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Herb-ox Chicken Bouillon CubesA few months ago, Cheap Eats reader Earl had suggested that I try out Chicken Bouillon Cubes instead of canned Chicken Stock in cooking. I had always been interested in this, though a bit leery because I remember trying soup made out of bouillon cubes when I was a kid and being disappointed. It just had a really artificial taste to it.

A side note, I keep wanting to type “boullion” instead of “bouillon”, darn french…

But I still wanted to see how it would do as a flavor agent for simple pastas and other sauces, if not straight up as soup. Because with canned chicken stock the majority of what you’re buying is basically water. So I went down to Albertson’s to look for some bouillon cubes.

They had the generic cubes and the “Knorr” brand and a few other ones there. But I was really interested in getting one that had NO MSG in it. Not that I’m a health nut about it, but if I could avoid it I might try.

In the end I picked up Herb-ox Bouillon Cubes. What a weird name. It sounds like a combination of Herbs and Botox, haha! Or maybe herb-flavored ox. Yums. Interestingly, this is made by Hormel of chili fame. In any case, it warn’t that cheap (I think it was 2 something for 25 cubes.) But I figured I’d give it a shot just because of the lack of MSG.

Reading the Hormel website I saw that Herb-ox has been made for nearly a century! I guess I’ve never bought bouillon before so I’ve never heard of it. Maybe I’ll ask my mom if she remembers it.

Herb-ox Chicken Bouillon CubesThe bouillon comes in a little plastic jar of 25 cubes which are supposed to make 12 cans worth of broth. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of an actual cube but it basically looks like a compressed square of dried grass. It basically says to add 1 cup boiling water and 1 cube, so I went ahead and did that. I had a sort of hard time dissolving the thing… you have to sort of smash it almost.

The soup looks greenish, sorry that’s the photo not the soup. It actually looked like pretty standard chicken stock, but with little green bits of parsley floating in it. One of the interesting things about this Herb-ox Bouillon is that they have a LOT of herbs along with the concentrated chicken dust in them. Standard Swanson’s Chicken Stock doesn’t have the herbs, so I supposed if you wanted perfectly plain stock you couldn’t use this.

So how did it taste? Surprisingly decent. It kinda reminded me of Lipton Soup but less cloying and salty. Certainly better than the soup packets that come with Ramen. I would probably add a bit more water to it, but I was able to drink this just like stuff just like soup. And they did it without MSG! A bit more herby and flavorful than the canned stock, but in most applications that would probably be welcome.

I went ahead and tried it as a stock for a basic bacon pasta that I make a lot. Deglaze the pan with it and such. Dang, I seriously could not tell the difference when used in cooking. I guess one really good thing about using bouillon cubes for stock is that it saves a TON of space (my cupboard is full to the brim) and since it makes about a 1/2 can of soup you don’t have to refrigerate the remainder of the can if you don’t use it all.

As far as price goes, even with the more expensive stuff you’re looking at about the same price as cans of soup. Earl had mentioned that he gets his at one of those Dollar Stores at 25 cubes for a buck! I will have to check that out, but I can guarantee it’ll have MSG and won’t be as good as the Herb-Ox. However, if you’re just going to use a small amount for flavoring you might be better off getting the cheap stuff.

[Editor's Note: By the way, are you doing a project on how to make your own bouillon cubes? If so, here's a suggestion - go do some ACTUAL research. That's right: pick up some books and read. Go talk to someone who's involved with the industry. Don't use the web as a cop-out for actually LEARNING.]

Cheap Eats Score: 7/10

21 Responses to “Herb-Ox Bouillon Cubes”

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  1. Bottom Feeder Says:

    All that, and no recipe for the bacon pasta, huh? Maybe email me a recipe for that?

  2. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    Hehe, I forgot to link in the recipe I did awhile back… I have noticed this happening in real life sometimes: people hear the word “bacon” and they don’t hear anything else! yum, bacon…

    Quick Bacon Pasta

  3. Andie Says:

    I like using the bouillon when I’m cooking veggies. Like just heating up some frozen green beans or corn. Toss that in the pot with some butter and ground pepper, makes the veggies yummy. :) I don’t use it often because of the salt but it does come in handy if you want to add just a pinch of flavor to something.

  4. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    andie – I was actually surprised that the Herb-ox bouillon was drinkable when made, not as salty as I expected. It seems pretty handy… what kind of bouillon do you usually use?

  5. tanya Says:

    Chicken bouillon is my secret ingredient in just about everything I cook (when i used to cook).

