The Buc-ee's Jerky Flavors Worth Driving For

Grab some Beaver Nuggets while you're there.

Buc-ee's Second Georgia Location Opens Next Month

Beef jerky is one of the South’s most popular road trip foods—and it makes perfect sense: It’s a highly portable umami bomb that doesn’t leak, drip, or crumble.

Then, there’s the texture. Real jerky is made from long strips of beef that have been cured, smoked, and, perhaps, brined, to get to that smoky, spicy goodness, and that takes a little work. For road trippers, that satisfying chew and savory reward helps the miles go by just a little faster. 

Starting in the early 1980s, jerky-loving travelers driving through Texas had a secret stop for their favorite dried meat: Buc-ee’s, a gas station located about an hour south of Houston that sold, among other things, some of the best beef jerky around. 

Luckily for all of us, Buc-ee’s got the expansion bug. Today, they have 44 locations spread throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas, and soon Virginia.

They’ve also added beef jerky flavors in that time, too: There are now about a dozen, with new taste sensations being added every year.

jerky counter at Buc-ee's

Kimberly Holland/Southern Living

"This is authentic Texas jerky, made for us at a smokehouse in Central Texas," says Josh Smith, director of operations for the Southeast. "It’s been one of our most popular items since Arch Aplin III opened his first store in 1982."

Smith reports that the company's powerfully pungent Bohemian Garlic is its top-seller nationally and that East coasters go for sweeter varieties, such as Cherry Maple, Teriyaki, Korean Barbecue, and Sweet & Spicy. His favorite is the Peppered Turkey, which tends to be a bit softer than the beef varieties.

The Best Jerky Flavors at Buc-ee's

After an hour of scientific research—basically, tasting every variety—I decided that there’s not one best flavor. Rather, there are myriad different styles for different tastes. Here's how they stack up.

Best for Garlic Lovers

Bohemian Garlic lives up to its billing: Each bite offered up an explosive mouthful of garlic. Though not tough, its hearty texture will make you feel brawny and keep you happily chomping as the miles fly by.

Just be sure to buy enough to share with your seatmate, or keep your window open as you cruise down the interstate.

Runner-up: Surprisingly, Sweet & Spicy is the only other variety to list garlic as an ingredient. More sweet than spicy, it was well balanced, but with a pronounced garlic flavor.

Best for Sweet-Savory Fans

Korean Barbecue gets its flavor from mirin, soy sauce, and a generous dollop of sesame seeds. Satisfyingly sticky, it’s also moist and very tender. 

Runner-up: Reminiscent of really good bacon, Teriyaki had a terrific aftertaste. Try this one with a Dr. Pepper Icee (Buc-ee’s is one of the few places where you can get one) or a couple of apple slices.

Best for Spice Heads

Smith warned me to be ready for Buc-ee's Ghost Pepper jerky flavor, and he was right: The pepper-dusted strips packed a powerful punch that required a dose of sour cream to put out the fire. Road trip tip: Put it in park to eat this one and have something cold nearby to douse the fire.

Runners-up: Hot & Spicy got a good burn going, but without the pain. Once I could taste again, I picked up a bit of bell pepper. Western Peppered Beef had a similar heat level, but with essence of black pepper instead of bell pepper.

World Famous Jerky Wall at Buc-ee's

Kimberly Holland/Southern Living

Best Old-School Jerky

When I think of jerky, I think of the flavor that came from my first bite of Hill Country Peppered Beef: a bit of soy, a little warmth, and deep, savory beefiness. 

Runner-up: With an ingredient list that includes Worcestershire and steak sauces, Steakhouse flavor offered up a delicious, mild bite that contrasted nicely with a bit of Cheddar cheese.

Best Sweet Jerky

A heady dose of black pepper cut through the honeyed sweetness of this surprisingly complex variety. Brining gave it a soft texture that made is so easy to eat that it was gone way too soon. 

Runner-up: Cherry maple reminded me of a winter morning, when your pancake syrup and your bacon intersect for that amazing last bite.

Most Unique

Lemon Pepper didn’t have a whole lot of pucker, but the lemon oil gave the peppery spice a nice lift. Gnaw on this one as a palate cleanser after something sweet.

Runner-up: I couldn't identify a certain flavor element in the smoky, peppery Mesquite jerky, so I continued to eat it.

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