How to Make Homemade Vegetable Stock
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Making homemade vegetable stock doesn’t have to be complicated or cost a lot of money. If you have kitchen scraps and about an hour, you've got stock.
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As anyone who has ever cooked vegetable stock from scratch will tell you, homemade is best. Yes, those cartons of stock at the grocery store are convenient, but they lack the simmered-in umami and depth that homemade versions offer.
If you’ve never made stock before, the process might seem intimidating. But nothing could be further from the truth. Making stock at home doesn’t have to be complicated or cost a lot of money. Some of the most flavorful stocks come from little more than kitchen scraps.
Which Vegetables Make the Best Stock?
All good vegetable stocks begin with three key ingredients: onion, celery, and carrot. These vegetables serve as the flavor base. From there, the vegetable combinations are nearly without limits.
Are there some vegetable combinations that work better than others? Almost any vegetable will do—each imparts a different, yet complex, umami flavor to the stock—but there are some vegetables may want to avoid.
Cruciferous vegetables in the Brassica family such as cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, or cauliflower can add an overwhelming bitter flavor to broths. So will turnips, rutabagas, and artichokes.
Beetroots will turn your broth red, and onion skins transform stock into a lovely dark color. Starchy vegetables like potatoes can be used in stocks but will turn stocks or broths cloudy.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to remember all of this. I made a handy cheat sheet for you.
|Acorn Squash||Starchy vegetable. Save scrapes: Peels can be used.|
|Asparagus||Yes, woody stalks and all.|
|Beet||Yes. Turns broth/stock dark red/brown. Save scraps: Beet greens (tops) can be used in stock. They break down quickly so add towards the end.|
|Bell Pepper (Any color)||Yes. Save scraps: Tops and seeds can be used.|
|Brocolli||No. Vegetables in the Brassica family can be bitter.|
|Cabbage||No. Vegetables in the Brassica family can be bitter.|
|Carrot||Yes. Save Scraps: Tops, peels, or whole, use them all.|
|Celery||Yes. Save Scraps: Tops, peels, leaves, or whole, use them all.|
|Cucumber||Believe it or not, yes. Save scraps: Peels can be used.|
|Dandelion Greens||Yes. Save scraps: Stems can be used.|
|Eggplant||Yes. Save scraps: Peels can be used.|
|Green Bean||Yes. Save scraps: Tops can be used.|
|Kale||Yes. Save scraps: Stems can be used.|
|Leek||Yes. Excellent for stock. Save scraps: Outside leaves and green tops can be used. Wash thoroughly wash first.|
|Lettuce||Yes but is a low-flavor ingredient.|
|Mushroom||Yes. Excellent in stocks, adds rich umami flavor. Save scraps: Peels and stems can be used.|
|Okra||Yes. Use in small quantities. Adds body to stocks.|
|Onion (Any color/Variety)||Yes. Key Ingredient. Save scraps: Scraps, tops, and peels can be used. Peels turn stock a lovely dark color.|
|Parsnip||Yes. Save scraps: Tops and peels can be used.|
|Peas||Yes. Save scraps: Pods can be used.|
|Potato (Any variety)||Starchy vegetable. Save scraps: Peels can be used but not too many (otherwise the stock will be bitter).|
|Pumpkin||Very starchy vegetable. Many do not recommend using it.|
|Rutabaga||No. Vegetables in the Brassica family can be bitter.|
|Squash (any variety)||Starchy vegetable. Some recommend not using squash, but I’ve used it before with good results. Save scraps: Peels can be used in stock.|
|Swiss Chard||Yes. Save scraps: Stems can be used.|
|Tomato||Yes. Save scraps: Tops, bottoms, peels or seeds can be used.|
|Turnip||No! Avoid! So bitter!|
|Zucchini||Yes. Save scraps: Tops and skins can be used.|
What About Herbs and Spices?
Herbs and spices are essential in any flavorful broth. Use fresh herbs like thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil, ginger, or garlic. Dried herbs like bay leaves and black peppercorns are also useful additions.
Avoid adding salt to your broth. Doing so will cut down on salt in dishes where you use the stock.
