Just Buy It at the Grocery Store?
Most of the store-bought versions of vegetable broth or stock don’t taste all that great and are quite expensive for what you get, especially when most stocks, rather than relying solely on fresh vegetables and herbs for their flavor, depend heavily on flavor enhancers, like corn syrup, MSG, natural flavors, salt, sugars, disodium inosinate, and more.
And when you think about it, even if the label lists only vegetables, the likelihood of the company (who makes the broth) using fresh, wholesome ingredients are pretty slim. I imagine a few “bad apples” occasionally slip into the base for the broth. Why not? In fact, in taste tests done by America’s Test Kitchen, “tasters noted sour, bitter, even ‘rotten’ notes in each of the so-called stocks…”.
A Better Broth
The good news is you can make your own broth or stock at home. It’s super easy, only takes minutes of your time, and allows you to control the ingredients!
Plus, making your own broth is great way to use up extra vegetables from your CSA box or even the vegetable scraps from meal prep, like asparagus stalks, pea pods, winter squash skins, parsley stems, and inner celery leaves.
And, because you can store homemade broth in your freezer (see how-to below), you can make a big batch when it’s convenient, freeze it, and you’ll always have some on hand when you need it.
Looking for a step-by-step guide? Check out my broth recipe below.
What Ingredients Do I Use to Make Homemade Vegetable Stock/Broth?
The vegetables you choose to use in your stock or broth can depend on what you have on hand and how you want it to taste, but there are few basic guidelines to follow for really good-tasting stock/broth.
1. Base Ingredients
While good broth can be made from a variety of ingredients, there are four vegetables that are typically used as a base for good depth of flavor. These are onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.
Fresh herbs should compose no more than one-fifth of your broth ingredients (not including water), otherwise the flavor can be overpowering. Also, avoid using too many varieties of herbs or the flavors will compete and you’ll have undesirable results.
3. Other Additions
Leeks are a favorite for homemade broth. One reason (besides their great flavor) is that there is so much of the leek that isn’t usable in cooking but is perfect for lending flavor to the broth.
You can also add other vegetables, such as zucchini and other summer squash, asparagus, fennel, chard, parsnips, green beans, bell peppers, and eggplant.
For the best-tasting broth, be sure to include some foods that offer the umami flavor. Umami is one of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami.
Some of the foods in which this flavor is found in abundance include sea vegetables (nori, kombu, dulse, etc.) asparagus, sun-ripened tomatoes, soy, mushrooms, matured meat (like beef jerky and cured ham), cheese (especially Parmesan), and seafood. It’s also found in moderate amounts in potatoes, green peas, and Chinese cabbage, and in smaller amounts in other foods.
Since I wanted a vegan broth and we don’t eat mushrooms, I used 1 teaspoon dulse and some tomato in my broth. You can also use nori or kombu, both of which have high umami taste. (Potatoes and cabbage don’t make good-tasting broth, so they aren’t good options.) Sea vegetables should be added in the last 20 minutes of simmering.
Can I Put ____________ in Homemade Vegetable Stock/Broth?
Do you have another vegetable that you’re wondering whether or not to use in your homemade stock or broth? Click here to go to my A-to-Z List of Vegetables For Broth for a listing of veggies that work well in broth and those that don’t.
What Should Not Go Into Homemade Vegetable Stock or Broth?
Foods from the brassica family, such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, rutabagas, and turnips give a strong – somewhat bitter – flavor and can overpower vegetable stock or broth. I recommend you leave them out.
Artichokes also are too strongly flavored to work well in stock or broth.
Potatoes tend to absorb flavor rather than adding it. Plus, they can turn the broth/stock cloudy and tend to make the stock spoil faster.
Corn can also make broth/stock cloudy.
Outer celery leaves are often bitter.
Powdered herbs should be avoided as well.
And, although broth/stock is a great way to use wilted veggies and scraps, be sure to skip any veggies that are rotten or moldy. (You knew that, right?)
Make sure everything you use is clean too–you don’t want to make dirt soup!
Using Vegetable Scraps to Make Homemade Stock or Broth
Although I’ve never felt bad about all the peels, stalks, skins, etc. that I threw into the compost pile (my compost is quite happy and that makes me happy!), making veggie scraps into broth before you throw them into the compost pile is a good way to get double use out of them. Simply add your vegetable scraps to a freezer bag that you store in the freezer until you have enough to make broth.
Just be sure that any part of the vegetable you save was washed well. You don’t want any dirt in your broth!
How to Make the Best Vegetable Broth
1. Chop vegetables small. This increases the surface area in contact with the water, which maximizes the flavor extracted. Just don’t cut them too small or you’ll have mush before they’re done cooking. One-half inch to one inch is a good size. I sometimes use my food processor to get it done quickly.
