Bouillon cubes and powder are versatile pantry staples that can add quick and easy flavor to many dishes.
But what exactly is the difference between bouillon cubes and powder? And when should you use one over the other?
What is Bouillon?
Bouillon is concentrated and dehydrated stock that comes in cube or powdered form. It's made by simmering meat, vegetables, herbs and spices to extract flavors, then reducing the liquid to concentrate the flavors. The stock is then dried into cubes or powder.
Bouillon cubes and powder contain the concentrated taste of stock in a portable, shelf-stable form. A small amount of bouillon can be dissolved in hot water to instantly create a flavorful broth or stock.
Key Takeaway: Bouillon is concentrated, dehydrated stock that comes as cubes or powder. It can quickly add savory, meaty flavor to dishes.
Bouillon Cubes vs Powder
While bouillon cubes and powder ultimately serve the same purpose, there are some key differences between the two formats:
- Bouillon cubes contain concentrated meat or vegetable stock that has been compressed into cube form. Most bouillon cubes contain salt, flavor enhancers like MSG, and dehydrated vegetables like onion and carrot.
- Bouillon powder is made by finely grinding dehydrated stock into a powdered form. Bouillon powder contains the same ingredients as cubes, just in powdered form.
- Bouillon cubes have a firm, compressed texture that requires boiling water to dissolve. Cubes take a few minutes to fully dissolve.
- Bouillon powder has a fine, powdery texture that dissolves almost instantly in hot liquid. This makes it easier to blend into recipes.
- Bouillon cubes tend to have a more concentrated, intense flavor because the stock is compressed. The flavor can be quite salty.
- Bouillon powder has a lighter flavor since the stock is finely ground. The flavor may be less intense but also less salty.
- Bouillon cubes come pre-measured so it's easy to know exactly how much to use. However, you can't adjust the amount as easily.
- Bouillon powder allows you to measure out any desired amount. This offers more flexibility and control over flavor.
- Bouillon cubes have a long shelf life of 1-2 years when stored in a cool, dry pantry.
- Bouillon powder also has a long shelf life of 1-2 years when kept dry. However, it can sometimes clump during storage.
Key Takeaway: The main differences are texture, intensity of flavor, convenience, and storage. Cubes are firmer, more concentrated, pre-measured and have a longer shelf life. Powder dissolves faster, offers more flexibility with measuring, but may clump.
Uses for Bouillon Cubes and Powder
Both bouillon cubes and powder can be used to add meaty, savory flavor to a variety of dishes:
- Dissolve in hot water to make instant broth or stock
- Add to soups, stews, rice, pasta, and grain dishes
- Use when braising or sautéing meat, chicken or vegetables
- Mix into pan sauces, gravies and dressings
- Sprinkle on popcorn or roasted veggies as a seasoning
- Blend into dips, spreads and marinades
- Add depth of flavor to chilies, beans, lentils and vegetarian dishes
Bouillon cubes are a great choice when you want intense bouillon flavor in a recipe. They work well for making broth, adding to stews or gravies, or when cooking a large batch of food.
Bouillon powder offers more versatility since you can easily adjust the amount. Powder is ideal for stir fries, skillet meals, sprinkling as a seasoning, or adding to dips where you want lighter bouillon flavor.
Key Takeaway: Both can be used in soups, stews, grains, veggies, and more. Cubes add concentrated flavor for broth and large batches. Powder offers flexibility for small amounts and seasoning.
Bouillon Cube and Powder Recipes
Here are some example recipes showing how to cook with bouillon cubes versus powder:
Instant Bouillon Broth
- Bouillon cubes: Dissolve 2 cubes in 2 cups boiling water.
- Bouillon powder: Mix 1 tablespoon powder with 1 cup boiling water.
- Bouillon cubes: Dissolve 2-3 cubes in stew liquid for concentrated flavor.
- Bouillon powder: Mix 2 teaspoons powder into stew liquid for lighter flavor.
- Bouillon cubes: Grate 1/2 cube over veggies after cooking as seasoning.
- Bouillon powder: Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon powder over veggies after cooking.
Key Takeaway: Dissolve cubes in water for broth, melt them into stews and gravies, or grate them on as seasoning. Mix powder into liquid for lighter flavor or sprinkle on as seasoning.
Bouillon Cube and Powder Brands
Some of the most popular bouillon cube and powder brands include:
Cubes: Maggi, Knorr, OXO, Wyler's, Edward & Sons
Powder: Better Than Bouillon, Pho So Good, Rapunzel, Edward & Sons
When choosing a brand, check the ingredients list and nutrition facts. Look for options with less added salt and MSG if you want a more natural bouillon. Higher quality brands will use more real meat and vegetables.
Key Takeaway: Popular brands for cubes include Maggi, Knorr, and OXO. Good powder options are Better Than Bouillon, Pho So Good, and Rapunzel. Compare ingredients when choosing a brand.
Making Homemade Bouillon
You can also make easy homemade bouillon powder or paste:
For powder: Blend nutritional yeast, dried veggies, herbs, spices, and salt. Dehydrate and grind into powder.
For paste: Simmer chicken carcass or bones with veggies to make stock. Reduce until thickened, then blend in herbs and salt.
Homemade bouillon contains no MSG or artificial additives. You control the amount of salt and can customize the flavors. However, homemade bouillon requires more effort and won't keep as long.
Key Takeaway: Make bouillon powder by dehydrating seasoned stock, or a paste by reducing stock. Homemade has no MSG but requires more effort.
Is bouillon healthy?
Most commercial bouillon cubes and powder contain a lot of added salt and MSG, so they aren't considered the healthiest option. However, they can add flavor to dishes while using less fat and calories than broth or stock. Opt for low-sodium bouillon or make your own for a healthier choice.
What's the difference between broth, stock and bouillon?
- Broth is flavored liquid made by simmering meat and vegetables. It's seasoned and meant to be consumed.
- Stock is cooking liquid made by simmering bones and vegetables. It's unseasoned and used as an ingredient.
- Bouillon is broth or stock that has been concentrated and dehydrated into cube or powdered form.
Can you substitute bouillon for broth or stock?
Yes, you can substitute bouillon dissolved in water for an equal amount of broth or stock in recipes. However, the flavor won't be exactly the same since bouillon is more concentrated and seasoned. You may need to adjust other seasonings in the recipe.
How much bouillon equals one cup of broth?
One bouillon cube or 1-2 teaspoons of bouillon powder dissolved in one cup of hot water equals approximately one cup of broth. However, check the package instructions since bouillon concentrates can vary.
Does bouillon go bad?
Dry bouillon cubes and powder can last 1-2 years in the pantry before losing flavor and going bad. Look for changes in color or smell. Once a bouillon paste or liquid concentrate is opened, refrigerate and use within 1-2 months.
Bouillon cubes and powder are versatile pantry ingredients that can instantly add savory flavor to a wide variety of dishes. While they serve a similar function, cubes offer pre-measured, concentrated flavor while powders allow more flexibility with seasoning.
When cooking, consider the recipe and your personal taste preferences to decide whether bouillon cubes or powder are the better choice.