Vegetable Broth: Why Make it Yourself?

Vegetable broth: is it worth making from “scratch”? I went to my most trusted source for all things cooking, Cooks Illustrated, and looked at the tasting comparison of store-bought Vegetable broths. Here are the top 2 reviews:


Swanson Vegetarian Vegetable Broth:

“Good balance of veggie flavors—carrot and celery are distinguishable, but not overwhelming.” “I’d have this as plain soup if I had a cold.” The fact that it had the highest sodium level in the lineup didn’t escape our tasters (“mega-salty”). With a host of chemical additives, many noted that it tasted like poultry; we had to reassure a vegetarian taster that we hadn’t slipped in a chicken broth. Even when we corrected the salt levels of all of the other broths to match, this one still came out on top.

Recommended with Reservations:

College Inn Garden Vegetable Broth:

Offering “decent, well-balanced vegetable flavor,” this broth had “mostly tomato flavor,” yet was still deemed “one of the best.” Plain, it had a “slightly sour, tangy” taste, though cooked into risotto, it was “a good background,” and in soup, “neutral.”

The reason that I include the College Inn option at all is because of the comment that [in soup], the taste is “Neutral”.

Okay, now you know why I always make my own Vegetable Broth. …”with a host of chemical additives”…. “highest sodium level”…. And that was for the top-rated broth! I’ve mentioned in previous posts that more and more people are experiencing issues with gluten. Some have celiac disease. One person that I met, Cheryl Perkins of Creating Balance, did her thesis on the effects of gluten on our digestive system. Making homemade broth is the ONLY way that I can guarantee that I have done everything humanly possible to eliminate gluten from the menu.

You can substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in many recipes to make a vegetarian version. My friend Suchi made the Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup with Tofu and vegetable broth. If you eat fish and shellfish but not poultry, you may want to use a vegetable broth in soups like Crab Bisque, Scallop & Mushroom Bisque, Cold Cucumber Soup, Carrot & Orange Soup, and Creamy Mushroom Soup. These recipes call for chicken broth, but I’ve substituted vegetable broth in my Soup Party menu to allow for meatless options for my guests.

I have included 2 recipes: one has a higher degree of difficulty, but is more flavorful; the other is a slow cooker version that will also work, and that takes a LOT less “active” time.

Vegetable Broth

adapted from The Best Recipe and The Best Soups in the World Cookbooks

Makes about 2 quarts

Why this recipe works:

This is a nicely balanced, robust vegetable stock recipe that vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike would consider making. Start by caramelizing good-quality alliums and aromatics and then tossing in nontraditional ingredients: lemon grass, and scallions.

It is important to use a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stockpot so that the vegetables caramelize properly without burning. A stalk of lemon grass, available in some grocery stores and most Asian markets, adds a clean, refreshing flavor to the stock. If you cannot find lemon grass, however, the flavor will still be very good.


2 medium onions (about 12 ounces), peeled and chopped coarse

10-12 cloves garlic from 1 head, each clove peeled and smashed

8 large shallots (about 8 ounces), sliced thin

1 rib celery, chopped coarse

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped coarse * see note below

4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and chopped coarse ~5½ cups)

Fresh parsley leaves & stems (from 1 bunch)

10 blades fresh chives

2 bay leaves

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely cracked

5 russet potatoes, washed and cut into chunks (leave skin on)

8-10 sprigs fresh thyme

1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed to bottom 6 inches and bruised with back of chef’s knife

4 medium scallions, white and light green parts, cut into 2-inch lengths

2 teaspoons rice vinegar


1. Combine onions, garlic, shallots, celery, and carrot in heavy-bottomed, 8-quart stockpot or Dutch oven; spray vegetables lightly with vegetable cooking spray and toss to coat. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until pan bottom shows light brown glaze, 20 to 30 minutes. Add leeks and increase heat to medium; cook, covered, until leeks soften, about 10 minutes. Add 1½ cups hot water and cook, partially covered, until water has evaporated to a glaze and vegetables are very soft, 25 to 35 minutes.

2. Add parsley stems, chives, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, potatoes and 3 quarts (12 cups) hot water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, partially covered, for 3 hours.

3. Add thyme, lemon grass, and scallions. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low and simmer gently, covered, to blend flavors, about 15 minutes longer. Strain stock through large strainer into 2-quart bowl or container, allowing stock to drip through to drain thoroughly (do not press on solids). Stir vinegar into stock. (Stock can be covered and refrigerated up to 4 days or frozen up to 2 months.)

 Insidertips: If you are making a carrot soup (such as Cream of Roasted Carrot or Carrot & Orange Soup), definitely add more carrots to this recipe. I usually add 6.

If you are making a mushroom soup, reconstitute dried porcini mushrooms in boiling water for about 15 minutes, strain the broth into the pot along with the water, rinse the porcini, and toss into the broth with the leeks. I also sauté a mixture of wild mushrooms (NOT Portobello!) and white button mushrooms and add those to the broth as well. I’d suggest using 6 packages of mushrooms (they shrink down a LOT).

This is one of those things that I quadruple and freeze in 1-quart zip-loc bags. It does take awhile to make, but as long as the broth is simmering slowly on the stove, I leave it alone while I run errands or go to the gym or for a walk. This makes the house smell divine!!

No time to caramelize onions and add a few ingredients at a time until all of the above is finally simmering?

Super Easy Slow-cooker Vegetable Broth                                                                  from                                                                                                                Makes about 2 quarts


2 carrots, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

2 onions, unpeeled, chopped

1 large tomatoes, chopped

3 garlic cloves, halved

½ cup mixed mushrooms, chopped

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon peppercorns

2 bay leaves


Place all ingredients in slow cooker with 7 cups water. Cook on low heat until vegetables are tender, about 6 hours.

Strain into large bowl, pressing vegetables to extract liquid. Let cool 30 minutes.

Refrigerate uncovered until cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Enjoy this delicious broth ~ all flavor, no guilt!


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