How To Make Vegetable Stock (for cheap!)

How To Make Perfect Vegetable Stock (for cheap!)
A few months ago I stumbled upon a little secret that I’ve been dying to share with you. Are you ready? Here goes…

Making vegetable stock is one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to add flavor to your meals while reducing kitchen waste.  

Are you ready to get started? It’s super simple and today I’m going to show you how. Vegetable stock is made by boiling water with vegetables. The common vegetables used in making stock are celery, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and potatoes, along with a host of other veggies that all add their own unique flavor. Since several of these vegetables are on the dirty dozen list, I highly recommend using organic produce for making stock (and in your kitchen in general).

One of the thrifty tricks I discovered is that instead of using whole pieces of produce, you can easily save vegetable scraps in your freezer and turn them into flavorful vegetable stock! This might include the skins or unused pieces of onions, potato or carrot peels, or the tips of leeks and celery. If you have any produce that you know you won’t be able to use up (unless it’s a member of the cruciferous family – more on this in a minute!), you can always add this to your freezer scrap pile for stock. This saves you money and allows you to use up produce that would have otherwise gone into the compost bin!

I created this handy chart to show some of my favorite veggies for making stock. I like to start with onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes, then I’ll usually add leeks, winter squash, parsnips, fennel, potatoes, or corn cobs, depending on what’s in season.  If I am making a good neutral stock that can be used for a variety of recipes I like to add bay leaves, parsley, cilantro, peppercorns and/or thyme to add a bit more flavor.  However, if I have a specific soup or recipe in mind for the stock, I might also use rosemary, ginger, or cloves depending on the flavor I am going for.  My suggestion is to play around with different vegetables and spices and see which ones you like the best.

There are a few things that you will want to avoid. It’s important never to use spoiled or rotten produce (there’s a difference between a vegetable scrap and a vegetable that’s gone bad) or cruciferous vegetables (e.g.  broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc), which can add a sour flavor to the stock. I personally don’t like to use red beet scraps in my stock because they turn the stock red and this can be a challenge if dishes to be a certain color (which tends to be my goal as a food photographer).

How To Make Perfect Vegetable Stock (for cheap!)

How To Make Perfect Vegetable Stock (for cheap!)

My stock usually tastes different each time because the ingredients depend on what scraps I have on-hand.  There have definitely been times when I’ve needed stock and have not had enough scraps so then I’ll throw in an onion, a few carrots, several pieces of celery, garlic, mushrooms, and a sweet potato, along with various herbs and spices.

They key to making good stock is to use a variety of ingredients that add different flavors. For example, you probably wouldn’t want a stock filled with all onions as this would be rather bitter, but instead, you would want to balance the onions with the sweetness of carrots and sweet potatoes. I’ve found this scrap method to be perfect for creating rich, flavorful stocks because I tend to use a variety of vegetables in my kitchen so my scrap pile is usually quite diverse.

Making stock is a loose and adaptable process so instead of giving you a regimented recipe, I’m going to give you the basic method for making vegetable stock using scraps. Once you try this and see how easy it is, you’ll be hooked!

How to make perfect vegetable stock using scraps:

  • Save vegetable scraps in a plastic bag or glass jar in the freezer. When you have enough scraps to easily fill half of a medium pot, you’re ready to make stock! (You can always make smaller or larger batches, but this seems to yield the perfect amount that I use up within a week in my home.)
  • Add vegetable scraps to a large pot and add enough water to just cover the scraps.  Or, if you want to make a concentrated stock, add enough water to cover the bottom half of the scraps.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour.
  • Strain stock to remove solids.
  • Store vegetable stock in the fridge and use within 7 days. Or, freeze vegetable stock by adding to glass jars, leaving 2 inches of room at the top (for expansion), and storing in the freezer until ready to use. (Any glass jar will do, but I love my mason jars for freezing extra stock.)
  • Use in your favorite soups, stews, or in any recipes that call for stock. You can also replace any water in recipes for stock (such as when making rice or legumes).
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  1. says

    My husband and I have been doing this for years. The only caveat I’d add is that I don’t add peels from things like onions, carrots or potatoes if they’re not organic. Then you’re sort of making pesticide broth, since it’s concentrated on the outer layers.

  2. Rebecca Cottle Epstein says

    Aren’t the carrot peels dirty? How do you prepare your carrot peels for the stock?

    • says

      I’m not sure that I understand what you mean by “dirty.” I typically scrub my carrots well so most of the time I don’t actually peel them, but peels are fine to use in the stock. I hope that answers your question.

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