Homemade Vegetable Broth

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Making your own vegetable broth is wonderfully easy and blissfully imprecise.

There is only 20 minutes of active time, it doesn’t really require a recipe, it uses up those veggies in your fridge you’ve been meaning to eat, it tastes great, it stores easily, and is highly customizable.

Still haven’t convinced you?

Well let’s talk for a moment about broths you find in the store.  Cook’s Illustrated did a taste test of 10 veggie broths for their May/June 2008 issue and I found the results surprising.  Only one brand was remotely acceptable.  Five of their broths were certified organic; not one of those was the winner.  Here’s a quote that might get you thinking about making your own broth at home:

If the vegetables you start with are not top notch, or if you’re using scraps and peels*, extended cooking can enhance and concentrate any undesirable flavors in the vegetables…. Sure enough, our testers noticed sour, bitter, even “rotten” notes in each of our so-called stocks in our lineup.

And the organic broths?

…moderate sodium content and the lack of flavor-enhancing additives helped land nearly all of the organic brands at the bottom of the rankings.  These broths shared lack-luster–even off-putting–flavors  that tasters likened variously to “weak V8,” “musky socks,” and “brackish celery water.”

The winner of the taste test has the highest salt content, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, disodium inosinate, and other additives you probably don’t want in your broth.  The lowest ranking broth, an organic brand, only has salt as a flavor enhancer, but was described as “terrible tasting,” “tastes like dirt,” “like musky socks in a patch of mushrooms,” and “rotten.”

How does making your own broth sound now?  Pretty good, huh?

Homemade Vegetable Broth

As I said earlier, making vegetable broth is blissfully imprecise. I’ll provide the recipe I made up, but please use it as just a guideline to get you started.  If you’re part of a CSA and the fall harvest of veggies has you overwhelmed, simply put the veggies you can’t figure out how to eat in your broth.  I would say there are only three required vegetables for your stock: onions, carrots, and celery.

Fresh CarrotsOnions, carrots, and celery are known collectively as mirepoix, a classic part of french cuisine.  All of these vegetables are aromatics, and you’ll realize that as soon as you start cooking them together; suddenly your kitchen smells like thanksgiving.

You can fancy it up a bit if you feel like it by using parsnips instead of carrots, leeks instead of onions, or celeriac instead of celery.

Mirepoix is a great culinary trick to keep up your sleeve; it’s a great starting point for many many recipes, especially soups and sauces.  It’s not called the holy trinity of French cuisine for nothing.

*Scraps and peels are fine to use when they’re your own, fresh scraps and peels.  I think the article is referring to leftover vegetable reject pieces from other food manufacturing processes that aren’t the best quality, or the freshest.  I think it’s worthwhile to invest in fresh onions, carrots, and celery (none of which are all that expensive) for the broth, but other additions can be scraps from other meals you’ve prepared, or veggies that you don’t have any better plans for.

Celery

Vegetable Broth
Makes about 10 Cups of Broth

Minimalist Broth
2-3 Tbs Olive Oil
1-2 Large Onions, chopped
1 lb Celery, Chopped
1 lb Carrots, washed but unpeeled, chopped
3 Whole Cloves Garlic
1 Bay Leaf
10 Whole Black Peppercorns
2 tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Tamari
1 Gallon Water

I also added, because I could
2 Parsnips, chopped
2-3 Tbs Tomato Paste (or one or two tomatoes)
A few Sprigs Rosemary (parsley is more traditional, use a lot!)
1 Head Broccoli (a strange but decent choice)
1 Sweet Potato (another odd choice, whatever)

You might also have or want to use
Any fresh veggie scraps from other meals
Leeks
Mushrooms
Celery Root
Potatoes
Peppers
Turnips
Any Greens
Zucchini
Fennel

You see what I mean?  If it’s clean and fits in the pot, it can go in.  Minimal chopping, no peeling, just in the pot it goes!

Heat a large stock pot with some olive oil in the bottom.  I chop my way through the vegetable list as I’m cooking–so once the onion is chopped, add it to the pot, then do the celery, the carrots, etc, adding each thing once it’s chopped up a bit.  When you’re out of stuff to add, pour in the water, turn up the heat and cover.  It should only take you about 20 minutes to chop everything and get it in the pot.  From then on out it’s easy street.

