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How to Make Vegetable Stock Without a Recipe

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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Food52's Assistant Editor, Marian Bull, shows you how to make soups and stews more flavorful with whatever vegetable scraps you have on hand -- or the cheapest produce at the market.

Vegetable Stock on Food52

If you're not already making your own vegetable stock, you should start now.

All it requires are vegetable scraps -- or, if you have none, a couple bags of cheap produce -- plus a few unattended hours on the stove. It is also leaps and bounds more flavorful, and less expensive, than the boxed variety. This cannot be emphasized enough.

I keep a gallon-sized zip-top bag in my freezer, and fill it with any vegetable bits and bobs that I discard while cooking. Then I turn my trash into treasure, and let a pot of stock simmer away on the stove for a few hours, after which I have a flavorful broth to add to almost anything. It costs me nothing more than time.

More: Here are some other crafty ways to put your kitchen scraps to good use.

When you begin to make your own stock, its flavor will change with the seasons, and no two batches will be identical. In the summer it may taste of sweet corn and fennel; in the winter, leeks and kale and onions are your star players. Avoid anything bitter, like dandelion greens; avoid potatoes, which will make things cloudy; avoid artichokes, according to Tara Duggan; avoid woody herbs like rosemary. Beets will turn your pot pink.

Some of my favorite things to add are kale stems, carrot nubbins, fennel, alliums of all kinds, bay leaves, and thyme. I also, always, add Parmesan rinds. Whatever you choose to use, vegetable stock will soon become a broth you consider serving on its own, rather than a placeholder in your recipes.

How to Make Vegetable Stock Without a Recipe

1. Gather all of your vegetables. Either pull your bag-o-scraps from the freezer, or gather a few carrots, some celery, an onion that you can cut in half but don't need to peel, a handful of garlic cloves (also unpeeled), and some herbs. Grab, too, any spices you like: I'm fond of peppercorns, and fennel seeds are nice complements to fennel stalks. For me, a gallon-sized bag of scraps is usually enough for a standard soup pot or Dutch oven; more vegetables will mean a more flavorful broth.

How to Make Vegetable Stock on Food52

More: Here are a week's worth of ways to use your newly brewed vegetable stock.


2. Add your vegetables to a large pot of salted water. (You can soften them in oil first, and then add water, but I often skip this step and my stock turns out just fine.) Bring your water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and partially cover it. Simmer your stock for at least an hour or two; if I have the time, I'll let mine go for three to four hours. It will start to look like a vegetable graveyard and smell like the beginnings of dinner. More time will mean deeper flavor, so just taste as the time passes, add salt as needed, and remove from heat when you like what you have.

How to Make Vegetable Stock on Food52


3. In the last ten minutes of cooking, I like to add a little white wine or dry vermouth. If you have a bottle that needs using up, and you like the taste of wine in your cooking, dump it in there. Save the last swig for yourself.

How to Make Vegetable Stock on Food52


4. Using a fine mesh strainer or a colander with small holes, drain your vegetables and stock into another large bowl or pot. If you're feeling shaky, do this in the sink. Go ahead and discard your cooked vegetables. One time I tried making a puréed soup from my stock remnants; I ended up with brownish-green muck, whose consumption I do not recommend to anyone.

How to Make Vegetable Stock on Food52


5. Strain out any lingering solids, then let your stock cool before storing it the fridge (for up to a week) or the freezer (for up to three months). Or, just use it immediately -- start with risotto, or beans, or soup, or gravy, or in any recipe that calls for chicken stock -- it's a much better substitute than its boxed equivalents. Vegetarians, rejoice.

How to Make Vegetable Stock on Food52

Tell us: How do you make your vegetable stock?

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: how-to & diy, everyday cooking, special diets, stock, broth, vegetables, vegetarian, scraps, vegetable scraps, Parmesan rinds, herbs, DIY, vegetarian, vegan

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Comments (28)


2 months ago Marian Bull

I simmer mine for at least an hour! I once read someone describing their attempt at making Mark Bittman's supposed 20-minute stock recipe and calling the result something like "weak vegetable tea"


2 months ago Karin Ward

The longer the better. 20 minutes if you are really pressed for time. But you can easily let it cook for an hour or more.


2 months ago Nincol

How long do you cook it ? 45min? an hour ?


5 months ago nola2chi

Once while making a big batch of veggie stock I became ill and had to abandon the kitchen. The stock pot was put on the back porch, temp in low 30's, but not freezing. The next day I put it back on the stove and continued. Now I "steep" all of my stocks. It truly intensifies all of the flavors. Kitchen 'accidents' can be great.


9 months ago behughes

One thing that I would note is that a lot of Parmesan cheese is NOT vegetarian (it contains rennet). So for all the vegetarians out there making this, keep that in mind.


7 months ago Holly

Vegetarians eat cheese. This recipe doesn't work for Vegans as they don't eat anything animal related...


