Beef jerky options have come a long way from the salty meat sticks and leathery steak strips found in convenience stores around the country. You can now find beef jerky in all sorts of sizes and flavors, with many new and innovative ingredients, with each still containing lots of protein in each serving since beef is lean meat. There are some that work great for when you're on the go hiking or at work or school, and others that are meant to be savored. there are even options for plant-based eaters out there that taste like the real thing.
Here are the best beef jerky picks of all different shapes, textures, and flavors.
Country Archer Original Beef Jerky
Not suitable for those avoiding soy
The best beef jerky should be soft, but chewy and pack plenty of flavor. Country Archer’s Original Beef Jerky fits the bill. It has a distinctly fresh taste, which can be credited to the brand's mission to use organic and local ingredients whenever possible.
Country Archer jerky is made from 100 percent grass-fed beef and is free from nitrates, 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. This means it does contain soy, so if you have a soy sensitivity or allergy, you should skip this beef jerky.
Price at time of publish: $7
Size: 2.5, 7, and 16 ounces | Flavors: Original, teriyaki, mango habanero, fuego, hatch chile, jalapeño | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 9 grams per 1-ounce serving
"Jerky makes for an awesome topping and delicious garnish when you use it to jazz up things like a simple avocado toast or popcorn." — Mark Anderson and Ryan Fey of Food Network’s "Grill Dads" and the Chef’s Cut "Jerky 101" Series
Brooklyn Biltong Original Air Dried Beef
Simple ingredient list
High in protein
Softer texture than most beef jerky
Biltong is a South African-style of cured meat that’s been marinated in vinegar and slowly dried with air instead of heat. Brooklyn Biltong boasts a minimal ingredient list, making it suitable for 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 nitrates or nitrites. 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, it offers 16-ounce bags, whereas other brands typically package only a couple of ounces in a single bag.
Price at time of publish: $7
Size: 2 ounces | Flavors: Original, naked, peri peri chili, garlic, lemon pepper | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 36 grams per 2-ounce serving
Best Sample Pack
Righteous Felon Beef Jerky Variety Pack
Uses antibiotic- and growth hormone-free beef
Low in sugar
Good to gift or keep yourself and try, this sampler pack has eight different flavors of beef jerky. Righteous Felon is highly-regarded for its selection and there's no better way for you or friends and family to find a favorite. Options include extraordinary flavors like Bourbon Franklin, Truffle-O Soldier, Voodoo Chile, and more. Each bag contains two 1-ounce servings, enough for sharing or devouring on your own. All the flavors are gluten-free except one (Victorious B.I.G) and made with pasture-fed and antibiotic- and growth hormone-free beef from the Roseda Black Angus Farm in Northern Maryland.
Price at time of publish: $46
Size: 8 2-ounce bags | Flavors: Baby Blues BBQ, Bourbon Franklin, Habanero Escobar, Maryland Monroe, O.G. Hickory, Truffle-O Soldier, Victorious B.I.G, Voodoo Chile | Gluten-free: Yes (except for Victorious B.I.G.) | Protein: 9-11 grams per serving
Wild Bill's Hickory Smoked Beef Jerky Strips
Great for gifting
This beef jerky is hung and hickory smoked in a Pennsylvania smokehouse after being marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and black pepper, giving it a lot of taste. It gives it a lot of smokiness, too, but not too much to overwhelm you. In the end, it tastes fresh and requires a little work to chew before getting softer as you go. At slightly less than a pound, this beef jerky is pricey, but over 75 percent of thousands of reviews on Amazon give it 5 out of 5 stars. This one is not necessarily one to buy to have as an on-the-go snack, but more to enjoy or give as a gift.
Price at time of publish: $35
Size: 15 ounces | Flavors: Hickory Smoked | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 14 grams per 1-ounce serving
Best Meat Sticks
Chomps Original Beef Stick
Can use on charcuterie board
Easy to grab and go
Not too salty
Pricier than others
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 its 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 jalapeño. It also offers turkey and venison stick options. We find the original variety is packed with flavor without being too salty and strikes a perfect texture balance between tender and chewy. Chomps is non-GMO Project Verified, Whole30 Approved, and keto- and paleo-friendly, since they contain 0 grams of carbohydrates or sugar.
