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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 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 barbecue to satisfy a variety of tastes.
Here are the best beef jerky picks of all different shapes, textures, and flavors.
Best Overall: 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. 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 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.
Flavors: Original, teriyaki, mango habanero, fuego, hatch chile, jalapeño
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.
Flavors: Original, sea salt, Italian, cranberry habanero, and jalapeño
"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
Best Gourmet: Brooklyn Biltong Original Air Dried Beef
Simple ingredient list
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.
Flavors: Original, naked, peri peri chili, garlic, lemon pepper
"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
Best Subscription Box: LOLJerky Beef Jerky of the Month Club
One to eight bags per month
Try new flavors and meats
Don’t get to choose your flavor
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. It partners with local farms that raise 100 percent grass-fed beef. 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 for Packed Lunches: Lorissa’s Kitchen Original Beef Steak Bites
Easy to grab and go
Great for lunchboxes
Not as tough as some others
Individual wrapping means more packaging waste
Need your jerky conveniently packaged for brown-bagged lunches and on-the-go snacking? Each package of Lorissa’s Kitchen steak bites contains five individual pouches of the brand's classic beef jerky. The brand, created by a mom who wanted wholesome snacks for her family, uses only 100 percent grass-fed beef to make its jerky. Its jerky is also free from GMOS, added nitrates/nitrites, and added MSG.
Each mini pouch of steak bites provides 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of sugar per serving. Tasters love the hearty steak flavor balanced with a bit of tangy sweetness from the addition of pineapple powder. Tasters also note this jerky is more tender than other brands, making it a perfect option for kids who might not have the patience for tougher, chewier brands of jerky.
Flavors: Original, Korean barbecue
Best Vegan: Unisoy Vegan Jerky
Texture mimics real jerky
100 percent plant-based ingredients
Not suitable for those avoiding soy
If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or simply looking for more plant-based products in your life, Unisoy Vegan Jerky offers many of the same features as beef jerky. It’s chewy, savory, high in protein, and makes an easy and tasty snack. There’s no cholesterol, no trans fat, and it’s made with all non-GMO ingredients. Flavors include black pepper, mild spicy, teriyaki, pineapple habanero, carne asada, and chipotle—you can even order the first three as part of a three-pack. For jerky lovers who don’t happen to be eating meat, this is a great option.
Flavors: Black pepper, mild spicy, teriyaki, pineapple habanero, carne asada, chipotle
"Beef jerky was my first almost-slip-up after going vegetarian, which is why I was so stoked when a friend recommended this brand. The texture and flavor are on point." — Taylor Rock, Associate Editor
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 (view at Amazon) as our top pick. For sticks instead of strips, we recommend the individually wrapped Chomps Original Beef Stick (view at Amazon).
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.
Are there other types of jerky?
You can find jerky made out of poultry, especially chicken or turkey, wild game, such as elk or wild boar, and even fish. There’s also vegan jerky, which is typically made from soy or mushroom.
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.