Hey all! I’m really looking forward to this week because, well, if you’ve made my recipes, you know that I live for flavor. Even if it’s the most perfectly cooked food in the entire world, if it lacks flavor, I probably won’t like it. I like strong, powerful flavors that delight my palette by surprising me. This makes it hard for me to follow a recipe because I do frequent taste tests and end up tweaking every recipe I have for a more powerful OOOooommmph! And this week I get to teach you how to NOT follow a recipe and still get that perfect vegetable broth. Don’t get scared! I will still give you a recipe next week, but every recipe has principles behind it, and broth is no exception. So instead, when you’ve looked at the below ingredients, you get to say, “I want more carrots, because I want to not add sugar in my recipes later” or “I’m on an Asian kick, so let’s add lots of mushrooms this time” or “I’m out of onion, so I’m going to use leeks instead.” This is where the magic happens…
So far we’ve discussed:
THIS week, we’ll be checking your pantry for the ingredients you need for the perfect vegetable broth. At the bottom of this post I have included the shopping list you will need for my broth recipe next week.
First thing you need to look at is what pot you will be using and how many quarts does it hold? You want to fill up half (up to 2/3) the pot with veggies plus the herbs/additional flavor enhancers. Since I will be using my 4-quart slow cooker, I will be stuffing 3 quart-sized bags this week (sometimes 4, depending on how strong I want my broth and what I have in the fridge that needs to be used up). 2 bags will be chopped veggies & scraps and the third quart bag will the flavor profile/herb bag (I usually don’t chop this bag too much if any). The third bag I usually work on filling last, unless I’m freezing it, since I like my herb bag fresh or just slightly wilted for the best flavor and perfect vegetable broth.
Your vegetable bags will be filled with the “basics.” You can throw in any parts of these vegetables you want, such as the onion peels, carrot tops, and parts you would usually discard. My biggest advice is to chop the veggies as much as you have time for so you can fit more in and get more flavor out of them for your broth.
The basics you absolutely need in your broth for a tasty flavor are a balance of aromatics for the perfect vegetable broth.
Onion: There are many kinds of onions, but my favorite type for broth is yellow. Yellow onions become sweeter when they cook for long periods of time, they don’t add too much color, and their sharpness is perfect for a bold stock. Know that onion peels were used for dyes back in the day, so if you don’t like “yellow” in your stock, you may not like the peel in it. But I do!
Carrots: No need to peel your carrots for this! If you saved your peels, but not the carrots? Awesome. Put those in…tops too. Carrots are naturally sweet, so if you like your broth on the sweet side, you’ll know that more is best.
Celery: Don’t be bashful with the celery! I know, it’s watery, how much flavor can it really yield? But it does. It really does. Celery is herbal, acidic, earthy, and sometimes even a bit tangy. It also contains quite a bit of naturally occurring sodium, which I love!
Garlic: Every broth needs that pungent kick. Garlic adds earth tones to your broth, as well as that light, airy and mysterious je ne sais quoi. Pretty much every recipe I make has at least a little garlic. Plus, it’s anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-oxident.;)
Now let’s add the flavor basics!
Potatoes: You don’t need a lot to make an impact, but it really makes a difference. Think wintery, deep, woodsy flavors. Sometimes you’ll even get a bit of a nutty flavor with the earthiness.
Leeks and/or Green Onion: These are both part of the aromatic family, but they are optional when you already have onion in the pot. Since they taste like a milder version of an onion, I look at it as adding body, layering and dimension. Plus this is a nice flavor you won’t usually get with a store bought broth. I like using leeks in the winter and green onion in the spring.
Fennel: If you aren’t familiar with fennel, it smells like licorice (not to be confused with anise, which is a different plant altogether). I personally have fennel as part of my “must-haves” list because I like my broth a bit on the sweet side. Fennel is part of the carrot family and the two paired together add brightness to the earthy mix. Side note: I have read if you don’t like licorice, just use the bulbous part, not the leaves/tops. I also think it tastes way different when it’s cooked. My husband never even notices this flavor and he isn’t particularly fond of fennel.
Turnip: Turnips are kinda…well…rooty tasting. I had to look this one up and found that people think it tastes like a cross between a potato and a radish. I like using it because it completes my umami and bitter flavor needs. You will only need one, but it adds so much richness and depth.
Lemon (or lime if you are making an Asian base): I like to throw a slice of lemon in the pot for a little additional brightness and the subtle sourness. I don’t usually add this in my bags of vegetables, instead, I just add a slice straight to the pot and then make my daily lemon water. This is also one of those things I sometimes add and sometimes don’t. All depends on what I have in the house!
Tomato: I love tomato, but not in my base broth. Reason being is I think it dramatically changes the flavor. That said, I can’t live without tomato in my bean soups. Especially minestrone and chili. Check your normal boxed broth to see if you usually have tomato in there. It may help you decide if you want it in your broth or just in your soup.
Mushrooms: Mushrooms have a very pungent flavor that I don’t always want, so I don’t usually add it to my normal base broth unless I have some leftover. I love mushrooms in my Asian soups (like pho, hot and sour soup, etc.). I usually make one batch of broth every year with mushrooms, soy sauce and lots of ginger. I haven’t tried lemongrass yet, but it’s next on my list to put in! I also like mushrooms when I put tomato in because I like it in my Italian soups.
Bone Broth: If you plan to make bone broth, you’ll want to check out my post on the tools and tricks when you make a broth recipe.
Some may refer to this as a bouquet garni, and for a picture, I may make it that pretty, but really, it’s just another way of saying you don’t need to chop your herbs for this.
Thyme: Another herbal brightener! I love thyme because it can go with pretty much all my soup needs. I like it fresh.
Bay Leaves: It adds body and a bit of astringency. Add these! But if you don’t have good bay, it may not add enough flavor to need it. I buy from the Spice House in Chicago.
Peppercorn: The most important thing to remember is you want “whole” peppercorns. Anytime you don’t want to add texture but still want the flavor, this is the way you want to go. I prefer having as much depth and texture as possible, so I prefer a tricolor peppercorn. This way, you get a white peppercorn, which the unripe, hotter, less complex flavor, the black, which is floral, fruity and spicy, as well as a sweet fruity pink berry. I insist on you having quality pepper around. Eggs, I prefer the tempered heat of regular store bought pepper, but quality spices are a must.
Star Anise: I bring this one up because pho is trending this year. Pho broth is not the same without star anise! It would also be a yummy addition to your rice if using broth instead of water.
Rosemary & Sage: I don’t usually add these in my basic broth, just in my soup. If you make a lot of French or Italian dishes, you will love these additions! Rosemary and sage would make an amazing broth for any risotto dish.
Clove: I’m always on the fence about adding clove, so I’ll let you be the judge. Adding a few whole cloves will add warmth to your broth. It’s common in middle eastern cooking, and an easier flavor to control than some other options, such as star anise. Adding 2 cloves to a huge pot will barely be any more noticeable than the peppercorn. However, it’s still a very specific flavor. For me, it will always be in my holiday cooking, but not in the spring.
Shopping List for my favorite year-round broth (in my 4-quart slow cooker):
1 Leek (or green onions)
1 Potato (with peel)
So Tell Me:
- How will you be making your broth? With Tomato? Without? With Mushrooms?
- How do you use your broth?
- What will you be using this next batch of broth for?
- Or just leave a comment on my post to say hi or tell what you think of the new 4-post format layout 🙂