Price at time of publish: $2
Size: 1.15-ounce sticks | Flavors: Original, sea salt, Italian, cranberry habanero, and jalapeño | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 9 grams per 1.15-ounce serving
"Quality jerky uses quality premium cuts of meat. Whether it’s beef, pork, or poultry, the important thing is to use hand-selected, hand-trimmed meat and look for recognizable, premium ingredients on the label. Another marker of premium quality jerky is the absence of any nitrates or nitrites." — Mark Anderson and Ryan Fey of Food Network’s "Grill Dads" and the Chef’s Cut "Jerky 101" Series
Jack Link's Peppered Beef Jerky
Not as many flavors available
Other beef jerky options on this list work for when you are hungry while out and about, but Jack Link's also does the trick for cheap. A half-pound bag comes with 8 servings of cut-up jerky pieces, which is great for easy snacking. The bag is also resealable, so it can come and go with you and stay fresh. To get the strong peppered flavor, the beef is seasoned with sugar and soy sauce, then dusted with cracked pepper and slow-roasted. The result is a fresh-tasting jerky with a kick. This brand doesn't have as many flavor options as others on this list, but the few available are crowd-pleasers.
Price at time of publish: $11
Size: 8 ounces | Flavors: Original, peppered, Teriyaki, Sweet & Hot | Gluten-free: Not indicated | Protein: 9 grams per 1-ounce serving
Louisville Vegan Jerky Smoked Black Pepper Soy Jerky
Other flavors available
The meat alternative industry has grown a ton in the last few years, with more options hitting the market than ever before. Louisville Vegan Jerky has been around for a decade, though, perfecting its soy-based jerky. The result is a meat-free and protein-rich snack with all the texture, saltiness, and flavor of the real thing.
Flavors of Louisville Vegan Jerky include Smoked Black Pepper, Maple Bacon, Buffalo Dill, and more. All are gluten-free, but anyone with a soy allergy should avoid this vegan option, since textured soy protein is the main ingredient.
Price at time of publish: $5
Size: 3 ounces | Flavors: Smoked Black Pepper, Maple Bacon, Perfect Pepperoni, Smoky Carolina BBQ, Buffalo Dill | Gluten-free: Yes | Protein: 7 grams per 1-ounce serving
Top-notch beef jerky should be made from high-quality grass-fed cattle, tender, and flavorful, as well. 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 Sticks.
What to Look for in Beef Jerky
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."
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 barbecue 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.
How is beef jerky made?
Jerky is an ancient food that originally was used because it vastly improved the shelf life of meat by drying and salting it (and sometimes smoking it). Today, the jerky-making process is similar, but on a more industrial scale. After being cured and salted, the meat is dried.
Which part of the cow is beef jerky made from?
This depends on the producer, but beef jerky is usually made from the shoulder or rump of the cow. These areas are flavorful, but tend to be tougher due to their lack of fat.
Can you freeze beef jerky?
If you’re not planning to eat your beef jerky right away, you can freeze it. Just make sure to put it in an airtight container first. Freezing properly will extend its shelf life by six to 12 months.
What are the white packets in beef jerky?
The packets inside beef jerky are silica gel, which helps keep moisture away from the jerky. It should be discarded once you’re done with the pack and kept away from dogs and small children who may try to eat it.
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best beef jerky on the market, evaluating their key features—like flavor, cut, and price—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
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.
Christine Clark, who updated this piece, is a nationally recognized food expert and locally recognized eater of good things. She has a cheese podcast and is a Certified Cheese Professional through the American Cheese Society.
Amanda McDonald is an editor at The Spruce Eats and has over seven years of experience researching, writing, and editing about all things food — from what new products are at the grocery store to chef-approved hacks that keep tricky leftovers fresh for days. She updated this article to include the most up-to-date information.
- Mark Anderson and Ryan Fey of Food Network’s "Grill Dads" and the Chef’s Cut "Jerky 101" Series
United States Department of Agriculture. The organic seal.
United States Department of Agriculture. Can GMOs be used in organic products?