I’ve got a confession. Until recently, whenever a recipe I was making called for vegetable broth or water, I almost always used water because I just didn’t have any veggie broth around the house. Did the flavor of my dishes suffer? Probably, but I didn’t know since I’ve never made those dishes with the broth before.
Why didn’t I have any broth? Two reasons:
- I did’t want to buy any containers with mysterious liquid (often high in sodium) from the store, nor was I interested in commercial veggie bouillon cubes for the same reason. Being on a plant-based diet is more than just not eating animal foods, it’s about consuming WHOLE foods with no added junk.
- Out of money-saving reasons, I didn’t want to boil a bunch of perfectly good vegetables until they are completely broken down, and then throw them away.
And then it hit me: I could save up vegetable scraps for a few days, and then cook them to make perfectly fine vegetable broth!
Let’s face it: whether we call ourselves vegan or plant-based (or both), we probably use lots of vegetables in cooking. A lot of that stuff gets peeled, trimmed, juiced (all that pulp!), and all of that bulk is then thrown out. Good job if you’re composting, but if you’re not, you could save your pennies and have perfectly good, low-sodium broth that’s easy to make and versatile!
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN VEGETABLE BROTH
So this is what I’ve been doing:
- For up to a week, I save all of the vegetable scraps that I know could be good for a veggie broth (see below), using a large Ziploc bag to store them in the fridge.
- Once I’ve collected enough scraps (the bag gets 1/3 to 2/3 full), I put them into a large soup pot filled up halfway with cold water. My pot holds 8 quarts/7.6 liters, so I’m using about 4 quarts of water.
- I add a few extra ingredients that will enhance the flavors (see below) as well as a few extra veggies that are plentiful in my kitchen at that moment.
- Once the pot is set up, I cover it and turn the heat on medium. It’s important not to boil the broth on high as the vegetables will break down quicker without building up the nice flavor.
- The pot is now left to do its thing: it will need some time to start boiling, and then another 60-90 min of simmering until it’s done. I use this time to do other things around the house, read a book, etc.
- If you’re planning to add salt, do so 5-10 min before the time is up.
- After 60-90 minutes, take the pot off the heat and let cool before filtering. This is what my broth from above picture looked like once it was done cooking:
- When the pot is cool enough to handle, it’s time to filter the broth. I simply use another big pot and slowly pour the liquid into it, holding the veggies back. You can also line a colander with cheesecloth, set it inside another big pot, and strain the contents of the broth pot through it – this is a preferable filtering way if you’ve used vegetable pulp from juicing. Here’s a picture of my filtered broth (right) separated from the cooked vegetables (left):
- That’s it – your broth is now ready to be used in any recipes that call for veggie broth! You can keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze it in single use portions. The amount of broth I’ve been getting through cooking it this way has been used up within a week in my kitchen without making it to the freezer. That’s why I’m now constantly putting aside veggie scraps as I go, starting the day I make another batch of this broth.
All-natural ingredients, low- to no-sodium, no preservatives, versatile, and no extra stuff to buy – what’s not to love about this broth?! Naturally, I’ve been on a roll using it in lots of recipes, from my Barley-Lentil Soup for the Soul to Vegan Minestrone with a Twist, as well as using it instead of water or oil when sauteeing vegetables.
This broth will come out a little different every time you make it because you’ll never have the same exact veggie scraps. Regardless of varying ingredients, you’ll still always have a versatile broth that can be used in just about any recipe that calls for vegetable broth. Don’t worry if it seems kind of tasteless when you first try it, especially if you didn’t add any salt: it’s meant to be that way because all of the ingredients you’ll be cooking in it later will add plenty of taste to the final dish.
Use it instead of water in recipes, or in 2:1 proportion of broth to water.
WHAT WORKS BEST IN THIS VEGGIE BROTH:
Root vegetables and their scraps – carrots, parsnips, taro, onions (including green onions), garlic, etc. If using a whole onion, it can be left unpeeled as the peel adds a nice color to the broth. Cut the onion bulb in half or in quarters before adding to the pot.
Celery – a big flavor enhancer for almost any soups. If you don’t have celery pieces in your veggie scraps, add a stalk to the broth (provided you have it) to make the flavor more complex.
Herbs, especially parsley or cilantro stalks. Also good: a sprig of fresh rosemary, thyme, marjoram (or a pinch of dried). A herb called lovage can be used instead of celery.
1-2 Bay leaves; black peppercorns; 2-inch strip of kombu – a Japanese sea vegetable that adds more nutrition to broths and soups and enhances their flavor. Never heard of kombu? I talked about it in this post.
Pieces of most firm, green vegetables work well: broccoli stalks, imperfect cabbage leaves, kale stems, etc. Make sure the scraps have no signs of going bad before adding them to the pot!
Veggie broth comes out the best if it has celery, carrots, parsley stalks, bay leaves, and peppercorns.
WHAT SHOULD BE LEFT OUT:
Scraps of any starchy vegetables, especially potatoes. Potatoes tend to make the broth a little cloudy, so if you’re aiming for a clear broth, don’t add them.
Beets: they add red color to anything and everything. If you don’t mind a red broth that will also color everything you cook in it, fine. Otherwise, no beets.
Any soft, watery vegetables like cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, etc. Cucumbers are best in a salad, whereas the other two work well as soup ingredients, but not as great flavor enhancers for a versatile vegetable broth.
Lettuce – it just has no place in a broth. Leave it for salads and sandwiches.
- Once again: if some of your veggie scraps are showing signs of going bad, do not cook them!
Now that you know the secret to always having a nutritious, versatile vegetable broth on hand, no recipe should leave you unprepared! Any soup will get an extra flavor boost if you use this veggie broth instead of water.