You Saved All Your Vegetable Scraps for Broth. Now What?

9 ways to cook with vegetable broth

I haven’t bought vegetable broth for about 10 years. Instead, I save my vegetable peels and scraps, stash them in the freezer and when I need broth, I simmer the peels in water, strain them and voilà—Tetra Pak-free, free broth. You can read my post on this simple broth-making process here—one of the first I wrote when I started my blog in 2014.

Lots of onion and celery bits in the latest rendition
Adding a small amount of parsley stems

So now that you have a way to use up your vegetable peels and scraps, you may way wonder how you will use up your homemade broth. The following ideas will help.

1. Make soup

When I make a vegetable-packed soup like minestrone, I add water to the pot, not broth, because the vegetables make their own broth. But some soups need broth for flavor, such as potato-leek soup or chowders. And if you have made a vat of vegetable-packed soup—especially one that contains grains—it often thickens up over time, becoming more stew-like. If you prefer it more soup-like, add a bit of vegetable broth to the pot.

2. Cook lentils or beans

Before I make dal—especially if I’m using larger green or brown lentils, rather than, say, small red ones—I often cook the lentils ahead of time in either vegetable broth or broth left over from cooking beans in my pressure cooker. And I may have cooked those beans in broth also. This kind of constant ingredient reincarnation speeds up cooking.

Go here for a simple dal recipe and here for a simple dish of not-too-spicy black beans.

3.  Cook grains

Use broth to add flavor to cracked wheat, rice, farro, quinoa, polenta, millet and so on. In some of the broth I made for this post, I cooked some freekeh (wheat grains that have been roasted while still green). Because I had cooked a fairly concentrated batch of broth, I added a combination of broth and water to the grains. I’ll use the freekeh in grain bowls, tabbouleh and, if we have any left, some fried freekeh (think fried rice) or stuffed bell peppers (looks like I need another post on using up leftover cooked grains…).

Go here for a simple, fabulous red rice recipe that calls for vegetable broth.

4. Make creamy white sauce for pot pie

Make a bechamel sauce, thin it out a bit with the broth, add vegetables, place in a dish and drape with pastry for a pot pie. I have a recipe for a vegetable pot pie in my book, which will be out on April 13th. By the way, Indigo Canada has selected my book as one of the most anticipated books of spring!

5. Whip up a stir-fry sauce

For many sauces, you need broth. My daughter Charlotte makes this stir-fry sauce often. It’s delicious.  

6. Reheat that stir fry

To revive leftover, cold stir fry that may have dried out a bit in the refrigerator, heat it along with a a couple of tablespoons of broth (or more if needed) in a sauté pan. Stir until the broth evaporates. You can reheat leftover pasta similarly.

7. Sauté vegetables

Sauté vegetables in a bit of fat. While they’re still crunchy, add a few tablespoons of broth to the pan, cover and let simmer for a few minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the lid, add a bit of acid and salt to taste. 

8. Bake stuffing

Do you have leftover stale bread? Use that and your leftover broth for stuffing. (By the way there is no rule saying you must cook stuffing inside a bird. And no rule saying you must eat stuffing at Thanksgiving only.) Sauté chopped onions and celery in lots of fat, add chopped fresh sage, thyme and rosemary (or dried), salt and pepper. Stir in cubed dried bread, pour in broth to moisten, bake in a small Dutch oven or another type of covered dish—glass or cast iron work well—at 350°F for about 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes or until browned.

9. Make gravy

Like stuffing, you can eat gravy at any time, not only at Thanksgiving. You’ll need broth to thin it out. This mushroom gravy recipe from New York Times Cooking is fabulous.

Freeze excess broth

If you’ve made more broth than you need, freeze some to use later. I like having at least one or two jars of this on hand in the freezer. And yes, I freeze food in glass. You can also freeze broth in ice cube trays. Remove the frozen cubes and store in a jar in the freezer. Grab a handful when you need them.

The end result from the scraps pictured at the top of the post

7 Replies to “You Saved All Your Vegetable Scraps for Broth. Now What?”

  1. I have made my own vegetable broth several times but was always put off the colour. It tends to come out so dark but when I bought from a store it was light in colour so I thought I was maybe doing it wrong some how. Not that there is many steps to get wrong. Confidence boosting to see your broth a similar colour.

  2. I guess this is sort of subsumed in the “3: Cook Grains” heading, but I think “Make risotto” deserves a heading of its own. I have mushroomy broth for the mushroom risotto, asparagus butts and peels broth for the asparagus risotto and then the random veg scraps broth for everything else …

    I usually can my broth because freezer space is limiting. Canning the broth is easy as long as you have jars or bottles with lids that are not scratched or dented and a big pot, it will last forever, and you can open a jar when you need it without the “thaw that thing in the fridge overnight” planning stage.

  3. Always an important post. It becomes second nature, doesn’t it? No real work. It takes about the same amount of effort to place the scraps in a pot as in the compost bucket. I was working on a polenta dish this week that included a topping of sauteed leeks and fennel. I didn’t even have to stop and think about using those trimmings to make a quick stock that I then used in making the polenta. So much flavor is lost in discarding the scraps! Vitamins and minerals too.

  4. When I steam or boil my vegetables, I save the water in a jar in the refrigerator and drink the “tea” just like I would a glass of iced tea (I don’t add sugar to either). Sweet potato and carrot teas are probably my favorites, but I enjoy all of them.
    Since I tend to eat almost all parts of a vegetable, I rarely have scraps but do save the few I get for making broth, composting the used scraps afterwards.
    The only plant part I have a problem with are banana peels. I’ve tried cooking them various ways, but I just don’t like them cooked or raw. So into the compost they go. Any suggestions?

  5. Michèle Sharik says: Reply

    I, too, save the water from steaming vegetables (tho I don’t drink it). It seems like this would be good “starter water” in making veg broth with the veg scraps?

  6. Michele, yes, I have used it as starter water for broth. 🙂

  7. I do the same! My grandmother taught me not to waste food. I remember it from my childhood and practicing what i was taught. Practical, healthier and sustainable.

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