A fine vegetable stock is the foundation of many tasty dishes. This vegetable-based liquid made with lots of vegetables and herbs can add a depth of flavour to soups, stews, sauces and risotto, and is unmissable in any kitchen. This homemade variety definitely beats using one of those overly salty stock cubes and it’s so easy to make!
When making a basic vegetable stock, you want to use vegetables with nice savoury and sweet flavours. Onions, celery, carrot, bay leaf and leek are the ideal basics for a simple vegetable stock, but for a deeper and richer flavoured liquid, you can also add some celeriac, parsnip, garlic, mushroom (stems), dried seaweed and/or some tomato – the latter three ingredients definitely add some umami goodness to your stock! For a dark-coloured and richer stock, you should definitely start by roasting or sautéing the vegetables before simmering them in water as well, but skip that step if you need a light-coloured liquid.
While I definitely use some fresh ingredients to make stock (onions and celery ribs, for sure) making stock is definitely a good way to use up various vegetable odds and ends that you might normally throw away as well. If you’re like me, you will already have a collection of vegetable peelings and scraps in a little bag (or two or three) somewhere in your freezer for the sole purpose of making stock… but if you’re not, you should definitely start. My ‘collection’ is usually a mix of mushroom stems (shiitake mostly), celery leaves, the tougher green ends of leeks, parsley stalks and carrot ends and peels that have been thoroughly washed before being frozen. At times, if I have some, I will add a parmesan rind to the mix as well, though, be careful with that as it makes the stock not completely vegetarian or plant-based/vegan. While I’ve added celeriac and mushroom(stems) to my recipe below, I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase them to make stock, just use whatever you have on hand!
Vegetables to Avoid
Having said that, there are some vegetables to avoid adding to your stock. Broccoli, green beans, zucchini, most cabbages and kale are usually no great additions to a stock, at least not in large amounts, since they tend to become quite bitter and unpleasant after simmering for too long. Potatoes and other root-type vegetables that easily disintegrate when cooking for a while aren’t great either as they will make the stock cloudy and grainy. Similarly, beets and onion skins, while flavourful, greatly affect the colour of the stock (though, you might want that for some dishes).
Homemade Vegetable Stock
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, or butter (omit the latter if making a vegan stock)
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 carrots and/or peels (about 150g)
- 2 - 3 ribs of celery and/or celery leaves
- 1 small leek, or bunch of green leek trimmings
- 20g parsley and/or parsley stems
- 1 bulb of garlic, halved horizontally
- Small chunk of celeriac, or washed celeriac trimmings
- Handful shiitake stems, or button mushroom, or 1 small deseeded tomato (omit if you don't have either)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- Salt (optional)
- Note: you’ll need about 1kg of mixed veggies and or trimmings for 1.5 – 2l of vegetable stock.
- Coarsely chop vegetables, trimmings, peels and/or stems.
- Weigh the chopped veggies and weigh out 1.5 up to 2 times the amount of water (give or take) to the weight of the vegetables (Doesn’t have to be exact. For example: use around 700g of vegetables + aromatics to make about 1l to 1.5l of stock).
- Heat a tablespoon of butter, or olive oil in a large stock pot. Sauté the vegetables and aromatics of choice for 10 minutes until they soften and start to caramelise slightly (skip this step when you aim to make a light-coloured stock).
- Add the measured out cold water to the stock pot. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer on low heat for 1.5 hours. Skim off the foam that may rise to the top occasionally.
- Once done simmering, season with some salt, according to how you will use the stock. If you plan on reducing the stock for sauce or a dish such as risotto, be careful with the salt or consider adding it later.
- Leave stock to cool slightly and allow small particles to settle on the bottom of the pot, then carefully strain through a sieve or muslin cloth trying not to pour out the small amount of stock with the particles at the bottom.
- The stock is now ready to be reduced further, used in other dishes, or frozen for future use.