Out on the hiking trail, a long bike ride or an extended camping trip, there are times when you want — or need — to reach for a quick snack that’s nutritious, low calorie and protein-rich to give you the energy to keep going. A great choice is beef jerky, available in easy-to-carry portable packs that you can take with you anywhere.
Many brands of beef jerky are carefully crafted from lean, trimmed meat that has been cut into strips and dried to prevent spoilage. The addition of spices and different flavors offers up a myriad of delicious choices to suit a variety of tastes.
When eaten in moderation, beef jerky is an excellent snack food that is low calorie, high in protein, and a good source of vitamins and minerals including zinc, iron, choline, and vitamin B12.
We’ve curated a list of the best beef jerky you can purchase online. Read on to fine the one — or ones — that will make their way into your top healthy snacks.
1. Editor’s Choice: Country Archer Zero Sugar Classic Beef Jerky 100% Grass-Fed
You may love the idea of beef jerky, but that doesn’t mean you love a lot of the extra ingredients found in some brands. This can include nitrates, gluten, soy, MSG, sugar and more. If you’re looking for a delicious beef jerky snack with healthy ingredients, then you may be interested in our top pick.
Our number one pick comes in six, two-ounce resealable packs, each containing pasture-raised, 100 percent grass-fed and grass-finished beef. The beef jerky is hand crafted in small batches and made in the U.S.A. with a flavorful mild spice level. The product is also certified keto, certified gluten-free, and contains no sugar, no soy, no preservatives, no nitrates/nitrites, and no MSG.
If you want something with more of a punch, other options include mustard BBQ flavor for a mild-medium spice level or spicy sesame garlic for a medium spice level. Regardless of the flavor you choose, a one-ounce portion (half a pack) contains 12 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat, 70 calories and 260mg of sodium.
Other ingredients include water, mushrooms (mushrooms, water, salt), sunflower oil, apple cider vinegar, organic chickpea miso, garlic, salt, onion, black Pepper, liquid smoke, paprika, rosemary, coriander, and oregano.
- Made from grass-fed, grass-finished beef
- Three flavors to choose from of different spice levels
- No nitrates or MSG
- Small amount in each package
- Quite pricey
2. Runner Up: Think Jerky Classic Beef Jerky Grass-Fed
Similar to our top pick, this beef jerky snack is made from 100 percent grass-fed, pasture-raised beef that is low in fat for a healthy, guilt-free indulgence. That being said, there are some differences to note: Think Jerky beef jerky does contain sugar, so it’s not a sugar-free option but you will get more of a protein punch per serving at 16 grams, and the price is slightly less expensive.
The classic flavor of this beef jerky — there are five other options to choose from such as sriracha honey and sweet chipotle — has been crafted by celebrity chef Doug Sohn for a modern twist on a classic flavor that combines savory beef with a zing of pepper for an aromatic taste. Other ingredients such as brown cane sugar, sea salt, orange concentrate, granulated garlic, and onion powder, round out the recipe for a smooth and balanced taste.
Each one-ounce pack has 70 calories, .5 grams of fat, 260 mg of sodium and six grams of sugar, and is hormone and gluten-free, nitrate and preservative-free, and non-GMO.
- Named “Healthiest Jerky” by Eat This, Not That!
- Made from 100 percent grass fed, pastured beef
- Gluten-free, non-GMO, no nitrites
- Contains sugar
- A bit pricey
3. Best Budget: Jack Link’s Beef Jerky
Who says being on a budget means you have to miss out on the delicious things in life? Not us! Even if you’re watching your dollars and counting your pennies, you’ll be able to afford this tasty beef jerky from Jack Link’s.
In this 20 count multi-pack, you will get enough .625-ounce single-serving bags of beef jerky made from lean cuts of 100 percent beef to share with everyone in your family, or plenty for yourself to keep on hand for the times you want a low-fat, low-calorie snack. Because each package is quite small with only 50 calories a serving, you can have two satisfying portions, guilt-free.
