These Are the Healthiest *and* Tastiest Jerkys — Including Vegan Options
Jerky may not sound like the healthiest snacking choice, but some of them can actually be really great for you — well-made jerkies are really just lean protein with minimal additives. If you choose the right brands, jerky can be a high-protein treat, provides a change from nuts and cheese, and it can be heavily flavored enough to satisfy a lot of different food cravings. (Here’s looking at you, KBBQ.)
To bring you the best in the fields of both plant-based and animal jerky, we’re basing our choices on a few key factors. First and foremost, our selections have no chemical preservatives or additives. Animal sourcing is vital, and all of the meat-based products we recommend here are largely organic, hormone-free, and either grass-fed or wild, depending on the protein. The vegan products are whole food-based and aren’t pumped full of soy protein. It’s a great idea to choose jerkies that are low-sugar and low-sodium, so we opted for reduced amounts of both. And of course, we’ve made sure that these are genuinely delicious jerky snacks that you’ll actually want to eat.
OK, so this top choice isn’t technically jerky, but if you’re like us, you won’t be able to tell the difference. Unlike jerky, which is made in a dehydrator, biltong is air dried, and after ten days of air drying, the result is a meat snack that’s more tender than regular jerky is. This brand is particularly great because they use no sugar, opting instead for healthy, whole food flavoring agents like apple cider vinegar, coriander, and allspice.
(Brooklyn Biltong Air Dried Grass Fed Beef Snack; 16 ounces for $45 on Amazon)
Wild caught and whole cut, this jerky is just about as good for you as eating a fresh piece of fish. It has nearly 200g of omega-3 per serving, and comes in three flavors — the highest in sugar of which has only one gram per serving. Pescavore uses gluten-free soy sauce in order to keep their products accessible for those with allergies, as well as whole food flavorings like minced garlic and ginger puree.
(Pescavore Ahi Tuna Jerky Strip; 3 for $15 on Pescavore Seafood)
If you thought overly processed soy jerky was your only vegan jerky option, you’re in for a ridiculously healthy alternative: Kelp jerky. It’s so cool that Time magazine named Akua as an “invention of the year.” With 10g of protein, two thirds of the RDA for iron, and a whopping 10g of fiber per serving, most jerkies can’t even dream of being this good-for-you. They include nutritious ingredients such as chickpea flour and organic coconut aminos, too. Flavors include Rosemary & Maple BBQ and Hibachi Teriyaki.
(Akua Kelp Jerky; 4 bags for $30 on Akua)
If you ever wax poetic about the days of gas station snacks and Slim Jims, this meat stick is for you. The meat is humanely raised, and is grass-finished in addition to grass-fed — that means it’s never fed any grains, ever. And it has less than 300mg of sodium per serving, which is on the low end for this snack category. CHOMPS uses no sugar at all, and lactic acid functions in place of creepy preservatives. For a kick of spice, try the Cranberry Habanero Beef.
(CHOMPS Grass Fed Beef Jerky Meat Snack Sticks; 10 for $20 on Amazon)
It might seem silly to include a store’s generic brand in our roundup, but we’ve been impressed with this product for nearly a decade now — the texture is always tender when we open the bag. Not only is it reasonably priced, but 365 turkey jerky comes in at the low end for sodium and uses all organic flavoring ingredients, such as tamari sauce and pineapple juice. It’s just as high in protein as beef jerky, with 10g per serving, but suitable for people who don’t eat red meat.
365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Turkey Jerky; 3 ounces for $6 on Amazon
Anyone who loves beef would be well served to give bison a try. Not only is this meat leaner and lower in saturated fat, it also has a more tender texture. This jerky strip is a great way to test the bison waters for newbies, or for enthusiasts to get even more of this high quality protein. It’s seasoned with whole food ingredients like raisins and chia seeds, making it a more complex snack than your average jerky strip.
(Epic Provisions Bison Steak Strip; .8 ounce for $2 on Amazon)
This organic, plant-based jerky brand turns portobello and cremini mushrooms into chewy strips of meatless jerky. It’s an easy and fun way to get one of your daily servings of vegetables in, with plenty of B vitamins to boot. They’re not going to fool die-hard meat eaters, but they’re honestly a delicious and healthy alternative to a meat-based snack. With flavors like Maple Mustard and Teriyaki Ginger, this jerky keeps us surprised at how big a punch a little mushroom can pack.
(Eat The Change Mushroom Jerky; 10 ounces for $29 on Amazon
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