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Taste Test: We Found the Best Healthy Beef Jerky

July 8, 2024

We love beef jerky: It’s a simple, protein-packed snack you can toss in a bag and bring along to refuel on long hikes, campouts, and other outdoor adventures. So many snacks are sweet; beef jerky is a great non-chip option for people who prefer a savory taste. If you love beef jerky and other meat snacks, you’re in good company: Nearly 129 million Americans ate them in 2020, up from 105 million in 2011 — and that’s expected to go up to 133 million this year.

There is a potential downside, though: Many brands of beef jerky are loaded with sugar or preservatives, or are high in sodium. We sifted through many brands and tasted them, too, to bring you the best healthy beef jerky. 

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You asked: What’s the best beef jerky?

With so many brands and flavors available, we wanted to narrow our test down to only healthier options. Here were our criteria for testing:

  • No more than 7 grams of sugar per serving
  • No more than 20% daily value (DV) for sodium per serving
  • No dyes, nitrates, or other junk

Here are our favorites.

1. Think Jerky Classic Grass-Fed Beef Jerky

We were blown away by the umami flavor of this jerky. It has a wonderful sweetness from a bit of cane sugar and orange, combined with a touch of smokiness and a hint of pepper. It also has a nice chewiness to it, similar to a thick cut of bacon. Our biggest beef (pun intended) with it: We could easily eat the whole bag in one sitting — which is actually fine, since that’s just two servings. 

Per 1-ounce serving: 70 calories, 12 grams protein, 7 grams sugar, 260 milligrams sodium (11% DV) 

Buy it: Think Classic Beef Jerky

2. Country Archer Provisions Classic Grass-Fed Beef Jerky 

Of all of the beef snacks we tried, Country Archer’s classic beef jerky had by far the most unique flavor profile. While most other brands stick to more traditional seasonings, Country Archer incorporated unexpected flavors, like mushrooms and chickpea miso. Plus, it has no added sugar. While we really liked the addition of the mushrooms, it’s worth noting that it is a predominant flavor, so choose a different one among their offerings if you don’t enjoy that taste.

Per 1-ounce serving: 70 calories, 12 grams protein, 0 grams sugar, 260 milligrams sodium (11% DV) 

Buy it: Country Archer Provisions Classic Beef Jerky

3. People’s Choice Beef Jerky Crisps

If you crave a crunchy snack, this one’s for you. These beef jerky crisps are made simply with beef, water, and sea salt, zero added sugar. Enjoy them on their own, or use them to scoop up salsa, guac, or another dip.

Per bag (1.8 ounces): 210 calories, 40 grams protein, 0 grams sugar, 220 milligrams sodium (9% DV)

Buy it: People’s Choice Beef Jerky Crisps

We also tested beef sticks — here are our faves. Note that these tend to be lighter in protein than jerky, so you may want to pack extras or pair them with another protein-rich snack.

1. The New Primal Classic Beef Sticks

The New Primal’s Classic Beef Sticks are incredibly flavorful, with grass-fed beef mixed with a ton of spices (garlic, onion, white and black pepper, and ginger), and a hint of zingy lemon peel. We also really liked the texture, which had just the right amount of chewiness and bite to it. These are also Whole30 friendly.

Per 1-ounce stick: 80 calories, 6 grams protein, 0 grams sugar, 280 milligrams sodium (12% DV)

Buy it: The New Primal Classic Beef Sticks 

2. CHOMPS Original Beef Sticks

Made with grass-fed and grass-finished beef, CHOMPS Original Beef Sticks have a slightly softer texture and milder flavor than some other options we tried (in a good way!). If you like some heat, they also offer a jalapeno version that’s delicious. These sticks are slightly higher in protein than the others, and also in sodium, though they still fell within our range.

Per 1.15-ounce stick: 100 calories, 10 grams protein, 0 grams sugar, 380 milligrams sodium (17% DV)

Buy it: CHOMPS Original Beef Sticks 

3. Paleovalley Original Beef Sticks

What sets the grass-fed Paleovalley beef sticks apart for us is that they’re preserved through a natural fermentation process, so they have gut-healthy probiotic benefits. They’re also made with organic spices. The sticks have a nice chewiness, with a flavor that pleasantly reminded us of bologna. If that flavor doesn’t appeal to you, try their Teriyaki, Jalapenño, or Summer Sausage flavors. 

Per 1-ounce stick: 70 calories, 6 grams protein, 0 grams sugar, 220 milligrams sodium (10% DV)

Buy it: Paleovalley Original Beef Sticks

Disclaimer: We only recommend products we seriously love and want to share. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which includes affiliate links.

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