The Original flavor is marinated in a blend of herbs and spices and slow cooked over hardwood smoke for a mild smoky taste even your kids will love. Since it needs no refrigeration, it’s a convenient snack to slip into their lunchbox. It is important to note that while the company claims there’s no added MSG, there is a disclaimer that the additive may naturally occur in some of the other ingredients such as soy sauce, hydrolyzed corn protein, and yeast extract.
- Higher in sodium than some other brands
- Contains soy, wheat, maltodextrin and unidentified flavorings
4. Best Sugar-Free: Tillamook Country Smoker Keto Friendly Zero Sugar Beef Jerky
If you’re following a keto diet, then you know eating foods that contain sugar and carbs are a big no-no. So, what’s a snacker to do, right? How about enjoying hardwood smoked beef jerky that contains zero grams of sugar and zero grams of total carbs per serving! Plus, for variety, it’s available in five different flavors so you don’t get bored — original, hot & spicy, black pepper, teriyaki, and spicy jalapeño.
The jerky is handcrafted in Oregon and made from 100 percent premium beef and seasoning from the farm. Each one-ounce serving contains only 70 calories and a whopping 14 grams of protein, which makes it a great go-to snack on a long hike or camping trip. There is a lot of sodium — 500 mg per serving — so if you’re watching your salt intake, keep that in mind in terms of consuming it in moderation. Affordably priced, this beef jerky is gluten free, but does contain soy.
- Zero sugar
- Affordably priced
- High in sodium
- Contains soy
5. Best Splurge Buy: Righteous Felon Beef Jerky Variety Pack
When it’s party time or you’re thinking of making a great keto snack gift basket for a friend or loved one, then you might want to include an assortment of top-quality beef jerky with fun names and flavors such as Maryland Monroe, Darth Garlic, Voodoo Chile and Bourbon Franklin (which contains real bourbon).
Cute names aside, this large array of jerky is the real deal when it comes to ingredients, texture and taste. Righteous Felon beef jerky is made in small batches using hormone-free and anti-biotic-free pasture-fed beef sourced from Roseda Black Angus Farm in Maryland and an all-natural farm in Iowa. But you’ll get more than beef jerky in this variety pack.
This assortment contains 11, two-ounce packages of different flavors of beef jerky, one two-ounce package of turkey jerky, and three beef and pork sticks (BBQ, habanero and O.G. hickory flavors). A one-ounce serving contains 60 calories, 350 mg of sodium, five grams of sugar and 10 grams of protein.
- Hormone and antibiotic-free
- Large variety of flavors
- Small batch, locally sourced
- Contains soy
6. Best Single Pack: Lorissa’s Kitchen Jerky, Korean Barbeque Beef
So far, the products on our recommendations list have been multi-packs, generally one or two-ounce five, six and even 12 packets of different flavors of beef jerky. But what if you’ve never eaten this healthy snack and want to try it, but don’t want to invest in a large supply? We suggest this 2.5-ounce single pack of Korean-style barbecue beef jerky to get you started on the right foot.
Made with 100 percent grass fed beef, these steak strips are ethically sourced from cattle raised without added hormones. The jerky is marinated in soy sauce and brown sugar with hints of garlic and onion and then quickly flame-broiled for a char-grilled flavor and a tender texture. The jerky is gluten-free and has no preservatives or added nitrites or MSG. Each serving contains nine grams of protein, 90 calories, two grams of fat, but a whopping 530 mg of sodium, so if you are on a salt-restrictive diet, you may want to enjoy these in moderation.
- One single-serve package
- Made with 100 percent grass-fed beef
- Keto-friendly, gluten-free
- High in sodium
- Contains sugar and soy
7. Also Consider: Cattleman’s Cut Texas Style Flank Steak Beef Jerky
Beef jerky is available in a multitude of flavors, from spicy jalapeno and black pepper to tangy teriyaki, but if you’re looking for a more down-home taste, this Texas-style flank steak beef jerky from Cattleman doesn’t disappoint.
