How to Make Vegetable Broth from Food Scraps


Vegetable broth or stock is a staple in many recipes, ranging from soups, sauces, and gravies to risotto to roasted vegetable dishes. While you can easily buy a carton or jar of vegetable broth at the store, you can also make it from scratch for free, while being more sustainable.

I found myself frequently reaching for broth, only needing a few tablespoons at a time, and feeling annoyed for having to open an entire carton. Or, not having any on hand when I needed it.

I also have been more aware of my own food waste, and with all the cooking I do at home I realized how much of the food scraps were just being thrown out.


What’s the difference between Broth and Stock?

  • Broth is usually a combination of meat and vegetables simmered, strained, and seasoned.

  • Stock is usually made from mostly animal bones, without seasoning, over a longer period of time.

In terms of vegetable broth or stock, it technically should only be referred to as vegetable broth, since there are no bones used. But, many people use both terms, with the differentiation referring to the difference in being seasoned or not. 

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Why should you care about food waste?

Food is the number one contributor in landfills, it makes up more waste than any other category of items sent to landfills. In 2015, 36.9 million tons of food ended up in landfills in the United States. When food ends up in landfills, it is not able to decompose properly and return nutrients back to the soil. Instead, it rots, and releases methane gas. Food in a landfill is like typing it up in a plastic bag. More

Landfills are the 3rd largest source of methane emissions in the United States. Methane is a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) that contributes to global warming. GHGs warm the Earth in two ways: 1) Their ability to absorb energy, and 2) How long they stay in the atmosphere (slows the rate it leave and enters space). Together, these two things act as a blanket insulating and warming the Earth. More

Methane released into the atmosphere today will stay in the atmosphere for 10 years. It also absorbs more energy than CO2 (another GHG), making it have a greater “warming effect” on the Earth. More


What can you do?

There are a number of things you can personally do to reduce food waste. In looking for ways I could reduce food waste, I realized how easy it is to make vegetable broth myself using food scraps. AND this is something I already buy and use in the kitchen frequently. This is just one easy way to utilize food scraps to cut down on food waste.

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In an ideal setting, after making your broth from food scraps they should be composted to really eliminate food waste. If composting is not available or feasible for you, you can discard the used food scraps. Comment below if you’d like more information on composting, and how you can do this, in a future blog post.

The beauty of making vegetable broth from food scraps is that you are in total control of the flavor profile you want. You can play around with the variety you like, and experiment with how flavorful you prefer it.

How to make vegetable broth or stock from food scraps:

Things to include:

  • Scraps and peels from: onion, garlic, shallots, carrots, bell peppers, mushroom, celery, herbs (bay leaves, cilantro, etc.), potatoes, leeks, broccoli, squash peels, asparagus, and many more!

    • Be mindful of greens or veggies that may impart a bitter flavor, and use those sparingly, or add in towards the end.

Things NOT to include:

  • Pits from stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, peaches etc). Why? They are toxic so never consume these in any capacity

  • Any rotten food scraps, or peels from produce you did not wash. You don’t want to get sick, or end up with dirt or other bacteria in your broth!


Here are some helpful tips I’ve discovered along the way:

  1. Use a variety of food scraps, unless you’re going for a mushroom broth or something similar.

  2. Be aware of strong or bitter veggies. I like to watch the amount of celery I use, since I don’t prefer a strong celery flavor. Other strong ones to be mindful of include the brassica family as they can impart a strong, bitter taste if used in large quantities or steeped for too long (broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, etc.) or things like carrots tops or beet greens.

  3. Timing is important. No less than 20 minutes, no more than 2-3 hours for the most ideal flavor profile. Too little time will have little flavor pay off, but too long can lead to more bitter flavors.

Keeping those things in mind, there’s really no wrong way to make broth. So take a deep breath and relax.. You can’t mess this up. It’s so easy you don’t even need a formal recipe to follow!



4 Steps to make Vegetable Broth from Food Scraps:

  1. Save- Keep a baggie or mason jar in your freezer. Anytime you are chopping vegetables save the scraps you don’t use to make broth later.

  2. Simmer & Steep- When you’ve got a good amount saved up and you’re ready to make broth, add your food scraps to a pot of water. Rule of thumb: use roughly equal parts food scraps to water for flavorful broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let it steep for a minimum of 20 minutes (up to 2-3 hours if desired).

    • If seasoning to make a broth, add those in at this time.

  3. Strain- Once you’ve reached the desired flavor and color, strain the food scraps from the liquid. I like to use a double boiler, so I just lift the basket of food scraps out, and am left with broth or stock. If you don’t have one, or still see some bits of food scraps, pour it through a fine mesh strainer.

  4. Store- Once cooled, store in mason jars, freeze in ice cube trays, or transfer to a baggie for flat storage in the freezer. If you don’t intend on using your broth in a week or so, I recommend storing it in the freezer and thawing as needed.

    • Freezing also allows you to make a big batch and have some on hand in the future, instead of making a small batch every other week or so. I’m all about anything to make my life easier!



Notes:

If you keep it unsalted, be sure to add salt to taste in the recipe you are using. Many recipes that call for broth assume it is salted (since broth means seasoned). Having unsalted stock may help for those monitoring their sodium intake, as you will have more control over sodium levels compared to using store-bought broth or stock.




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