Starting Out

Cook for 1 hour, turning the heat down a bit once the whole thing starts boiling.  After an hour, it looks more like this:

About Halfway Done

I finish my broth by adding salt/tamari/soy sauce to taste and letting it simmer uncovered for another 20-30 minutes to concetrate the flavors. The final broth:

All Done

Strain the veggies out into a large pot:

Strain your broth

I further strained it through cheesecloth into a pitcher:

Strain your broth

The pitcher makes it easy to pour some of the broth into ice cube trays for easy storage. Ice cubed size chunks of broth make for easy defrosting and easy recipe additions:

Freeze your broth

The broth will keep about a week in your refrigerator, and two good months in your freezer.  If you cook for the holidays, it’s a good time to make some veggie stock and put it up now to use for all your upcoming holiday meals.  You’ll thank yourself for being prepared, and your food will be that much more delectable!

Homemade Vegetable Broth

122 comments

  1. LeAnne

    Awesome! The ice tray idea is great. Sometimes when I cook for just me I don’t like to use a whole lot so small portions is the way to go. Good job Lolo. P.s… I gave a hello to you on my blog about the Chicken Fried Seitan!

  2. Ruth

    I like the cheesecloth idea. In the past when I’ve made broth, I’ve been put off by the large amount of straining and pressing on the vegetables recommended as a final stage. Perhaps all that is not particularly necessary, after all.

  3. Bex

    Thanks for the write-up. I was just thinking about this this morning – how every veg. broth I buy tastes a little awful, and that I should make my own. It is nice to have a little guidance!

  4. DKM

    I also love to take everything, dump it into a large roasting pan, roast for an hour and then put everything in the stockpot and simmer. As you can tell – I love making stock.

  5. Lori

    Do you do anything with the vegetables you’ve strained out at the end, or just throw them out? I can’t imagine them being particularly tasty after that process, now that I think about it…

  6. DB

    I once applied for a position with Cook’s Illustrated, and like most cooking franchises they are biased towards meat, so I’m not too surprised that they were not fans of vegetable broth. Actually, most vegetarian alternatives to things like broth and meat are not very good (and I’m saying this as a long-time vegetarian)- most people just don’t know how to cook/flavor food without using meat as a base.

    I love the ice cube idea!

  7. Rosemary

    I have been thinking about doing this for a long time. Can you tell me what the rankings actually were? I am especially curious of the Whole Foods 365 broth, Kitchen Basics stock, ad Emeril’s broth (his is new, haven’t tried it yet, but it is pretty natural and free of sugar and junk). I prefer to use Kitchen Basics, but really wonder what experts thought of all of them. I do need to start making my own though, just hate to waste all the veg after boiling them.

  8. jill

    I just made roasted vegetable broth yesterday! I left the oven on after I took out the veggies and popped in a halved butternut squash, by the time the stock was done, the squash was too, so I have divine soup of orange squashy gorgeousness a little while later!

    I froze the remaining stock into a plastic container (which I then put in a plastic bag to free up the container), it’s just enough to make another batch of soup.

  9. Teddy

    Hey there. I know you posted the photo lesson a little while back but i was just looking through it yesterday and looking at your pictures today and i wanted to say thanks! those tips are very helpful!!

    Teddy

  10. DJ

    my vegetable stock has never looked that rich or delicious and I think – reading your directions – I may have been skimping a little on the veggies …

  11. Melissa A.

    Great pictorial. I actually do use scraps in broth, but not rotten ones. It’s still fine to use. I don’t do it very often though.

    Sorry, I didn’t give the quote enough context — I think it was meant to be read as the scraps that huge companies use to make commercial broth aren’t the best quality. Scraps from your own kitchen are a wonderful addition to broth!

  12. jen

    thank you! veggie stock is a big part of my life. but i’ve never actually bothered to make it. because i’m lazy. however, this post makes it seem pretty easy and quick. a saturday morning *fun* chore.

  13. Amy

    Fantastic looking broth! It was very disheartening to find every organic broth at the store so flavorless (even the meat stock). I’m not vegan, in fact I’m not even a vegetarian, but I use vegetable broth a lot. I’m going to add tomato paste to my next batch. :) Great pictures too!

  14. Bianca- Vegan Crunk

    The ice tray idea is genius! I’ve made my own from scraps and peels and I think it tastes pretty good that way too. But I know yours had to be AMAZING!

    Just to clarify, kitchen scraps from your own veggies are great! I think the article was referring to not-so-hot vegetable leftovers that large companies use in their broths to save money. I’d definitely use veggie scraps from my own kitchen if I had some!

