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Canned stock vs. bouillon cubes

When I buy canned stock(beef, chicken, veg.)I feel like I'm paying ten times the price for the shipping of the water weight vs. buying bouillon cubes.

For instance: Eight large Knorr chicken bouillon cubes, which make two cups of stock each, costs a dollar.One can of Swanson's chicken broth, a little over a cup, costs about the same.

Why pay ten times more for shipping water weight when you can just add it in your own kitchen? I could use Evian water to make stock from bouillon cubes and still come out way ahead of the game.

Is canned stock really any better than bouillon cubes?

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  1. You'll probably get a lot of push back from others on this, but I adore bouillon. I also love to make my own stock, and do so when I have the chance, but bouillon is such a great tool for the kitchen. I'm pretty poor, so I feel kinda bad using expensive Swanson for basic things, like cooking rice, or adding more liquid to a soup or something. I'm likely to try and use water rather than use stock in that case, and of course the food suffers. Plus I have a small pantry and stock take up a ton of room if you want to keep it as a pantry item. I'm sure that bouillon is less like real Chicken stock and more like "chicken-flavored broth" (the flavor is more like chicken ramen than chicken stock . But when applied in small doses, such as in a soup with lots of veggies, beans, etc., it really does the trick and you can't tell the difference. I guess if I were making something that really relied on the chicken flavor I'd go with stock, but really...if I were at home and wanted to make that recipe, and all I had was boullion? I may well just go with it. I have made risottos with that when I didn't have anything but arborio rice in the pantry and needed a side dish fast.

    4 Replies
    1. re: cpilgrim84

      there's a jarred alternative called "better than bouillon." 1 teaspoon dissolved in a cup of boiling water; not as good as homemade, but a lot better than the cubes. an 8-ounce jar is around $5. keeps forever in the fridge.

      1. re: wonderwoman

        Yep! It's great stuff! Comes in chicken, beef, and vegetable versions.

        1. re: OCEllen

          Also comes in a low sodium variety. I like it and use it when I don't have stock on hand or too lazy to thaw frozen stock. I find the regular ones a little too salty and have to adjust my salt content of other components in the dish.

          1. re: OCEllen

            As well as clam, fish, ham, lobster, turkey, mushroom...

            To the OP - taste for yourself. Warm up a cup of good broth (Kitchen Basics and TJ's house brand are my fallbacks) and a cup of bouillon and have a sip of each. You may want to adjust the salt levels so they're comparable.

            For my tastebuds, homemade is the best (and the cheapest, since I make it from ingredients that would otherwise get pitched), followed by boxed broths, concentrated bases, and bouillon cubes in that order. YMMV.

      2. I buy the 10 packs at Costco, pretty reasonable and quick.

        1 Reply
        1. re: duck833

          does Costco carry bouillon cubes?

        2. Bouillon is way too salty for most dishes. Use only in emergencies.

          1. Knorr's makes a number of different types of base bouillon....unfortunately, not all are available to the home shopper. However, two of their products that are available come in a 2.2 pound can that are classified as dry bouillon (powder), and are sold in most Asian markets that sell dry goods. One is aimed at the Latin consumer, the other is aimed at the Chinese consumer.....personally, I find the Chinese one less salty and better tasting......and better than any canned or box version I have tried.


            2 Replies
            1. re: fourunder

              I like to keep Goya bouillon on hand. It's important to remember how salty it is, but the taste - chicken, beef, ham or fish - is definitely there and can really boost flavor if used appropriately. And I'm with you - tinned or jarred stock takes too much space, is hard to store. If it's stock I need, I'll either make it - or pull it from the freezer (get a really good freezer bag and you can store it flat!)

              1. re: fourunder

                The Knorr Mexican cubes are full of MSG, Yeccch.

              2. If I'm moist-cooking meat I often (okay, always) add boullion cubes to the water, especialy if I'm out of stock. Even if I have stock and it's low in sodium I may add some boullion. If i"m say, cooking a chicken for matzo ball soup, I add a fair bit of boullion to the poaching water rather than salt. None of us are hypertensive or in renal failure here, and it's still a lot less salt than in restaurants.

