This vegetable broth from veggie scraps makes the perfect base for soups, sauces, stews, and all kinds of other recipes that call for vegetable broth, like my mushroom risotto or bean chili. It’s flavorful, healthy, and cost effective.
I first learned about making vegetable broth from veggie scraps from my friend Juanita. I was blown away when she told me she was using vegetable scraps to make her broth. Yes, I often use the tops and ends of various vegetables for my homemade broth, but never thought of also utilizing onion and garlic skins, carrot and zucchini peels, or even cucumber young leaves!
Ever since, I have been collecting vegetable scraps over the week and putting them in a freezer bag. I use A LOT of produce throughout the week. So, I usually make broth once a week. Homemade vegetable broth is truly the backbone of my kitchen. It brings out the natural flavors of foods and adds a splash of richness and complexity in ways that plain water can’t.
Of course, the broth tastes different every time depending on what I put in it. I like to mix the vegetables and herbs up, so the recipe below is just a place to start.
Tips for Making Vegetable Broth
A very basic vegetable broth can be made with traditional mirepoix. Onions, carrots, and celery are used together often for a reason. Onions add their signature pungency and a touch of sweetness that gets picked up and enhanced by the carrots. Celery comes through with slight bitterness and vegetal notes. To up the complexity of the broth, I like to collect onion skins and ends, carrot tops and peels, and celery ends.
From here, you can add leek bottoms, mushroom stems, wilted greens, kohlrabi and beet leaves. In other words, if you’re a home gardener and have the entire vegetable plant at a disposal, use even the less-frequently eaten parts of vegetables as well.
As versatile as this broth is, I would stay away from the following vegetables:
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Bok Choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kohlrabi, etc. These vegetables are quite strong and can impart bitter taste. You can add a little bit (I sometimes throw in a broccoli steam or a cabbage core), but they shouldn’t be the main component of your broth.
- Potatoes and corn. These two vegetables can make your broth cloudy.
- Winter squashes. While squashes are excellent in soups, they are too starchy for broths.
Herbs play an important role too, adding complexity to the aroma. A bay leaf and lovage bring richness and depth, while rosemary and thyme add savory aroma. If you like your broth dark (mahogany brown), you can also add a sheet of kombu (sea kelp), which is an excellent source of glutamates.
Feel free to also experiment with spices. I usually add just a few peppercorns, but you can be much bolder than that.
Making homemade vegetable broth is easy. The most important thing is to start with clean vegetables and scraps. (Clean all the vegetable scraps before you put them into the freezer bag).
Add all ingredients into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook until the broth is aromatic and flavorful, at least 60 minutes. Of course, you can cook the broth longer (the longer, the better, really).
Once cooked, all that’s left to do is strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer and you’re set.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Cookware Set (Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 2. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 3. Cutting Board (24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple) | 4. Mesh Strainers (Set of 3, Cuisinart, Stainless Steel) | 5. Measuring Cup (4 Cups, Pyrex, Glass)
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- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 cups veggie scraps*
- 8 springs thyme
- 8 springs parsley
- 1 (4-inch) spring rosemary
- 1 spring lovage
- 6 black peppercorns
- 8-10 cups filtered water**
Add all the ingredients into a large pot. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until vegetables are completely tender and stock is aromatic and flavorful, at least 1 hour.
Remove from heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer (you can also use a cheesecloth, especially if you're using tomatoes). Discard the solids. Allow the broth to cool uncovered at room temperature for 1 hour.
Store in glass jars (I use mason jars) in the refrigerator for 1 week. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
*I usually use onion skins and ends, garlic skins, leek ends, carrot peels and tops, celery ends, wilted greens, soft (too soft for regular consumption) tomatoes, zucchini peels, mushroom stems, cabbage core, etc ... any vegetable scraps I accumulate throughout the week, really.
**Some of the water will evaporate during cooking. I started with 10 cups filtered water and ended up with 8 cups vegetable broth.