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Preserve Your Harvest,  Recipes

How to Make Vegetable Broth Using Saved Kitchen Scraps

If you are into cooking, reducing waste, or being thrifty – you need to try this! Making your own vegetable broth from kitchen scraps is both easy and rewarding to do. It’s full of flavor and nutrients, and is a wonderful way to reduce food waste by repurposing saved kitchen scraps. It also reduces the waste and cost associated with buying packaged vegetable broth. Every time we’re preparing something in the kitchen, we scrimp away a handful of veggie trimmings to store in the freezer – until we’ve collected enough to make homemade vegetable broth from saved scraps. 

Another wonderful thing about making homemade vegetable broth is just how flexible it is. You can use a wide variety of ingredients, easily tweaking the “recipe” to what is most readily available to you. Then, you can store extra broth in the freezer for future use in soups, stews, rice, and more!



What vegetables should I use to make homemade vegetable broth? 


If you read the ingredient list on packaged vegetable broth from the grocery store, you’ll see it’s loaded with a vast array of different veggies! The most common and flavorful veggies used to make homemade vegetable broth from scraps include: 

  • Garlic 
  • Onions, including the ends and skins
  • Celery, both stalks and leafy greens
  • Carrots and green carrot tops
  • Mushrooms and mushroom stems
  • Fresh herbs or remnants (such as the stems) – especially classic Italian herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, and bay leaves. We typically add both fresh and frozen!
  • Tomatoes, including trimmed ends, split cherry tomatoes, or bruised soft ones
  • Potatoes and potato skins


Other welcome additions in homemade vegetable broth include: bell peppers, cabbage, corn (and spent corn cobs), kale, Swiss chard, zucchini or other summer squash, hard squash, peas, green beans, leeks, bok choy, shallots, beet tops, and eggplant. 

Some folks recommend avoiding broccoli or cauliflower to make vegetable broth from kitchen scraps, as it may make the broth more bitter-tasting. But I say go for it! We almost always include broccoli stems in ours. If you’re concerned about how it may taste, only use broccoli and cauliflower in moderation. Need other ideas to use broccoli stems? Try our tangy coleslaw recipe.

If you have a garden, you can get extra creative here! Add a few leafy greens from cauliflower or broccoli plants, garlic scapes, fava bean greens, and ample herbs. We even added old homegrown sun-dried tomatoes to the mix this time. Basically, anything edible goes! (Within reason and common sense of course. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend adding hot chili peppers, unless you want a spicy broth.) 


The ingredients for vegetable broth are laid out on a brown walnut table. There are two gallon sized freezer bags full of vegetable scraps of various kinds. On top of a cutting board there are fresh herbs, a sprouting onion, and a bulb of garlic next to a large white ceramic bowl. A mason jar is off to the side which is half full of sun dried tomatoes.
The goodies we used in this particular batch of homemade vegetable broth: 1 + 1/3 gallon freezer bags of frozen saved scraps (onion, bell pepper, celery, carrots, herb stems, leek greens, corn cobs and more) plus some fresh ingredients, including a sprouting onion, homegrown garlic that was starting to go soft, a handful of fresh herbs, and some homemade sun-dried tomatoes that we made the previous year (still good, but getting old).


Tips to make the best homemade vegetable broth from scraps


Even though the main purpose (and perk) of this recipe is to use up saved kitchen scraps, there is nothing wrong with adding a few fresh ingredients too! Especially if you don’t have a lot of saved scraps to use, or much in the way of variety. 


Before jumping into the step-by-step instructions below, consider these tips on making the most flavorful homemade vegetable broth possible:

