Katherine Deumling is a native of Portland, Oregon, who grew up in Germany and has lived in Italy and Mexico; her culinary leanings have been shaped by these places and cultures. She runs the small cooking school Cook With What You Have and is passionate about helping people cook more often and have more fun in the kitchen. Katherine is a board member of Slow Food USA and the former chair of Slow Food Portland.

Homemade veggie bouillon

A just plain clever idea

January 20, 2011

We’re nearing Super Bowl mania, so I figure I can use a sporty metaphor for this culinary, well, game changer. I first learned about homemade veggie bouillon just about a year ago, but it feels like it has been my dear friend in the kitchen for much, much longer than that. It wormed its way into my bag of tricks — at first slowly, and then persistently — so that now I can’t imagine cooking without it.

The creative Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks wrote about this wonderful, frugal, easy, tasty, and just plain clever idea from Pam Corbin’s The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.

So what is it?

It is simply all the raw vegetables and herbs you might use in a really good vegetable stock, pulsed in the food processor with lots of salt, and then stored in a jar in the freezer. The salt content keeps it scoopable even when frozen. The veggies aren’t cooked, just weighed (a kitchen scale is handy for this recipe but not essential), and you can also adapt the mix of veggies a bit based on what you have.

So with these simple steps, you get an intensely flavorful, fresh paste that turns a cup of water into a bright broth that enlivens any soup or sauce.

I have a few quarts of homemade chicken stock in the freezer that, for some reason, I hoard for special occasions. I used to make the occasional vegetable stock, but honestly, the bags of leek and celery ends and shriveled carrots in the freezer rarely made it into a stockpot.

I love the idea of making stock, but I’ve just never gotten into a good routine of doing it.

This bouillon can be scooped straight from the freezer.

But now, I don’t hoard, and I don’t worry about using up my precious stock.

I use my veggie bouillon to cook grains (quinoa, barley, farro, rice). I use it in potato-leek soup; in risotto; in a macaroni and cheese dish inspired by Mark Bittman’s wonderful Creamy Cauliflower Mac; in the red lentil and winter squash dal I wrote about here recently; and in regular old lentil soup.

For the quickest lunch or dinner, I bring a few cups of veggie bouillon to a boil, add some couscous, chopped vegetables, and maybe a bit of leftover chicken, and cook it all for just a few minutes before topping it all with some goat cheese. Voilà: instant soup!

The recipe calls for what seems like an inordinate amount of salt, but if you can bring yourself to follow the recipe, it’s worth it. Once you mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of the paste with a cup of water and taste the broth, you’ll be glad you did. The broth is bright, fresh, and perfectly seasoned, and you can certainly adjust the amount of bouillon you add to each cup of water if you like things milder. This recipe also makes a huge batch — enough, probably, for 30 to 40 meals. So try not to worry about the salt.

Feel smug, too, about how much money you’re saving by not buying expensive organic bouillon cubes. And — with the exception of the cilantro and dried tomatoes — all the veggies for this bouillon are readily available at our farmers’ markets this time of year. So get cooking!

Related recipe: Homemade Veggie Bouillon

There are 4 comments on this item
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1. by anonymous on Jan 24, 2011 at 12:09 PM PST

I have made a batch of this from the 101 cookbooks site and thinks it’s great. I used it in place of vegetable broth for barely with leeks, mushrooms, and kale. It came out great. Highly recommend it.

2. by Katherine Deumling on Jan 24, 2011 at 12:18 PM PST

It really has changed the way I cook. I used it yesterday in a cooking class to make a quick black bean soup and it was great. It just adds a nice layer of complexity and punch to most things.

3. by Lisa Garrison on Jan 18, 2013 at 3:04 PM PST

I followed the recipe as suggested with one cup and salt and its way too salty for one tsp per cup of water. And I really like salt. I think I will need to either add more veggies or just use to replace salt.
I would recommend adding the salt last

4. by Katherine Deumling on Jan 18, 2013 at 4:02 PM PST

Hi Lisa, I’m sorry yours was too salty. Salts can certainly vary and a fine iodized one like Morton’s would make it too salty. Kosher or sea salt doesn’t for me but all by means reduce to your taste.

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