How to Make Vegetable Stock

Homemade stock almost always tastes better than boxed or canned, and this is never more true than with vegetable stock. In the case of chicken or beef stock, the stock comes from cooking bones in water on low heat, for several hours. With vegetable stock, there are no bones to cook, so the richness of the stock comes from the variety of vegetables you use. It helps to brown the veggies first, so the stock gets infused with some of the flavors from caramelization. Unlike chicken or beef stock, which needs time to extract all the goodness from the bones, with vegetable stock, you cook the stock for only an hour to an hour and half. Beyond that, the flavors begin to disintegrate.

A big thanks to Hank Shaw who shared his method for making veggie stock with me, after tiring of hearing me complain about a boxed version I had used. (I have yet to find a commercial vegetable stock that is remotely palatable.) The recipe lends itself to variations, depending on the season. The basic recipe includes carrots, onions, celery, garlic, parsley, tomato paste, and mushrooms (preferred dried). You can also include parsnips, fennel, turnips, rutabagas, corn cobs, or leeks. Ginger would be a lovely addition.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Makes about 5 quarts.

Feel free to use the onion skins, they'll add flavor and a lovely caramel color to the stock. If parsnips are available, you can sub out some of the carrots with chopped parsnips for more flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms*
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 3 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb (optional)
  • Salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (can leave skins on)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

*If you want to use fresh mushrooms instead, use about 5-6 ounces, thickly slice them, and dry sauté them first in a separate pan, until they are lightly browned and have given up some of their moisture. Then add in with the rest of the vegetables.

Method

1 Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.

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2 Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots, and fennel (if using) and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring only occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables, and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.

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3 Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine.Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins if using, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then drop the heat until you just get a bare simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.

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4 Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetable and mushroom. Discard or compost. Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what's in the strainer filter through, and change the paper towel; the old one will be gunked up with debris. Filter the rest of the stock.

To store, pour into glass jars and refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze. If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar.

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Links:

Roasted Vegetable Stock - from The Kitchn
Homemade Bouillon - from 101 Cookbooks
Golden Vegetable Stock - from Mixed Greens

48 Comments

  1. Lisa

    I always caramelize the vegetables when I make mine. I think it makes a nice addition to the layers of flavor.

    And, this is vegan. :O) (hoping you remember my tweet… #notallvegansarecraycray)

  2. Katrina

    Weird. Yesterday while shopping I was like “I really need to make my own veggie stock, I should find a recipe” – and here you are!

  3. Carman

    Would you include the tops of celery and carrots if you’ve got them? Would you add them with the other veggies, or with the herbs?

    The tops of the celery, yes, with the veggies. The tops of the carrots, no. ~Elise

  4. kathleen

    My friends have a lovely, economical way to make their vegetable stock: they save all their leftover vegetable ends and peelings in a bowl in the fridge and, at the end of the week, they use whatever is in the bowl to make their stock.

  5. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    Love the side-by-side pic here – gorgeous, Elise! :)

  6. CM

    “Line the sieve with a paper towel”…

    How has this NEVER occurred to me before?
    Thanks!

  7. mary beth

    I cannot thank you enough for this. I have always felt the same as you about store bought vegetable stock . . . . always felt it ruined the vegetarian dishes I have made. There are times I have just swapped it out for chicken stock unbeknownst to my guests. It always seems to overtake the taste of the dish. I could just HUG you for this – thank you!!!!

  8. zee

    Thanks for this recipe. Are there any other culinary uses for the vegetables? I always feel bad discarding them after making stock.

    By the time the vegetables have cooked an hour and a half, almost all of the nutritional value has been extracted from them into the stock. We just compost the used up vegetables. Food for worms, and eventually for my garden. ~Elise

  9. Paul

    I have been using a pressure cooker to make my vegetable stocks lately. It’s very fast (30 minutes, once it reaches high pressure) and in my opinion more flavorful than the traditional method. You can also add whole dried spices like star anise, clove, or cinnamon, and those aromas will really come through.
    also, because the process is so fast, i never feel compelled to have to store large amounts of stock for future use.

  10. Sharkey

    When straining the vegetables, should you press and squeeze the liquid out of the veggies (like in chicken stock), or have the veggies broken down enough that it’s not needed?

    You can if you want, but it’s not necessary. ~Elise

  11. Sara

    Would you still get a good flavor leaving the mushrooms out, or should they be replaced with something else?

    You can leave them out, if you do, add a little more tomato paste. The mushrooms provide umami which is important to the flavor. You can also get that from tomato. ~Elise

  12. ER

    Would you recommend freezing the stock? If not, how long do you recommend keeping it refrigerated?

    Yes, the stock freezes well. It will easily last 7 days in the refrigerator. ~Elise

  13. CheekyChic

    Great post! Thanks for the recipe and method.