Keep in mind, too many herbs used at the same time may have undesired, disastrous results. Try different combinations of herbs and adjust each batch of broth-based on your personal preference.
Tip: For a stock with a bit of a bite, add hot peppers or chilies, but use them judiciously. Chilies can quickly overwhelm the entire stock with their heat.
Waste Not Want Not and Save Money
The real pure beauty of homemade stock is that it truly embraces the “waste nothing” kitchen philosophy. Rather than purchasing fresh vegetables for the stock, you can save money and use ones that are slightly past their prime.
One of my favorite stock-making tricks is to save the stalks, leaves, ends, and peelings from the food prep of other meals in large, one-gallon sized freezer storage bags. I add to it over time, and when it’s full, I have enough scraps for a batch of stock. To make two quarts of flavorful stock, you’ll need about four to six cups of vegetables or scraps.
How to Make the Perfect Homemade Stock
Ready to make stock? Here are the steps for making the perfect homemade stock:
1. Cut vegetables into smaller, equal-sized pieces before adding them to the stockpot. Doing so helps extract greater flavor from vegetables.
2. Brown aromatics. Sweating aromatic vegetables such as onions, celery, carrots, leeks, garlic, or shallots help to develop a deep, sweet flavor that adds a layer of complexity to stocks.
3. Use a 1:1 ratio. Generally speaking, a one to one ratio of vegetables to water will yield stock with a nice amount of flavor.
4. Begin cooking stock with cold water. Different vegetables have varying degrees of water solubility and at different temperatures. Staring with cold water and slowing increasing the heat ensures that all of the flavors have an opportunity to be extracted, and at just the right temperatures.
5. Simmer stock, don’t boil. The cooking temperature of a stock is important. Too high a heat and the delicate flavors will boil off, while too low heat won’t fully extract all of the flavors from the vegetables. To coax the maximum amount of flavor, gently simmer the stock for about an hour.
6. Strain the stock. Straining after cooking helps remove left-over cooked bits from the stock.
Do You Have Homemade Stock-Making Secrets?
What about you? Have you ever made homemade vegetable stock? Are you a scrap saver or do you favor whole vegetables? Or maybe you prefer a combination of scraps and entire vegetables? Tell me your stock secrets in the comments!
I keep a ziplock bag in the freezer and just keep adding scraps and wilted vegetables to the freezer bag till I’m ready to make broth. I use different herbs (as the spirit moves me) but garlic and bay leaves are a must. As a result, I never get the same broth every time but each one is delicious. Also, a cup of hot broth is so healthy and refreshing.
Thank you KD Angle-Traegner for sharing this article.
I’ve used this several times. I think it’s much better flavor than purchased stock. For me I prefer to avoid anything bitter, like dandelion greens and avoid potatoes, which will make things cloudy.
Some of my favorite things to add are alliums, thyme and Parmesan.
That is an amazing post! Wow. I like to cook, and I do have one stock recipe in a book that I’ve never tried, but I had never considered trying different vegetables. Super useful, thank-you very much!
And greetings from France :D
Thanks for all this well organized info! I’ve been wanting to make my own stock for a while but was never sure which veggies to use and what parts, and this helped SO much!
Do you have any tips for storing stock once made? I’ve heard of freezing it to keep it a long while (and the pro-tip of freezing in small containers, ice cube trays, or small freezer bags laid flat so you can break off or pop out just what you need) but I’m wondering how long it would last in the fridge?
I’m so glad it’s useful! I’m glad you asked about freezing (and I might update the post too) because I see I didn’t mention storage at all, yikes!
I make large batches of stock at one time (usually at the end of the week when I want to use up stuff in the fridge). Since I know I won’t use it all at once, I freeze most of it. Once the stock cools, I transfer mine into rigid quart-sized freezer storage containers. I only keep out what I plan to use within a week- which is also the maximum amount of time I’d recommend storing it in the fridge for. You could also lay freezer bags flat, I don’t see why not. They would probably even have the bonus of defrosting faster.
I love the idea of freezing some in ice cube trays too because they’re the perfect size for those recipes you don’t need a lot. It’s a lot of flavor in a small package :)