Is Beef Jerky Keto-Friendly?

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Jennifer Olejarz

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Beef jerky is a convenient snack that can boost your protein intake. 

However, when it comes to a keto diet, you must be careful what other ingredients are added to it.
Honey, sugar, and other carb-containing additives are sometimes added for flavor. 

In this article, we will explore everything related to this snack and a keto diet. Are there any special considerations to consider when buying some? Are there other keto-friendly alternatives?

Let’s get into it! 

What is beef jerky? 

It was originally created as a way to preserve meat before people had refrigerators. 

To make it, you typically use a lean cut of meat since it responds better to slow cooking than higher fat meat. 

The meat is sliced then marinated in a variety of spices. The meat is dehydrated, usually taking a couple of hours for the procedure to finish. 

Finally, the meat is cured (soaked in salt) to add more flavor and preserve it better. 

The dehydrating and curing process prevents the meat from spoiling. This makes jerky a good on-the-go snack that won’t go bad when kept out of the refrigerator. 


Nutrition facts

So now, let’s talk about this snack’s nutritional value. How many carbs does it have? Is it high in fat? How much sodium does it have?

  • Serving size: 1 large piece (20 g)
  • Calories: 82 
  • Fat: 5.1 g
  • Net carbs: 1.8 g
  • Total carbs: 2.2 g
  • Fiber: 0.4 g
  • Protein: 6.6 g

It is an excellent protein-rich option since it gives you the same amount as one whole egg. 

Protein plays an essential role in the body. It helps maintain your muscle mass, increases your metabolism, and helps make you feel full. 

In some cases, it can also be high in fat, allowing you to have both macros in one snack. 

When it comes to its carb content, it’s considered a very low-carb food. It generally has less than 2 g of net carbs per serving. Depending on the brand and variety, it can be higher or lower. 

However, one of the downsides is that it can be very high in sodium. One piece can have between 800 to 1,000 mg of sodium per day, which is almost half the recommended sodium intake. 

In the long run, a high sodium intake can lead to heart disease like high blood pressure. 


Are you allowed to eat beef jerky on keto?

Yes, you are allowed to eat jerky on a keto diet. 

One of the common mistakes people often make on keto is not paying attention to their fat intake. 

Remember that while you want to reduce your carb intake, you also need to consume 70-80% of your calories from fat to provide sufficient energy. 

Thanks to jerky giving you both protein and fats, it helps support your muscle mass and provides you with energy throughout the day. 

So, this is a good option for those looking for muscle-supporting snacks on a keto diet. 


How much can you have on a keto diet?

Jerky is very high in sodium, so it should be eaten in moderation. It is also a highly processed meat, which is another reason to limit your intake.
Consuming 1-2 strips can be enough to provide you with a good protein content for a quick snack. 

You want to consume enough protein content to support your muscle mass. However, instead of processed meats, most of your protein should come from whole foods, like fresh cuts of meat, poultry, fish or seafood, eggs, or plant proteins.


What kind of jerky can you have on keto?

When choosing jerky, there are a couple of things to consider, such as the carb content, sodium intake, and protein content. 

So, which is the best one to get? Here’s a look at some popular types for keto:

Brand Baja Country Archer EPIC Wagyu Beef Steak Strips Jack Link’s
Serving size 28 g 28 g 23 g 28 g
Calories 50 70 90 80
Total carbs 1 g 6 g 4 g 6 g
Sodium 200 mg 410 mg 360 mg 520 mg
Protein 10 g 11 g 6 g 10 g
Fat 1 g 1 g 6 g 1.5 g
Saturated fat 0 g 0 g 2.5 g 0.5 g


Note: these nutrition facts are for the original flavors. Nutrients may vary for different flavors.

From this selection, it looks like Baja Beef Jerky is the winner in terms of lowest calories, lowest carbs, lowest sodium, lowest saturated fat, and rich in protein.


What can you eat with jerky?

Since it is packed with protein and low in carbs, you can have it along with almost any other food of your choice. 

For example, you can have some with almonds to have a good snack.

You can also have it with some fruit (berries) to have something sweet in your snack time. 

Finally, if you want to have something crunchy with it, you can have some carrot sticks or celery sticks to add a punch of nutrients.

Keto-friendly beef jerky alternatives

If you are not a fan of jerky, there are other protein-rich options you can add that won’t add a lot of carbs to your diet. 

Here are some alternative snack options:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cheese
  • Ham 
  • Salami
  • Sausage
  • Tofu
  • Tuna

I always recommend having a protein option in every meal to help preserve your muscles and ensure you reach your required intake. Which, in my experience, is one of the most common challenges people often have. 


FAQ about beef jerky on a keto diet

Still have some questions related to this tasty snack and the keto diet? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions. 

It is low in carbs, rich in protein and moderate in fat, depending on the brand. Thus, it makes it a good option for those doing a keto diet. 

However, it is high in sodium and is highly processed, so it should be eaten in moderation.

Yes, it is good for weight loss since it is rich in protein.
This macronutrient helps increase your fullness levels, preventing you from snacking throughout the day, Additionally, protein takes longer to digest, increases your metabolism, and helps you to get into a caloric deficit. 

Yes, more or less. Each 1 oz serving has 6 g of carbs, so you could fit this into your carb allowance. Each bag contains 3.5 servings, so be careful to measure out your portion. 

Also keep in mind that this is a processed meat that is high in sodium. It should be eaten only in moderation.

It is best to eat jerky in moderation since it is highly processed and has a high amount of sodium. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends no more than 3 servings of red meat per week, and to eliminate or consume very little processed meat.

While it depends on the brand, on average, it has 2 to 3 grams of net carbs per serving, making it a great option for those following a keto diet plan. 

Yes, it is high in protein, making it an ideal option to keep you fuller for longer. 

However, it is a processed meat and contains high levels of sodium. Healthier high-protein options are Greek yogurt, cheese, almonds, pistachios, or fresh cuts of fish, seafood, poultry, or meat.