Homemade Vegetable Stock is seriously simple, super easy, only takes a little prep and is about as zero waste as you can get. Unlike store brought varieties you control the ingredients, so NO ADDED NASTIES (you know, those ingredients on the packaging that are either unpronounceable or just numbers) and if you use vegetable scraps it’s also FREE!
Just save those little bits of vegetables that you’d usually throw in the compost, like the end of the brown onion you chopped to make pasta sauce, the stalk you cut off your broccoli, your carrot or potato peelings (but only if they’ve been really well washed – you don’t want gritty dirt stock). Basically almost anything you would usually throw away. I keep a bag in the freezer and as I cook just add all these bits to it until I have what amounts to about 3/4 of a 20 Litre pot full, but you don’t have to wait that long, use an amount to fit whatever pot size suits you.
From there vegetable stock is as simple as throwing vegetables into a pot, covering them with water, bringing it to the boil and letting it simmer away for a while (30 minutes will do it but about an hour is better). I like to chop and saute off some of my veg in a little olive oil before I add the water just to kick start the flavour process.
When your stock is done simply strain it and keep in the fridge or freezer. I like to make it up in big batches and freeze in lots 1 litre/ 4 cups (those big yoghurt tubs or washed out milk cartons are good for this, anything where the mouth of the container is as wide as or wider than its base). When I make soup or casseroles I simply take some out of the freezer, run the bottom of the container under water until the contents start to free up a little and slide it straight into my cooking pot or slow cooker.
I use the ends of onions, broccoli or cauliflower stalks, those bits of green onion that are too wilted for salad, the tough outer leaves of leeks, celery leaves and the white end bits of the stalks, carrot tops and peels.. the possibilities are almost endless. I do find that the best stock includes onion, carrot and celery.
If you’d prefer a vegetable broth (clear- ish soup) all you do is add seasoning while simmering, usually its a little salt and pepper but you could try anything, chili, curry, garlic or ginger can be nice.
The flavour of your stock (or broth) will depend greatly on what vegetables you choose to include. I’ve made a list below of a few that good and some that are not so good for stock and broth. Feel free to comment with any I’ve missed or something you’ve tried that tastes great, a method that worked really well (or even something that completely ruined your stock).
What Vegetable Scraps are Good (and not-so-good) for Making Stock or Broth
Acorn and most other kinds of Squash – The peels are great for stock, but the flesh is too starchy and should be left out.
Asparagus- Good in very small quantities.
Basil- Good in very small quantities.
Bay leaves- 1 or 2 leaves per quart of liquid is a good amount.
Beet Greens- Good in small quantities. You may want to add greens toward end of cooking as they break down quickly.
Beets- Beets can be added, but they will turn the stock a very dark color, which may not work well for some purposes, such as pumpkin soup. Don’t use the skins, they give your stock a funky flavour.
Bok Choy- Foods in the Brassica family, such as Bok Choy, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.
Broccoli- Foods in the Brassica family, such as broccoli, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.
Cabbage- Foods in the Brassica family, such as cabbage, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.
Capsicum (Bell or sweet peppers) – Okay in small quantities. I don’t use them much as the Imortal Chicken loves the seeds so they always go in the chook bucket.
Carrots- Excellent !
Carrot tops (leafy part)- Use only in very small quantities. Too many make stock bitter.
Celery stalks – Excellent!
Celery leaves- While the outer leaves can make the stock bitter, a small amount of the inner leaves can be used with good results.
Chard – Good in very small quantities.
Chives- Good in small quantities.
Cilantro Leaves (aka Coriander to us Aussies) – Too strong for broth/stock. I can’t stand them, tastes like soap but if you really want to use it, use a very small amount. A very little goes a long way. The seeds are a little different and in small quantities can be quite nice.
Collard Greens- Another one in the Brassica family.Too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.
Corn- Corn doesn’t really add any flavour and will make the stock/broth cloudy.
Cucumber- Good in small quantities.
Dill – Good in very small quantities.
Eggplant – Good in small quantities.
Garlic- Excellent! But I love garlic so may be slightly biased.
Green beans- Good in small quantities.
Greens- Avoid bitter greens and members of the brassica family (kale, cabbage, Bok Choy). Other greens can be used in small quantities.
Jerusalem artichokes- Good in small quantities.
Kohlrabi- Another Foods in the Brassica family.Avoid using it.
Lettuce- small quantities only. Most lettuce varieties don’t add much flavor to the stock/broth so is just a waste of real estate in your pot.
Marjoram- Good in very small quantities.
Mushrooms- I love them! Not technically a vegetable but Mushrooms add rich flavor to vegetable stock. Some studies suggest they can contribute to kidney stones and other health issues so maybe avoid them if you have any issues.
Napa Cabbage – Another from the Brassica family so like cabbage can impart a bitter taste.
Okra – We don’t get it much here unless I happen to be at one of the city markets but Okra can add body to broth. Use in small quantities to avoid overwhelming flavor.
Onions – I would class them as THE essential ingeredient so excellent for making stock/broth. If you don’t have any though, leek does almost as good a job.
Onion skins- Onion skins add a lovely colourJust don’t add to many of them unless you want your stock to be really dark.
Oregano- Like all the leafy herbs Good in small quantities.
Parsley – Same as Oregano.
Parsnips- Good in small quantities.
Peas – Also good in small quantities.
Peaa Pods- Same as Peas
Peppers, Hot Peppers, Chillis- Not recommended for stock but a tiny little bit can be good in broth.
Potato peels- Can be used in small quantities. Potato skins add an earthy, but slightly bitter taste. Too many can make the stock cloudy. Be sure the peels are very clean, otherwise you’ll end up with stock that tastes like dirt.
Pumpkin- Pumpkin is a little too starchy for good stock or broth.
Radish – I don’t really recommended them.
Romaine Lettuce – Can be okay in small quantities.
Rosemary – Some people like the taste but some find it a bit bitter, so you may want to use it with caution.
Rutabagas – Another in the Brassica family..
Shallots – Also Excellent.
Spinach- Good in small quantities Add toward the end of cooking because it breaks down quickly and can make your stock murky looking.
Sweet Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes don’t add much flavor to stock or broth and some are too starchy for good stock or broth.
Thyme- Very good in small quantities.
Tomatoes- Excellent for making stock/broth. Don’t include too many tomato seeds as this can give a bitter flavour.
Turnips – Turnips are too strong for stock or broth. They tend to overpower any other flavours.
Turnip greens- Ok in small quantities. Like other greens you may want to add greens toward end of cooking as they break down quickly.
Zucchini – Also good in small quantities.