Make Ahead

The River Cottage’s Vegetable Bouillon (a.k.a. Souper Mix)

October 12, 2016
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes three to four 8-ounce jars (but halves well)
Author Notes

There's one surprisingly simple thing you can do tonight (or tomorrow, or Saturday afternoon) that, all winter long, will give you the soup-making power of homemade vegetable broth in—snap!—the time it takes to make hot water. Use it for simmering any bean or grain, as the base for your soups, stews, braises, sauces, and risottos. Or, if you’re feeling under the weather, it will make a soothing broth with hot water, all on its own. Recipe adapted slightly from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin
Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 9 ounces leek
  • 7 ounces fennel
  • 7 ounces carrot
  • 9 ounces celery root
  • 2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 1/2 ounces parsley
  • 3 1/2 ounces cilantro
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  1. Note: The ingredients above are given in prepared weights — i.e., they should be washed, trimmed of any stringy or tough parts, and peeled where necessary before weighing.
  2. The helping hand of a food processor is essential in this recipe. Simply put all the ingredients into the processor and blend together. The result will be a moist, granular paste. Spoon into clean jars with tight-fitting lids.
  3. Keep one jar of the mix in the fridge—within easy reach for everyday cooking. The rest can be stored in the freezer—it will stay soft and spoonable due to all the salt. Use within six months.
  4. To use the souper mix directly from the refrigerator or freezer, just stir about 1 teaspoon of it into 1 cup of hot water.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Krista Ogburn
    Krista Ogburn
  • Sarah Hummel
    Sarah Hummel
  • Andreas Düss
    Andreas Düss
  • Elaine Cox
    Elaine Cox
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

71 Reviews

Nancy May 11, 2022
I like the idea of this soup base, but found it too salty, even when diluted to make broth or soup.
Does anyone know how much the salt can be reduced vs the original measure while still being safe to store in the fridge?
Jane May 11, 2022
Nancy-switch comment order to oldest first (or scroll down) to Oct 2016. The author says you can reduce or omit salt and then freeze it instead. It just won’t be a spoonable paste. After asking the original question, I kind of forgot about it and have not tried to make it either way, so sorry I can’t give you results.
Nancy May 11, 2022
Thanks, Jane, for your answer (we don't always search the comments when there are many).
I think I'll try the lower salt version frozen in ice cube tray for later use.
Jane May 11, 2022
You’re welcome. Let me know!
Asma February 17, 2018
It would be great if you could list your ingredients by their metric weight too. Thanks
Pat February 20, 2018
All you have to do is scroll down and read previous comments. You will find all the metric weights too.
Krista O. November 19, 2017
We love this recipe and we're making it for the third time today. The last batch lasted us almost a year, and we're vegetarians and cook from scratch 95% of the time. People complain about the salt, but remember, it's for preservation. And 3/4 cup salt for two people over a year of home cooked meals doesn't sound too horrendous to me. If you can't have salt for health reasons, I would make a small batch with little or no salt and freeze it and use it within a short time.
zaqary October 8, 2017
I’m curious to know if anyone’s has tried roasting the vegetables first? Would that give it an extra dimension of flavor?
Paula A. November 6, 2020
I was wondering the same. If I try it, I'll let you know. Makes sense, right?
Miriam February 3, 2017
I make my own chicken bullion by cooking my chicken stock down to a syrup and then dehydrating it (sometimes; other times I just put the syrup in the fridge). I never add salt to my stock so that I can decide when I'm using it how much salt to use. My complaint about commercial bullion is that you can never use enough for a deep flavour without getting way too much salt. I like the idea of making my own vegetable bullion but the salt is way too much for me - I think I would pulse the vegies and then dehydrate them rather than making a paste - that way I could avoid the over use of salt.
Daniel January 16, 2017
Could I cook this? Meaning throw all the ingredients in a pot, cook until soft, and then puree and jar? Anything I should worry about?
Gauge January 10, 2017
I made this today and I'm terribly disappointed. Insipid, salty waste of time. Now trying to figure out how to make it tasty because the idea is soooo appealing!
Kristen M. January 10, 2017
Gauge, I hope you'll give it a try as a flavor enhancer in soups, stews, risottos, and so forth, like you would other bouillons—it may not taste like much on its own, but it gives you more of a leg up than you'd realize (and its flavor seems to develop more over time).
Read January 10, 2017
I encourage you to try the ATK version--I talk about it below: same idea, different ingredients/ratios. (I believe free with free registration for a year after the season airs).
Gauge January 10, 2017
Thanks for the suggestions. Going to try adding the tomato paste.
Colette A. December 23, 2016
How long will it last in fridge? I made it less than a month ago, but have just kept jar in the fridge? This is the most brilliant recipe ever! Making big batches on Christmas Eve for family gifts!
Andreas D. December 23, 2016
Salt preserved foods have seen humanity through years of sea travel - the British Navy lived on salt beef. I personally would have no issues with keeping this for a year.
Sarah H. November 30, 2016
I made this with end of the year garden scraps and herbs and cut the salt down to 1/2 cup . . . just tried using it for the first time at ratio of 1/2 tsp to 1 cup water and it is almost incredibly salty. I would try using even less salt if I were to make it again.
Sarah H. November 30, 2016
Andreas D. November 28, 2016
So I went and revisited this - the idea of having a ready assembled soup/stock mix in the fridge was just too tempting.