  • Use plenty of garlic and onion. If you don’t have any “scraps” saved, add some fresh!
  • Add salt and pepper (to taste)
  • No fresh or frozen herbs? Add a dash of dry Italian seasoning.
  • Use mushrooms. Even if you don’t love them (I’m not always a huge fan of their texture myself), mushrooms add excellent flavor to homemade vegetable broth. Love shrooms? Be sure to try our creamy vegan mushroom gravy!
  • Add a few bay leaves, either fresh or dry
  • Have canned tomatoes on hand? Feel free to add tomato paste or crushed tomatoes to the mix.
  • Use a splash of olive oil, butter, or coconut oil – particularly if you opt to saute fresh ingredients first.
  • Boost umami (savory flavors) with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or scoop of miso paste. In this particular batch of homemade veggie broth, we added 2 Tbsp of nutritional yeast for the 4 quarts of water used. Add miso at the very end (once the broth has been removed from heat) in order to preserve its nutritional benefits. Mix and dissolve the miso in a small amount of water separately before adding.
  • Add a little dollop of concentrated veggie bouillon if needed. No, I don’t think adding bouillon to homemade vegetable broth defeats the purpose, because you’re still making excellent use of your saved kitchen scraps – and extracting tons of nutrients and flavor from them!


Seven pint jars of vegetable broth lined up like bowing pins on a wooden cutting board. The liquid is light brown in color.



Step 1: Collect Kitchen Scraps


The first step is to collect scraps. Store the saved goodies in a sealed freezer bag, large reusable silicone food storage bag, or other closed container in the freezer as you go. Depending on how much and how often you cook, or how large a batch of broth you intend to make, you may be able to save up enough scraps to make homemade vegetable broth within a couple weeks – or it may take a couple months. It’s up to you, and all good either way!

Save trimmings (e.g. mushroom stems and onion ends) as well as anything that is about to go bad but you won’t otherwise use, such as limp carrots, basil, or celery. In addition to using frozen scraps, making homemade vegetable broth is the perfect time to clean out the refrigerator or pantry! But don’t include anything rotten or moldy in your collection. 


Step 2: Start with a Sauté (optional)

Grab your favorite stock pot or saucepan. Start by sautéing any fresh ingredients you may be using (e.g. extra onion, garlic, carrots, or herbs) with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. All of the “chunks” will be strained out later, so don’t worry about the shape and size of your cuts. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to soften. Don’t add any frozen scraps just yet.

If you aren’t using any fresh veggies, or feel like keeping it extra simple, you can also skip right to the next step…  


Fresh vegetable broth scraps are sitting in a stock pot ready to simmer on low for a minute before the frozen scraps are added. There are carrots, onions, an assortment of fresh herbs, and garlic visible.
Sautéing the fresh ingredients we used in this batch: a couple onions, several cloves of garlic, a few limp carrots, and handful of fresh herbs (bay leaves, thyme, sage and rosemary)


Step 3: Boil & Simmer 


Add all the saved kitchen scraps to your pot. Next, add enough water to fully cover the veggies – but only until they just start to float. They should be able to stir freely, but not be swimming in a vast sea of water. Using too much water will result in a weak-flavored, watery broth. For reference, we used 4 quarts of water for 1 + ⅓ gallon bags of frozen scraps (plus a small amount of fresh ingredients) used in this particular batch of homemade vegetable broth. 

If you haven’t added any salt yet, do so now. Start small (a pinch or so), and then taste your broth later once it’s nearly ready to be strained. Adjust salt and pepper to taste then if necessary. We added 2 tsp of salt for 4 quarts of water.

Bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Partially cover the pot with a lid, leaving it cracked open on one side. Now, allow your homemade vegetable broth to simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes. We prefer to let it go for at least 45 minutes to an hour. The longer it simmers, the more flavor is extracted and concentrated! 


The frozen vegetable scraps have been added on top of the fresh and sautéed scraps inside the stock pot before water is added.
Add the frozen collection of scraps
A stock pot full of vegetable scraps floating in water. Celery, corn cobs, bell pepper, onion, and carrots are visible.
Then add water
A stock pot full of vegetable broth scraps. There are corn cobs, leeks, carrots, onions, herbs, and garlic amongst other additions, all floating in the rich looking broth.
After simmering for an hour, partially covered.


Step 4: Strain the Solids


Position a fine mesh strainer over a bowl or second pot, and carefully dump your homemade vegetable broth contents through the strainer. Cheesecloth or a nut milk bag will work too. Depending on how much vegetable broth you made, you may need to do this in batches – taking turns emptying the bowl and strainer while filling storage containers as you go. I also like to use a wooden spoon to press down on the veggies in the strainer, extracting as much liquid as possible. 

