The Best Packaged Soup Stocks: What To Look For, According To Experts


The more you cook at home this year, the more you’ll find yourself in need of stock. While it can be satisfying and even meditative to make your very own stock from scratch, it’s also a good idea to keep some shelf-stable options on hand.

But with all the fillers and additives added to some stocks these days, it can be challenging to know which brand to buy. We talked to chefs and nutritionists to find their favorite choices for taste, convenience and nutrition.

What to look for

First, you need to read a few labels, beginning with a search for brands that keep sodium levels in check. Full-sodium broths are one of the top 10 saltiest foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, registered dietician nutritionist Amanda Frankeny told HuffPost.

Once you’ve checked out the sodium, you’ll want to find out what else is — and isn’t — in that stock. “More studies continue to show the inflammatory impact of excess preservatives, fillers, artificial sweeteners and flavors,” chef Marshall O’Brien said. He suggested looking for brands that are preservative-free and do not include “natural flavors.”

“Look for brands made just with simple ingredients like vegetables, meat, bones herbs and spices,” O’Brien said. Once you start looking, you’ll realize there aren’t a lot of store-bought stocks that fit those qualifications.

Food coach Jen Smiley, founder of Wake Up and Read the Labels, said you’ll want to be just as aware of what’s not in the stock. ”Avoid stocks that have preservatives, fillers, gums or artificial ingredients,” Smiley said. “Most broths have added sugar and wheat flour, which causes you to become tired, hungry and bloated.”

And if you’re sensitive to MSG, beware of an ingredient called “yeast extract” that’s just a different name for MSG.

Ready for more suggestions from the experts? Here are some of their top picks.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Bluebird Provisions bone broth cubes

“One of my new favorites to have on hand is this dehydrated bone broth,” RDN Sara Haas told HuffPost. “I love it because it’s in powdered form, so it easily can be added to water to make soup, cook grains or beans, add to stir-fries or used as the liquid to steam vegetables. It’s made with a gentle dehydration process, which keeps nutrition intact.”

Get it from Amazon for $27.93.

Amazon

Concentrated bases

“While I love to make homemade vegetable broth, it’s a lot of work on a busy night,” RDN Sharon Palmer said. “My favorites are Knorr, Edward & Sons, and Better than Bouillon vegetable broth bases. Because they’re concentrated, there’s a smaller carbon footprint, and they’re much more environmentally friendly than premade quarts of broth. They’re easy to store, since they don’t take up a lot of space, they last a long time and I don’t have to worry about using up a whole quart container at once.”

Sandy Davis, chef for Roxo Events, is also a Better Than Bouillon fan. “This stuff is definitely a cut above, but it’s also a bit pricey for everyday use,” he said. “I like to think that it’s best saved for ‘company.’”

Get Knorr Vegetable Bullion cubes on Amazon for $4.84.

Get a 12-pack of Edward & Sons Garden Veggie Bouillon Cubes on Amazon for $35.21.

Get Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base on Amazon for $4.99.

Kettle & Fire Bone Broth

Two of our experts recommended this brand. “The organic bone broth is filled with natural collagen,” registered dietitian Marissa Meshulam said. “I love using it as a base for soup or sipping on its own as a warming afternoon snack.”

Smiley loves it too, singing the praises of a product “made with real ingredients that your body can recognize.”

Get it from Amazon for $17.61.

Kitchen Basics Unsalted Vegetable Broth

Frankeny went with this brand for her top pick. “It’s a hearty, plant-based option with hints of fire-roasted bell peppers and tomatoes, and it has a meat-like base and an herbaceous finish,” she said. “It has 170 milligrams of sodium per serving, which is a third of the sodium of the average store-bought brand.” This product has been certified heart-healthy by the American Heart Association.

Get a 12-pack from Amazon for $38.88.

Amazon

Pacific Foods Bone Broth and Vegetable Broth

This brand was the one most mentioned by the experts we consulted. “It has a homemade taste, and it’s not too overpowering, so a home cook can use it as a base to easily create soups, stews or sauces,” O’Brien said.

“It’s one of my favorites,” RDN Andrea Mathis said. “It’s budget-friendly and tastes very close to homemade bone broth. There’s no added sodium, which makes this a great choice for those wanting to reduce their salt intake, and it has 9 grams of protein per one-cup serving.”

RDN Amy Gorin is a fan of the company’s low-sodium vegetable broth. “I always recommend a lower-sodium broth when possible,” she said. “I like that the ingredients list is really simple: It’s just water, a bunch of veggies and sea salt.”

Get a 12-pack of bone broth on Amazon for $27.48.

Get a 12-pack of vegetable broth on Amazon for $38.28.

Rachel Ray Stock-In-A-Box

Chef Robin Selden said she reaches for this brand for a number of reasons. “First of all, you can actually spell all of the ingredients,” she said. “There’s no monosodium glutamate or sugar, and it’s gluten-free. I buy the low-sodium version so I can season it to my liking rather than starting with a heavy salted stock.”

How does she use it? “We’re a big soup family, so I start my soups with these stocks rather than having to make them from scratch. That’s been a game-changer for my Sunday morning batch-cooking ritual, when I freeze quarts of soup for easy family meals. I recently made a huge pot of my yummy Five Onion French Onion Soup using low-sodium beef stock, and I also recently made a light vegetable soup with the chicken stock.”

Get a three-pack from Amazon for $28.75.



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