The key to a great homemade vegetable stock is to load the stockpot with ingredients that will bring some level of umami to the broth. Savoriness is imperative for a well-rounded, satisfying stock that will enhance any soup recipe, risotto, or other dish you add it to. Here we’ve fulfilled that need with kombu (a type of seaweed), dried shiitake mushrooms, and tomato paste. Beyond those ingredients, consider this your opportunity to toss in whatever vegetable scraps you have stashed away in a freezer bag. We’ve called for carrots, celery, and onions—the typical trio found in a French-style vegetable broth—but fennel would be great, as well as leeks, parsnips, sweet potatoes, or corn cobs. Avoid anything cruciferous (cabbage, broccoli, etc.) as the flavor of these can be too strong in an all-purpose vegetable stock recipe. Skip the beets too, which would dye your veg stock, and anything you add it to, magenta.
This is also a good time to use up any languishing herbs you have kicking around. We’ve called for fresh parsley, but bay leaves (fresh or dried), fresh thyme, and oregano are frequent add-ins.
We like using yellow onions for stock and usually toss the onion skins in with the rest of the veggie scraps. The peels will leech their color into the broth, turning it appetizingly golden. The final secret ingredient in this homemade broth is fresh ginger. You’ll sauté it, along with the other aromatics, until well browned, which gives the stock deep flavor but also a brightness that’ll wake up any mid-winter vegetable soup or stew.
After pouring your vegetable stock through a strainer, press on the solids gently to extract any liquid you can, then discard or compost them. We know it’s tempting to try and reuse the veg, but they’ve given everything they had to the broth and won’t taste like much outside of it. So say “thank you” and just let them go.
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Heat 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium-high. Arrange 2 small onions, unpeeled, quartered, and 1 head of garlic, unpeeled, halved crosswise, cut side down, in pot; add two 1" pieces ginger, scrubbed, smashed. Cook, turning occasionally, until cut sides of onions and garlic are deep brown, 5–10 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until aromatics are coated and tomato paste is dark red, about 3 minutes.
Add 3 celery stalks, very coarsely chopped, 1 medium carrot, scrubbed, very coarsely chopped, one 4x3" piece dried kombu, a few sprigs parsley, 3 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms, 1 tsp. black peppercorns, and 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, skimming foam from surface as needed, until stock is darkened in color and reduced by two thirds, about 2½ hours. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids.
Do Ahead: Stock can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill, or freeze up to 8 months.
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I wanted to comment on the website because the magazine article didn't mention NOT USING brassicas, or any members of the cabbage family, which can make the stock bitter and unusable. I'm glad it was stated in the website. I worked at a Buddhist retreat center for large events and we had enough vegetable scraps to make stock twice a week but had to make sure to keep the broccoli and kale stems out of the stock scraps. I also save fresh shiitake stems in a separate freezer bag so I can make a quick mushroom stock. Leek greens are another great stock addition since they are too tough to eat but add great flavor. This is a good basic stock recipe.