How to Make Great Vegetable Broth
It's easy, healthy, and delicious.
Homemade vegetable broth is easy to make and so much healthier and more flavorful than anything that you can buy in a supermarket. It's versatile, with uses that go far beyond making vegetable soup. Best of all, making homemade vegetable stock is as easy as throwing some vegetables and water in a pot.
Keep reading for detailed instructions for making your own homemade, vegetarian vegetable broth.
Vegetable broth recipe
Are you looking for a recipe for homemade vegetable broth? Well, here it is: Throw a bunch of vegetables (scraps, skins, whatever) in a big pot with some water, salt, and pepper, and let it simmer for a while. Then strain it.
You just made homemade vegetable broth.
It is so simple, useful, and economical that there really is no excuse for using a canned broth that tastes like little more than salt water, which is essentially what it is. Homemade vegetable stock can be used in soups, sauces, and lots of other dishes you may not have thought of. If you're dieting or just trying to eat better, you can use vegetable broth to add fat-free flavor and nutrition to almost any savory dish.
Keep reading for details on how to make it, what to do with it, and why you should bother.
No, really, what is the recipe for vegetable broth?
Still not sure? Here it is, step by step.
- Use a very large pot, preferably a stockpot.
- Put in just about any vegetables at all. You don't need to chop them unless they won't fit in the pot. In most cases, you don't even have to peel them, because the skins are loaded with flavor and vitamins, and texture will not be an issue when the finished product is strained. Refer to this list for more information on which vegetables to use.
- Take some garlic cloves, smack them with the side of a large knife to break them up a bit, and throw them in the pot, peel and all.
- Add salt, pepper, and any fresh or dried herbs you choose. I usually use a bunch of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley.
- Pour in one gallon of water.
- Heat to boiling, then lower the heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow the broth to cool a little.
- Pour or ladle through a fine strainer, and you're done!
Choose your veggies
You really can use any vegetables at all to make a great vegetable stock. I never make one without onions, celery, carrots, and mushrooms, but beyond that you can change it up to suit your needs and use up whatever you have on hand. Homemade vegetable broth is a great way to salvage any fresh vegetables in your refrigerator or pantry that are past their prime, and you also may want to vary your choices based on what you plan to do with a particular batch of broth.
- Onions - Any kind, skins included. If they look dirty, remove the outermost layer of skin or wipe with a damp paper towel. Halve or quarter larger onions.
- Celery - Include the leafy green tops. Cut the stalks just enough to fit them in the pot.
- Carrots - No need to peel them. Just scrub them and throw them in, or use the ready-to-eat kind and dump in the whole bag.
- Mushrooms - These are really good for making a richer, darker broth. I always use at least white button mushrooms in my vegetable broth, and I use portobellos when I want a darker broth, like for French onion soup.
- Bell peppers
- Leeks - Be sure to cut them up and clean them, because they usually have a lot of dirt between the layers.
- Tomato - A particularly good addition if you'll be using the broth for something like minestrone soup.
- Fennel bulb - Halved or quartered, with greens.
- Turnips - Cut in large pieces.
- Just about any vegetable scraps - Potato peel, broccoli and cauliflower stems, green bean ends.
Save Your Scraps!
Many readers have made the excellent suggestion to keep all your vegetable scraps in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. Whenever you have some trimmings while cooking, add them to the bag. When the bag is full, throw them in a pot with some fresh vegetables and make up a batch of vegetable broth!
You probably have everything you need for this veggie broth recipe with the possible exception of a stockpot and strainer. There is really no way around the strainer, but you could make broth in smaller batches if your pot is not large enough for lots of vegetables and a gallon of water.
Obviously, a stockpot is ideal for making stock. You can spend a lot less or a lot more than the cost of this pot depending on your budget. Generally, a more expensive pot will have a tight-fitting lid and a heavier bottom, which provides more even heat and less tendency to burn.
In a pinch, you can use a colander to strain the broth, but a strainer with a fine mesh will make for clearer broth.
Any spoon that is long enough to reach into a large stockpot will do, and I usually use a long wooden spoon. This blue silicone spoon also comes in red.
Use a large, sharp knife for safer cutting when prepping the vegetables.
Depending on how you plan to use the finished broth, you will need some storage containers in various sizes. Make sure the containers are freezer-safe if you will not be using all the broth within a couple days.
It's not just for soup...
There are lots of uses for vegetable stock besides making soup. Here are a few.
- Add some vegetable broth to a roux for a flavorful white sauce.
- Cook rice with broth instead of water for added flavor, and you can cut back on high-calorie gravy or butter.
- Add broth to mashed potatoes in place of some or all of the milk for a diet-friendly alternative with extra nutritional value.
- Freeze broth in an ice cube tray and grab a cube or two for thinning sauces.
- SautÃ© mushrooms in a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Stir a few tablespoons of flour into some broth and boil it for a minute with the mushrooms for a quick mushroom sauce for pasta or grilled meat.
Why not just use a can of broth from the grocery store?
I've been known to use canned broth, but it just doesn't compare in flavor to homemade. Canned broth is loaded with sodium, and it tastes like it. Homemade vegetable broth has all of the vitamins and flavor of the vegetables you put into it and nothing else. Making your own broth also makes good use of scraps and unused fresh vegetables that would otherwise end up in the garbage. You can make a huge batch of broth in less than two hours and freeze it, and you'll have it on hand whenever you want to throw together a quick soup or healthy side dish.
Personally, I find it rewarding to transform a pile of vegetables I wouldn't otherwise eat into a delicious, fresh soup, and you just can't get that from a can at the grocery store.