Category: soup

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.


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
Celery Root
Any Greens

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

Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup

This isn’t a traditional wonton soup. I suppose a vegan wonton soup wouldn’t really be considered traditional anyway, but I really took some liberty with the recipe. The wontons are stuffed with one of my favorite greens, Chinese broccoli, and chopped seitan. I tossed the filling in a chili-mustard sauce for a salty, spicy kick. The slight bitterness of the Chinese broccoli really balances the piquant heat of the dressing, creating a really yummy dumpling.

I wanted the wontons to be the star here, so I made a very light ginger-soy broth to float them in. I only covered the wontons about half-way with the soup base, so really, this isn’t so much a soup as fresh dumplings lightly dressed with an aromatic broth. In fact, the broth is quite plain on its own, but it works very nicely with the flavorful dumplings.

Chinese BroccoliChinese broccoli is fantastic, and if you’ve never had it, I wholly recommend a search of your nearest Asian grocer to find some. It’s a vegetable chimera of all of my favorite things; the florets of broccoli rabe, the stems of asparagus, and leaves like tender collard greens. It has a mild flavor with a sweet and slightly bitter bite, and it’s perfect for stir-fries or any other hight heat/quick cooking method. It’s also quite good for you, and its complex (but not overwhelming) flavor is a nice change of pace from regular broccoli or simple spinach.

Wonton Soup

Folding wontons isn’t hard, so as long as you can find the wonton skins, you’ll be good to go. The brand I used here is called Twin Marquis, and I know they make both vegan and non-vegan wonton skins and gyoza wrappers. Look for the white (not yellow) square wrappers. The round ones are gyoza skins, much better for pot stickers; even though they’re similar, they’re a good deal thicker than the wonton skins. Either way, check the label for eggs.

If you have leftover wonton skins, you can make extra wontons and freeze them in one layer on a cookie sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag for long-term storage. Just drop them directly into boiling water when you’re ready to cook them. You can also wrap the skins up tightly and store them in a fridge for a day or two. Fill them with anything you like (spinach and tofutti cream cheese? Tempeh sausage?), fold in half and seal shut. Pan fry them in 1-2″ of oil until cripsy and golden brown on both sides. It’s a wonderfully tasty and quick appetizer or snack.

Chinese Broccoli Wontons in a Light Ginger-Soy Broth
Serves Four

16 Wonton Skins

1 Tbs Oil
1-2 tsp Fresh Ginger, minced
1 Cup Chinese Broccoli, thinly sliced
3/4 Cup Seitan, chopped fine
1/2 tsp Hot Chili Sauce, more if desired (like Sriracha)
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Tamari or Soy Sauce

Ginger-Soy Broth
4 Cups Water
5-6 Fresh Ginger Slices
1 Tbs Mirin
2 Tbs Tamari (or soy sauce)
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Rice Vinegar
1/2 tsp Salt, plus more to taste
1/4 Cup Chinese Broccoli Leaves, packed (sub: spinach or collards)

Chopped Chinese BroccoliFilling: Begin by chopping the Chinese broccoli very thinly with a sharp knife, from the base of the stem up towards the leaves (just like chopping scallions). Heat a large pan with oil and add the ginger. Once the ginger becomes fragrant, add the broccoli and seitan, stirring well and cooking until the broccoli is bright green and tender-crisp.

Transfer the broccoli-seitan mixture to a small bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust to your liking. Set aside while you make the broth.

Broth: Heat all of the broth ingredients together except the greens in a small sauce pan, until sugar and salt is dissolved and the ginger has had time to infuse into the broth. Taste and add more salt if desired, but remember this is a mild broth that is only meant to be a complement to the wontons. Once the broth has begin to simmer, turn off heat and toss in greens. Cover and set aside.

Folding Wontons

Fill the wontons: Place 1-2 tsp of filling in the center of the wonton. Wet the edges of the wrapper with water (a finger dipped in water works great) and seal into a trianlge, removing as much air as possible from the dumpling. Make sure edges are secured.

Set the triangle in front of you, pointing up. Wet one of the bottom corners. Hold the corners, one between each thumb and forefinger. Begin to bend the wrapper, as if you were forcing it into a horseshoe shape. Don’t change your grip, and resist the urge to fold the corners over. Bring the two ends together, crossing them slightly, and press to seal. Going from the triangle shape to a completed wonton is one fluid motion.

Your dumpling should look like a fun little fish-boat-hat. Like this:

Prepped Wontons

You can now freeze your dumplings, or cook them right away.

To prepare the soup: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Re-heat your broth to steaming, if necessary. Gently lower the wontons into the boiling water and cook until they become translucent, about 2-3 minutes if the wontons aren’t frozen, longer if they are. Remove them from the water with a spider (or other slotted spoon device) and place them into the hot broth.

Take care to remove and discard any dumplings that have opened up during cooking. If they open, water gets inside, washes all the flavor away, and you’ll be sad if you serve it or eat it. It will taste like watery mush, and I promise you won’t be happy about it.

Ladle 3-4 wontons into a bowl and add a small amount of broth, enough to half-way cover the wontons. Make sure to get some greens in there, too. Serve immediately.

Cooked Wontons