2. Lightly brown vegetables by sautéing or roasting. This brings out sweeter, more complex flavors.
3. Add cold, not warm or hot, water to vegetables. Different flavors are extracted at different temperatures, so starting with cold water and slowly increasing the temperature helps more flavors to be extracted.
4. Turn heat to medium and slowly bring to just under a boil.
5. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer. Try not to allow broth to boil or you’ll lose some of the delicate flavors.
6. Do not stir. Stirring causes the vegetables to break down and get mushy.
7. Don’t cook for more than 1 1/2 hours. Though you want to simmer it long enough to extract all the wonderful flavors, cooking it too long causes the flavors to deteriorate and the broth becomes bitter.
8. Allow broth to cool a bit to avoid getting burned in case some splashing occurs when pouring.
9. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, cheese cloth, very thin and clean kitchen towel, or a coffee filter. If you want your stock/broth to be very clear and well-strained, you can use a nut milk bag to strain it.
10. Let broth cool, then pour into containers or jars.
How to Store Broth/Stock
Unless you plan to use your stock or broth in the next day or two, you might want to store it in the freezer. I like to freeze mine in small containers so I can thaw only what I need at the time. Freezing broth in ice cubes trays or muffin tins are two more great options. You can then take the frozen cubes or “muffins” and store them in a freezer bag.
Eight ice cubes equals one cup. Muffin tins come in different sizes.
What Can I Do with the Leftover Vegetables when Making Broth or Stock?
If you’re using whole, fresh vegetables and herbs to make your stock/broth, you may be wondering what to do with them when you’re done making stock, rather than throwing them out.
The vegetables will have lost much (but not all) of their flavor and nutrients, so they can’t really be used as you would normally use cooked veggies. But you can use them in small quantities in soup, dips, homemade veggie burgers or patties, chili, or pasta sauce. Because of the flavor loss, you’ll want to be sure the proportion of “stock” vegetables is quite small in relation to the other ingredients of whatever you add them to.
Or, you can toss them in your compost and use them to grow more yummy vegetables next year!
Please don’t give them to your dog or cat, as onions and garlic (and all members of the onion family) are toxic to these animals. They contain compounds that can damage the animals’ red blood cells.
What is the Difference Between Stock and Broth?
The term “broth” refers to a liquid that has been made from simmered meat and/or vegetables, usually strained.
Technically, the term “stock” refers to a liquid that has had bones simmered in it. Meat and/or vegetables are optional, but if there are no bones, it’s not really stock, but rather broth.
When cool, stock is gelatinous because of the collagen that is extracted from the bones during simmering; but broth stays liquid. Stock has a different (richer?) mouth feel than broth due to the gelatin from the bones. But if the broth is made with more meat than the stock (as it often is), it can be a bit richer than stock in a different way.
What is the Difference Between Vegetable Stock and Vegetable Broth?
Technically, a liquid made from simmered (and strained) vegetables shouldn’t be called stock. After all, it lacks one of the key components of stock – the collagen extracted from bones.
The term “broth” comes from an Old English word which means “to brew” or “a liquid in which something has been boiled”. The “brewing” can be done with both meat and vegetables, with just meat, or with only vegetables. There are several mentions in very old literature of broths made all three ways. So vegetable “stock” is really “broth”.
Got that? 🙂
That said, in modern kitchens, the terms stock and broth are often (incorrectly?) used interchangeably.
Here’s my recipe for flavorful vegetable stock … er … I mean broth.
Do you make homemade stock or broth? What do you like to use stock or broth for?
This recipe is just a guideline. Adjust vegetable and herb amounts according to taste and what you have on hand. Click here for an A-to-Z Guide of Vegetables for Stock/Broth.
- 2 large yellow onions or sweet onions, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced or sliced
- 2 stalks celery, diced or sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, cut into very small pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 cups clean vegetable scraps - optional
- 1/3 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned) or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 11 - 13 cups cold water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dulse or nori
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt – or to taste
- In a soup pot, sauté onion, carrots, and celery in oil over low to medium heat until onions begin to look translucent.
If vegetables are beginning to stick to pan, add more oil or a tablespoon or so of water. Continue cooking until onions begin to brown. Stir often.
- Once onions are lightly browned, add garlic and sauté for 1 additional minute.
- Add remaining ingredients, except dulse or nori, thyme, and salt, and slowly bring to just under the boiling point over medium heat. (Adjust heat depending on your stove. The key is to slowly heat the mixture to ensure optimal flavor extraction from vegetables.)
- Reduce heat and simmer for approximately one hour.
- Add dulse or nori and thyme in the last 20 minutes of simmering.
- Add salt to taste.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
Keeps in refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in freezer for several months.