  6. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    tanya – yeah, the more I think about it, the more I wonder why I didn’t try it before! It’s really “portable” and a space saver too…

  7. shawn21 Says:

    I’ve never tried the cubes – I avoid MSG too (not a health nut either) and I thought pretty much all of the cubes had it. I’ll have to give the Herb-ox a try. That bacon pasta looks mighty tasty BTW… Oh, and I also freeze my own chicken stock in ice cube trays then ziplock em.

  8. Andie Says:

    I had to look in my pantry, but it’s Wyler’s which I believe is actually made by Heinz. I will have to look for yours though but I want the herbs and no MSG. :)

  9. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    shawn – i have been meaning forever to do the ice cube chicken stock method… I need to get motivated!

    andie – I have never heard of Wyler’s but that’s interesting it’s made by Heinz, since Hormel makes the Herb-Ox. I will take another look next time I go to the supermarket…

  10. cybele Says:

    In the winter, I like to drink broth as a change from tea or coffee.

    It’s also great as the base for rice or couscous – adds a bit of flavor without fat (usually).

  11. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    cybele – yes, I have been meaning to try it with rice. I used to cook up rice in covered pan with 1/2 chicken stock 1/2 water, so bouillon would probably work just as well.

  12. Kathryn Says:

    Did you know that MSG naturally occurs in seaweed, tomatoes, and parmasean cheese?

  13. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    kathryn – interersting… no, I didn’t know that. Is there a lot of MSG in them as compared to the amounts that is put into ramen and other foods? I remember that my friend’s mom used to have a salt shaker on the table that was filled with MSG, and they would just sprinkle it on food. They stopped doing that a little while back.

    how does it get into parm cheese, and is it just that particular cheese?

  14. Carol Agramonte Says:

    MSG may naturally occur in seaweed, tomatoes and parmesean cheese, however, I have never had a reaction after eating these foods. If, (as I have in the past) get MSG in any processed food, I have a violent reaction…..I mean atrial fibrillation, and more. I have insulted many a fine chef in the best restaurants inquiring whether MSG might be in the food. Sometimes it is used inadvertantly, because it can be in broths or flavor enhancers added to food….That’s why I’m so happy that Herb-Ox is MSG free! However, recently I’ve been having trouble locating it in our local supermarkets???

  15. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    Carol – I think i just saw it at the market the other day (southern california)… i don’t think it’s been discontinued, but I’m not sure. My cousin has some bad reactions to MSG (though not as violent as what you describe), so that when she comes over for dinner we have to check to make sure the ingredients we are using don’t have MSG. It’s tough… even basic staples like canned chicken stock sometimes have it in there.

  16. Kevin Curmi Says:

    I was surfing the web to try & find an msg free bouillon and this product looks as the one i ve been trying to find for months. I m allergic to msg and have very serious reactions to it. At times i had to be hospitalised cause of the rash it causes me. A very intersting thing i managed to learn is that who ever is allergic to msg, there is a very high possibility that aspartyme may be causing the same symptoms !!!!

  17. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    kevin – that is interesting because the cousin i know who is extremely allergic to MSG (just the other day we were at a Japanese noodle place and she could not order many things, because most of the time the broths have MSG in it), she actually drinks all manner of aspartame loaded diet drinks! in fact, come holiday times we have to buy diet soda and juices so they have something to drink when they come over.

  18. Rose Says:

    My son had a mild rash which travelled on his body. It appears in one area then disappears and appears in another area – a-semetric in appearance. I starting noticing a pattern in that his rash would appear approximately 24 hours after having chicken noodle soup only when I used a boullion cube. The only instance chicken noodle soup he can have is made by Liptons. This was confirmed just recently when he broke out into the same rash (which he hasn’t had since I determined the cause) recently. I confirmed that my mom had made him chicken noodle soup by using a cube.
    Parents beware – there may a chemical used in some of the cheaper brands of boullions that can cause your body to react by way of a mildly itchy skin rash. Please e-mail me at dasilva1966@yahoo.ca you or someone you know has experience this.

  19. K.H. Says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble… but Herb-Ox does contain MSG. It’s not listed as MSG – but it’s ingredients sometimes, always or can create MSG….
    http://www.truthinlabeling.org/nomsg.html

    I’ve been researching this because of my child’s food allergies – I’m in a search of a truly MSG (in all forms) free stock.
    Another good site with interesting information about MSG:
    http://www.newstarget.com

    You just can’t believe what you read on the front of food labels. You have to read the ingredients and know the different names for MSG.

  20. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    k.h – thanks for that clarification, very interesting that MSG can be created from other ingredients.

  21. peggysue Says:

    If anyone has a Big Lots store near them you can buy Encore brand bouillon chicken or beef for only 48 cents a jar. It is a powder, use it by the teaspoon. It has wonderful flavor. All of their spices are this price and of very good quality with lots of varieties to choose from.
    Enjoy!!!!




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