  15. Karitza

    Hey amazing!!!
    I love this recipe!
    homemade veggie broth!

    well what do u do with the vegetables? I mean u drained them…but did u gave them another use?

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  17. Julie

    Thanks so much for this post! I have been on a homemade everything kick lately…but, I still haven’t conquered veggie broth.

    This may be a silly question, but how do you defrost the broth once it is in the ice cube trays? Thanks!

  18. avegancalledbacon

    I’ve read about the ice-cube trick before. Thing is, with a stock cube, I can add one to a soup and it makes it tastier (admittedly, probably due to MSG and the rest). With home-made broth, presumably you need to more or less base the whole soup on the broth? Or are a couple of these ice-cubes fragrant enough to do the trick on their own?

    Lovely vegan porn pictures by the way. S&M carrots ;-)

  19. jopo

    I’m curious about why there’s no mention of vegetable scraps in this post. I learned to make stock from my grandmother, who was a strong believer in using scraps to make stock so as to reduce waste and keep it affordable. Using whole, new veggies to make stock seems kind of insane to me – is there a reason you’re not using scraps?

    I mention scraps in response to two above comments, so perhaps I should add it into the main entry. The short answer: Scraps are great, if you have them available. I think they’re a great addition, but it’d be hard for me, personally, to collect enough scraps to make this much stock. I’d have to collect scraps for a while to get enough, which I guess I could do if if froze the scraps as I went… I think the bulk of the veggies in the broth (carrots, celery, and onions) aren’t hard to find or expensive to use in large quantities–and I never have a pound of celery or onion scraps. Everything else was something I had on hand that I wasn’t planning on eating before it went bad, so really it was better for me to add it to the broth rather than to not eat it and have it go bad.

    So scraps are great when and if you have them as additions, but for me it makes sense to use whole, fresh carrots, onions and celery for a really nice finished broth.

  20. Alanna

    All right, you convinced me! I have some bubbling away on the stove right now. You’re right; it was a great way to use up some parsley and fennel from our CSA that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. Thanks for another wonderful and inspirational post!

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  22. Angela

    Thanks for the stock recipe! I’m excited to try it. Just had a quick question–is that a strainer bag you use for cheesecloth? I’ve been looking for something like that for a while. If it is, did you make it yourself or is it one of those jam strainer bags? Those are the only ones I can seem to find and they look a little small. Thanks for the info!

    Hi Angela! It’s a soup strainer bag I got at a local asian market for about .80 cents. I bought a couple and doubled them up to strain the soup. You might also look into something called “the amazing nutmilk bag.” It might be too fine for a soup like this, but it’s fabulous for straining a lot of other things.

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  24. Caitlin

    I think everyone has that green retro bowl with the flowers on it…my mama has a whole set of ‘em. Gotta love the 70s legacy!

  25. Dana

    I am not vegan, nor vegetarian, but my 4 year old son has a dairy & egg allergy. So vegan recipes are just perfect! I going to make your apple pies today after our morning run to the farmer’s market.

    And now I will load up on some veggies too and make some broth! And FYI – if you do not have an ice cube tray – try freezing the broth in cup cake tins. And then popping them out into a freezer bag!

  26. russ

    Is there anything you can do with all the bits that didn’t make it through the strainer? Do they make a good pie, or do they have to walk the plank?

  27. messenger

    I find that broccoli gives my veg stock an unpleasant flavour. The smell reminds me of broccoli farts (the bad-smelling farts that you get when you eat a lot of broccoli or cauliflower)

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  30. PJ

    A few commenters asked if there was anything to do with the remains of the veggies after the straining. I used to mix them in with our dog’s food, and she LOVED them. She had a beautiful coat, so I think vegetables are good for dogs, too! She’s gone now, so now I just dump them in the compost pile.

  31. sarah

    I’m making this in my crock pot right now! some unusual additions: a daikon radish, some lettuce scraps, strings and seeds from a delicata squash, mushroom stems, parsley stems, sage leaves, kale stems. we’ll see how it turns out!

  32. Gordon

    This sounds really tasty! Tomato paste is a great idea. When I make broth, I usually toss in a small handful of dried mushrooms… adds a lot of flavor for not much effort.

  33. Justine

    This was great! I just visited your website this past week for the first time and I’m amazed by how inspiring the recipes are. After going to the farmer’s market today, I came home and made soup stock for the first time in my life! This broth was the best I’ve ever taste. Thanks!

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