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Best Overall: Country Archer Original Beef Jerky at Amazon
"Organic ingredients and 100 percent grass fed beef equate to fresh flavor."
Best Meat Sticks: Chomps Original Beef Stick at Amazon
"Grass-fed meat sticks with zero added sugar and available in 5 delectable flavors for easy snacking."
Best Gourmet: Brooklyn Biltong Original Air Dried Beef at Amazon
"A high-protein, zero-sugar jerky handcrafted and air dried in the manner of traditional South African biltong."
Best Subscription Box: LOLJerky Beef Jerky of the Month Club at loljerky.com
"Enjoy sampling a variety of carefully curated, high-quality beef jerky delivered straight to your doorstep."
Best Zero Carb & Zero Sugar: Tillamook Country Smoker Zero Sugar Original Beef Jerky at Walmart
"Contains 0 grams of either carbohydrates or sugar, making it a prime choice for low-carb diets."
Beef jerky options have come a long way from the salty, artificial ingredient-laden meat sticks and leathery steak strips found in convenience stores around the country. You can now find jerky made from all kinds of protein sources, including beef, chicken, turkey, wild game meats, fish, and even mushrooms for plant-based eaters. Jerky is also available in a variety of flavors, including sweet, spicy, and barbeque to satisfy a variety of tastes.
Protein quality is of utmost importance to health-conscious snackers. The trend in beef jerky is using grass-fed and organic meat. Grass-fed meat is better for you since it’s higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Whether you’re an athlete, following a high-protein diet, or simply looking for a healthy savory snack, beef jerky is a low-fat, high-protein, filling, and accessible option.
Here are our top beef jerky picks.
Best Overall: Country Archer Original Beef Jerky
The best beef jerky should be soft, but chewy and pack plenty of flavor. Country Archer’s Original Beef Jerky fits the bill. Reviewers praise the fresh taste, which can be credited with the brand's mission to use organic and local ingredients whenever possible.
Country Archer jerky is made from 100 percent grass-fed beef and free from chemical preservatives, nitrates and nitrites, and MSG. It's available in seven flavors, and the brand also offers two turkey jerky flavors along with meat sticks. The original flavor brings together the sweet tang of pineapple juice with a bit of spice from black pepper and umami from Worcestershire sauce and tamari.
Best Meat Sticks: Chomps Original Beef Stick
Although not technically the same as strips of jerky, you’ll notice plenty of jerky brands also offer meat sticks. Since they’re individually wrapped, meat sticks make an excellent portable snack option and can be used in place of salami or other meats on charcuterie boards.
Chomps takes the cake for best meat stick, which isn’t surprising since their product line is limited to meat sticks only. Its beef sticks are made from 100 percent grass-fed beef and available in five flavors: original, sea salt, Italian, cranberry habanero, and jalapeno. It also offers turkey and venison stick options. We find the Original Beef Sticks are packed with flavor without being too salty and strike a perfect texture balance between tender and chewy. Chomps is non-GMO Project Verified, Whole 30 Approved, and keto- and paleo-friendly, since they contain 0 grams of carbohydrates or sugar.
Best Gourmet: Brooklyn Biltong Original Air Dried Beef
Biltong is a South African-style of cured meat that’s been marinated in vinegar and then slowly dried with air instead of heat. Brooklyn Biltong boasts a minimal and very clean ingredient list, making it an excellent choice for healthy eaters including anyone following Whole30, paleo, or keto styles of eating. It’s also one of the highest in protein on this list, providing 15 grams of protein per serving of jerky.
There are zero sugars added to this meat, and it contains zero added or naturally occurring nitrates or nitrites. Other brands claim zero added nitrates and nitrates, but still contain naturally occurring sources, like celery powder. Not so with Brooklyn Biltong. This jerky is simply cured with salt, vinegar, air, and time. That’s it.
We love this brand for the simplicity of its ingredient list and because it uses 100 percent grass-fed beef. Buyers rave about the moist, tender texture. Plus, for anyone who can’t get enough jerky, they offer 16-ounce bags which equal 16 1-ounce servings, whereas other brands typically package only a couple of ounces in a single bag.
Cured and processed meat products, including beef jerky, typically contain nitrates and/or nitrites. These ingredients are a chemical preservative and are used to prolong shelf-life, enhance the color of a food, or prevent bacteria from growing. A common nitrate used in food is sodium nitrate. These ingredients are controversial, with some believing they may be potential carcinogens.
