Forget buying tubs of ready-made broth from the supermarket, making your own vegetable broth from scraps is so easy, and once you get into the habit of it, you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner.
Do you have recipes that you know so well - recipes which are so commonplace in your kitchen, that it just doesn't occur to you to that other people may not know how to make them? This vegetable broth is one such recipe, and honestly, it wasn't until a few of you sent me emails, asking me to share how I make mine, that I realised that actually, maybe I've been taking home-made veggie broth for granted all these years!
Thing is, I did actually consider sharing a how-to ages ago, and then decided that no one would be interested because really, vegetable broth isn't exactly thrilling, is it? Ha ha!
How long ago? Back in 2016, when I was living in Croatia! And as you can see from the photos - they are from two very different shoots. Needless to say, I didn't actually finish the original shoot... that's how unconvinced I was that anyone would be interested in a post about how to make vegetable broth!
So now, having been proven wrong, this vegetable broth recipe is for all of you who've asked. You know who you are!
Why would you want to make vegetable broth?
Have you ever looked at the sodium content of a stock cube or teaspoon of bouillon powder? Even the low-sodium ones have far more than I'm entirely happy consuming... and I don't have to worry about my blood pressure. If you're someone who has a history of high blood pressure, you might want to choose foods which are low in sodium.
Even though I don't have high BP (quite the opposite, actually), having too much sodium in my diet leads to water retention, which in turn makes me feel bloated and generally slug-like. I don't need that. Not at all. And neither do you, I suspect.
In addition, not only is home-made vegetable broth better for you, it's better for your wallet, and better for the environment too because you'll be cutting down on the stuff you throw away (not just your scraps but packaging from bought stock cubes etc.). And if you have a compost bin, or your local council collects scraps, you can basically cut your food waste almost down to zero.
What can you use for your vegetable broth?
This home-made vegetable stock uses most of the veggie peelings and off-cuts you'd normally either chuck away, or throw into the compost bin, so essentially, you're getting food for free, right?! 😉
You can also use any bendy veggies which may be lurking at the back of the fridge (c'mon, we all have 'em!), or those last few potatoes, which have become a bit wrinkled. If you have any herbs which are beginning to turn, throw those in as well. I actually freeze herbs that are past their best, so I can use them for stock.
Simply keep a bag in your freezer for your peelings, then once it's full, pop everything into a large stockpot, along with some herbs, and any extra veg you want, add some water, bring to the boil, then simmer for an hour or two, and away you go. Once the broth is done, you can either strain and bottle it, or blend it.
One thing to note is that it's best to use roughly equal amounts of each veg, so depending on which scraps you have, you may want to add one or two other veggies to balance things out.
If you're going to blend the broth, I advise putting any papery scraps, (e.g. from onions and garlic), and any woody herbs into a piece of muslin, and tie it up; this makes it easier to retrieve them from the stockpot before you blend the other ingredients. I also advise adding more water, or else you'll basically end up with soup!
What's best for making vegetable broth?
Carrots, onions, leeks, celery, and mushrooms are all great, and generally the scraps you're most likely to have. I also add garlic and onion skins and ends. I also add those annoyingly small cloves of garlic, which most heads have at least one of; I really dislike peeling them, so in the pot they go.
Parsnips, turnips, and swedes are also great for vegetable broth but go easy on the parsnips because they can overpower the other flavours, and your broth will be out of balance. That said, you can counter the sweetness of the parsnips somewhat by adding a tomato or two. Tomatoes also work well to offset the sweetness of red, yellow, and orange peppers.
Some people don't like to use potatoes in their vegetable broth but I've never had a problem with using them, and it's a great way to use up peelings. However, if you use too many, it can make your broth a bit on the opaque side (and a bit thicker), so if having a clear veggie broth is your aim (for example, if you're planning to use it for consommé), leave the spuds out. If you're not bothered, or you'll be using the broth for something which doesn't need to be clear, then go ahead and use potatoes.
What's not so good for making vegetable broth?
I never use beetroot, even white or yellow beets. Nor beet leaves. I just don't like the earthiness they add - for me, it's just overpowering, even when used in small quantities. Plus, red beets will make for a dark, muddy-coloured broth.
Brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, etc.) are fine in moderation but again, if you add too much, they will overpower the other flavours. Plus your kitchen will stink! I don't tend to have much in the way of brassica scraps anyway because I either grate the stems to put into salads and slaws, or thinly slice them, and use them in stir-fries instead of water chestnuts. At most, I only ever have a couple of raggedy outer leaves and a few gnarly ends.
Green beans (e.g. French, runner, etc.) are fine in small quantities, as are summer squashes but I wouldn't use a whole lot of them because they can turn bitter when over-cooked. TBH though, if you're just throwing in a few ends from topping and tailing, there won't be enough to make any adverse difference to the finished broth anyway, so you may as chuck 'em in.
What can you use vegetable broth for?
Any other tips for making vegetable broth?
You can, if you wish, sweat the veggies in a little olive oil before adding the water to the pot, as this will give the finished broth a bit more body. If you're making it to drink, you may find that doing this results in a more satisfying vegetable broth; however, if you'll be using it as a base for other dishes, then I really wouldn't bother. Not only will you not really notice much difference, it kind of defeats the purpose of making something for free!
(OK, I know it's not technically free, especially since we have to pay for the fuel to cook the broth, but you get where I'm coming from, right?!)
Vegetable Broth From Scraps
- Almost sodium-free
Perhaps one of the best things about making vegetable broth yourself is that you are in complete control of the flavour, so can customise it according to its end purpose. I call that a definite win, don't you? Enjoy!
Do you prefer to make your own vegetable broth from scraps, or do you buy it ready-made?
How To Make Vegetable Stock From Scraps
- 1250 ml cups water
- 1 kg assorted vegetable scraps (e.g. leek, onion, parsnip, potato, carrot, sweet pepper, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, etc.)
- 4 bay leaves
- small bunch fresh parsley can be past its best
- as many whole garlic cloves as you like
- Dump everything into a large stockpot, and bring to the boil.
- Once it's boiling, reduce the heat to low, give the pot a stir, cover with a lid, and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours, depending on how strong you want your broth to be.
- Once the broth is done, carefully strain it into a suitable lidded container. Set aside to cool, then keep in the fridge for a week or so, or in the freezer for up to three months. (note 2)
- Depending on which vegetables and herbs you use, your broth may be strong or mild-tasting. If you want a strongly-flavoured broth, use less water - weaker, use more. This recipe is for the middle ground.
- If I'm not freezing my vegetable broth, and not using it straight away, I keep it in 1-litre clip-top bottles or jars.
- I don't add salt or pepper to my veggie broth because I prefer to add seasonings to the dish itself, not the broth; however, if you'd rather add it to yours, go ahead.
- Nutritional data is based on using leek, carrot, red pepper, celery, parsnip, potato, onion, cabbage, and cauliflower scraps, plus half a bulb of garlic.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tbsp = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml