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

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.