How to Make Vegetable Stocks

Healthy tasty stocks make all the difference to your soup.

How to Make Vegetable Stocks

Many people ask me about vegetable stocks, saying it is hard to make a truly good and tasty veggie stock.

I tell them that I believe it is actually easier to make vegetable stocks because we are not working with one dominating flavour. We work with a combination of flavours, and the joy is that we can fine tune that combination to suit the mood, the day, the recipe. People are so attuned to adding meat when we want a certain, gutsy flavour that they don’t spend time thinking about how to get gutsy flavour without meat. Here are some of my tricks that I would like to share with you.

This article gives you guidelines. You can find a specific recipe for a great vegetable stock here. Or check out A New Approach to Vegetarian Stocks.

We have a wealth of soups and risottos for you to explore. Both are key users of stocks. Browse our Soups here, and the Risottos here. And feel free to explore our Winter recipes here.

Soup Veges

The Keys to Making Great Vegetable Stocks

First of all, don’t be precious. Make stocks from what you have on hand. Learn to keep those bits and pieces for your next stock – a stalk from that rosemary bush, some bay leaves, a little lavender flower, a lemon, some chillies, spurious herbs and the occasional vegetable.

For example, on my kitchen bench at the moment I have rosemary, bay, curry leaves, bay leaves, chilli, garlic, ginger, lavender, chilli, lemon and orange peel. All destined for some stock, tea or recipe.

The next trip is to use your vegetable peelings and left overs, and the freezer.

Form the basis of stocks from left over vegetable peelings – onion, carrots, pumpkin, leek, celery – whatever you are cooking. You can always freeze any left over vegetable peelings until you are ready to make the stock. Tomatoes can be frozen whole, or juiced and the juice frozen. Ginger and garlic can be frozen too. So keep a large ziplock bag in the freezer and add your vegetable peelings and cuttings each day.

Save the water from cooking lentils. If necessary, keep this frozen until you are making stock again.

When you are ready to make stock, bring the ingredients out of the freezer and begin to make the stock. Consider whether you are making an Asian stock or a Italian / Mediterranean stock. For Italian style stocks, add more carrot, onion, celery, peppers, garlic. Add half a lemon too (no need to peel or cut it up) and a tomato. I find a turnip is a great addition to this type of stock.

Use Lentils as Flavourings. A special trick is to use lentils as flavourings and to add substance to stocks. Into my stocks sometimes go some red or yellow lentils – use lentils that collapse a little during cooking – toor dal, urad dal, and our red lentils (masoor dal) or brown lentils – use about half a cup for a good pot of stock. Only use the small lentils that will cook down and start to go mushy.

Don’t forget to “Ground” Your Stock.  This is important, it makes the difference to any stock. To ground a stock, give it a more earthy flavour – use black pepper, bay laurel leaves, black cardamom, Chinese dried mushrooms, or turnip.

Start to include Spices. Become a master at including spices in your stocks. Here are some to play with – a few cloves,  some cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and leaves, a couple of pinches of turmeric. You are aiming for a subtle flavour difference, not a dominating flavour

A hint of sourness makes all the difference. Every stock needs a little sourness – not discernible in the final product, but just to balance the flavours. Lemon or lime is ideal – just throw half of one into the stock as you make it. You can use other souring agents – tamarind (gives a dark colour), dried or fresh sour pomegranate seeds, dried or fresh green mango are some alternatives.

Then balance the flavours. Finally, add some salt and then adjust until you find the balances of flavours that you like. Then make stock whenever you can. Freeze it and you will always have it on hand for soups, risottos, paellas, polenta dishes, and much more.

You can make Asian style stocks as well. Use predominately Asian style ingredients – chilli, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, coriander roots, cardamom leaves, half a lime, ginger, garlic, star anise, Ginger. Even a luscious tomato. Sometimes Asian stocks are so flavoursome, I just add some bokchoy leaves, grated carrot, bean shoots and thinly sliced mushrooms to a bowl of hot stock and call it soup. Read some more at How to Make Asian Style Stocks.

