How often do you find yourself in the kitchen wondering "What Can I Use for Broth or Stock"? Personally, I always used to be intimidated by stock and broth making, and only in the last few years did I start saving my vegetable scraps specifically for stock. I don't know if it's because I'm cheap or because I hate waste (or both) but I find it really wasteful to buy fresh produce just to make broth as I never know what to do with the veggies once they've been simmered for hours and have lost all flavour and nutrition. If you have suggestions for me about what to do with those veggies I'm all ears.
In the mean time, here's a list of everything that you can throw into your broths and stocks - from produce, meats, and every other kitchen scrap you've previously thrown into your compost.
Produce Scraps (Fruits and Vegetables)
The typical (and I'd argue mandatory) produce for broths and stocks is onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Though I find no stock - vegetable, chicken, beef or seafood - is complete without these, they're only the tip of the iceberg for broth and stock friendly produce. Produce that is best used in small quantities (under 1/10th of the broth) or better left out entirely are at the bottom of the article.
- Beets will discolour the broth - if this bothers you, leave them out
- Do not use beet leaves
- Carrots are great for stock in all manners (peels, tips, scraps).
- Carrot greens are listed in the "use minimally" section below.
- Celery Stalks
- The celery leaves are listed in the "use minimally" section below.
- Onion skins will add a lot of flavour, but also colour to a broth - if you're concerned about how the stock looks, only add skins in smaller quantities.
- Scallions / Green Onions
- Squash Peels
- ONLY use the peels - the "meat" of the squash is too starchy
- Avoid adding too many tomato seeds, they can be bitter
I personally like to keep individual animal scraps separate - but this is a preference. If you want to double up - I recommend at least separating scraps by "kind". For instance, I like to have poultry together, beef/lamb/pork together and seafood together. I like to label all the Ziplock bags and keep the divided by animal - but you don't have to do this.
Honestly, you can, and should, use all parts of meat that won't be eaten. It's the best way to honour the animal and make the most out of their sacrifice. Can you tell I was plant based for a long time? I hate the idea of letting animal products go to waste. So don't.
- Meat/Poultry Bones
- Crustacean Shells
- Shrimp Shells
- Lobster Shells
- Meat/Poultry Meat
- Use in smaller quantities (1:3-1:6 ratio organs:meat/bones) otherwise may be too game-y
- Chicken Skin
- Leftover Cooked Bones
Misc & Other Food Scraps
- Parmesan Rinds
- Herb Stems
- Bay Leaves
- Dried Herbs
- Use as a last resort - fresh are better. Also, use sparingly.
What Should I Only Use In Small Quantities?
⅙th of Ingredients or Less
- Chard (Swiss Chard)
- Green Beans
- Greens (Other than Brassica Family - kale, cabbage, boy choy, etc)
- Including Pea Pods
- Best added at the end of the cooking - may discolour broth
- Zucchini (Courgettes)
1/10th of Ingredients or Less
This list includes almost all herbs - if you want to add any herbs, as a general rule make sure it takes up less than 1/10th of the ingredient list. There are other ingredients that fall in this category - they are bolded for ease of reading.
- Beet Greens
- Bell Peppers (Sweet Peppers)
- Sage Stems
- Summer Savoury (Savoury)
- Turnip Greens
1/16th of Ingredients or Less
- Bay Leaves
- Carrot Tops
- Celery Leaves
- Radish Tops
- Potato Skins
- Make sure they are very well washed or your broth may taste like literal dirt
What Should I Leave Out of My Broth or Stock Entirely?
There are 2 reasons that you should leave something out of a broth or stock - it either doesn't add much flavour or is simply too strong and will ruin the flavour profile. A large portion of these items still make amazing zero waste recipes - so save them for those instead.
Items That Ruin the Flavour of a Broth or Stock
- Produce from the Brassica Family
- Bok Choy
- Collard Greens
- Hot Peppers
- Pumpkin (see squash)
- The peels are fine, the "meat" is too starchy
Items That Don't Add Flavour to Broth or Stock
- Sweet Potatoes (Yams)
Freezer Bag Method
I mentioned it above, but I'm lazy and also frugal occasionally. I don't buy into the pretentious and holier than thou ideals behind stock making. I freeze all my scraps, and when I have enough, I load everything into a huge pot and fill it with water. Bring it to a boil and reduce to low - simmer for 4 hours. Strain.
Now you have broth.
If you want a perfect and fancy broth or stock, you'll need to skim the broth, don't stir it, reduce it, and many other steps that often contradict each other. If you find an amazing recipe, great! This isn't one of those. This is a broth for when good enough is actually delicious. You're not running a 5 star restaurant. You're feeding yourself - maybe some kids or spouses, too. Nobody cares about the clarity of your broth. Nobody cares if it's been skimmed.
The most important mantra I have in my kitchen is just cook. Stop worrying about if you've mastered a recipe. Stop worrying about presentation. And definitely stop worrying about perfection. Show your family and friends you love them with home cooked comfort meals. End of story. Point blank.
If you want to get fancy - I'd check the NYT Cooking section. I love my subscription and actually find it useful. This isn't an affiliate link, I don't earn anything, I just love them. I'm also a proud subscriber of the 3 website American's Test Kitchen / Cook's Country / Cook's Illustrated subscription. This is one of the ways I'm not frugal. Check it out if you want to learn some basics.
Zero Waste Broth [What Can I Use for Broth]
- Large Pot
- 2 freezer bags vegetable scraps
- 1 freezer bag chicken scraps optional
- fresh herbs optional
- salt to taste
- Place all ingredients into a large pot. Cover with water and add in any aromatics you have on hand.
- Simmer the broth for 2-4 hours on low heat.
- After the broth is simmered, strain it through a fine mesh sieve and taste for seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- This can be stored in the freezer. To freeze, place in mason jars with at least 1-2 inches of headspace. Let defrost overnight to use. In a pinch, you can remove the metal lid and reheat in a microwave.
Great article! Lots of really good and practical tips. One thing that I like to freeze and then add to a broth is left over turkey gravy ( although if you make that right, there shouldn’t be any leftover lol). If you add this it’s better than any bouillon or other flavour intensifiers. It gives it such a rich and mildly “ creamy” texture that makes fall soups extra delicious!
Thanks for the kind comment Colleen! I never thought to save gravy. To be fair, gravy is usually the first thing to run out during holiday meals but I'll for sure start freezing it if we ever happen to have any leftover. Great tip!
Awesome article Lauren! Super helpful - I’ve been meaning to go through my frozen scraps to make veggie broth but wasn’t sure which ones to add more or less. Thanks 🙂
Thanks Emma! I'm so glad you liked the article. Homemade broth is the best thing ever. Enjoy!