Now that you’ve given those kitchen scraps a fabulous second chance at life, it’s time to retire them to their final destination – the compost bin. Need tips on composting? Check out this guide, which covers 6 different ways to compost at home. If you have backyard chickens, I’m sure they’d love to help dispose of some of the scraps! Also save your freezer bag and re-use it again too.


A metal strainer full of cooked vegetables sit over a metal bowl with brown liquid held within it. There is a wooden spoon resting on the scraps in the strainer as it was used to squeeze out the extra liquid from the veggies.
Straining and pressing.


Step 5: Use, Store or Preserve Your Homemade Vegetable Broth


Now that you’ve successfully made homemade vegetable broth from scraps, it’s time to put it to good use! We add veggie broth to soups (duh, right?) but also love using it as the cooking liquid for brown rice, lentils, beans, or quinoa. The result is significantly more flavorful and nutrient-dense than cooking those in water alone! It’s also great in homemade chili, like our vegan roasted pumpkin 3-bean chili recipe

Store fresh vegetable broth in the refrigerator, and use within one week. Or, you can preserve homemade vegetable broth by freezing it. Transfer the broth into freezer-safe containers*, such as wide-mouth glass jars or BPA-free quart containers. Fill containers to their designated fill line, typically about an inch below the top. This allows room for the liquid to expand as it freezes. Homemade vegetable broth is good in the freezer for up to a year.

*Please note that only wide-mouth jars are freezer-safe, as regular-mouth jars with “shoulders” are prone to cracking. Because of their slight shoulders, we’ve found that quart jars sometimes break too – even the wide-mouth ones. Therefore, we usually freeze a combination of glass pint jars (perfect for cooking a batch of rice) and larger volumes of broth for soup in BPA-free plastic quart containers. Smaller versions and variety packs are available too!


A wooden cutting board sits atop a table, there are two BPA free plastic quart jars and three glass pint sized mason jars full of veggie broth.
Done! We already put a pint jar in the fridge to use this week (hellllo savory brown rice!) and froze these pint jars and quart containers.


And that’s how to make your own vegetable broth from scraps!


The first time we ever made homemade vegetable broth, I was pleasantly surprised at just how simple it was and how good it actually tasted. I also felt a bit guilty we hadn’t been doing it all along! I mean, we were always good about composting kitchen scraps… but using them to create delicious, hearty broth before hitting the compost pile is WAY better.

I hope you feel just as excited and pleased by the process of making your own broth too. Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below, and stop back by for a review once you try it yourself! If you found this post to be valuable, please Pin or share it to spread the low-waste living love. Happy veg brothing to you!


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5 from 6 votes

Homeade Vegetable Broth from Saved Kitchen Scraps

Limp celery, carrot tops, and onion butts – oh my! Come learn how to make homemade vegetable broth from saved kitchen scraps, plus how to freeze it to save for later. It's a fantastic way to reduce waste and save money. This recipe is incredibly flexible and easy to do!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Course: Main Course, Soup
Keyword: freezing vegetable broth, homemade vegetable broth, vegetable broth from scraps, vegetable broth frozen scraps, vegetable broth kitchen scraps

Equipment

  • Stock pot or large saucepan
  • Fine mesh strainer, cheese cloth or nut milk bag
  • Freezer-safe storage containers (if freezing extra broth)

Ingredients

Saved and/of Fresh Vegetable Scraps (any combination and amount)

  • garlic, and plenty of it!
  • onions, including the ends and skins
  • celery stems and greens
  • carrots and carrot tops
  • mushrooms and mushroom stems
  • potatoes and potato skins
  • tomatoes
  • fresh herbs or remnants, such as the stems – sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, and bay leaves. Use dry herbs as needed.
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • other welcome additions include: bell peppers, cabbage, corn (and spent corn cobs), kale, swiss chard, zucchini or other summer squash, hard squash, peas, green beans, leeks, bok choy, sweet potatoes, shallots, beet tops, garlic scapes, and eggplant.
  • add any edible veggie trimmings or those that are about to go bad (e.g. limp celery, wilted basil, sprouted onions) but don’t include anything rotten or moldy in your collection.
  • use broccoli & cauliflower only in moderation