  14. Judy

    Hi, Elise…like you, we’ve never liked the commercial vegetable stocks. We just got a canner for Christmas and I have a HUGE stockpot, so we’d like to quadruple this recipe for our emergency food storage. Would it be just a straight quadrupling on all the ingredients? Also, do you or Hank have an idea of how long the stock would last in storage? As a canning “newbie”, I’d hate to make 20 quarts and find out we have to use them in a short period of time. I’ve been freezing dried Morel mushroom soaking water for awhile and think it would be great in this recipe. Thanks!

    If you quadruple the recipe, you may have a difficult time browning the vegetables, so you might want to do that in a few separate pans. The canned vegetable stock should be good for a year. ~Elise

  15. Lindsey

    In Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty, he suggests adding prunes to the stock. I am not exactly sure what this is supposed to do. I bought some prunes and am planning to try it. Thanks for the great recipes.

  16. Emilie

    This looks so delicious. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Liane

    Thank you for this recipe! I too am very disappointed by vegetable stocks in stores. I second the suggestion to save vegetable trimmings (mine are in a bag in the freezer) until you have enough. Since you have to cut the core out of parsnips, just save those and add to stock! Two (and many more) meals for one.

  18. Elizabeth

    I sometimes mix the leftover vegies into my dogs food with a little bit of the stock. They love it. And, I also save my trimmings,like kale stems and such to make stock.

  19. Amber

    Tomato paste? That’s an ingredient I would not have considered. I’m definitely going to try adding that to my next round of veggie stock! I also like to add a chopped potato to mine for flavor.

  20. beth

    can’t wait to try this! i make tons of things with veggie stock — i cook my rice in it, or anything else that i would cook in water…. i’ve been using wolfgang puck’s organic veggie broth — it’s the only kind i’ve found palatable…. but i’ve really been wanting to make my own — so excited! thank you! :D

  21. RJ (Kids and Cast Iron)

    Why the tomato paste? I have put whole tomatoes in mine but not paste. Seems like that would be something you could add to the specific dish if needed. I agree homemade stock is much better.

    The tomato paste is for color, a little sweetness, and a lot of flavor. ~Elise

  22. Sylvie (A Pot of Tea)

    I used to make stock at home, but I no longer have a freezer, so find that it’s easier to buy as I need it. I agree though, home-made is soooo much better.

  23. Mallory

    Not only is it vegan, it also takes significantly less time than a chicken or beef stock. So how can you go wrong? Hardly any effort at all and it is delicious.

  24. Rita

    I make my own veggie stock and it is really much better than the boxed or cubed versions. Plus, you can control the salt content. I vary the vegetables by what looks good at the market. The last time I made it, everything came from the farmers market and it was really good. I need to make another batch so thanks for the posting of your recipe as a reminder.

  25. Garrett

    My advice is to cut the onion into quarters and then cut a 3-4 inch chunk of ginger in half lengthwise. Paint them with a thin coat of vegetable oil and broil them for a few minutes till well roasted with just a hint of charring. Use these for your stock for a really rich, sweet, and smokey flavor.

  26. LB

    I have used the ‘paper towel’ method for fine straining, but find that since it absorbs liquid, it drapes down over the sides of the strainer and drips all over the place. I have since gone to coffee filters – they fit nicely inside the mesh sieve, and don’t drip unless its into the bowl. Also, I nest it in between two similar-sized strainers and it doesn’t fall down onto itself.

  27. Celeste

    Thanks, Elise and Hank and your readers/fans. This will become a staple at our house. Really like the suggestion, too, from LB re two strainers (if you have ‘em as we do) and coffee filters. Cheesecloth is another option. Best to all!

  28. Irvin @ Eat the Love

    Lovely! I usually roast my vegetables first in a the oven, after tossing them with soy sauce and tomato paste. The soy sauce helps caramelize the vegetables, creating a deeper dark stock. It’s a good substitute for dark beef stock, and makes for a great base for vegetarian french onion soup.

  29. Lyndsay "The Kitchen Witch" from CHARMED

    I followed this link from Twitter. Thank you so much for this! I have been wanting to make vegetable stock for ages and as an avid fan of your recipes, I trust that this is going to be a good one. I think the addition of dried mushrooms is a lovely touch.

  30. Patsy Bell Hobson

    You are the queen of good timing. I was just wondering what to do with the overstocked vegetable drawer. Thank you.

  31. Michael

    I wonder whether oven roasting the veggies would lend any additional dimension to the flavor of the stock. Saw an episode on Americas Test Kitchen where they did this to make a superb Minestrone soup.

    Yes, you can roast the vegetables first if you would like. ~Elise

  32. LS

    I assume you’ve tried Trader Joe’s veggie broth? I had it years ago and thought it was pretty bad. At the urging of another blogger (L&OO maybe?), I bought some again recently and was surprised how it good it was.