You’ll see some jerky brands labeled “no nitrates/nitrites” added, but this claim can be misleading. Some products are dried and preserved with ingredients that contain naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites, such as celery powder. If you choose to avoid nitrates and nitrites all together, look for jerky that is cured simply with salt or vinegar. If celery powder is listed on a jerky ingredient list, the health-conscious buyer beware: the product still contains nitrates and/or nitrites, albeit from a natural source.
Best Subscription Box: LOLJerky Beef Jerky of the Month Club
If you just can’t get enough beef jerky in your life, you may want to consider a jerky of the month snack subscription. LOLJerky curates beef jerky boxes and delivers them directly to your doorstep. You’ll receive different brands and flavors of jerky each month, but the company is devoted to only sourcing high-quality jerky. That means it partners with local farms that raise 100 percent grass-fed beef and brands that produce jerky without chemical preservatives, genetically modified organisms, or loads of sugar. Some of the brands you might find in your monthly box include Think Jerky, Lawless Craft Jerky, and True Jerky.
You get to choose how many bags of jerky you want each month. Keep in mind the more bags you receive, the lower the price per bag. LOLJerky also offers convenient payment options, including paying monthly or prepaying for a quarterly, biannual, or annual subscription. Prepaying will save you a bit more per order. The company also donates a portion of each subscription to charitable organizations that benefit small and local farms.
Best Zero Carb & Zero Sugar: Tillamook Country Smoker Zero Sugar Original Beef Jerky
You may be surprised to check out the Nutrition Facts label on some brands of beef jerky and see a significant amount of added sugar. If you’re avoiding added sugars, you can still enjoy jerky as long as you choose a jerky with no sweeteners added. Tillamook makes this easy to do with its line of zero-sugar dried meat products. The brand offers jerky strips, smoked sausages, and meat sticks in several traditional flavors with 0 grams of carbohydrates or sugar.
The jerky strips are available in original, teriyaki, and black pepper flavors, contain no added MSG or nitrates/nitrites, and provide 14 grams of protein per serving. Fans of the line claim the hardwood smoked jerky flavor is excellent as is without the need for sweeteners, although some note the tenderness and quality of meat cut can vary from bag to bag. Tillamook claims it uses “100 percent premium USA beef,” but you should be aware this is not the same as “organic” or “grass-fed” beef. Still, we recommend giving this jerky a try if zero carbohydrates and zero sugar content matters to you.
Top-notch beef jerky should be made from high-quality grass-fed cattle and not contain too much sugar or long lists of artificial ingredients. It should be tender and flavorful as well, and that's why we chose Country Archer Original Beef Jerky as our top pick. For sticks instead of strips, we recommend the individually wrapped Chomps Original Beef Stick.
What to Look for When Buying Beef Jerky
Texture: Depending on what drying methods are used to make jerky, the finished product will yield different results. Some jerky is made to have a tough and dry texture that'll give your jaw a workout, while others are softer.
If you have a texture preference, buying the wrong kind can put a damper on your snacking experience. For dry jerky, look for products labeled traditional or old-fashioned. For softer, chewier jerky, look for the words soft or tender.
Flavor: There are jerkys to meet every flavor preference you can think of. In addition to traditional jerky recipes that let the flavor of the meat shine, you'll find flavors that take their cue from the grill, like smoked barbeque and pineapple teriyaki; sweet flavors, like honey pepper; savory flavors made with herbs, spices, and seasonings; and spicy flavors made with hot peppers, like Carolina Reaper—the hottest pepper on Earth.
The best way to find your favorite is have a taste test or try a jerky subscription to sample several varieties at once!
Nutrition: Jerky is pretty healthy as far as snacks go, since it's a good source of lean protein with little fat. For the healthiest jerky, look for ones made from grass-fed, or pastured, meat that's been raised humanely and without any hormones or antibiotics. Besides being more sustainable for the planet, meat raised this way has more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat.
Some jerkys are hidden sources of sugar and sodium. You can check out the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list to make sure your jerky choice isn't too high in either. Ingredients are listed by weight, so if sugar is the second or third ingredient, you might want to skip it.
The recommended intake for sodium for a healthy adult is 2300 milligrams per day. A good rule of thumb is to look for a jerky that has no more than 500 milligrams of sodium per serving and no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Sharon Lehman is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and author of this beef jerky roundup. When it comes to lean and filling snacks, she’s a fan of reaching for an all-natural, grass-fed meat stick. Bonus: Chopped meat sticks add a charcuterie vibe to any cheese or snack plate. You can often find Chomps beef and turkey sticks in her pantry, but she’s also a fan of Country Archer.