The 7 Best Jerkys of 2020, According to a Dietitian

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Our Top Picks
"Uses 100% grass-fed beef that's raised without added hormones and antibiotics."
"Rich in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids."
"Gluten-free and Paleo-friendly jerky."
"A savory, plant-based jerky option that is made from organic dried shiitake mushrooms."
"Whole30 Approved means that there are no added sugars, and the snacks are free of gluten, soy, grains, dairy, and more."
"Free of dairy, egg, gluten, fish, soy, and nuts."
"Perfect for those looking for a sweet and savory jerky made in small batches with real ingredients."

Gone are the days of jerky being a gas station snack. Thanks to the increased popularity of jerky as a protein-packed snack staple with the Paleo and Whole30 diets, you can now find excellent jerky products, including organic, grass-fed options, at various stores and online retailers. Historically used as a way to preserve meat by salting and drying, jerky is now a popular savory, high-protein snack that is still convenient because it doesn't require refrigeration. While it's portable, jerky can be packed with tons of sodium and sugar and made with low-quality meat. Thankfully, there are lots of great brands that offer top-quality meats with lower sodium levels and impressive ingredient lists.

Here, the best jerky.

Best Overall: The New Primal Sea Salt & Pepper 100% Grass-Fed Beef (8 Bags)

For an excellent overall jerky pick, try The New Primal's tasty snacks. The brand uses 100% grass-fed beef that's raised without added hormones and antibiotics. The “100 percent” is important here because many beef products will say “grass-fed”, but the cows may have been grain finished. Grain finished means that in the last month of life, cows are led back to feedlots and fed with grain and soy. Grass-fed beef is a healthier choice, as it tends to be lower in overall fat—but higher in healthy omega-3s—than grain-fed beef.

One package of The New Primal's Sea Salt & Pepper jerky has 220 milligrams of sodium and 22 grams of protein. If you crave a sweeter jerky, The New Primal makes a variety of flavors, including Honey & Cayenne.

Best Seafood: Epic Provisions Salmon Strip

Jerky doesn't automatically mean meat from a mammal. There are now a variety of other jerky options on the market, including vegetables and fish. These options are tasty snacks for pescatarians and vegetarians but tend to be high in sodium. EPIC’s smoked salmon snack strip is one of the only salmon options out there that contain less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving. Plus, these salmon strips contain whole food ingredients that you can pronounce such as wild salmon, coconut oil, and maple sugar.

Epic Smoked Salmon Strips are a Paleo-friendly jerky option that is perfect for anyone looking to cut down their red meat consumption or for a nutritious, salty, and protein-packed snack. The Certified Gluten-Free strips contain 7 grams of protein per serving and are also rich in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.

Best Spicy: Epic Provisions Spicy Beef Jerky

If you're a fan of spicy, salty snacks, reach for EPIC's top-quality, tasty beef jerky. The spice comes from a blend of black, red, and white pepper, garlic, onion, thyme, paprika, and oregano. EPIC uses 100% grass-fed and pasture-raised sources from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The brand is committed to transparency and offers consumers information about the sourcing and standards of their beef.

Each serving of the gluten-free and Paleo-friendly jerky contains 12 grams of protein, 4 grams of sugar, 70 calories, and 280 milligrams of sodium, making this an excellent choice for any spice lover. Instead of using cane sugar, EPIC uses pineapple juice, maple syrup, and coconut nectar to create a flavorful jerky that's sweet and spicy.

Best Vegan: Pan's Mushroom Jerky

Behold, a vegan jerky that contains whole food ingredients and is free of weird fake meat textures, flavors, and appearances. This savory, plant-based jerky option is made from organic dried shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are considered a medicinal mushroom because they have been used throughout time to prevent, alleviate, or heal various diseases or illnesses. These mushrooms contain healthful compounds such as lentinan, which has strong anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral properties.

While this mushroom jerky is much lower in protein than typical beef-based jerkies, one serving contains 21% of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber. It's relatively low in sodium but high in taste. One serving contains 110 calories, 5 grams of sugar, 190 milligrams of sodium, and 1 gram of protein.

Best Turkey: Chomp's Free Range Turkey Jerky

If you're not a fan of red meat but want a protein-packed jerky snack, turkey is an excellent option. Chomps uses free-range, antibiotic-free turkey from a family-owned farm in Minnesota to make delicious protein snacks without any junk or filler. The turkey meat sticks are Whole30 Approved, meaning that there are no added sugars and the snacks are free of gluten, soy, grains, and dairy.