                I used to pooh-pooh the boullion cubes, but sometimes things just need something. That's one of my secret-ingredietn-fixes that I don't mention much. We all have them, you know you do. :)

                1. It's all the same stuff.....if you buy liquid you pay for water and may have the perception that you get "better" stuff....but in reality it's not. The only "better" stuff is at Whole Foods...frozen.....

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Pollo

                    How can you say dry buoillion and liquid stock/broth are the same except for the water? Have you looked at labels to compare?

                    Here are a couple dry boullions bases:
                    ***Orrington Farms Standard Beef Soup Base, Paste: Salt, Dextrose, Beef Fat (Beef Tallow, Bha, Bht and Citric Acid to Protect Flavor), Monosodium Glutamate, Food Starch-modified (Corn), Seasoning (Salt, Hydrolyzed Soy and Corn Protein, Yeast Extract, Caramel Color, Flavoring With Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil [Cottonseed, Soybean] Added), Onion Powder, Soybean Oil, Caramel Color, Garlic, Pepper, Lactic Acid, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate (Paprika, Celery, Capsicum).

                    ***Tone's Chicken Base: Mechanically Separated Chicken, Salt, Maltodextrin, Food Starch - Modified, Sugar, Dried Acid Whey, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Hydroloyzed Corn Gluten, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Turmeric, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Natural Flavoring, Oleoresin Paprika

                    ***Miller's Beef Flavored Base: Salt, Dextrose, Beef Fat (Beef Tallow, Bha, Bht, and Citric Acid Added to Protect Flavor), Monosodium Glutamate, Food Starch-modified (Corn), Seasoning (Salt, Hydrolyzed Soy and Corn Protein, Yeast Extract, Caramel Color, Flavoring, With Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil [Cottonseed, Soybean] Added), Onion Powder, Soybean Oil, Caramel Color, Garlic, Pepper, Lactic Acid, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Oleoresin (Paprika, Celery, Capsicum).

                    ***Maggi Instant Beef Bouillon: Salt, Corn Starch, Monosodium Glutamate, Sugar, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm Olein), Onion Powder, Beef Meat, Caramel Color, Dried Parsley, Disodium Inosinate, Spices, Natural Flavor.

                    Very few have any real meat or broth in them, but they do have a lot of other ingredients, including a lot of sodium, chemicals and colorants. Better then Bouillion does a little better with their varrious lines:
                    ***Better Than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base: Organic chicken meat and natural juices, salt, organic cane sugar, organic maltodextrin, natural flavor, organic dried onion, organic potato starch, organic dried garlic, organic turmeric, organic spice extractives

                    ***Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base: Chicken Meat including Natural Chicken Juices, Salt, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Chicken Fat, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Dried Whey (Milk), Flavoring, Disodium Inosinate and Guanylate, Turmeric.

                    But the only one that comes close the same ingredients as broth/stock is their Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base Kosher Passover: Cooked Chicken with Natural Juices, Salt, Sugar, Water, Olive Oil, Potato Starch - Modified, Flavoring, Turmeric. (which is available year round, not just at Passover).

                    In contrast, even the cheapest mass marketed broth/stock have a lot less ingredients and they have actual meat:
                    ***Campbell's Chicken Broth,Can: Chicken Stock, Chicken Fat, Salt, Autolyzed Yeast. Monosodium Glutamate, Dextrose, Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten, Corn Oil, Flavoring and Hydrolyzed Soy and Corn Protein.

                    ***Swanson Chicken Stock, 26-Ounce Box: Chicken Stock; Contains less than 2% of the Following: Sea Salt, dextrose**, carrots, cabbage, onions, celery, celery Leaves, salt, parsley.

                    If you look for better brands of stock/broth, you can find even cleaner ingredients listings that are more like homemade. Of course homemade is always the best, but canned/boxed stock/broth is good, but to me, buoillion is an artifical flavoring or spice, not a substitute for stock/broth. The only one I might make an except for is the Better then Buoillion Kosher line- but I'd have to try it first.