First off, I work in the food industry, so I know people I can go to for answers. The food scientists I talked to all agreed that 10% by volume is the minimum safe amount of salt for salt preservation.

I just run up a batch made from carrots, leeks, parsley root and sun dried tomatoes. Yield was 1000g, to which I added 150g in salt, 15%.

I tried mixing 1 tablespoon into 500ml of water, which, with a 5 minute low simmer, produced a flavourful but somewhat one-dimensional broth. The salt content was perfect, but I will need to experiment with different veggies and perhaps herbs to make the flavour more interesting.

I will keep this batch in the fridge for a couple of weeks and see what happens. In two month I will try and submit it to a lab for testing, see if there is any bacterial growth and if so, how much.
Allison B. February 28, 2017
Results for bacterial growth?
Catherine October 30, 2016
I made this yesterday without the sun dried tomatoes and found it to be tasty in a cup of hot water. So glad I didn't waste my time and all those veggies. I like the idea of adding prunes for body. Thanks, this was easy and I will use it for much more than soup.
jacq October 28, 2016
Hi. I made this to the recipe but my mix was very wet and not paste-like at all. Anyone else have this problem?
Catherine October 30, 2016
Mine was wet and not a paste - I think it's supposed to be this way. It won't freeze solid and will be easy to scoop out.
John B. October 27, 2016
I made this according to the measurements (weight of vegetables and volume for salt) as originally posted with the addition of 7 oz. parsnip. The final product at 1 tsp/1 cup water gave an insipid broth. Increasing the amount of vegetable paste to 1 tbs/1 cup water gave a more fragrant and tastier, but borderline unacceptably salty, broth. Maybe addition of dried mushroom powder would boost flavor profile at suggested use of 1 tsp paste/1 cup water. I won't find out, though; the time and effort too much for the end product.
Andreas D. October 24, 2016
Here are the weights in grams:

250g salt
200g carrots
250g leeks
250g celeriac
50g sun dried tomatoes
100g parsley
100g coriander
Steph October 26, 2016
Thanks very much for that.
Andreas D. October 24, 2016
I'm a huge fan of the River Cottage preserving book, but I remember this recipe being ridiculously salty - inedibly so. I was, at the time, hoping for a quick and easy soup base, the resulting mix was completely unusable.
Elaine C. October 23, 2016
Wonderful! Not a salty as I was worried about from the comments. Equal parts chicken broth to 1 teaspoon paste ton1 cup water. Simmered. OH My!
Read October 21, 2016
Anyone compare this to the America's Test Kitchen version? This much fennel sounds awful, and ATK uses about 1/5 as much salt (which means you can use that much more of the puree without it being ridiculously salty). They also talk about why the prefer celery root to celery and tomato paste to sun-dried tomatoes. (you have to register, but you don't have to pay for the current season).
Kelly October 21, 2016
I didn't know they had one. I'm a long-time subscriber to CI and all the websites. Thanks for the tip.
shayna October 22, 2016
Yes! Great tip! Thanks much for the link. I'm happy to see that I can use less salt, I'm notorious in my house for over-salting things so I'm pretty careful these days. Also the tomato paste substitution is great, I always have it on hand.
Read October 22, 2016
I did the math more carefully--it's less than 1/7 as much salt (including the soy sauce). I'm not worried about health issues here, but taste--less salt means more vegetables. It's also in the Jan 2015 issue of Cooks Illustrated. (My preference is to slightly decrease the dried onions.)
Megan F. January 5, 2017
I've made both this recipe and the ATK recipe and found the ATK bouillon to be more flavourful and less salty.
sheimoon February 3, 2017
I kept the ATK paste in my freezer for a year, spooning out tablespoons, quarter-cups as necessary. It is really, really good: don't think I would look for another recipe.
sopranointhekitchen October 21, 2016
Bouillon cubes, which this recipe mimics, are very salty. I always use half a cube in a cup of water rather than the full cube that the package suggests. In the same way, rather than use less salt in this recipe, I would just dilute in more water.
Ottolenghi recommends prunes as a way to give body to a vegetarian broth, so when I ran out of sundried tomatoes, I added prunes and it tasted good.
shayna October 17, 2016
Could you substitute tomato paste for sundried tomatoes for the umami? I just always have paste on hand and don't love sundried, so the rest of the jar always goes bad when I use them in recipes...
Ascender October 17, 2016
I did the math assuming the recipe made only 3 8oz jars and used 3/4c of salt. The concentrated mixture is about 25% salt. It comes out to about 1/4 tsp salt per cup of prepared broth -- high if you're on a salt-restricted diet. The concentrated mixture is about 25% salt. One should be able to reduce that fairly easily. I think I'll try making it using dulse or kelp (sea vegetables) powder in place of most of the salt.
Andreas D. October 24, 2016
That doesn't work. The salt isn't part of the recipe for flavour, the salt does the preserving job.