If you look at the ingredient list of most beef jerkies, you might be surprised to see sugar listed as the second or third ingredient of most options, and that includes flavored jerky, like teriyaki or hickory smoked, as well as organic beef jerky options. In fact, many jerkies even use multiple types of sugar (think regular sugar, brown sugar, molasses, cane sugar, or some combination thereof) and typically feature a lot more of the stuff than salt despite most jerky flavor profiles tending be be salty.
Avoiding excess sugar can improve cardiovascular health, help you lose weight, keep your teeth healthier, and give you more energy during the day and better sleep at night. So must you then give up on your beloved beef jerky? Why of course not, not when so many purveyors of fine jerked meat have dropped the sugar from some of their offerings.
Ah, but what does sugar-free beef jerky taste like? Pretty damn good, if you stick with the brands we tried out and talk about below. Yes, it’s often a bit saltier and a bit drier than what you might be used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great snack — just a bit different. And unlike with other sugar-free products like sodas or gum, there’s not an addition like aspartame, so there are no off flavors. Why, you might even come to prefer sugar-free jerky taste-wise, and health-wise, it’s the way to go.
Here are seven to try.
Jack Link’s Zero Sugar Beef Jerky
Not only is Jack Link’s take on sugar-free jerky good stuff flavor-wise, but it’s also rather well priced for jerky, which is quite an expensive food, really. A pack of two 7.3-ounce bags for just under $20 makes this one of the most affordable jerkies on our rundown (second only to the Chef’s Cut sticks). They can afford the low prices, being that this is America’s #1 jerky brand. (That sasquatch has come a long way, right?)
Tillamook Zero Sugar Smoked Sausages
These tasty Original Smokes Sausages are the perfect size for snacking. You can grab one for a quick bite as you stand there staring into the pantry planning dinner or take a few along for a perfect pick-me-up while commuting, hiking, working, or whatnot. The Zero Sugar “sausages” (it’s really just jerky in tubular shape) are seasoned over hardwood smoke and with a spice blend Tillamook has refined over the past four decades.
Chef’s Cut Zero Sugar Beef & Pork Stick
The pork component is quite prominent in the flavor of these individually wrapped sticks, so if you like bacon and chops and such, you’ll love them. If you’re a purist for all-beef jerky, then… you won’t. Each stick packs eight grams of protein, 100 calories, and of course no sugar. And no carbs, either.
Country Archer Zero Sugar Spicy Sesame Garlic
There’s so much flavor going on in this jerky that you won’t even have time to miss the sugar. It’s not overly spicy, but the stuff has plenty of zest thanks to other ingredients like apple cider vinegar, ginger root, and organic chickpea miso, just to name a few.
Stryve Teriyaki Beef Biltong
If you’re unfamiliar with biltong, it is the southern African (not just South Africa, e.g. but multiple nations lower on the continent) take on jerky. The beef is sliced more thinly and cured and air dried, resulting in a food that’s a bit less moist and chewy than most jerkies but is packed with flavor. And like most biltong brands, Stryve’s biltong is sugar-free. They didn’t pull sugar from the recipe, they just never used it in the first place.
Mission Meats Beef Sticks
These 80-calorie beef sticks come with seven grams of protein and without sugar, MSG, nitrites, or carbs, and are sourced from grass-fed cows. And every stick sold supports a host of charitable organizations the company supports, so you can feel good while eating well.
Kalahari Garlic Biltong
This is not a food you want to eat before an intimate encounter or even before you’ll be holding a long face-to-face conversation with someone, but it is the food you want to eat for a veritable flavor punch in the tongue. The company recommends pairing this sugar-free, flavor-filled beef snack with everything from wine to pizza to salad, and that’s all crazy enough to work.
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