                    1. re: anniemax

                      Thank you for doing that legwork. Anybody with a palate can tell that there's a huge difference between reconstituted bouillon cubes and boxed broth. You've shown why.

                      1. re: anniemax

                        Why not contact Campbells/Swansons and ask them what in "their" vocabulary is "Chicken Stock" that is later on diluted with water and either canned or asepticaly packaged? Better yet ask them to provide ALL the ingredients that are in said "Chicken Stock"...ask how it's made, stored, is it liquid or dry, etc....

                        1. re: Pollo

                          Instead of contacting them, why not just search the website instead? (Okay, not Campbells, but Kitchen Basics):


                          "These are real stocks, not broths or bouillon....cooked from meat, vegetables, & herbs for four hours."

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            The operative term is "real stock". I will ask and report back....

                            1. re: Pollo

                              I did some enquiring at "Kitchen Basics" and got a "generic" initial reply....once I started asking more specific questions as to how the product is "made" the line went "dead"...

                              1. re: Pollo

                                I contacted Campbells / Swansons. Same response.

                    2. Why not do a side-by-side taste test and see for yoursef?

                      1. I have two cans of Knorr bullion powder (not cubes) in the pantry - one chicken, one beef. They're both very high in salt - nearly a gram per teaspoon - so if I'm using them, I don't add any other salt to a recipe. I find they dissolve faster than cubes, and when you just want to punch up some extra flavour, you don't need to add the full teaspoon, so it's easier to control than the cubes. The cans are quite small - 150 g each, which is smaller than a can of condensed soup, so they don't take up much space.

                        However, I do admit I have cans of condensed beef bouillon as well. If I decide to make a quick French onion soup, I'll use the can rather than the powder.

                        1. I usually have bouillon cubes around (chicken & beef), mostly because my husband likes to drink them in the winter when he wants a warm cup of something with no caffeine and few calories. He also loves salt, so they taste great to him. For cooking I prefer boxed stock, usually Kitchen Basics. The ingredients are simple, and it is tasty and easy. I used to use canned, but I think the boxed is much better.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: elfcook

                            I like Kitchen Basics Chicken and Beef. However, their Vegetable Stock, IMO, is inedible. Also, I believe (but am too lazy to check) that an ingredient of the Vegetable is "sweetener derived from corn." While nothing may be wrong with this, it is somewhat disingenuous. But worse is the terrible taste.

                            1. re: Sinicle

                              Kitchen Basics Vegetable Stock has 'natural flavor (from corn)' listed in its ingredients, not sweetener. Its actually nice that they state what the natural flavor is from instead letting us guess. Of course being allergic to corn, I really appreciate anytime a label states something is from that they don't have to.

                              1. re: Sinicle

                                I have yet to have a decent commercial vegetable broth. Most seem to use too many carrots.

                            2. Trick to using bouillon cubes: use them at no more than half strength (so dilute double) and blend chicken and beef in equal measure. You will be in the good company of many Italian nonnas. You can certainly use them for anything where the mouthfeel of broth or stock is going to be substantially obscured by other ingredients (like butter). I have no compunction using them in my traveling risotto kit (yeah, risotto made with stock and marrow is fabb-you-luss but when I am asked to make my risotto at another site - something I have often done for family and friends - I don't want to have to haul anything that requires much chilling, et cet.)

                              1. Well, at least the OP had the right *brand* of bouillon cubes. I buy Knorr-Swiss chicken and beef bouillon cubes to use in place of salt, for extra flavor. I've bought Knorr's pork and also their shrimp cubes (at an Asian market) also and like them -- as a seasoning. I particularly like to use bouillon cubes in the poaching water for vegetables.

                                I don't often use canned/box stock, as I make lots of my own and freeze it. However, to make soup in a pinch, canned is the way to go -- one simply cannot make anything wholesome depending only upon broth from a cube.

                                I can tell if a soup is made from a dried mix or a bouillon cube. The citric acid/lactic acid used to preserve and adjust the flavor is a dead give-away every time. You can taste it!