Recipe: Vegetable Stock From Scratch

January 27th, 2009 - filed under: The Food » Recipes


There are about a hundred and one reasons why I count myself lucky to live in Portland Oregon, and high on that list is our magnificent farmers market.  I believe in eating as seasonally and as locally as possible, and so I especially love the way that the market evolves each week.  The nuance of each season determines the weekly crops, reflected in the offerings of each farmer, baker, and artisan vendor.  But mostly, I just love the vegetables.


Perhaps, like me, you live in a city with a thriving small farm scene.  And perhaps, like me, you find yourself getting a bit . . . *overly excited* . . . at the sight of such incredible vegetal bounty.  Sometimes I become hypnotized there, starry-eyed-enchanted at the cornucopia of color on display. 

Perhaps, like me, you tend to get *too* ambitious amidst all that glorious flora.  My mind sets to racing through daydreams of dishes, rearranging menus to feature each rare ‘treasure-etable’ (say it fast). And so I buy, and admire, and I buy, and conspire, and I buy, and desire . . . so I buy.  I’m just no match for all those pretty colors. 



And so perhaps, like me, you often find yourself standing over the saddest sight. Come the weeks end, you’ve got a crisper full of precious produce on it’s very last leg, and no way to eat it in time.  Such vegetable squander would truly be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.  But not to fear!  That sort of wastefulness will never happen on our watch.  We’re going to put those wilting beauties to good use – seasoning our roux, cradling our soup, and acting as a foundation for countless culinary creations.  We are going to make stock!

Making your own stock is just about one of the easiest things you can do, and the rewards are simply divine.  You have no idea what you’re missing if you’ve only ever poured base from a box or worse yet, a little package of concentrate.  Homemade stock is as unique as its maker, rich and refined and adding complexity to any dish.  And of course the best part of all – it’s totally easy to do, and it freezes great.  Here’s what you’ll need, and you’ll notice I haven’t specified amounts, because this is sort of a ‘use-as-much-and-whatever-you’ve-got’ recipe:

  • Oil, about 2 tablespoons
  • Onions + Carrots + Celery – at least 2 of the 3.  This fearsome threesome comprises the major aromatics, which are the staples of a traditional base.  Collectively called mirepoix in French cuisine, this trio is the foundation of endless Western recipes.  It is best to include all three, and in fact a good solid stock can be made from these three vegetables alone.  You will, however, require a minimum of two of them.
  • Other vegetables – this is the ‘Empty-Your-Crisper’ game!  You can toss in virtually anything here, including but not limited to potatoes, parsnips, turnips, other tubers, leeks, chives, scallions, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, mushrooms, broccoli (I usually save the stalks in a bag in the freezer for just this purpose), ginger, cabbage, and anything else you may find hiding in your veggie drawer.
  • Garlic cloves – to taste.
  • Spices – again, to taste.  I usually fill a mesh infuser with some peppercorns and clove pods.  You could also add star anise, fennel seeds, whole nutmeg or anything else you fancy.  Again, this will probably change depending on what’s around.
  • A bay leaf

Put on your favorite podcast to keep you company while you chop your mirepoix into nice, hefty chunks (about 1 inch pieces will do) and sliver your garlic.  Set a cauldron or large stockpot over medium-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or Earthbalance ™.  When the oil is heated, add the mirepoix and garlic to sauté, stirring occasionally.  In the meantime, rough chop the rest of your veggies and prepare your spices.  You can use a tea ball or infuser to sequester your spices, or you can tie them up in a satchel made of scrap fabric.  You may also let them swim freely in the pot, but then you’ll have to fish them out later.  


When the veggies and spices are ready (and the sautéing onions are getting glassy), add them and the bay leaf to the pot and quickly cover with water, filling almost to the top.  Reduce your heat, cover your pot, and let simmer for a good four hours or so.  Your water should reduce by about half – if necessary, add more to keep the liquid level up. 


After a few solid hours of simmering, you’re going to end up with a savory-smelling, dark, earthy vegetable stock.  This stuff is recipe gold!  Now, you can either fish out the veggie remains, or you can pour off the broth, but you’ll want to end up with a translucent, ‘clean’ liquid – no squishy remnants floating around!  I like to portion it out into old mason jars, but you can store it in anything.  It will keep for around a week in the fridge, or up to 6 months in the freezer.

*** There’s no salt in there, so you’ll have to add salt when you utilize the broth.  


Use your homemade stock as a perfect starter for soups, sauces, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could even try a vegan risotto.  Be creative, and most importantly, have fun with it!



  • Sam

    Making vegetable stock has been on a long forgotten to-do list for ages. I really should harvest the garden soon and get on that.

  • Sayward

    @ Sam – Mmmm garden fresh veggie stock sounds wonderful. I wonder how your basil would work in there? I bet it would be really tasty!

