Jars of Better than Bouillon sit in my fridge alongside bottles of soy sauce, fish sauce, and tubes of tomato paste. What do these things have in common? They're my umami bombs.
While I love them all, the one I use in most dishes is Better than Bouillon. Technically, it's a food base — an intensely flavored paste made of ground meats, vegetables, and salt that can be used to make quick broths or enhance other recipes — but I think of it as magic paste. A dab here and there helps a dish taste like the best version of itself.
The Better than Bouillon product line is fairly extensive. It includes traditional bases along with organic and low-sodium offerings. My favorites are beef, chicken, and vegetable. Occasionally I'll reach for mushroom or garlic. I haven't tried the ham, shellfish, or fish base. Yet.
When adding Better than Bouillon to a recipe, be sure to dissolve it in a small amount of hot liquid before adding it to the recipe. This ensures that it mixes evenly into your recipe and doesn't clump.
To do this, place a small amount, at least a tablespoon, of hot liquid into a small bowl. Add the Better than Bouillon and allow mixture to stand for a minute. Then, stir to combine until no large clumps of Better than Bouillon remain before adding the dissolved base into recipe.
1. Soup up your soups!
Sometimes homemade soup needs a flavor boost. A little Better than Bouillon dissolved into hot soup usually solves the problem. While matching the flavor base to the soup always works, try using a different base, such as beef base in chicken soup, to add a deeper flavor.
- How to use: Ladle a small amount of hot soup into a bowl. Add about a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon. Stir to dissolve. Return soup to the pot and stir to combine. Taste. Repeat as needed.
- Suggested base(s): Beef, chicken, mushroom, garlic, or vegetable.
2. Purchase some gravy insurance.
Homemade gravy beats the stuff from a jar every time. Adding a smidgen of base is an easy way to up the umami in your favorite gravy recipe without a ton of work. And if your drippings burn, you can make the entire gravy from Better than Bouillon. Think of this as Thanksgiving insurance.
Dissolve four teaspoons of Better than Bouillon in two cups of boiling water. Use this to replace the stock called for in your favorite gravy recipe. Prepare gravy and thicken gravy as the recipe directs.
- How to use: For two cups of gravy, whisk about 1/2 teaspoon of Better than Bouillon into hot, thickened gravy. Return gravy to the pot. Stir to combine. Taste. Repeat as needed.
- Suggested base(s): Turkey, mushroom, garlic, or vegetable
3. Make world-class meatballs.
Having a freezer-container full of meatballs is one of my go-to shortcuts for an easy weeknight meal. Since I bake (not fry) my meatballs, I occasionally add a little base to change up the flavor of the meatballs with minimal effort.
- How to use: For every pound of meat, mix about a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon into hot water. Stir to dissolve. Allow mixture to cool. Stir gently into ground meat to evenly distribute along with the other ingredients.
- Suggested base(s): Beef, mushroom, or garlic
4. Add richness to mashed potatoes.
Remember those old Swanson ads that instructed folks to make their mashed potatoes with chicken broth? Using a flavor base gives you the best of both worlds. You get the flavor boost from the base and the creaminess from the cream or milk. Win-win!
- How to use: For every two pounds of potatoes, add 1 teaspoon of chicken, garlic, or mushroom base. Dissolve base in one tablespoon hot milk. Add mixture to the potatoes, along with remaining ingredients.
- Suggested base(s): Chicken, garlic, or vegetable
5. Add some umami to your sautéed greens.
Who doesn't love the ease of a pan of sautéed greens? A little base adds flavor that you didn't even know the greens needed.
- How to use: While steaming or sautéeing the greens. For every one pound of greens, combine 1/2 teaspoon of base with a tablespoon of hot water. After the greens wilt, add the base mixture. Toss greens to evenly distribute.
- Suggested base(s): Mushroom, beef, garlic, or vegetable
6. Add one more layer of flavor to your chili.
Whether it's a meat-based chili or a strictly vegetarian affair, adding a pinch of base to chili brings out the flavors of the tomato and enhances both the meat and beans.
- How to use: After the chili finishes cooking, ladle about a half cup of hot chili into a bowl. Stir in one to two teaspoons of base to dissolve. Add the mixture back to the pot of hot chili. Stir to combine. Taste. Repeat as needed.
- Suggested base(s): Beef or vegetable