As more consumers have started turning to low-carb snack options, jerky, biltong and carne seca have secured their place on our munchies cravings list. They have a similar flavor profile to your favorite salty, sometimes-umami chips, but the chewy texture makes them satisfying in a completely different way. Plus, jerky and jerky-adjacent snacks help you feel full after just a few bites—which, unfortunately, isn’t always the case when you’re digging into a bag of your favorite potato chips.
But with so many new jerky brands (and brands that have been on the market for years), it can be difficult to choose the jerky that’s going to deliver the best flavor and texture without leaving you reaching for another snack in your pantry. Good news: I’ve done the late-night dried beef binging for you so you don’t have to. Without further ado, this is our ranking of some of the best beef jerky, biltong and carne seca brands on the market right now.
If there’s one dried meat brand that’s instantly recognizable to almost everyone who’s ever frequented a U.S. grocery store before, it has to be Slim Jim. The company is perhaps best known for its meat sticks, the pencil-thin protein packs beloved by dads everywhere. But Slim Jim sells jerky as well. The bad news? If you’re looking for the best beef jerky on the market, you’re not going to see it from this massive brand.
Most of Slim Jim’s jerky options are so thick that they’re difficult to bite into, which forces the eater to attack their jerky like they’re ripping a piece of live flesh of a freshly killed animal. Gory, maybe, but true. The flavors aren’t bad, but they’re rather unremarkable when compared to the other jerky options on this list.
Ice cream lovers, you may be confused here. Does the famed ice cream brand also make beef jerky? No. Tillamook Country Smoker dried meats come from a different brand, so don’t be expecting a dessert-based beef snack. When you buy from Tillamook, you can be fairly confident that you’re getting good-quality beef in every bite. Unlike some other well-known jerky brands on the market, this stuff isn’t so tough that you’ll have to fight just to tear off a piece of meat.
But when it comes to flavor, Tillamook Country Smoker can sometimes fall short. Their “spicy” options aren’t really that spicy at all, and their other varieties seem to have very subtle flavors across the board. Of course, this lets the flavor of the meat shine through, but I generally prefer a more heavily seasoned snack.
Oberto jerky, on the other hand, has the opposite problem. This jerky packs plenty of flavor. The peppered thin-style beef jerky is especially appealing. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as spicy, but it is quite flavorful. The problem here all comes down to the texture. This stuff is pretty tough. Leave the bag unsealed overnight, and you might struggle to take a bite the next time you try it. If you don’t mind your jaw aching after you take a few bites, this might be the jerky for you. But for those who are looking for something slightly more tender, Oberto may not be your best bet.
Another one of the most well-known jerky brands on the American market, Jack Link’s can be found in most major grocery stores in the country. It’s immediately recognizable by its bright red bag. Is Jack Link’s our favorite jerky of all time? Not really. But considering its wide availability and its expansive assortment of flavors, I don’t mind a digging into a bag of the stuff from time to time.
If you ask me, the best flavor is indisputably the jalapeno. It’s definitely not hot, but the flavoring adds just enough kick to keep things interesting. The beef tender bites also aren’t a bad option for those who don’t want to have to rip larger pieces of meat apart with their teeth.
Krave jerkies may not be as widely available as some of the other offerings on this list, but if you can get your hands on some, you’re not going to be disappointed. The meat itself is relatively tender, though I’ve had better before. The real magic here comes from the array of flavors the brand offers. Where else are you going to find black cherry BBQ seasoned jerky? The spicy sesame ginger is also a fantastic option, as is the garlic chili pepper. These are some of the best jerky flavors I’ve tried, so even if this brand doesn’t top the list, I’d pick a pack of these up again.
Biltong is the South African take on jerky, and I have to admit, I can see what the hype is about when I take a bite of Kalahari Biltong. What’s most notable about the products from this brand is the texture. The beef is super-tender and has plenty of fat still attached to it when you take it out of the bag. That fattiness might not be for everyone, but I love that it makes every bite nice and moist. Also, keep in mind that Kalahari’s biltong is on the salty side. My taste skews aggressively salty, but it might not be for everyone.
Looking for craft jerky? That phrase might sound strange, but once you get a taste of Righteous Felon craft jerky, you’ll see what all the hype is about. This brand goes above and beyond when it comes to both texture and flavor. The meat is nice and tender, so you’re not going to be fighting through every bite. And the flavor options? Almost unparalleled. The Habanero Escobar and Truffle-O Bill are my favorites, but you may prefer the Voodoo Chile or the Bourbon Franklin instead. With so many options, almost everyone will find a flavor to love. This stuff can be slightly pricey, but it’s worth it for a treat.
Chances are, the first thing you’ll notice when you pick up a bag of Stryve Biltong is the packaging. The brightly colored bags catch your eye instantly, and as a failed art major, I appreciate the time and effort it takes to prioritize a product’s look. Luckily, the beautiful packaging doesn’t deceive. The thin strips of meat seem rather lean, but they’re blessedly not difficult to bite into. If you’re looking for some slight heat, I suggest opting for the Spicy Peri Peri (though I’ve had much, much spicier jerky). This stuff may be blowing up on social media, but it’s not all hype.
Love jerky but no longer partaking in meat-eating? You may think your umami snacking days are over, but that doesn’t have to be the case if you find some Urban Cowboy Vegan Jerky. Although it’s made from mushrooms, it has a distinctly meat-y flavor to it. While it definitely doesn’t taste the same as beef jerky, it still comes in near the top of this list because the flavors are fantastic. Plus, since you’re just eating mushrooms, it feels like a lighter snack for when you want a lot of flavor but don’t want to get too full. Choose from sriracha, black pepper or sweet onion, or get a variety pack so you can give them all a try.
Vacadillos carne seca is just what you’re looking for if you want dried meat with some heat. While you can choose one of the milder flavors, some of these options are super, super hot. Most of the time, I can handle heat pretty well, but I found the Reaper flavor from this brand to be exceptionally intense. (I still finished the bag, though.) Many “spicy” jerkies out there don’t even come close to serious heat, but this brand is definitely an exception. My personal favorite is the Habanero, but they’re all worth a try.
But it’s not all about the spice. This carne seca is moist but still chewy, and it has the perfect amount of fattiness to it. It’s sliced into ultra-thin, almost paper-like pieces of beef. It’s all-around a top-notch snack, especially for heat lovers.