Make no mistake — these aren’t your uncle’s Slim Jims. Beef jerky has undergone a serious upgrade. These days, new brands are taking the snack aisle by storm, and for good reason. High in protein and low in carbs and sugar, these new packs stay fresh for weeks (when unopened) and offer flavor-packed ways to satisfy your meat cravings in a pinch. Translation: You can nosh on some tender bison, turkey or beef, no oven or utensils required.
Even better, the combination of protein and fat in each slice will keep you satiated without all the sugar you’d find in a standard packaged bar, so say good-bye to your protein bar addiction! And gluten-intolerant folks will be happy to know that most jerky is naturally gluten-free.
Oh, and did we mention that the flavor profiles of revamped jerky brands are going to blow you away? (No more salty, congealed leather!) From miso ginger salmon to pineapple orange beef and sesame BBQ chicken, these jerky brands are anything but basic.
Nice to Meat You: 5 Jerky Brands to Know
Best for: Beef jerky lovers with flavor ADD
Where’s the beef? Where isn’t the beef with Krave’s crazy catalogue of flavors. From garlic chili pepper to chili lime, there’s a unique seasoning to fit your every mood. Prefer all-natural products? You’re in luck, since there are no artificial ingredients in each Krave package.
Best for: Pescetarians in need of portable protein
If beef or turkey is off the table for you, consider this salty snack. It has a potent smell when you open the package, but it will deliver just as much protein as regular beef jerky, while also supplying you with heart-healthy omega-3s.
Best for: Trail mix addicts
Leave the GORP (good old raisins and peanuts) to the kids. This inventive take on snack mix pairs one of EPIC’s award-winning jerky flavors with scrumptious options like roasted almonds, goji berries and toasted coconut.
4. Perky Jerky
Best for: Red meat haters
Thinly sliced turkey jerky from Perky Jerky is an A-plus snack choice for carnivores who are cutting down on beef. Plus, with no preservatives, this meat is a better-for-you protein option compared to some extremely processed deli meats you might encounter at your local grocery store.
5. Think Jerky
Best for: Foodies focused on sustainability
This Kickstarter-funded brand recruits famous chefs to create fantastic flavors like Sriracha-honey, sweet chipotle and more. All of the proteins are grass-fed with no added antibiotics or hormones, so you can snack assured you’re supporting reputable farms.
6. Chef’s Cut
Best for: Meat connoisseurs
The experts at Chef’s Cut take premium cuts of meat — including steak, chicken, turkey and their newest, pork — and slow cook ’em to the perfect texture. They also offer bacon jerky (yes, as good as it sounds!), with just one gram of fat per serving in the majority of their products.
Best for: People all about poultry
This brand of jerky checks quality-product boxes, including being gluten free, non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic-free, zero added sugars and Paleo-friendly. Better yet, it’s made from free-range chicken. The new date and rosemary flavor also tops the charts in terms of taste.
Disclosure: All products featured on our site are hand-picked by our editorial team in the hopes of getting you closer to your health and fitness goals. We only recommend products we love and believe that you will, too. If you come across an affiliate link on our site, that means we receive a small commission should you decide to make a purchase.
Originally published March 2016. Updated June 2017.