  • :: smo ::

    i live in brooklyn right now, and building over the past few years there’s been a steady buzz of how amazing portland is. and for that very reason i had convinced myself it was all some crazy namedropping too good to be true sort of thing, and was ready to totally hate it. unfortunately for my egocentric agenda; when i was touring with a band [from philly to alaska this past year in a veg. oil bus] we spent a week [and another a second time] in portland and i did a lot of exploring. and honestly, it lived up to, if not surpassed everyone’s rave reviews!

    it definitely makes it totally crummy coming back to brooklyn, though we’ve got our good points here as well and there’s some interesting similarities. i’d move out west in a heartbeat if i could work as an animator out there…maybe i just need to restructure a few things…



    totally great! i always end up buying better than bullion or these vegan bullion cubes for when i make seitan [then i make a soup from the remaining broth], but making my own stock would be soooo much better! our farmer’s market is pretty great [though continuing the trend...not quite as great as portland's...]and i’m looking into joining a co-op here that has a lotta fresh veggies all the time. stock should be something within my do-able range, so thanks for the how-to!


  • Sayward

    @ ::smo:: – Hooray for Portland love! It truly is a magnificent city, and I’m glad you had such a great experience here.

    Stock is totally do-able. Totally. And so very rewarding. That’s a great idea to use it for homemade seitan – I’ll definitely be trying that!

    Thanks so much for the awesome comment. I’m still getting this baby blog off the ground, so it’s really great getting feedback. Hope to see you around here again!

  • Irrevenant

    I keep meaning to make my own stock. With such an easy recipe I have no excuse not to!

    BTW, there’s a lot of salt in celery. Depending on how much celery you use (and how salt-addicted your palate is), you may not need to add salt to the stock.

  • Sayward

    @ Irrevenant – I never realized how much salt was in celery until I added a bunch into a smoothie! Eeeww, not so good. =)

    Glad you liked the recipe!

  • Apple Noggin

    Are those “special” glass freezer jars or can you use any type of glass jar in the freezer? I’m just remembering back to 1st grade science experiments and trying to remember what exactly makes the glass break.

  • Sayward

    @ Apple Noggin – They are just normal jars I save, like pasta sauce jars etc. The key is to not fill them too full, because liquids expand when they freeze. So if the jar is totally fill and the cap is on tight, when it freezes the liquid has nowhere to expand to, and it breaks the jar. I leave about a half an inch at the top of the jar and I don’t screw the caps down tight until *after* they freeze. Never had a break yet! (knock on wood)

    Also, you should let the stock cool down to room temp before you transfer it to the jars.

  • christy

    I used to make stock all the time and for some reason, years ago, stopped. Thanks for getting me pumped about it again! I used to save all my veggie scrapes from other cooking projects in the freezer for stock when i lived in a compost-less apartment. It made me feel better about how they eventually ended up in the garbage to get as much as i could out of them.

  • Sayward

    @ christy – I’m glad to get you back into it! It’s such an awesome little routine, and it makes the house smell sooooo good. =)

  • Leslie

    I always seem to use all my vegies before they go south on me, with the exception of the poor eggplant that got tossed into the compost pile. Just wondering if it is fine to use all the scraps,( carrot ends, kale stems, unruly beet ends_,etc) for the vegie broth. Onion skins?? I usually use some kind of organic pre-made vegie broth but I think it is time to branch out!!!! BTW, you have the BEST website on the internet……I spend hours reading everything. I have a killer recipe for a black bean salad if you need one!!! Still procrastinating on the homemade kombucha, but that is the Libra this time!!!

  • Sayward

    @ Leslie – It’s totally fine to use all the scraps! What I do is keep a tupperware in the freezer, and save them up until I have enough to make a batch. But I always use a whole fresh onion – I think that’s important. =)

    Thanks for such a sweet compliment. I’d love that bean salad recipe!

  • Leslie

    Being the procrastinator I am, it only took me 3 weeks to get back to you !! Already made my veggie broth, which has already been used up, making my 2nd batch of Kombucha ( the first batch came out tasting like apple cider vinegar but that is supposed to be okay) So here is the basic recipe for Black Bean Salad. I never measure anything when I cook so here goes-
    Black Beans, Sweet Corn ( I usually use frozen organic that has been blanched) Diced green and red bell pepper ( One each) diced red onion, diced jalapeno, one bunch cilantro chopped, optional is small chunks of avo added at the end. The dressing is oil ( not olive as the flavor is a bit strong) some red wine vinegar, a splash of balsamic salt and pepper. The sum is greater then the parts. I make this for every party I go to and ALWAYS get asked for the recipe. Vegan and yummy!!! I am sure you are having a fantastic time with your new little wonder….my son was born at home in Hawaii (raised on papayas, avos and tofu) and now lives in your wonderful town of Portland which he adores. He is now 32 and still a vegan, his name is Damien, just thought you might get a chuckle out of that!!!

  • Sayward

    @ Leslie – Sounds great! I make something real similar during the summer. That’s so funny that your son is Damien and lives here! Crazy coincidence. =)

  • Kerstin

    Oooh, I’m going to have to bookmark this. I regularly make and can Chicken stock, but I’m trying to get more variety in my pantry as well as slowly cutting meat out as time goes by. (:

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