The Best Bouillon Cubes & Flavor Bases For Soup Season

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I can't remember how many times this has happened — ready to roll on a recipe, chef's knife in hand, perfectly mise en place, and gah! No chicken stock! Instead of starting over or worse, getting back in the car, a bit of bouillon can go a long way when you need a flavor punch in a pinch.


Bouillon and other dehydrated soup starters and bases have long been an afterthought for serious chefs, reviled for some nasty additives and, more commonly, far too much salt. But there is a crop of new and improved bouillon cubes, pastes, and other soup starters to help you get that rainy-day stew, sauce, stir fry, or gravy underway, stock be darned.

As a formal disclosure, we'll say nothing quite beats homemade chicken stock, but one of the advantages of bouillon — besides the obvious convenience, ease of storage, and price — is a range of flavors you can achieve without having to buy or wrangle multiple boxes, bottles, jars of liquid and spices. So here are a few of the best bouillon cubes and non-stock soup starters you can buy online and keep in the cupboard all soup season long.


Beef bouillon cubes

Great for soups and stews of course, but don't sleep on bouillon to add punch to sauces or even season burgers. Herb-Ox is gluten-free and made with real beef that also comes in other flavors like vegetable and chicken. This particular blend tastes similar to a homemade version of beef stock and amps up the savory flavor in dishes like French onion soup flawlessly.


Purchase Herb-Ox Beef Bouillon Cubes for $2.18 at Walmart.

Roasted chicken base

This is actually concentrated chicken stock, and as its no-punches-pulled label suggests, it fancies itself better than bouillon. Look no further than the other side of the jar to see this soup starter has nothing scary to hide, made with real chicken and less salt than the average chicken base. It's the perfect addition to a dish like chicken and vegetable soup, as it gives the ideal umami flavor and balance.


Purchase the Better than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base for $6.59 at their website. 

Tortilla soup starter

This is more than just a starter, to be quite honest, in fact, all you really need is enchilada sauce and broth for a simple-as-can-be tortilla soup on a frigid evening. It contains savory black beans, sweet corn, chiles, lime, garlic, and spices that are ready to go. To get the ultimate flavor experience, pour some of it into an Instant Pot and let it cook with your other ingredients for a few hours.


Purchase the Instant Pot Tortilla Soup Starter for $12.95 at Williams Sonoma.

Vegetable bouillon cubes

For classic French vegetable soups and to get that post-Thanksgiving turkey soup on its way, this vegetable bouillon has an infusion of delicious-tasting herbs. Just add these cubes to boiling water or just stir them in as seasoning with no water at all, and enjoy a subtitles richness to any broth of your choosing. These also work wonders in a vegetable-based ramen soup, adding a more robust flavor.


Purchase the Herb-Ox Vegetable Bouillon Cubes for $9.95 on Amazon.

Chili base

You can buy and measure all the necessary spices and seasonings for chili or take this shortcut and always have the perfect blend of hot, smoky, salty chili spices on hand for game day. The ingredients also feature a perfect blend of chili peppers, onion, and a hint of beef flavoring. Simply scoop a spoonful out of the jar and add as much or as little as you prefer.


Purchase the Better than Bouillon Chili Base for $6.59 on their website.