Stock

How to Make Vegetable Stock Without a Recipe

April  7, 2014

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

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40 Comments

littlelemon January 10, 2018
Has anyone tried adding carrot tops, beet greens, turnip greens? Do they make things bitter?
 
Sharon January 11, 2018
You get much more flavor from root vegetables (preferably roasted). Beet and turnip greens are delicious on their own, sauteed with onions & garlic, then briefly simmered with a splash of stock, and bits of any kind of smoked meat, if that's on your diet. In other words, greens deserve more of a starring role. Turnip greens, like collards and mustards, are wonderful added to soups, rather than basic stocks. Also, be aware that beet greens will color your stock, and turnip greens may take it in a direction that might clash with the flavor profile of the end product of your stock. Carrot tops taste like lawn clippings. Plain and simple. I'm one of those chefs who NEVER throws anything out, but I've never found any use for carrot tops. But, who knows? Maybe you'll like them! Experiment on your own and decide.
 
Denise M. January 7, 2018
Using vegetable scraps for stock helps me justify the cost of my organic CSA delivery.
 
Rosalind P. January 6, 2018
Have found that the longer than an hour for an all veggie stock doesn't add any flavor (different for meat stocks). The vegetables have given their all and there's really nothing left after that hour of simmer -- in my experience. Mushrooms are a great addition to the list; all those stems trimmed for other dishes, plus the caps themselves. A few tomatoes (not too many; don't want a tomato soup) are always good. And something for umami besides the mushrooms: marmite if you can get it. The parmesan rind does that job as well. parsley; celery leaves; vegetarian "oyster sauce" from the Chinese grocery;
 
Kelly K. January 4, 2018
Great idea! I have so much vegetable scraps leftover from my weekly food prep sessions! I don't scrub my veggies before peeling them for cooking, just a quick rinse. Would pesticides be a concern when boiling the skins such a long period of time for the stock? I don't buy always buy organic produce.
 
Beth January 4, 2018
You can throw in any leftover cooked veggies too, it's all good. Question: where can I get Parmesan rinds? Ashamed to say I buy Parmesan already grated so I never have rinds. Thanks
 
judy October 25, 2016
I've made stock from bones for several years now. I freeze them until I have enough for stock. I also pressure cook whole chicken on a low rack. All the juices release into th pot and the chicken is not sitting in them. Then I have wonderful stock. I NEVER thought about keeping veggie scraps to make stock. I have started using more of the stuff we used to throw away--beet greens, carrot tops, no longer peel carrots or beets. The other day I was prepping a fennel for a braise. And tossed the stems-all the while thinking I need to find a way to use these up instead of throwing. Now i know. Thanks for a GREAT tip. Will start this week. To the person who wondered what to do with the cauliflower greens--I ALWAYS cook them right along with my cauliflower. I think I like the green part even better. Think of all the cores of cabbage, etc that get tossed. I Love this idea (even if it is not a new one). Food52 often recycles their ideas. I love it because I am a relatively new fan. I spend hours reading this site each week..one of my new favs. Thanks to all of you for your comments as well.
 
whatshername February 28, 2016
I just bought 2 beautiful cauliflower heads. I was wondering if the stalks would be acceptable to save for stock?
 
Claire C. December 12, 2015
Does anyone use water saved from boiling pasta? Does that seem good, or weird? ...I haven't tried it yet.
 
stefanie October 16, 2017
Like potatoes, pasta has starch which would cloud the broth.
 
Author Comment
Marian B. July 1, 2015
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"
 
Karin W. July 1, 2015
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.
 
Nincol July 1, 2015
How long do you cook it ? 45min? an hour ?
 
nola2chi April 5, 2015
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.
 
Sharon December 12, 2015
Great tip for novices. Steeping stocks is the same principle as steeping tea; the longer the stronger. I've got a very cold back porch, too, and make good use of it for steeping everything from mulled wine to stocks and broths. Overnight infusions work wonders. Practiced cooks & chefs know these things, but it's hard remember to pass every little tip on to the newbies. Thanks for posting.
 
behughes December 11, 2014
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.
 
Holly January 20, 2015
Vegetarians eat cheese. This recipe doesn't work for Vegans as they don't eat anything animal related...
 
altthymes January 27, 2015
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.
 
Sarah C. February 26, 2016
Most cheeses purchased in packaging these days will tell you whether they've been made with animal rennet or not. Most if not all cheese varieties at regular stores have vegetarian versions.
 
Carry P. May 6, 2014
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.
 
Sharon April 15, 2014
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?
 
Tom S. April 15, 2014
Sharon, you make too much sense. Thanks.
 
Tom S. April 15, 2014
Why do you not skin the onions, carrots and garlic? Just curious. Thanks.
 
Nancy H. April 14, 2014
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.
 
Sharon April 14, 2014
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.
 
Racr M. April 11, 2014
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-
 
Karin W. April 9, 2014
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.