Optional, to boost flavor as needed

  • a splash of olive oil, coconut oil, or butter
  • nutritional yeast
  • canned tomatoes (paste or crushed)
  • miso paste (mixed and dissolved in water before adding)
  • concentrated vegetable bouillon

Instructions

  • If using any fresh (not frozen) ingredients such as garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and herbs, saute those first. Add olive oil or butter to the bottom of your stockpot or sauce pan and cook fresh ingredients over medium-high heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Add all frozen saved kitchen scraps to the pot.
  • Next, add enough water to fully cover the veggies – but only until they just start to float (able to stir freely, but not swimming in a vast sea of water)
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and partially cover the pot with a lid.
  • Simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to an hour or longer.
  • Strain broth from the solids, reserving the broth and composting the solids.
  • Store finished homemade vegetable broth in the refrigerator and enjoy within one week, OR
  • Transfer to freezer-safe containers and use within one year.



DeannaCat signature, keep on growing

8 Comments

  • Beth

    5 stars
    As always – I return again and again to Homestead & Chill for advice and tips. Recently having taken on a large garden, Deanna has been a lifesaver on how to get thru all of veggies…and veggie scraps!

  • Linda Brackell-Bisson

    5 stars
    Hi Deanna & Aaron….I have to tell you that, while I live in an urban area, I have utilized my yard as efficiently as I could (and that my hubby would allow….likes lawn!!) to grow our own food. I grew up a farm girl. We had livestock, chickens and farmed cash crops. But I really wanted to go organic. What a learning experience…thank you for your significant contribution to my education. Your recipes are phenomenal. Thanks again.
    Re: this vegetable broth recipe, I was wondering if cucumber clippings, etc. would be suitable…?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Linda, it’s great to hear that you are growing your own food as it is possible even in urban areas. It think cucumbers would be a fine addition to the broth, thanks for reading and enjoy!

  • Natassia

    5 stars
    Ive been doing this for YEARS too and its the most simple and essentially free way to stretch out the life of plants. I’m not sure if I missed this while reading your article but another benefit is your house smells AMAZING for the rest of the day.

    I’m thankful for your insight on wide mouth quart jars. Ive always been super hesitant to freeze liquids in them because it was always my understanding its the neck that causes the cracking issues. Have you experimented with filling liquids (soups/sauces) in flat glass containers that sort of fan out towards the top? I have a handful of great 7+ cup glass containers that I have used but I am so nervous to fill up and crack them as they were random sale finds.

    I also freeze broth in cube trays to use for sauteing everything in as I try to reduce the amount of oil we consume. It’s not realistic to be totally package free (dreams!) and the one thing I notice when deciding on what processed snacks/food to buy (dedicated voter with our dollar) is the amount of oil listed within the first handful of ingredients in everything. If I can stretch out our quality oils just a little bit further by using homemade scrap broth to saute then its a win win win. Just a little seed of thought for anyone to take or leave.

    For anyone else in agreement that mushroom texture is a major hit or miss, her gravy is hands dowm THE BEST GRAVY EVER!! I made a double batch last year for Thanksgiving and froze leftovers in the 8oz shallow neckless jelly mason jars and benefited to effortless single serving homemade gravy the rest of the year. It thawed weird so I thought I was gonna have to compost my stack of gravy jars but once you reheat it on the stove top (or in a preheating/freshly turned off oven) the texture returns to normal gravy after a good stir once its warmed up. I even made a super easy google searched vegan creme fraische out of cashews and holy moly, its worth the extra step!

    • Natassia

      5 stars
      I forgot to mention the extra vegan creme fraische froze and thawed beautifully and has been the best sour cream and mayo substitue in all recipes so far. Crowded Kitchen has a street corn dish that was ok with packaged vegan sour cream and mayo but was extra special with only vegan creme fraische. I would’ve never searched for a vegan creme fraische if it wasn’t for your gravy recipe so thank you for the continued blessings from your original recipe!

  • Andrea Runde

    5 stars
    HI! Actually, over the years I did make some broth from vegetable trimmings, etc., but lately I forgot all about it. Thank you so much for reminding me that it is a great way to make myself feel thrifty and lowering my contributions to the land fill!

    I love your site!

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