I can’t remember how many times this has happened: ready to roll on a recipe, chef’s knife in hand, perfectly mise en place’d, and gah! No chicken stock! Instead of starting over—or worse, getting back in the car—a bit of bouillon can go a long way when you need a flavor punch in a pinch.

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Photo courtesy of Bou

Bouillon, and other dehydrated soup starters and bases, have long been an afterthought for serious chefs, reviled for some nasty additives and, more commonly, far too much salt. But there is a crop of new and improved bouillon cubes, pastes, and other soup starters to help you get that rainy day stew, sauce, stir fry, or gravy underway. Stock be darned.

As a formal disclosure we’ll say nothing quite beats a homemade chicken stock, but one of the advantages of bouillon—besides the obvious convenience, ease of storage, and price—is a range of flavors you can achieve without having to buy or wrangle multiple boxes, bottles, jars of liquid and spices. BOU, for instance, has a revamped line of bouillon cubes and pastes available in standard chickenbeef, and vegetable but also more inventive flavors like mushroom gravy, roasted garlic, ginger miso, and cinnamon coconut miso.

As we barrel full-throttle through these winter months, here are a few of the best bouillon cubes and non-stock soup starters you can buy online and keep in the cupboard all soup season long.

BOU Mushroom Gravy Cubes

Great for soups and stews of course, but don’t sleep on bouillon to add punch to sauces or even season chicken or burgers. BOU is MSG-free and comes in a slew of flavors from classic vegetable, chicken, and beef to coconut cinnamon miso. This mushroom-based flavor is vegan. Buy Now

Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base

This is actually concentrated chicken stock, and as its no-punches-pulled label suggests, it fancies itself better than bouillon. Look no further than the other side of the jar to see this soup starter has nothing scary to hide, made with real chicken and less salt than the average chicken base. Buy Now

Instant Pot Tuscan Lentil Soup Starter

This is more than just a starter, to be quite honest, in fact, all you need is tomatoes and broth for a simple-as-can-be lentil soup on a frigid evening. Buy Now

BOU Vegetable Boullion Cubes

For classic French vegetable soups and to get that post Thanksgiving turkey soup on its way, this vegetable bouillon has an infusion of herbs. There is a no salt added version, too. Buy Now

Better Than Bouillon Chili Starter

You can buy and measure all the necessary spices and seasonings for chili or take this shortcut and always have the perfect blend of hot, smoky, salty chili spices on hand for game day. Buy Now