7 months ago altthymes

Not necessarily true. As behughes said, most cheese is made with rennet, which most commonly comes from the stomach lining of a young calf. So if you are a vegetarian eating cheese, that could be a moral problem for you. There are some cheeses that are made with vegetarian or microbial rennet, but you have to do your homework.


over 1 year ago Carry Porter

You took the words right out my mouth! We make our vegetable broth the same way (by saving and cooking veggie scraps). We use our pressure cooker, though, so it's done in about 30 minutes.


over 1 year ago Sharon

Why? First, we're not going to eat them, they'll be strained out, and the onion skins impart something elusive. Plus, they seem to protect the onion while roasting. With the carrots, most of the vitamins are just below the skin, so when you peel them you throw away a good portion of the nutrients! I stopped peeling my carrots decades ago. I scrub them well with a vegetable brush. I do the same with turnips and sometimes parsnips, depending on how young they are. Think about it, we don't peel radishes do we? What's the difference?


over 1 year ago Tom Salamone

Sharon, you make too much sense. Thanks.


over 1 year ago Tom Salamone

Why do you not skin the onions, carrots and garlic? Just curious. Thanks.


over 1 year ago Nancy Henderson

thanks for this - I love having this on hand. the only other thing that I've found has helped deepen the flavour of the veg stock is the addition of a few dried mushrooms. not many are required and I think that it adds a little (not noticeable as mushrooms) layer.


over 1 year ago Sharon

No matter what other veggies I add to the stock, I ALWAYS start by roasting the onions, celery & carrots. Leave the skins on the onions. Spread everything on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and roast until they are golden and dark in spots, about an hour, stirring once or twice. Transfer to a pot and deglaze the pan with water and wine, adding it to the stockpot. Throw in a few peppercorns and the other vegetables you're using. Sometimes I add tomatoes to the roasting pan half way through. Fennel is great added to the mix, too. If you have a lemon tree, pluck a leaf off and toss it in the pot. I promise you a stock that will enhance everything it touches.


over 1 year ago Racr Ma

My freezer is full of home made stock- I never thought to freeze the scraps- great idea- I keep a bag in the fridge & Friday night I start a pot of stock- They are all different & taste different, so I label the containers with the dominate veggie (broccoli, beets, fennel, basic...) and I add them to my sauces, rice dishes, beans accordingly. I don't add anything other than basic seasonings- but I may try adding wine-


over 1 year ago Karin Ward

I must admit too that I have never thought of saving vegetable scraps so that they could be used in a veggie broth and I make veggie broth all of the time. I used to throw those little bits away. Thank you for the idea. I usually just purchase fresh veggies to make veggie broth. Instead of wine, I add balsamic vinegar or soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. And I let the veggies saute in butter for a long time so there is carmelization which provides the broth with wonderful flavor. Then I add about 6 to 8 cups of water. Carmelization is magic for vegetable broth. It adds depth of flavor to your soup. Each veggie broth you make will be different so your soup will be unique every single time.


over 1 year ago BARBARA WHITE

Thanks for sharing. I have been saving my vegi scraps and making my broth for months. And I thought this was original to me. HA. I am glad to know the longer I cook it the better it becomes. I usually cook mine for one hour, now I will do it your way.Thanks again


over 1 year ago elizabeth

How did I get to be 77 and not know about freezing vegetable scraps for broth? Duh! I will definitely be doing this now.


over 1 year ago Ellen Francis

Such wonderful information and now I am inspired to make my own vegetable broth which I normally buy tons of! We've got a great recipe for one on Vegan American Princess....http://veganamericanprincess...


over 1 year ago Jayme Henderson

This is a great tutorial and super easy! I love keeping veggie scraps and cheese rinds in the freezer for when I am ready to make stock. Then I compost the remains - veggie reincarnation!


over 1 year ago Sunnycovechef

I add the mushroom stems I kept in the freezer. A piece of ginger adds great flavor and I always add a potato.


over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Ruhlman has long advocated -- no doubt based on his experience with the various chefs he's worked with/written about over the years -- not cooking vegetables in stock for more than hour.

"Depending on my schedule, I cook the bones first for 4 hours or overnight, then add the veg and cook another hour or so. Too much time in the heat and veg breaks down, absorbing stock that you lose in the strainer."
(He's cautioned in other writing not to cook the vegetables more than 45 minutes.)

In fact, as others have noted here on Food52, cooking vegetables and especially herbs, for too long can result in a bitter broth. Peppercorns should be added toward the end as well, for the same reason. ;o)


over 1 year ago Lauren Guittard

Deborah Madison says the same in her book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She also cautions against using onion skins in stock.


over 1 year ago cucina di mammina

I make homemade vegetable stock in much the same way as this... Pretty much whatever veggies and garlic, ginger and onions are around. Love to add leftover wine, anchovy paste or dashes of fish sauce to boost the depth of flavor.

I also make chicken stock, beef stock and bone broth, my all-time favorite. I use this one to cook everything but I also warm it up and drink it for breakfast, lunch or dinner :)


over 1 year ago JPyyyy

Do you ever experiment with caramelizing your veggies before adding water?


over 1 year ago Simon Y.

If you're making stock from frozen vegetable bits in a stock pot or dutch oven as described, they already have water due to the ice and won't caramelize so much as steam.

A pressure cooker can exceed the caramelization temperature of fructose though (230 F/110 C) so you could make a caramelized stock from frozen veggie ends that way.


over 1 year ago Marian Bull

Yes, this definitely works with non-frozen vegetables! It imparts a deeper flavor, but as I mentioned in the article, I often just want to throw things in a pot and forget about them, so I skip this step.