At first, homemade vegetable broth can seem like an unnecessary burden. Why stand over a hot stove when you can buy ready-made stuff at the store? Well, there’s much more to gain than a pat on the back when you opt to make broth the old-fashioned way. (Psst. Here are a few other things you should make instead of buy at the store.)
It has a lot less sodium.
Ready-made broths use large amounts of salt as a preservative. Need proof? Check out those nutrition labels. Your heart and health will thank you for the swap.
Especially if you use your leftover vegetable scraps. Keep a resealable bag in the freezer to collect unused (or wilted) vegetables like onions, carrots, celery or leeks. When the bag starts to get full, make vegetable broth.
It’s much easier than you’d think.
In all honesty, I used to be too intimidated to attempt a homemade broth. I had always likened it to a laborious 24-hour process of making bone broth. In actuality, it takes a little over an hour from start to finish. (That’s less time than it takes to watch an episode of The Bachelorette!) Luckily, Test Kitchen expert James Schend was able to break the recipe down step by step and dispel all my fears. Follow along to learn the easy way to make vegetable broth from scratch.
How to Make Vegetable Broth
Quick tip: Confused about the terms “broth” and “stock”? You’re not alone. These terms are often misused by home cooks and chefs alike. For 100 percent clarity: Stock is a liquid that’s derived from bones, fat, meat and vegetables, whereas broth generally calls only for meat and vegetables. You’ll find no bones, fat or meat in our broth recipe that follows. (Check out our recipe for chicken stock, here.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into wedges
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 whole garlic bulb, separated into cloves and peeled
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 cups water
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered
1 cup packed fresh parsley sprigs
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Step 1: Sweat the vegetables.
The recipe for vegetable broth aptly begins by cooking vegetables. Heat oil in a stockpot over medium heat until hot; you should start to see it shimmer. Add onions, celery and garlic. Then cook and stir for 5 minutes or until tender. Take a whiff-the pot should smell wonderful. Next, add in the leeks and carrots. Cook and stir for 5 minutes longer.
Step 2: Add water and simmer.
Time to add more to the pot. Carefully pour in water and add the mushrooms, parsley, thyme, salt, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 1 hour.
Test Kitchen Tip: Typically we love to add lots of herbs and spices to a dish, but in this instance keep seasoning to a bare minimum. The long simmering time will extract a lot of flavor from the herbs, which may overpower the finished broth. You can always add additional herbs, spices and flavorings to your finished dish.
Step 3: Strain and enjoy (or store for later).
Ding ding! Your veggie broth is almost ready. Remove the stock pot from the heat. Line a colander with cheesecloth (or use a fine mesh sieve) and strain. Compost or discard the vegetables.
Saving it for later? If covered and stored properly, broth can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for up to 4 to 6 months.
3 Easy Ways to Use Vegetable Broth
Unless you’re on a fast, you’re probably going to want to use your veggie broth in a recipe. Here are my favorite ways to cook with vegetable broth.
This probably goes without saying, but vegetable broth is the perfect complement to many types of soups. Just beginning? Start off with this simple recipe for Mushroom Tortellini Soup. Then, when you’re ready to kick it up a notch, try our Test Kitchen’s favorite Creamless Creamy Squash Soup.
Brown rice, barley, farro and quinoa can all benefit from vegetable broth. Simply trade out an equal part of water for broth and you’ve got yourself a hearty, healthy, flavor-boosted dish.
Slow Cooker Recipes
Generally, slow-cooked dishes need something to simmer in. Opt for vegetable broth. Personally, I like to make big batches of broth-based sides like this Green Chili Creamed Corn or this slow cooker stuffing. Instead of serving it all at once, I freeze it to use for dinner the rest of the week.