Store-bought chicken broth is an essential pantry staple. While not as tasty as its homemade counterpart, we buy it because sometimes it's the only thing standing between us and a quick weeknight pot of soup or a finished braise or casserole. (And because I, for one, don't regularly keep a stash of homemade chicken stock in my freezer. You, too?)
The Simply Recipes team set out to find the best store-bought boxed chicken broth ... and we think we've found it! We tasted our way through 10 boxes that ran the gamut on flavor—too salty, too bland, weird aftertaste, basically water—and found a solid contender for the pantry.
Our winner is a great everyday option for most recipes calling for chicken broth. Plus, it's super affordable and easy to find in most grocery stores. (We also found a homemade stock dupe that is so like the real thing we could hardly believe it!)
Chicken Broth vs Chicken Stock
What's the difference between chicken broth and chicken stock? We wrote all about it here.
Suffice it to say, there is a difference when it comes to the homemade stuff. A stock is made from meaty bones and vegetable scraps and simmered for hours; a broth is lighter in body and made by quickly poaching meat, vegetables, and seasonings in water.
But we've found that when it comes to store-bought chicken broth, brands use the term interchangeably, which is why we tested both chicken broth and chicken stock. We did a blind taste test, as is our practice for this kind of thing, and thought for sure we'd be able to tell the stock from the broth based on flavor and consistency, but nope! This further proved our point that the term doesn't mean that much when you're buying boxed broth.
For this test we opted to test regular sodium chicken broth and stocks from 10 brands that are widely available, either at your local grocery store or online. Our pick for the best tasting stock of the bunch was ...
Kitchen Basics Original Chicken Stock!
Ingredients: Chicken stock, natural chicken flavor, sea salt, cooked vegetables (celery, carrot, onion), honey, spice and herbs (black pepper, bay leaf, thyme), and natural flavor.
The Kitchen Basics stock struck all the right notes. It had a definite chicken flavor that wasn't too overpowering; at around $2.30 a box it was budget-friendly enough to buy in bulk, and at 410 mg of sodium per serving, it was just salty enough to enhance the flavor of a dish without running the risk of making it too salty as a whole.
Tester notes from the team said the Kitchen Basics stock had "lots of roasted and herbal notes" (Summer), was "salty, but in a very good way with a deep, rich flavor that I loved" (Claudia), and had "a nice chicken aroma, with good saltiness and lingering flavor, hearty and filling" (Andy).
Overall, it was the most consistent and pleasant-tasting of all the broths we sampled! This is definitely our new go-to for soups.
Our runner-up broth is a solid, well-rounded choice for reducing and using in recipes where you want a mild, pleasant chicken flavor:
Whole Foods 365 Organic Chicken Broth!
Ingredients: Organic chicken stock (filtered water, concentrated organic chicken stock), contains less than 2% of: organic chicken flavor, sea salt, organic celeriac juice concentrate, organic carrot juice concentrate.
Many of us described the 365 Chicken Broth as being "pleasant." While not as chicken-forward as our winner, it was "still really solid, and tastes really nicely chicken-y" (Emma); it had a "very classic broth flavor, with lots of chicken and onions," (Megan), and had "a light chicken flavor almost like boneless skinless chicken breasts were poached in water. A good baseline for reducing, but not for soup" (Summer).
The Honorable Mention
Our winner of Most Likely To Fool Everyone Into Thinking This is Homemade was from a brand that may be unfamiliar to you:
Aneto 100% Natural Chicken Broth!
Ingredients: Water, free-range chicken (22%), onion, carrot, leek, cabbage, celery, and sea salt.
This chicken broth blew us away. Although it had a very pale, milky-white color, which threw us off initially, it was so rich and flavorful that it was hard to believe it hadn't come straight off one of our stovetops. As Summer said, "If I were going to short cut my own homemade stock, I would use this. It tasted chicken-y and balanced. The chicken was noticeable, but so were the other enticing soup flavors."
Other taste test notes from the team noted how the Aneto broth had a "robust chicken flavor" (Megan), "smelled homey and was definitely salty, but with great flavor" (Claudia), and reassured Andy that "whoa, a broth or stock CAN have more flavor!"
It is very salty, at 750 mg sodium per 1 cup of broth, which makes it far too salty to use as an everyday broth or stock, especially in a recipe where you're going to reduce the sauce. It'd be great for sipping on its own or in a chicken soup where homemade chicken flavor is what you're going for!
The Aneto broth is also expensive ($8.99 for a 33-ounce box) and only readily available online. This makes it too cost prohibitive to recommend for everyday cooking, but if money is no object, this is the closest you'll get to a homemade stock in a box!
Do you have a favorite store-bought broth or stock? We're pretty excited about our newest discoveries, but we'd love to hear what you use in your cooking!