A lot of recipes these days call for chicken bouillon to reduce the cooking time and still give you a flavorful meal with minimal prep time.
Unfortunately, chicken bouillon isn’t a perfect product, and isn’t an option for a lot of people. It’s also easy to just run out and not have enough bouillon on hand for your planned meal.
No matter why you need to replace chicken bouillon, we have the substitutions you need. Here’s how to make a great chicken bouillon substitution.
What Is Chicken Bouillon?
Chicken bouillon, like other bouillons, is a salty concentration of chicken flavor (usually from chicken that isn't used for other chicken products), vegetables, and seasonings. It tends to be salty, and highly flavorful, and some brands add a little MSG to boost the umami of the dish.
(If you’re worried about the effects of MSG, don’t worry too much. MSG has been studied, and it’s been shown that the so-called MSG headache is a psychosomatic effect not related to the health or safety of MSG consumption).
Chicken bouillon is available in cubes, paste, and granules, and all work equally well. It’s really a matter of preference and serving size which kind of bouillon you prefer.
Why You Might Want To Substitute Chicken Bouillon
There are a few different reasons you might want to substitute chicken bouillon for something else.
For one thing, plenty of people don’t like the taste of classic chicken bouillon, which can taste a lot like canned soup, especially when combined with other canned ingredients.
It's also very high in sodium, and low in nutritional value. That combination can make it less appealing for people who are dieting, and people who need to keep to a low-sodium diet for health reasons.
Chicken bouillon is also a meat product, making it unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Lastly, you might prefer something that offers a little more flavor, or other dietary benefits, over a time-saving tool that works but doesn't come with dietary benefits other than saving time.
Top Chicken Bouillon Substitutes For Home Cooking
Chicken bouillon is a great tool for making soups and pastas or sauces, but it’s not a perfect option. Consider trying our chicken bouillon substitutes in our 21 low-sodium soup recipes to find the right substitute for you. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find a new favorite soup recipe in the process!
The easiest and often most effective substitute for chicken bouillon is actually the product it was designed to replace, chicken broth!
You can make your own chicken broth with chicken bones and unused parts (you can add gizzards and organ meat to chicken broth for a more flavorful finish, for instance). Or, you can buy store-bought broths that save time, and work basically the same way bouillon does.
Just remember, if you're cutting bouillon for salt reasons, you'll probably need to get a low-sodium chicken broth or make your own.
If you haven’t experimented with turkey broth over chicken broth or bouillon, now is the time.
Turkey tends to have a stronger poultry flavor in broths and bouillons and also has a brighter taste and a more satisfying finish.
For a lot of people, turkey broth is a go to option for soups and stews since it’s lighter than beef broth, but significantly more flavorful than your average chicken broth.
If you have a soup that you think is pretty good, but could be better, try making it with turkey broth instead of chicken bouillon. Chances are, you’ll never want to go back.
Any Bone Broth
Another great option is to switch to a bone broth instead of bouillon.
There are a lot of reasons to consider bone broth as a chicken bouillon substitute. For one thing, bone broth tastes and feels thicker and richer than bouillon or even other kinds of broth. That means that you can also use less salt in a bone-broth-based soup, stew, or casserole because salt is one of the ingredients that creates that rich full feeling in liquids.
If you have a broth that’s already velvety smooth and luxuriously rich, like good bone broth, you don’t need as much salt to give it that texture.
Bone broth also tends to be more nutritionally dense than either chicken bouillon or other kinds of broth. It’s good for joint, hair, skin, nail, and eye health thanks to added levels of collagen, and is often a more fragrant and shinier broth to boot.
You can make your own bone broth, which can be an intensive process, but also gives you the best results, you can buy pre-made bone broth from most grocery stores.
The main difference between stock and broth is in the ingredients. Technically you can make broth out of just bones and water, though most do have other seasonings and ingredients added.
For something to count as a stock, you need to use multiple different kinds of vegetables that are then strained out of the resulting liquid. You can also use bones, meat scraps, and anything else that’s edible and sounds good in a good stock.