  33. Miah

    Bean water is another great addition to stock (if I cook beans, i just add leftover water to whatever stock I have for a rich, hearty flavor). I pressure cook stock for just fifteen minutes, then let it sit. And I use the leftover peels etc from whatever I’ve used in the week. When I use the stock, I replenish in a jiff. Always have it on hand and like everybody says, SO much better than store bought.

  34. jessica

    i thought that the word “stock” means that it’s made from bones, so this would actually be vegetable “broth?” either way, i always freeze veggies peels/skins/leftovers and use those to make my veggie broth.

    Hello Jessica, according to the (shorter) Oxford English Dictionary, stock is a “liquid made by boiling meat, vegetables, or fish, kept for use as a foundation for soup, gravy, sauce, etc.” The OED definition of broth is an “unclarified meat or fish stock; a thin soup made from this and vegetables.” This is similar to the distinction drawn out in more detail in the 2006 edition of the Joy of Cooking. There are similar definitions for stock in the recent editions of Larousse Gastronomique and The Oxford Companion to Food. The Joy of Cooking by the way has a vegetable stock recipe similar in method to this one. Their vegetable broth recipe is quite different, in it you don’t cook the vegetables as long, and you eat them with the liquid. ~Elise

  35. Joan

    While the basic recipe sounds good, I will have to alter it. I have a nasty allergy to mushrooms, so they will not appear in my stock. Unfortunately, I managed to pass it along to my son.

  36. Judy

    Well, I made this today and it is absolutely delicious! So much better than any carton, can or cube that I have ever tried. I followed the recipe including the fennel bulb, with the exception of omitting the rosemary – very bad weather here and not worth going out for it today. I will use it for the bread soup. Thanks so much, Elise!

  37. Kristina

    I love making my own chicken and veggie stock. Instead of pouring mine into mason jars, I ladle the broth into ice cube trays, freeze them, and then place them in a freezer bag. Two “broth cubes” is 1/4 cup.

  38. Audrey

    Old tights/pantyhose are good for straining. Cut up into squares and keep handy for use.

  39. David

    I keep a ziplock bag in the freezer to store all carrot tops, onion ends, herb stems, pepper tops/innards, etc. When it gets full, I add in things that are missing along with needed veg to round it out.

  40. Arlene

    I have a compost bin but was told to NEVER put anything but raw scraps in it. That it was inadvisable to add anything cooked…and to never add any kind of meat as that would attract predators.

    You should definitely not add meat to a compost heap, it will attract rats. But I don’t know about the advice about cooked veg scraps. I’ve been composting them for decades. I especially like composting the leftover cooked fruit from making jelly. It’s already mostly broken down by the cooking. I used to have a worm bin for composting when I lived in San Francisco. The worms loved the cooked mush. ~Elise

  41. stephanie

    I put my veg’s on the grill to brown before adding to my stock pot. love the “charred” flavor.

  42. Another LB

    For the folks who can’t use mushrooms, an alternative to get the umami flavor Elise mentions is to add a little soy sauce. I’ve tried this in veggie broth before and if you use small amounts it doesn’t make the broth taste like soy sauce but does add that extra “something” that mushrooms give.

  43. NG

    Hi Elise,
    I would love to keep frozen veggie stock, but don’t have the room to keep 5 quarts. Would it be advisable to make this recipe more concentrated by reducing the water, and then adding water when the stock was used to make soup? Or would that cause the flavor to be diluted?

    You could do that. It would just be a more concentrated stock. ~Elise

  44. tinarina

    This looks like a great recipe except for the rosemary–I would think it would be overpowering. Is the flavor prominent in the end? Thanks!

    I did not find it to be overpowering, but some people are more sensitive to the taste of rosemary than others. If concerned that it would be overpowering, I would cut back. ~Elise

  45. Tony Rose

    I agree there is nothing on the market that comes anywhere near homemade stock, I’ going to try this one, thanks.

  46. cennis

    A big thanks to those who posted about using leftover veggies. I cooked up our second batch today, with what would have been discards from the past couple of weeks, that we stored in a baggie in the freezer. We’ll use this stock for most things that require water or some sort of stock. It is so much tastier than the store bought stuff, as has already been stated here. If you eat a lot of veggies, you should consider doing this.

    Thanks to Hank and Elise for sharing this.

  47. Christina

    My husband is doing a Daniel Fast (a very restrictive diet) and this recipe for veggie stock would be perfect except for the tomato paste (no chemicals or preservatives allowed). Is it OK if if I were to leave the paste out? I read in previous comments how mushrooms provide umami that the paste does as well. Can I just add more mushrooms?

    Sure, you can leave out the tomatoes. Add more mushrooms if you want. ~Elise

  48. Karivery

    I made this and it It sure tastes good, but I must have used too many carrots and too much tomato paste because mine turned out looking like tomato soup (albeit not thick, but color wise) and very sweet. I guess that’s what i get for not following the measurements and trying to eye ball it. I also had to leave mushrooms out because of an allergy of my guest. Maybe that would have added more savory. I’ll make another batch and follow it to the letter next time.

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