Chicken bouillon – cubes, powder, gels or cartons: Is one better than the other? Or is it just personal preference?

chicken stock
A coworker of mine brought in a food product that has left me quite curious – Knorr Homestyle Stock: Chicken capsules. I’ve seen the powders, the bouillon cubes, even the liquid stock in cartons but this is the first time I’ve ever seen these concentrated stock capsules. They kind of look like applesauce snack packs.

Anyways, I was quite taken aback by the containers – they sure take up a lot of space! Plus they are liquid based which one would assume would have a shorter shelf life. It got me curious as to why someone would choose these over regular bouillon cubes (which take up less space and don’t expire as soon). So my coworkers and I decided to set up a little taste test.

We reconstituted all three different types of bouillon – the concentrated stock capsules, the bouillon cubes and the bouillon powder. We also decided to include a carton of Knorr chicken stock (the kind that comes in a tetrapak and that you store in the fridge after opening) and priced them out to see the cost difference.

Here are the different forms of Knorr chicken stock that we tested:
Chicken Bouillon Cubes
Bouillon Chicken Instant Stock Mix
Homestyle Stock: Chicken (gels)
Chicken Broth (tetra pak)

Since you have to re-constitute all of them in order to use them (except the chicken broth that’s available in tetra pack), we were trying to figure out why you would use one and not other. Perhaps there are differences in flavour or preferred times when you would choose one form over the other. Anyways, we’re about to find out how they all compare in terms of flavour.

My theory: 
I think that they will all taste pretty much the same. I really can’t think what would merit using one verses the other besides personal preference or if you wanted to have the option of having a stronger flavour or not.

Taste testers:

  • Please take a look at all the different forms that are available on the market and list your preferred item. Why do you prefer this one over the others?
  • Please taste each sample, Which one do you like the most and why?

The Reveal:
Thank you everyone for submitting your comments.Here are the results:
A: Homestyle Stock: Chicken (gel capsules)
B: Bouillon Chicken Instant Stock Mix (powder)
C: Chicken Bouillon Cubes
D: Chicken Broth (tetra pak)

My Thoughts:
The Homestyle Stock Chicken gel capsules were the definite favourite from a taste standpoint. They tasted the closest to homemade chicken stock (except they a little bit on the salty side). However, they are also the most expensive and the most bulky to store. One gel capsule reconstitutes to 750mL of chicken stock so if you only wanted a little bit of stock, you would have to use part of the gel capsule and put remainder in the fridge and use it within three days.

The Chicken Bouillon Cubes were upsetting as this is what I always use and they ended up tasting the worst! They were way too salty and they also left a greasy film that formed at the surface. Yuck! The Chicken Broth in the tetra pak was also good but I find that I have trouble using it up fast enough and it always goes bad (although you can freeze it). Once opened, it has to be stored in the fridge and used within four days.

For me, I would personally choose the Bouillon Chicken Instant Stock Mix (mostly for practicality reasons).  Although they looked the least appealing compared to the other samples, I still sound the taste to be acceptable and find it easy to store and prepare (it’s also the cheapest one out of the four). I also like flexibility of using as much (or little as you want).

The Bottom Line:
Whichever form you choose (whether it be tetra pack, bouillon cube, powder or gel capsule) largely depends on how you’ll be using it (and how picky you are about taste). For more concentrated and intense flavour the bouillon cube, powder or gel capsule would make more sense. If you wanted to use it as a soup or sauce base then the tetra pak would also be a possible option. Some people use chicken stock for sauteeing which lends the tetra pak to being the preferred option (where you only need small amounts of stock and it’s not worth reconstituting a powdered or gelled form. So it’s a combination and what you’re preparing, how intense you need the flavour to be and personal preference.

Of course, the die hards in the group insist that homemade chicken broth (made from scratch) is still the best. But how many of us have time to let a pot of chicken broth simmer on the stove for hours? However, this would also have the added health benefit of controlling how much sodium is in it. It would probably be the most economical if it’s worth the trade off in time.

Some of the taste testers are concerned about their blood pressure, so we took this taste test one step further and compared the sodium content of all the varieties in another blog post.

7 thoughts on “Chicken bouillon – cubes, powder, gels or cartons: Is one better than the other? Or is it just personal preference?

  1. They look so different!

    A: Smells the most like chicken, pretty tasty, nice light beige color

    B. Smells like hot water but taste pretty good! Looks blend but that's my favorite …

    C. Deep yellow colors and nice herbs smells. Taste salty.

    D. Looks good, smells salty but pretty blend actually. My least favorite.

  2. A: I like this the best taste/flavour wise… it’s a little too salty for me so I’d add water to it as well.
    B: no fragrance, just tastes like salty water. unappealing colour(less) – pass
    C: super salty and oily looking – no thanks!
    D: least salt but also not much flavour – pass

  3. I thought the broth marked B was horrible. It didn't taste anything like chicken – maybe more like the feathers?

    The broth marked C was way too salty, although it did have somewhat of a chicken broth flavour.

    The broth marked D tastes like something you would get in a hospital after surgery. Yuck!

    The broth marked A was, by far, my favourite. It actually tasted like chicken broth! Wow, what a concept! It reminded me of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, an old favourite. I would definitely buy this broth.

  4. I like A best! It is really good! Tastes chickeny but not artificial, has a more natural colour (vs bright yellow). Tastes most natural, home made. Good consistency, not too thin, not too thick. Good mouthfeel. I think this is the new "gel" product. I would buy this.

    B: the colour is a turn off. Doesn't smell like chicken at all. Thin consistency. Tastes gross and nothing like chicken. I would not buy this. Is this the carton?

    C: product is seperating and leaves thick residue on side of cup and floating on surface which isn't desirable visually. Colour too artificial. This may be the cubes.

    D: tastes gross. Thin consistency. Appealing colour. Is this the powder?

  5. I prefer the orange tagged one. Best balance of flavours of the 4. My least favouritd is the yellow tag… way to salty.

  6. I liked A the best. It tasted the most like chicken and wasn't as salty. B was a strange colour, smelled odd and didn't taste like much. C was the dark one and tasted like it had some added flavours and was very salty. D did not taste too good to me.

    A – Chicken broth
    B – instant stock mix
    C – Homestyle
    D – Cubes

  7. A: Tan and slightly opaque. Similar in appearance to sample D. Has some oil on the top and some herbs particles floating. Slightly salty in taste but takes like classic chicken broth.
    B: Lightest in color. Opaque. Looks the least appealing because it's so light. It has a more subtle chicken flavour and is still acceptable (like sample A). Not as salty as sample A.
    C: Nice clear, amber color but lots of oil on the surface. This one looks the most appealing to me because it looks rich. Has some herbs floating. But it's really salty! Greasy too. A layer of fat eventually deposited on top. I don't like this one.
    D: Nice opaque, tan color. No sign of any oil on top. It looks nice and consistent, no herbs floating around either. It tastes like classic chicken stock but is a little bland.

    A, B and D are all acceptable but I like A the most followed by B which is a close second.

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