As a money-saving tip, many stocks are made with the scrap pieces of food that are still good, but not really usable in any other foods. So the peels and root end of onions, carrot tops, unwanted stems from greens, peels, and basically all vegetable and fruit scraps, can be used to make a delicious stock.
Just save your food scraps in a bag in the freezer, and when you have enough, you can make a delicious and customized stock.
Or, if you don’t want to make stock at home, there are also delicious stocks available at most grocery stores. You might even be able to find a stock that is designed specifically for the dish you’re making, like ramen broth that’s perfect in any of these recipes to try before making Shin Ramen!
Any Other Bouillon
If you are in a pinch and don't have chicken bouillon, don't want to use something else, but do have a different flavor of bouillon, there's your solution! For the most part, different kinds of bouillon are interchangeable. All of them do have a different flavor, but most will work as a good replacement for one another.
Roasted garlic, turkey, or lobster bouillon all work particularly well to replace chicken bouillon.
It’s simple, but if you don’t have chicken bouillon you don’t need it! Bouillon is just a flavor enhancer, and you can easily substitute it with plain water, and a little more of the other ingredients and seasonings already in your recipe.
You’ll probably need to add more salt if you’re used to bouillon flavor, but it really can be just this simple.
White wine works surprisingly well as a replacement for chicken bouillon and can even help to enhance the chicken flavor of a dish similar to the way chicken bouillon does.
The trick is to use a relatively dry white wine and to add it relatively early in the cooking process. If you're searing your chicken before you cook with it (and that's a great way to get some extra flavor), use the white wine to deglaze your pan.
Just make sure you use a wine you like. It should be something you’d be willing to drink and would enjoy, but not so nice that using it in cooking feels like a waste of good wine.
Need something to add some salt and kick up the umami of your meal (the two primary roles of bouillon), soy sauce is a surprisingly good option. It certainly has plenty of sodium, and the fermented soybeans produce plenty of amino acids, which add umami to your meal.
You do need to go slow with soy sauce, and it works better if you add some at the beginning and the end of cooking. So, add a little, taste, let it cook for a while so the flavors combine, and then add more if needed at the end of cooking.
Spices and Herbs
One of the easiest substitutes for chicken bouillon is just adding more of the spices and herbs already in your recipe.
If you have absolutely no bouillon or broth, add about half again as much of each seasoning to your meal. Let it cook long enough for flavors to combine and add more if it still needs something.
Nutritional yeast is another slightly odd option, but it works well in creamy and slightly cheesy recipes or recipes that could use more of that flavor.
Plus, nutritional yeast is good for your gut microbiome and doesn't add a ton of calories, so it's a great way to improve the nutrition of a meal.
Worcestershire sauce is basically concentrated umami and salt in a bottle, which means that it works really well as a bouillon replacement. A tablespoon or so of Worcestershire sauce replaces 1 tablespoon of bouillon paste or 1 bouillon cube.
Marmite or Vegemite
For those who enjoy the malty flavor of marmite and vegemite, both of these options are a good substitute for bouillon. In fact, both products are fairly similar to a less concentrated bouillon.
You’ll probably need a little more marmite or vegemite than you’d need bouillon, but start with a small amount and taste as you add more. It’s easy to make the marmite or vegemite flavor too overpowering.
Miso is a fantastic option, it's vegetarian and vegan-friendly, and also has probiotic benefits for the people who eat it.
It's also surprisingly versatile, especially if you use white miso paste because the flavor can easily fade to the background. It plays a supporting role in elevating the other flavors in your food, without being overpowering.
Try adding just a touch of miso paste to our roasted carrot and pumpkin soup. Trust us, it’s delicious.
Last but certainly not least, you can also use tomato paste for a bouillon replacement as long as you don’t mind that it will turn your dish slightly red or pinkish. Did you know that tomatoes actually also produce amino acids, the compounds that give food an umami flavor?
Tomatoes actually produce a different amino acid from the ones found in most meats, which is good because umami flavors are always stronger when you have two or more different amino acids.
So, a tablespoon or so of tomato paste can go a long way toward replacing a chicken bouillon cube. Just make sure you’re also adding more seasonings if you want a more complex or complete flavor profile.