Packaged in a clear, resealable bag, each one-ounce serving of this jerky has 10 grams of protein for a quick energy snack on the go. The premium cuts of USDA steak are taken exclusively from whole muscle and offer a robust flavor rooted in the processing method of marinating the tender flank steak for 48 hours and slow-cooking it with hardwood smoke, brown sugar and cracked pepper for a sweet and spicy finish.
Low in sugar, each serving contains only four grams of the sweet white stuff, 100 calories but 510 mg of sodium, so if you trying to cut down on your salt intake, you may want to consume this beef jerky in small amounts. If you are sensitive to additives, it also contains hydrolyzed corn protein and sodium nitrite.
- Slow-cooked, smoked and marinated
- Made from flank steak
- Affordably priced
- Contains nitrites
- Not gluten-free
8. Honorable Mention: Slim Jim Giant Smoked Meat Stick
Kids are always hungry, right? If you have a house full of growing kids, then you know how they are always looking for something to eat. Why not stock up on an inexpensive, low-fat, high-protein snack you can put in their lunch box, or they can grab on the go that they will actually enjoy eating?
These Slim Jim original flavor meat sticks are made from a blend of beef, pork and chicken, and come in a pack of 24 individually wrapped 0.97-ounce portions for an easy on-the-go treat. Each serving of the keto-friendly meat jerky has six grams of protein, four grams of net carbs and only one gram of sugar. However, there are 130 calories to a serving, so if you’re watching your weight, you may want to eat these in moderation.
If original flavor is not your thing, or you want more variety, there are 10 other flavors to choose from including Dill Pickle, Crack’d Pepper, Hot AF, Mild, Nacho and Tabasco.
- Value pack
- A variety of flavors
- High in calories
- Contains corn syrup, sodium nitrites, soy
- Not gluten-free
What to look for when choosing beef jerky:
We all lead such busy lives, it’s no surprise we need to snack throughout the day. And if you are active in sports or outdoor activities such as biking, hiking and camping, then a healthy protein-rich snack is not only welcome, but also a necessity. Beef jerky is a delicious snack that will satisfy your nutritional needs, and also your taste buds. Made from dehydrated cuts of beef, sometimes marinated or smoked and always seasoned, this unassuming snack will quickly become a go-to-choice for you and your family.
Like most things, however, not all beef jerky is created equal and not all of us share the same taste buds. That means it’s important to look at a number of factors before making the choice that is best for you, the most important of which is the ingredients.
Ingredients: This is perhaps the most important factor to consider — aside from the cost — before making a purchase, although the ingredients will often affect the price. That’s because the type of beef and the process to make the jerky varies from product to product, as does the meat blend, seasonings, and flavors, affecting everything from taste and texture to grams of fat, protein and sugar.
For example, beef jerky handmade in small batches from 100 percent grass-fed, grass-finished locally sourced beef that is antibiotic and hormone-free and has no preservatives may appeal to you if you prefer foods with less processing and simple, natural ingredients. This kind of jerky often tastes better and is healthier, but it will be more expensive. Furthermore, if you have food sensitivities or allergies to gluten, soy, MSG or other additives, then it’s important to make sure the product you purchase is free of these ingredients.
Nutrition: Because most beef jerky is made from the lean muscle part of the cow, it is typically low in fat. However, some brands of beef jerky use a blend of beef and pork, or beef, pork and chicken, which can affect the fat content per serving. As well, the grams of protein can differ from product to product, with a range from as low as six grams of protein per serving to a high of 16! If you are following a keto or low-sugar diet, look for beef jerky with zero grams of sugar and no carbs, and if you are watching your salt intake, beware! Some beef jerky is high in sodium — up to 550 mg per serving — so look out for a brand that has less than 300 mg of sodium per serving. Finally, if you are counting calories, be aware that a serving can range from 50 calories to 130 calories, a lot of which depends on the sugar content and if there are other added ingredients.
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