Last Updated on September 28, 2023
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:
- Onions, especially sweet onions
- Carrots and green carrot tops
- Mushrooms and mushroom stems
- Fresh or dried herbs – 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 greens, and eggplant.
If you have a garden, you can get extra creative here! 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.) We even added old homegrown sun-dried tomatoes to the mix this time
Things to avoid in homemade vegetable broth
Some folks recommend avoiding brassica trimmings (e.g. broccoli or cauliflower) to make vegetable broth from kitchen scraps, as it may make the broth more bitter-tasting. However, we almost always include broccoli stems in ours. If you’re concerned about how it may taste, only use broccoli and cauliflower in moderation. Other things that make may broth bitter (avoid or use in moderation) include onion skins, woody herb stems, too many celery leaves, and bitter greens like mustards or dandelion greens.
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 1-2 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!
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…
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. Much longer isn’t necessary though, and may make it taste more bitter.
Be sure to stop and taste test after about 25 minutes. Then you’ll have plenty of time to adjust the flavor if needed. If your homemade veggie broth happens to turn out bitter, don’t worry! See this post on how to fix bitter broth and reduce bitterness.
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.
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, durable BPA-free quart freezer containers, or pint freezer 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!
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!
You’ll love these related articles and recipes:
- Bitter Broth? How to Prevent or Fix Bitter Vegetable Broth or Stock
- Composting 101: What, Why, and How to Compost at Home
- Growing Herbs 101: How to Start a Kitchen Herb Garden
- Creamy Roasted Tomato Basil Soup Recipe
- Creamy Potato Leek Soup (vegan)
- Vegan Roasted Sugar Pie Pumpkin 3-Bean Chili Recipe
- No-Chicken Noodle SoupCreamy Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup (vegan)
- Creamy Butternut Squash and Sage Soup (vegan)
Homeade Vegetable Broth from Saved Kitchen Scraps
- Stock pot or large saucepan
- Fine mesh strainer, cheese cloth or nut milk bag
- Freezer-safe storage containers (if freezing extra broth)
Saved and/of Fresh Vegetable Scraps (any combination and amount)
- garlic, and plenty of it!
- onions, especially sweet onions
- carrots and carrot tops
- mushrooms and mushroom stems
- potatoes and potato skins
- 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.
- onion skins, woody herb stems, peppercorns, bitter greens, or too many celery leaves may make broth bitter. 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
- 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.
- Taste test after about 25 minutes, allowing time for flavor adjustments if needed.
- 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.