving. It's my secret ingredient. Thanks for writing this article.
 
Eric K. May 16, 2019
Chicken or roasted chicken, for me. Tastes so comforting and familiar. Not a huge fan of the vegetable one, personally! Will try the mushroom one then, per the commenter below.
 
Donna Z. May 16, 2019
I absolutely love the reduced sodium chicken version and always have a jar in the fridge. I have been using this product for almost two years since I found it at my local Costco store. I also use the beef version. Costco’s price is fantastic as is this product!
 
gandalf May 16, 2019
I have only used the beef version, but I LOVE it.