(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Nothing beats the boost of comforting flavor that chicken broth can add to a recipe, but while we do adore homemade, we confess we don't always have gorgeous quarts of stock in the freezer. Boxed broth is a convenient shortcut. But the selection of brands out there can be pretty overwhelming, not to mention the fact that broth can now come in boxes, cans, cubes, jars of concentrate, and even little packets.

Since we use it in so many recipes, we decided it was time to do a taste test here at The Kitchn of boxed low-sodium chicken broths, and here are the results!

Why Taste Test Chicken Broth?

Chicken broth is such a foundational base in home cooking, and I use it in everything from soups and braises to pan sauces, stews, and to cook vegetables and grains. While homemade chicken broth has always been my favorite since it has such rich chicken flavor, sometimes I just don't have any or enough on hand for a recipe, so I have to resort to a store-bought version.

How the 5 Brands Were Selected

Before I did my own taste test, I looked around and read up on what other tests had been conducted to figure out what to test and how to do it:

Other Chicken Broth Taste Tests

First up in the process was to select five chicken broth brands to taste. My goal was to find easily accessible brands that were available in national chain grocery stores. With the exception of the Swanson brand, I purchased organic chicken broth, which wasn't much more expensive than the regular version, and in some cases, was the only option available.

I purchased a 32-ounce box of each brand so that the packaging process and packaging itself were as similar as possible, and I chose products labeled low-sodium since these are the only versions I would buy — I like to control the salt level in my cooking as much as possible.

Tasting Method

I was able to rope my husband, also a culinary school graduate, into the tasting to get an additional opinion. Each broth container was shaken as recommended, then poured into little cups. After noting the sodium and fat levels and ingredients from each brand, we looked, smelled, and tasted each broth, with my husband tasting blind (not knowing what brand he was tasting). We sipped water and ate little bites of white sandwich bread between tastes to clear our palates.

At its core, even though chicken broth is an ingredient, it should still taste good and be something that we can drink straight up. We asked ourselves these two questions:

  1. Does this broth taste good?
  2. Would we buy it?

Here are the five brands that we tasted and our notes:

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Pacific Foods Organic Free-Range Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

  • Price: $3.69 for 32 ounces at Whole Foods Market
  • Sodium content: 70mg (3% daily value) per cup
  • Fat content: 0g per cup
  • Ingredients: Chicken broth, chicken flavor, cane sugar, yeast extract, onion powder, rosemary extract
  • Appearance: Brownish and cloudy
  • Aroma: Smells briny and a bit like roast chicken
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: "Blech," metallic, bitter, no chicken flavor, and very watery; tastes like it contains no salt (a good thing).
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Imagine Foods Organic Free-Range Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

  • Price: $2.99 for 32 ounces at Whole Foods Market
  • Sodium content: 115mg (5% daily value) per cup
  • Fat content: .5g per cup
  • Ingredients: Organic chicken broth (filtered water, organic chicken), organic onions, organic celery, organic carrots, natural chicken flavor, organic spices, sea salt
  • Appearance: Cloudiest, light yellow
  • Aroma: Like canned or processed chicken noodle soup
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Tastes more like vegetables than chicken; hint of salt.
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Whole Foods 365 Organic Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

  • Price: $1.99 for 32 ounces
  • Sodium content: 140mg (6% daily value) per cup
  • Fat content: 0g per cup
  • Ingredients: Organic chicken stock (filtered water, concentrated organic chicken stock), contains less than 2% of the following: organic cane sugar, organic chicken flavor (organic chicken, sea salt, organic gum arabic), organic vegetable stock (organic carrot, organic onion, organic celery, sea salt), yeast extract, salt, organic turmeric
  • Appearance: Clearest
  • Aroma: Barely any aroma; faint chicken smell
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Doesn't taste actively bad, but doesn't have very strong chicken or vegetable flavors.
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Trader Joe's Organic Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

  • Price: $1.99 for 32 ounces
  • Sodium content: 70mg (3% daily value) per cup
  • Fat content: 0g per cup
  • Ingredients: Organic chicken broth (filtered water, organic chicken), organic chicken flavor, organic cane sugar, autolyzed yeast extract, organic onion powder, organic turmeric extract, natural flavor
  • Appearance: More of a darker yellow
  • Aroma: Smelled the most like cooked chicken
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Strong chicken flavor with a very faint bitter aftertaste.
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Swanson Natural Goodness 33% Less Sodium Chicken Broth

  • Price: $2.44 for 32 ounces at Target
  • Sodium content: 570mg (24% daily value) per cup
  • Fat content: 0g per cup
  • Ingredients: Chicken stock, contains less than 2% of salt, natural flavoring, yeast extract, carrot juice concentrate, celery juice concentrate, onion juice concentrate
  • Appearance: Second clearest with a light yellow tinge, the lightest in color
  • Aroma: A bit of a sweet, carrot-like smell
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Saltiest and salt is the first thing you taste; does have some chicken flavor, not a lot of vegetable flavor.

The Taste Test Results

After tasting, we came up with our ranking:

  1. Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth: Our favorite broth had the best chicken flavor, and we liked that we could control the amount of salt since it had such a small percentage.
  2. Swanson Natural Goodness 33% Less Sodium Chicken Broth: Although this one has a pleasant chicken flavor, salt was the first thing we could taste. We would buy this broth.
  3. Imagine Foods Organic Free-Range Low-Sodium Chicken Broth: While this one wasn't unpleasant, it was hard to shake that processed chicken noodle soup flavor. We would buy this one in a pinch.
  4. Whole Foods 365 Organic Low-Sodium Chicken Broth: This one just didn't really have any kind of strong chicken flavor and isn't worth buying.
  5. Pacific Foods Organic Free-Range Low-Sodium Chicken Broth: The worst of the bunch with a really unpleasant flavor that we would never buy.

Our Top Pick - Trader Joe's!

We had a bit of a discussion picking between our two favorites, Trader Joe's and Swanson. The salt levels were so different (something you should be sure to check on if you are sensitive to sodium since each brand varies) that we weren't certain if that skewed how we tasted each one.

We ended up adding salt to the Trader Joe's one until it seemed similar to the salt level in Swanson, tasting again, and then coming to the conclusion that Trader Joe's still had the strongest, cleanest chicken flavor.

The fact that Trader Joe's has such a small amount of salt is another positive, since you can control the amount in your cooking, especially for concentrated pan sauces. That's the one I'll be reaching for from now on!