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I tried 7 bone broths and my favorite was the least expensive of the bunch

I was surprised at which bone broth company made the souperstar of the group.
Best bone broths
TODAY Illustration / Getty Images / Oleg Rebrik

As a food writer and cookbook author, I have seen a lot of culinary trends come and go. Some have buried themselves in the cemetery of TikTok fads (RIP pink sauce and unicorn-everything), while others are likely here for the long haul (#avocadotoast). But the one I am most grateful for (and seems like it’s here to stay!) is bone broth — a delightful protein and collagen-filled sipper that is salty, rich and brimming with notes of earthy umami.

Bone broth alone, like chicken stock, may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but it can make a wonderful foundation to many dishes and satisfy a sudden hankering for simple yet flavorful soup. I recently took a trip to Mendoza, Argentina where I stayed at the SB (Susana Balbo) Winemaker’s House. It was here where I experienced a memorable duck dish from chef Flavia Amad Di Leo’s 14(!)-course tasting menu and wondered just what went into the plate to make it so decadent and special. The secret ingredient? Bone broth, used not only in concentrated form as a reduction under the protein, but also infused into an accompanying cube of brioche. I still think about it to this day.

“In Argentina, we don’t buy the broth already done. We do it ourselves, not only in restaurants, but also at home,” says Di Leo, who is executive chef of the property’s La ViDA restaurant. “But to ensure a high-quality bone broth, the most important thing is always the quality of the ingredients that are used.

Di Leo’s recipe contains bones (typically beef or veal), water, onion, carrot, celery, tomato puree, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley and aromatics that she rotates and experiments with often.

“It takes a while (to make), but it’s no 'Mission Impossible,'" she assures me, recommending that bone broth newbs first brown the bones and then partake in a simmer and fat-rendering process, which is then applied to the vegetables.

But if you’re in a pinch and don’t have half a day to dedicate to its preparation, there are some truly outstanding grocery store options to consider as an alternative. I tried seven of the most popular beef bone broth varieties and here’s how they stacked up.

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7. Trader Joe’s Organic Beef Bone Broth

Bone broth
TODAY Illustration / Trader Joe's

This may be the first time in taste test history that I put a Trader Joe’s product in last place, but this wasn’t it, sis. It tasted nothing like bone broth, with a bland, watery base and somewhat sour aftertaste. In fact, I was so convinced that my carton had gone bad that I opened a new one (they come in a two-pack on Amazon) and was disturbed to find that carton No. 2 assaulted my mouth with the same offensive flavor. TJ’s should really stick to its standard chicken broth (which is fab) and never venture into bone-based territory again.

6. Swanson Sipping Beef Bone Broth

Bone broth
TODAY Illustration / Swanson

Another one bites the dust, I’m afraid, with Swanson’s foray into the bone-broth game. If Trader Joe’s was watery, this was straight-up Dasani with a hint of burnt meat and metal as bizarre finishing notes. Bleh. I did appreciate the sippable packaging, though, which is great for guzzling on the go. But, frankly, this should only go straight into the trash because it’s nothing like the company’s line of iconic soups.

5. Kitchen Basics Original Beef Bone Broth

Bone broth
TODAY Illustration / Kitchen Basics

Whenever I feel sick, I essentially chug a Kitchen Basics Turmeric and Ginger Chicken Bone Broth. It could be the placebo effect of ingesting something “healthy,” but I always feel like it nips a sore throat or runny nose right in the bud before it turns into a full-fledged cold. Unfortunately, the basic beef alternative was a bit of a letdown. It was diluted in taste and in serious need of a squirt of lemon juice or array of spices to zhuzh it up and make it more palatable. So if you’re willing to put in the extra effort of seasoning (not me) or need a no-frills liquid base for cooking, buy this. If you want something quick and easy for a light meal, skip it.

4. Kettle & Fire Classic Beef Bone Broth

Bone broth
TODAY Illustration / Kettle and Fire

Admittedly, I was quite familiar with Kettle & Fire’s line of bone broths, but had never tried the brand’s straightforward beef variety. And while I loved the slight tang (and health benefits!) of added apple cider vinegar, I felt like the beefiness, if you will, was a touch too subtle for my liking. I craved that big, aggressive flavor found in their chicken bone broths (which are freakin’ amazing) and this came up short. That said, it’s absolutely something I’d still buy in a pinch, but not a personal favorite. Plus, it’s quite expensive, so keep that in mind if you’re on a tight budget and would rather spend hard-earned cash on more important things like an actual hamburger and not its watery byproduct.

3. Pacific Foods Organic Beef Bone Broth

Bone broth
TODAY Illustration / Pacific Foods

Pacific Foods really impressed me with its humbly packaged beef bone broth. Lowering its sodium content (compared to others on this list) was a smooth moo-ve and allowed its beef and aromatics to really shine and take center stage (much like Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) in "Glee"). After taking a look at the ingredient list, I was shocked to see balsamic vinegar and mushrooms, but now I’m almost convinced that the mouth-watering duo should be a requirement in any beef bone broth recipe moving forward.

2. Dr. Kellyann Beef Bone Broth

Bone broth
TODAY Illustration / Dr. Kellyann

Intense, beef-forward flavor? Check. Rich, silky-smooth texture? Check. A bevy of vitamins and nutrients? Check, yet again. Dr. Kellyann has really dedicated her life to the bone broth trend and it shows. This tasted the most pure of the bunch, which made it quite nourishing, and, dare I say it, inspired me to make healthier eating choices after a week of frequent noshing? (Shocking, I know.) One cool thing to note is that her chicken offerings come in a wide array of flavors and are available in powder form so that you just have to add hot water.

1. College Inn Beef Bone Broth

Bone broth
TODAY Illustration / College Inn

Color me flabbergasted because my assumption would be that the product with “college” in its name would taste most like the crap I would actually consume in college. And while this carton was the most affordable of the bunch, it also happened to be the ... drumroll, please ... best-tasting. That’s right, good ol’ College Inn knocked it out of the pasture with a luxurious, thicker, oh-so-potent beef bone broth that stood up to the more expensive options. Sure, this particularly bold blend may be off-putting for those with more sensitive taste buds, but if you’re going to manufacture something called “beef bone broth,” then I expect it to taste a lot like beef and the bones that were inside of it. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so if you’re No. 6 or 7, but not with this week’s taste-test winner.