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How Do I Choose the Best Substitute for Vegetable Stock?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 16, 2024
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Choose the best substitute for vegetable stock by thinking about alternative stocks that can be used in your recipe, making your own vegetable stock, or using soy sauce and water or just water on its own. Most stocks can be used interchangeably, which means that many recipes originally designed for use with vegetable stock will work with chicken or beef stock. Stock is just water that has absorbed flavor from meat or vegetables, and it can be made easily with common ingredients.

Most chefs use another type of stock as a substitute for vegetable stock. Chicken, beef, or lamb stock can be used in place of vegetable stock in most recipes. The specific type of stock to use can be decided by the chef based on the recipe it is being used in. Chefs should consider the flavors of other ingredients in the dish and determine which stock is most suited to them. For example, a risotto recipe which uses vegetable stock can taste just as good if beef, chicken, or lamb stock is used.

Stocks can be made easily at home, because they are essentially flavored water. Chefs can use a homemade vegetable stock instead of vegetable stock cubes and water or vice-versa. Making vegetable stock requires a selection of vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, and parsnips and a large pan. The vegetables are placed in boiling water and left to simmer for around two hours. Shallow-frying the ingredients prior to adding water can help unleash more flavor.

A mixture of soy sauce and water can make a suitable substitute for vegetable stock. This is done by adding one tablespoon of soy sauce to each cup of water used. The resulting mixture doesn’t have the same flavor as vegetable stock, but it is a broth that can be used in its place; the cooking process should infuse more flavors into the liquid anyway. It can help to cook the dish for a little longer than usual if you are using this basic substitute for vegetable stock.

Water is not an ideal substitute for vegetable stock, but it can be used if no other options are available. Chefs should add water in place of the stock and allow the ingredients to cook in it for a long period of time. The flavors of the ingredients in the dish will infuse into the water in the same way ingredients in homemade stock do. Again, chefs should increase the cooking time to allow more flavor to seep into the water.

Can You Substitute Vegetable Broth For Chicken Broth?

In some cases, you may look to use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth in a recipe. It is possible you only have vegetable broth on hand, or will be cooking for vegans, vegetarians, or for people who otherwise cannot eat a meat-based stock.

The short answer is: yes, you can. However, the success of the effect will often depend on the recipe being cooked. Some types of soups are traditionally made with stocks or broths from meat — whether chicken, beef, turkey, or some other type. Certain types of soups — like seafood chowders, for instance — heavily rely on the fishy taste of some form of fish or seafood stock to develop the overall soup flavor.

Vegetable broth, on the other hand, tends to have its own flavor profile. Its flavors can also vary widely, depending on the vegetables that go into it. It can be either more sweet or more savory, or thicker or thinner. All of these factors will combine to influence the overall flavor, and even texture, of the soup.

In short, while vegetable broth can often be a successful substitute for chicken broth and other types of broth, it warrants paying extra close attention to the recipe, and carefully checking the dish while it cooks.

Can You Mix Vegetable Broth With Another Type of Broth in a Recipe?

In some cases, you may have a small amount of vegetable broth, and a larger amount of another type of broth, like chicken or turkey broth. Mixing can often be an effective way to create a more robust flavor profile for a soup. The flavors of the vegetable broth and the other type of broth can combine to create an especially vibrant taste for the dish you are making.

However, it is important to carefully consider the type of soup you are making, to avoid creating unpleasant combinations. For instance, some vegetable broths tend to be on the sweeter side, particularly those that have had large amounts of parsnips, carrots, and similar vegetables high in sugar added. In such cases, it is worth using only a little at a time — or saving that vegetable broth for another recipe — unless you are comfortable with those particular flavors coming out.

Can You Make Vegetable Broth From Food Scraps?

Yes, you can — but not every food scrap is good to use. Some good scraps to use include onion and garlic cuttings and peels, celery leaves and roots, carrot and parsnip peels (but not too many, lest they overwhelm the broth), herbs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and leeks. Vegetables to avoid include peppers, bitter greens, and potatoes.

Vegetable cuttings can be saved in plastic bags in the freezer. Once you have collected a large number of cuttings and scraps, simply put them in a stock pot, fill it with water, bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer. Taste it, to ensure it does not become too sweet or strong for your liking.

Once it's ready, strain the broth, and you will have vegetable broth ready for freezing or immediate use.

What Is the Difference Between Vegetable Broth and Stock?

When cooking, stock and broth are sometimes used interchangeably in recipes — and some chefs do indeed use stock and broth interchangeably. You may be wondering about the difference, and whether one is preferable for a given recipe.

In general, the primary difference between stock and broth is that stock is cooked with bones, and so the solution has gelatin in it. Stock tends to be thicker, and if sufficiently cooked, will form a jell-o-like substance when cooled.

However, because vegetable broth and stock are made without any meat products, there is no true difference between vegetable broth and stock. If using store-bought vegetable broth or stock, it is worth noting that broth may be more likely to have salt added (while stock does not).

Can You Substitute Vegetable Bouillon Cubes For Vegetable Broth?

Bouillon cubes are small, hard cubes that essentially contain dehydrated stock. Bouillon cubes exist in vegetable, chicken, and other types of broth flavors, and can add considerable taste to soups and other dishes.

In most cases, a bouillon cube can be easily substituted for broth in a recipe. Generally, one cube in a cup of boiling water produces a cup of broth, but this ratio can be adjusted to taste, depending on the particular needs of the specific type of soup or dish that you are preparing.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Jul 03, 2013

@fBoyle-- Ideally, vegetable stock should be made at home with fresh vegetables. But I know that we don't always have the time and patience for this.

When I run out of vegetable stock, I substitute with onions, dried vegetables and spices and herbs.

I chop and sautee onions in olive oil until golden brown with a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a pinch of sugar. I then add some fresh or dried herbs like parsley or basil. I add cracked black pepper and sometimes I add some garlic powder. I add some dried mushrooms and peppers. I add water and salt to this lovely mixture and let it simmer for twenty minutes. The result is a quick and tasty stock.

By ysmina — On Jul 03, 2013

@fBoyle-- Yea, you can definitely do that. I use beef and chicken bouillon in place of vegetable broth all the time. It's not going to taste exactly the same because bouillon has less flavor and more salt than broth, but it's still better than using only water.

My friend once said that she uses vegetable soup when she runs out of vegetable stock but I have no idea how that turns out.

By fBoyle — On Jul 02, 2013

Can I substitute bouillon cubes for vegetable stock?

I need to start cooking and I don't have time to make or buy vegetable stock right now. I do have chicken flavored bouillon cubes at home though.

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