The Secret to Good Vegetable Stock

One of the more satisfying things about roasting a chicken is the aftermath, when I’ve picked every piece of meat off its bones, laid down the jus-slicked roasting dish for my lucky, licky dogs, and then plunked a big Dutch Oven on the stovetop, ready to receive the carcass for a rich and hearty stock.

Sometimes I’ll make that stock in the slow cooker overnight, sometimes I only have two or three hours to simmer the bones with onions, carrots, celery or whatever else is lying around. But no matter what the method, the reward is always the same: A flavorful, deep chicken stock to elevate soups, polenta, risottos, and braises. Knowing a batch is in the freezer is money in the bank.

Ever since our Weekday Vegetarian undertaking, though, obviously this does not happen as frequently, and I miss it. I miss the ritual and I really miss the stock and the depth it brings to otherwise boring dishes. I’ve experimented with many many store-bought and homemade vegetarian stocks, but everything has left me somewhat underwhelmed.

Until last weekend when I discovered the trick for a hearty homemade broth: roasting the vegetables before they’re simmered. I had an embarrassing amount of unused vegetables left in my CSA bag — zucchini, large scallions, bell peppers, even some end-of-the-season corn, so I put them to good use. tossing them with onions, mushrooms, peppers, and various odds-and-ends from the crisper drawer, olive oil, salt, and pepper right on a foil-lined baking sheet, and roasting at 400°F for about a half hour. It was just enough to concentrate their flavors before I slid everything into a Dutch oven, covered with water, and simmered for another 2 hours with a Parm heel and a bay leaf.

I’ve used it to make a farro-risotto (recipe on the way) and a vegetarian version of my beloved tortilla soup. I’m not sure what’s on the menu this week, but it’s sure nice to know that stock is there.

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17 Comments

Cheryl

This is great! I’ll have to try this, I love making my own stock but haven’t tried a vegetable stock. Just curious – have you found a go-to store-bought veg stock for when you’re in a pinch? I’ve tried a few, but there’s always something off about them.

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Courtney

I think the Better than Bouillon brand concentrates are very good. They even have vegetarian chicken & beef stocks.

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AlysonRR

I like Imagine vegetarian broth. Their No Chicken broth is good, too, and my veg son accepts it.

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MaryG

Better Than Bouillon has several vegan stocks that I like – No Chicken, No Beef, and Seasoned Vegetable. I haven’t tried the mushroom (it’s not vegan) or the Roasted Garlic yet.

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Laura

I love the Serious Eats vegetable stock- Kenji gets pretty specific, but the keys seem to be the dried mushrooms and the addition of kombu, a dried kelp that add umami. I get both at a local Asian grocery store, and they keep long enough and add enough flavor to the stock to be worth the occasional extra trip.

Also, regarding the question about the parm heel- it may be vegetarian, but depending on the brand it may not be as some Parmesan is cultured using rennet from calves stomachs. So it’s brand dependent, though I think vegetarian rennet is becoming more common.

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Emalie

You’re like the *good* Regina George to me. I’m just over here like Jenny Rosenstrach became a weekend day vegetarian, so I became a weekday vegetarian. Every time I make something that someone wants the recipe to, I’m like oh it’s DALS.

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kineret

i love having stock in the freezer, but sadly have a tiny freezer so for a few years now i make a huge batch of 101 cookbooks homemade buolion and use that instead. a large jar in the fridge lasts for quite a few months. its not as good as homemade stock but it means i always have somthing on hand and no need to defrost.

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Claire

I was just thinking about making veggie broth! Never thought to roast the veggies though, will have to try this!

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Jennifer

Think about making chicken stock, the layer of fat that rises to the top (and is often skimmed off, and can be used for cooking). That fat has a role in dissolving other flavors as the carcass simmers, I’m pretty sure. Instead of roasting the vegetables, consider browning them on the stovetop in some oil before adding liquid. Also, I would typically go heavy on the alliums in the stock. To bring out meaty umami notes, of course, more mushrooms, including some dried mushrooms (although the mushroom flavor can dominate, so if you want a more delicate sauce, scratch that idea). Our coop used to sell sad vegetables at a deep discount and I made veggie stock all the time… Now I lean more toward poultry stock–I’m lucky that I can find stew birds at my farmers’ market, and often “soup bones” (stripped of marketable breasts and thighs, but still with some other meat on them). Worth asking around to see if you can find some.

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Sarah

I usually try to be an industrious cook by saving bits and bobs of carrots, onions, celery, and other veg (zucchini, bell peppers, etc) that would be good for stock. I add to a bag in the freezer gradually and when it’s full, I make either chicken or veg stock. I wonder how defrosting the veg bits and then roasting them would do…

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