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For our Greatist-Approved Groceries series, we’re narrowing down the tens of thousands of food products out there to just the ones we think are worth buying. So you can get in and out of the store faster, not waste money on total fails, and be the smart shopper you’re meant to be.
With the help of nutrition expert Elizabeth Jarrard, R.D., Greatist editors came up with a set of standards that must be met.
Every item must:
- Contain only recognizable ingredients
- Have no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners (stevia and monk fruit are OK)
- Never list sugar as the first ingredient
- Have a reasonable serving size
- Taste absolutely amazing
- Cost a reasonable price
On top of that, the jerky below is free of MSG, has no more than 5 grams of sugar and 400 milligrams of sodium per servings, and ideally is free of preservatives, nitrates (which may increase of heart disease), and sulfites (chemicals that some people are sensitive or allergic to).
As you can see, there aren’t a ton of options—the market is full of jerky that’s high in sodium, sugar, and artificial ingredients, and ones that taste so bad we wouldn’t feed them to our dog. (Note: You should never feed a dog jerky made for humans. But you get our point.) Next time you get a hankering for jerky, try these addictive standouts and know that you’re feeding your body well (hello, protein!).
Editor’s note: Jerky is listed in alphabetical order by group.
When you’re in the mood for a simple, traditional jerky, try this mouthful. Made of cuts from “the awesomest cattle,” the focus is on the flavor. A combination of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and smoke plus just the right amount of sweetness lends a special taste that we loved. And the price won’t break the bank. $5.95 for 3 ounces
Beef jerky gets a tropical twist. EPIC combines 100-percent grass-fed, organic beef jerky with toasted coconut for a salty, savory, and sweet snack that’s healthy to boot. The spices are simple (wildflower honey, salt, pepper, garlic powder), so be sure to combine the jerky with the coconut for maximum flavor. $4.99 for 2 ounces
All of New Primal’s beef jerky is made from grass-fed cattle raised in New Zealand, which means it is lower in fat and higher in vitamin E and omega-3s than grain-fed cattle. This version adds pineapple and honey, then amps up the flavor with jalapeño and cayenne for a kick you won’t forget—although some tasters found it a bit dry. (It’s also not the cheapest jerky out there.) $7.49 for 2 ounces
Handmade in Los Angeles, this jerky has a soft, chewy, more steak-like texture. The garlic, ginger, and black and white sesame seeds give it an unusual and exciting burst of flavor, but you still get that true jerky taste. Soy sauce rounds it out for a product that keeps you coming back for more. $5.99 for 2.5 ounces
If you’re looking for an organic option, this affordable and tasty jerky offered by Whole Foods delivers on flavor while keeping the sodium low and ingredients simple. With a peppery, slightly smoky flavor plus hints of paprika and garlic, this was a fave in the Greatist office. $6.99 for 3 ounces
Made from locally raised chickens, Bubba’s Carolina Jerky was inspired by the founder’s childhood eating fresh-caught meat as part of an outdoor sporting family. The honey BBQ is super low in both sugar and sodium, yet you’d never know it from the taste. Notes of honey, brown sugar, and spices are subtly sweet—it’s like everything we ever loved about Southern BBQ all rolled into a strip of jerky. $6.99 for 3 ounces
Flavored with organic herbs and spices, a touch of salt, and just a hint a smoky flavor, Vital Choice salmon strips are made with a mix of wild sockeye and keta salmon. Each strip is packaged individually, so it’s easy to throw one in your bag for a quick snack and energy boost during the day. Just be warned that the (expected) fish smell (and price) may turn some away. $36.00 for 6 ounces
Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good bite of jerky. High in protein (10 grams per ounce) and energy, Primal’s vegan jerky is made from a seitan base that’s flavored with natural spices and herbs, soy sauce, vinegar, and peanut butter. It’s almost like pad Thai—without the noodles. $22.99 for 24 ounces