If you're experiencing cooking fatigue, you're probably searching for new ways to prep and season your food without much extra time, work or money. One of the simplest (and cheapest) strategies to amplify a dish's deliciousness that you may be overlooking: bouillon cubes.
These flavor-packed cubes and powders are usually made from some combination of dehydrated veggies, meat stock, fat, MSG (more on this later), salt and seasonings. Essentially, they provide all the taste you need in one compact cube.
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That's what makes them so convenient, Isabel Smith, RD, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Bouillon cubes can be incredibly helpful for adding flavor to recipes without having to prep all the ingredients yourself," which ends up being a major time-saver, Smith says.
While these cooking cubes are best known for zesting up soups, stews and gravy, they can be a trick up your sleeve when flavoring meats, veggies and grains or making marinades, too.
Before you buy bouillon, keep in mind that not all flavor cubes are made equally. Many products are packed with unhealthy ingredients, Smith says. Ideally, look for brands with all-natural ingredients, no artificial flavors or additives and less salt.
Ingredients to Avoid
- MSG: Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a salt used as a food additive and flavor enhancer. While the Food and Drug Administration has categorized MSG as an ingredient that’s "generally recognized as safe," some people have reported negative, short-term reactions to foods containing MSG, including headache and nausea. Ingredients such as hydrolyzed soy protein and “natural flavoring” typically contain MSG, Smith says.
- Palm oil: Palm oil is high in saturated fat, which can contribute to higher "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and may boost your risk of heart disease, per Harvard Health Publishing.
- Added and artificial sugars: Some brands sneak sugary ingredients into their bouillon cubes. Corn syrup solids are one to avoid, Smith says.
- Gluten: If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, be sure to double-check the ingredients, Smith says.
Healthier Bouillon Brands to Try
If you're having trouble finding the right type of bouillon, here are some of our favorites you can order online:
- Dark Horse Umami Bouillon ($20, Dark Horse Organic)
- Simple Girl Dry Bouillon Base ($11.47, Amazon)
- Oma’s Own Bouillon Soup Cubes ($35.75 for 12, Amazon)
Ready to get your bouillon on? These five creative and convenient recipes will give your meals a burst of bouillon flavor — no soup involved.
1. Slow Cooker Beef and Cheese Pasta
If you've never tried making a meaty pasta in a slow cooker, this delicious dish is your perfect opportunity. Hours of slow simmering result in richer, deeper flavors.
A dash of sugar in the sauce brings about a mild sweetness to balance the tart acidity of tomatoes, while bouillon cubes and Worcestershire sauce deliver a beefier taste. To ensure flawlessly al dente pasta, avoid tossing your noodles into the slow cooker too early.
Get the Slow Cooker Beef and Cheese Pasta recipe and nutrition info at The Cooking Jar.
2. Mini Shepherd’s Pot Pies
Nothing says comfort food quite like shepherd's pie, and this mini-version — perfectly portioned in a muffin tin — does not disappoint. Cheddar-cheesy mashed potatoes and bouillon-flavored, juicy ground beef top a flaky pie crust that'll melt in your mouth. Short on time? Use frozen veggies and pre-made mashed potatoes and pie crust.
Get the Mini Shepherd’s Pot Pies recipe and nutrition info at The Cooking Jar.
3. Vegetable Ramen Mazemen
Perfect for lazy day lunches, this tasty take on mazemen, a soup-less variation of ramen, only takes 10 minutes of prep time. With broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and baby corn, these savory noodles supply a ton of texture and a pretty pop of color, not to mention a variety of vitamins and minerals.
To make a completely vegan meal, swap out the chicken bouillon cube for a vegetarian-based one.
Get the Vegetable Ramen Mazemen recipe at The Cooking Jar.
4. Lasagna Roll-Ups
Stuffed with ground beef and Italian sausage and flavored with beef bouillon, these lasagna roll-ups are a meat lover's paradise with built-in portion control. Plus, they pack a plethora of cheeses from creamy ricotta to fresh mozzarella and pungent Parmesan for lip-smacking layers of ooey-gooey goodness.
While this lasagna requires a bit of time and prep, it's totally worth it. The recipe yields 12 individual rolls, meaning you'll have oodles of noodles for days.
Get the Lasagna Roll-Ups recipe and nutrition info at The Cooking Jar.
5. Leftover Turkey Carnitas
Got leftover turkey? These easy street-style carnitas tacos are a great way to repurpose last night's dinner. A complex combination of flavors from sweet oranges to savory bouillon and warm cinnamon will transform your turkey scraps (or even a pre-roasted rotisserie chicken) into a whole new mouthwatering meal. Top with fresh pico de gallo.
Get the Leftover Turkey Carnitas recipe and nutrition info at Bake It With Love.