Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Magic of Better than Bouillon

updated Sep 12, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Let’s be honest — sometimes even the best recipe needs a little flavor boost. When this happens, I head straight to the fridge and grab a jar of Better than Bouillon. A spoonful or so of this magic paste delivers an umami bomb that brings those flat flavors to life.

If you haven’t used Better than Bouillon, you might think, “How hard is it to be better than bouillon? Those salty bouillon cubes are awful!”

You’re right.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Traditional bouillon cubes and powders are packed with salt and don’t bring much flavor to a recipe; Better than Bouillon flips this. Made from meat, vegetables, and spices, it brings flavor and just enough salt to enhance a dish without tipping it into over-salted territory. (Note: All Better than Bouillon varieties contain a fair amount of salt, even the lower-sodium line. Be sure to check the nutrition labels if you need to watch your salt intake.)

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Unlike traditional bouillon cubes which, to me, taste like flavored salt and not much else, I think of Better than Bouillon the same way I do soy or fish sauce. It’s something I add when a recipe needs an oomph. A dab added to sautéed greens takes them from “meh” to “yes!” (I’m looking at you, kale.) The same goes for stir-fries, tomato sauce, and, of course, soup.

Speaking of soup, I often add a pinch to soups made with homemade stock. I picked up this trick while reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.

“Of course, my stocks in class always tasted far better than my classmates’. No one could figure out how I coaxed such hearty flavor out of a few chicken bones, or made such wonderful fish fumet with fish racks and shrimp shells, all in the limited time available. Had my instructors given me a pat-down before class they might have learned my secret: two glassine envelopes of Minor’s chicken and lobster base inside my chef’s coat, for that little extra kick. They never figured it out.”

– Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

While it sounds crazy to add food base to homemade stock, Tony knew what he was doing. A little chicken or beef base makes a homemade stock taste like the best version of itself.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

And if you don’t have homemade or boxed broth on hand, Better than Bouillon comes to the rescue. Simply stir about a teaspoon into eight ounces of boiling water and in seconds you’ll have a broth that makes a great base for quick homemade soups or even for sipping if you’re feeling under the weather. The flavor’s a bit more mild than a homemade broth, but similar and often better than broths you’ll can get in a carton or can.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

My one piece of advice about Better than Bouillon (other than try it!) is to ignore the suggested amount listed on the jar. Unless you’re adding it to water to make a broth — and using nothing else — the suggested amount is often too much. I’m not kidding when I say that I use a dab here and there.

Since the ingredients include ground meat and vegetables, Better than Bouillon must be stored in the refrigerator. But don’t worry that it will go bad quickly — it has about an 18-month shelf life from the time it’s opened. Unlike cartons of chicken stock, I’ve never had a jar of Better than Bouillon go bad in the fridge.

The long shelf life and affordable price — about four dollars for an eight-ounce jar — makes it easy to try it in different dishes. Once you do, you’ll reach for it more often than not.