Each Original turkey stick contains 10 grams of protein, 290 milligrams of sodium, and zero grams of sugar. This Non-GMO Project Verified snack is a great option for anyone on the go, especially those who prefer a red meat alternative. Plus, if long ingredient lists and questionable fillers have you stressed, you won't have to worry, as Chomps contain top-quality, easy-to-read ingredients that you can identify.

Best Kosher: The Grub Company Kosher Biltong

High-quality kosher jerky can be hard to find. If you're looking for a protein-packed jerky snack, The Grub Company makes kosher biltong which is slightly different from jerky. Originating from South Africa, biltong is a dried, spiced steak that is sliced into pieces. Because it doesn't undergo the same process as typical jerky, it can be softer and contain slightly more moisture than jerky. The meat-based snack also doesn't store as long as regular jerky, and if you haven't finished the package within 10 minutes (it's so delicious, so this may be a challenge), The Grub Company recommends resealing and consuming the remainder within 2 to 3 days. It can also be stored in the refrigerator.

The original Kosher biltong is made using premium grass-fed beef and is free of dairy, egg, gluten, fish, soy, and nuts. It's free of MSG, preservatives, artificial ingredients, and nitrates. Each 1-ounce serving contains 80 calories, 12 grams of protein, 200 milligrams of sodium, and less than 1 gram of sugar.

Best Teriyaki: Country Archer Teriyaki Beef Jerky

Salty and sweet teriyaki-flavored jerky is a fan favorite when it comes to jerky flavors. While teriyaki jerkies are delicious, they may not always be the most nutritious options, as they can be loaded with added sugars. The Country Archer uses organic cane sugar and pineapple juice to sweeten their 100% grass-fed jerky. Unlike many flavored jerky products out there, this product has only 8 grams of sugar. Each serving also boasts 10 grams of protein, 80 calories, and 6% of the recommended daily intake of iron.

The Country Archer does not use added preservatives and is nitrite and gluten free. It's perfect for those looking for a sweet and savory jerky made in small batches with real ingredients.

Final Verdict

For a top-quality jerky made from grass-fed meat and superior ingredients, choose The New Primal.

What to Look for in Jerky

Ingredient Quality: Choose jerky products that use organic, grass-fed, wild, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free meats. Many jerky products use low-quality meats and use salt or sugar to increase palatability and taste. Selecting a higher-quality jerky results in a more nutritious, better-tasting snack.

Serving Size: Note that there are usually a few servings in one small bag of jerky. For this reason, it's easy to eat a full day's worth of salt in one sitting. Consider your sodium, calorie, and protein needs when choosing how many servings are appropriate for you.

Sodium: Aim for jerky that has less than 300 milligrams sodium per serving. Some jerky can have over 600 milligrams per serving, which is almost half of the recommended daily intake for sodium in a few pieces of meat.

Sugar: In addition to sodium levels, it's essential to consider how much sugar is in your jerky. Sugar is used in tandem with salt to create savory, crave-able snacks that you'll go back to time and again. Always take a look at the ingredient list to see what kind of sweetener is used. Choose a product that uses natural sources of sugar, such as maple syrup or pineapple juice. Also, review the nutrition facts, and select a product with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.

Protein: Choose a jerky that is packed with high-quality protein. Vegan jerky is naturally low in protein; however, turkey, fish, or beef jerky is usually high in protein. Depending on the serving size, most meat-based jerky will have at least 10 grams of protein per serving.

What Experts Say

“Jerky makes for a great afternoon snack, and I often recommend it to clients as an option on days when they have a longer window in between meals and want something especially filling, savory, and satisfying. When choosing jerky—just like with any animal protein—quality is key. I recommend opting for organic, grass-fed beef or pasture-raised turkey or chicken raised without antibiotics and added hormones. Many jerky brands can contain harmful preservatives like nitrates as well as added sugar and excess sodium. Look for nitrate-free options with recognizable ingredients, ideally with low sugar and sodium."—Lauren Bloch, MS, RD

Why Trust Verywell Fit

A personal note on my recommendations written above. I believe the jerky products in the round-up are made by trusted brands that I would feel comfortable recommending to my clients, friends, and family. I have tried all of the jerky products and frequently recommend them as a protein-packed snack.Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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