A Japanese stock can be made with kombu, dried shiitake mushrooms, carrots and a leek. Simmer 30 mins.


13 thoughts on “How to Make Vegetable Stocks”

  1. …. and I learnt it from that wonderful cooking writer for The Australian for many many years – Dianne Holigue. She was a fabulous writer and cook, and my Most Famous Pumpkin Soup came from her pages. As well as the lemon trick.

    Actually, years later and having learnt a lot more about ingredients, I think it is not the use of the lemon per se, but the “sour” taste that balances the other flavours. Lots of cultures have it as a matter of course – Indian, Balinese, Chinese, …

    Miss our cooking and sharing a kitchen… Hope Imp is behaving.

  2. Oooh, I love that pumpkin soup. Is it the one with a turnip? Who would have thought to put a turnip, but it is genius. The Imp is pretty amusing at the moment. And he loves dogs. So cute! I’ve got a lot of washing today after an escapade with strawberry smushing in the pram in the supermarket. ‘Twas fun for all involved though.

  3. Nice post on stocks, never tried them at home. You have a very good mind drafting all those beautiful words.

    Well I searched on ur blog for your mail id but could not find, so posting here… with ref to our discussion on roasted peppers. Yeah we do roast eggplants on stove tops, its been practised in India from generations. We do Baingan Bhartha out of the pulp which is so yummy and I love that smoky flavor to the eggplant flesh…simply delicious with whole wheat roti/tortilla!

    Try to google baingan ka bartha and you will find tons of recipes and if you like it try according to your taste as we Indians eat lot of hot n spicy stuff, be careful not to burn your tongue 😉

  4. Padma, thanks for the tip – I didn’t know it was an Indian technique. So happy to find that out. I will make Baingan Bhartha and let you know how it goes.

    Amberjee, great that Imp also into discovering food. Yes, it is the turnip in the soup Most Famous Pumpkin Soup. I must post it some time.

  5. Great tips. I keep a resealable plastic bag in the freezer and add to it for veggie broth, everything from mushroom stems to veg peelings. And add me to list of lemon users.

  6. that’s great ella, i must do that. another thing i’ve been doing is that i’ve got this supersized silicon ice tray thing which is meant to be for freezing portions of baby food. The Imp? Eat baby food? I don’t think so. So usefully, I make mini portions of stock and keep them in a bag in the freezer for throwing into stirfrys, or just when you need a little stock flavour instead of just water, but you don’t want to defrost a bucket of the stuff and don’t want to resort to those horrid little cubes.

  7. Great ideas, thanks! i’ve never tried making my own vegetable stock, but it makes so much sense using all the peeling, etc. to make it!

  8. i saw your website and i really liked it and i want to no hw to make a prpoer veg stock because i love chinese food so i want to learn to make the stock.Pls if you can send me because i am not able to understand on your site.

    Hi Anishka, thank you for dropping by. This site is not a Q&A site – I have enough trouble finding time to do what I love – cook and blog about it. But this post will help you a lot, and there is plenty of information on the internet. Happy surfing. Good luck with your journey in cooking.

  9. Hi there! I read that you grow curry leaves:) How did you do it? It’s difficult to find these leaves in California. Thanks!

    It is sorta hard, I agree. I have a tree in a pot that looses its leaves each winter, but provides me enough for most of the year for use. Recently I bought 2 new plants to increase my supply.

    But do you have Asian or Indian shops nearby? They are likely to have the leaves.

  10. ” I live inner-city and know where to get all of these things on my walks – it is just a matter of looking. ”

    Go buy your own. People steal herbs, fruit and veggies from my garden all the time, thinking it’s ok as they’re only taking a handful. I see them walk past and reach over the brick divider for a handful of parsley or whatever. I’m sick of it. Do not take food that is not yours from other people’s gardens. Grow your own or buy your own. Certainly don’t use your blog to advise people to steal from others’ gardens. I am not putting in the time and effort to have a good veggie garden so that a bunch of passers by can reap the benefits through theft. I guess it would be ok with you if took ‘just a handful’ of change from your wallet?

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