Store-bought chicken broth is a handy staple to keep in your pantry. Whether you're cooking a cozy soup, tossing a quick stir-fry, or like to sip on warm bone broth for a high-protein, low-carb snack, it is a versatile culinary tool.
You can make your own delicious homemade broth with chicken, vegetables, herbs, and spices, but it does involve taking some time and babysitting on the stove or in a slow cooker. Then, you'll have to store the broth in your fridge or freezer until you use it. The time and trouble involved with homemade broth makes picking up a can or carton of high-quality chicken broth at the grocery store a convenient solution.
If you have chicken broth at home and you're looking for new ways to use it, try simmering grains such as rice and quinoa in broth instead of water for added flavor. Of course, you can make soups full of vegetables, protein, and noodles or grains. The broth is also helpful for steaming vegetables, building flavorful pasta sauces, and loosening up mashed potatoes and other purées. Any time you're cooking a savory dish with water, try swapping in broth for added flavor and nutrients.
Many store-bought broths are a good source of protein, collagen, and sometimes minerals like potassium and calcium. Of course, not all store-bought chicken broths and stocks are equal in taste or nutrition. In particular, sodium levels can vary widely, and you want to avoid grabbing a container of overly salted broth that has nothing else going for it in the flavor department.
The best chicken broths are made with real chicken and simmered with fresh carrots, onions, and celery. Many are boosted with fresh herbs, such as thyme and bay leaves. Others are loaded with umami from roasted chicken bones or collagen-rich chicken feet.
As for the difference between chicken broth and chicken stock, the two terms are used interchangeably on packaging and in kitchens. Technically, stock is an unseasoned liquid used as a base for soups, stews, and sauces, and broth is the well-seasoned, deeply flavorful stuff that's good enough to sip on its own.
I tasted eight of the most common chicken broth and stock brands at the grocery store. Here's how they ranked, in descending order:
College Inn Chicken Broth
This was the only broth I tried that came in a can. The ingredients and nutrition facts vary slightly between College Inn's carton chicken broth and its canned version. Most strikingly, the can contains 1,460 mg of sodium, while the carton has a still-high 850 mg per serving.
The look: This was the most watery, pale broth I tried. It had a rather unappetizing slightly yellow-gray color and no texture or body.
The taste: I couldn't taste anything other than salt in this broth. Though it had visible chicken fat, including a layer of fat stuck to the can lid, the fat added no texture or flavor. It also contains added sugar and yeast extract (possibly further contributing to the sodium levels), which are unnecessary from a nutrition and flavor perspective.
Kitchen Basics Unsalted Chicken Stock
I liked that this broth is sold in 1-cup boxes, so you can use it a little at a time without racking up a fridge full of leftover broth. It also comes in standard 1-quart containers for larger batches. However, you may not want to reach for it as it tastes processed.
The look: This bright yellow broth gets its color from added honey. It has no more texture or body than water.
The taste: I found this broth to taste almost old and stale, rather than fresh and vibrant. The honey seems unnecessary, and any flavor from the herbs listed on the back (bay leaf and thyme) disappeared completely.
Whole Foods 365 Low Sodium Chicken Broth
If you're looking for a broth to cook with that's more flavorful than water without adding much more, this product from 365 is a solid option. It's light, mild, and not loaded with sodium, so you can maintain control over the final flavor and sodium level of your dish.
The look: This light yellow broth has minimal texture and body. It's more clear than others and has a uniform color.
The taste: The broth is bordering on bland, with none of the robust chicken or herby flavor I found in some of the other products. Still, it would play a great background role in a soup, stew, or sauce that you season on your own. It's not overly salty and has no fat or carbohydrates.
Dr. Kellyann Chicken Bone Broth
Previously sold as a powder to be reconstituted into broth, this newer liquid version of Dr. Kellyann's bone broth has a rich flavor and a robust nutrition panel, including a bit more fat than most other broths on the market.
The look: Dr. Kellyann's broth is quite orange-looking and less cloudy than others. The darker color likely comes from using roasted chicken.
The taste: Notably, the ingredient list on this broth includes both chicken bone broth and vegetable broth, so it seems like the two broths are simmered separately and combined to make this product. That could be the reason that you get such a strong chicken flavor, with deep umami caramelized notes (or, perhaps, there's just more chicken broth in here than veggie broth—it is the first ingredient listed). This broth has a powerful chicken and herb flavor on its own that's better suited to sipping rather than cooking.
Imagine Free Range Chicken Broth
This broth is quite tasty on its own. The stronger herb and vegetable flavors may dominate in a soup if you plan to cook with it. It's quite salty, with 31 percent of the RDA of sodium per cup. It has minimal protein compared to the broths marketed as "bone broth."
The look: This broth is on the lighter side compared to the others I tried. It's quite cloudy and almost yellow.
The taste: On its own, this stock is savory and salty, but it doesn't taste of pure salt like the College Inn broth. It has a nice nuanced flavor from onion, celery, and carrots. I found that this broth had the most natural sweetness and green notes from vegetables.
Kettle & Fire Turmeric Ginger Chicken Bone Broth
The look: This broth is a dark brown color likely from shiitake mushrooms and coconut aminos.
The taste: Turmeric is a dominant flavor in this broth, which gives it an earthy taste that some may find off-putting. It doesn't have a neutral flavor that will blend into any cuisine, but if you love turmeric, this is a well-fortified broth made with more protein than any other I tried.
Epic Provisions Homestyle Savory Chicken Bone Broth
If you're looking for a high-quality broth that's delicious on its own, you'll be impressed by the robust flavor and satisfying body of this jarred broth from Epic Provisions. It has enough protein to be enjoyed as a satisfying snack and the small amount of fat adds richness and an almost creamy mouthfeel.
The look: The broth is a mostly clear golden-brown color with some visible chunks of chicken fat floating around. Once heated, the fat dissolves into the rest of the broth and adds flavor and body.
The taste: This bone broth had a more viscous texture than many of the others I sampled. That's likely because it's made with chicken feet, which are naturally high in collagen. Collagen adds an almost jelly-like texture to broth when it's cold, but it loosens up when heated. The broth is seasoned with sea salt and a touch of apple cider vinegar, so you don't need to add anything else to enjoy it as a healthy snack.
Pacific Foods Organic Chicken Bone Broth
This was my favorite all-around broth. It has a moderate amount of sodium that's not overwhelming. It has a rich, homey flavor that's fresh-tasting and nuanced. It's a great all-purpose chicken bone broth for sipping or cooking.
The look: The Pacific Foods broth is a bit cloudy, with more thickness and body when poured than many of the other broths I tried. It has a uniform golden-brown color with no visible herbs, seasonings, or fat floating around.
The taste: The broth is very well seasoned and balanced. It has a touch of acidity from apple cider vinegar that wakes things up a bit but is far from overwhelming. I appreciated that the broth has a blank canvas flavor that you can enjoy on its own or turn into something new.