10 Best Substitutes For Vegetable Broth

It never ceases to amaze us just how much flavor a simple-looking cup of watery broth can bring to a dish. Though, when you add a splash to a pot of soup or some sauce, it can bring layers of flavor to a seemingly plain meal.

Despite vegetable broth's potential to add tons of depth and flavor, however, there are some downsides to using it. Although the broth is just the liquid left over from boiling veggie scraps in water, store-bought broths are notorious for being overly salty. Livestrong notes that just one cup of vegetable broth will account for 540 milligrams of the 2,300 milligrams of sodium that the American Heart Association recommends per day for most adults. This facet also means that using store-bought vegetable broth in your cooking doesn't allow you to control how salty your finished dish will be.

And, if not stored correctly, vegetable broth can go bad pretty quickly once opened (via Still Tasty). So, whether you want to cut back on the salt or realize that your vegetable broth is already spoilt, there are ways to easily substitute it without losing out on flavor.

1. Bouillon

Bouillon is the French word for broth and, as such, bouillon is essentially just broth in a more concentrated but dehydrated form (via Leaf). This is why bouillon cubes and powders are the most obvious and closest substitutes for vegetable broth.

Bouillon cubes and powders are usually cheaper than buying cartons of vegetable broth and have a longer shelf life, too. Although it's an easy substitute, The Spruce Eats warns that bullion can sometimes be saltier than vegetable broth (remember that vegetable broth is already quite salty!) so you might want to cut back on adding any more salt to the food you're making.

Another thing to remember is that bullion is a dehydrated form of liquid broth and so, you should mix the cubes or the powder with boiling water separately to rehydrate it. As tempting as it might be to add bullion directly into a dish when cooking, doing so won't make the most out of all the flavor that bouillon has to offer.

For best results, dissolve one cube or one teaspoon of bouillon powder in one cup of boiling water to substitute for one cup of vegetable broth.

2. Homemade Broth

Although homemade broth won't work for a last-minute substitution (as it takes a little bit of time to prep), making your own batch of broth is the best way to control the flavor of your dish. And, not only will you save some money doing it this way too, but you will also be able to put to good use veggies that are on their way to going bad.

The Pioneer Woman also notes that homemade broth tastes fresher than store-bought vegetable broth, so if you're cooking something that depends on it as an essential part of the meal, say ramen, homemade broth is a better option than boxed. All you need is the mirepoix of onion, celery, and carrots for the base and then you can pretty much toss in any other vegetables and herbs that you can get your hands on. Plus, it's less effort than you might think because the vegetables require little to no prep. You can use everything — the roots, peels, and stems — basically the entire vegetable. But do note broth takes a little bit of time to simmer together.

Here, you can use a 1:1 ratio to substitute vegetable broth with homemade broth.

3. Chicken or Beef Stock

Using chicken or beef stock as a substitute for vegetable broth is a no-brainer, unless you follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet. Both vegetable and chicken broth, in particular, have a similar flavor profile and color, which makes it easy to substitute one for the other (via The Pioneer Woman).

There are a few things to keep in mind when substituting in chicken or beef broth, though. There is a slight difference in flavor, so you will notice a subtle difference in taste of the final dish. Choosing the correct type of broth also depends on what exactly it is that you're cooking. Meat-based broths contain gelatin and have a richer and meatier flavor (via Foods Guy). Vegetable broth, on the other hand, is neutral. If you're using the liquid in a dish that requires a more subtle background taste, using chicken or beef broth as a substitute can easily end up overpowering it.

However, if you use this option, you can start with equal amounts of chicken or beef broth to replace the veggie variety in your recipe.

4. Mushroom Broth

If you're familiar with mushrooms and just how much flavor they can impart, it will come as no surprise that vegetable broth can be substituted with mushroom broth pretty easily (via Food52). Mushrooms have an umami flavor and reducing them to a broth will add a bold and meaty flavor, similar to that of beef. This means that mushroom broth works as an excellent vegan and vegetarian substitute for vegetable broth whilst still giving the food a meaty taste.

Veggie Desserts adds that you can even mix a variety of different mushrooms together if you're making the broth at home. You can then use the broth to make anything from soups and stews to risottos, pot pies, and stuffings. Plus, you get all the nutrition from the fungi like vitamin B, copper, potassium, and antioxidants (via Healthline).

When making the broth at home, remember that you only need a very small amount of mushrooms to do so. A handful and water is all it takes to transform it into a flavorful broth.

To substitute with mushroom broth, use a 1:1 ratio in your recipe.

5. Water

The handiest substitute for the times when you're fresh out of vegetable broth is actually water. However, with its convenience comes a bit of trickiness. For one, water has no flavor, so if your final dish largely depends on the broth for taste, water won't be the best option (via Bon Appétit). If you're making broth-based soups or risottos that require the flavor of the broth to standout, for example, it's best to use another vegetable broth substitute.

If you're using vegetable broth in a meat-based dish, you can go ahead and substitute the broth with water without worry as most of the flavor in the food will come from the meat itself. The same goes for many dishes like mac and cheese and curries that already have lots of flavor in them from the other ingredients and herbs and spices.

If you do choose to substitute vegetable broth with water, make sure to account for the lack of salt and herbs by adding some on top to season.

For best results, use a 1:1 ratio for the replacement. 

6. Tomatoes

Similar to mushrooms, tomatoes also bring an umami flavor to the table. Tomatoes contain glutamates, an amino acid that gives the fruit its rich and meaty flavor (via Umami Information Center). This is why tomatoes are an excellent vegan and vegetarian substitute for vegetable stock in any food where you want a meatier flavor.

When using tomatoes in place of vegetable broth, Food52 says there are many ways to do so. For a lighter texture and flavor, the site suggests mixing a half-cup of water and a half-cup of diced fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce in order to replace one cup of broth. You could also use dried tomatoes, either by letting them soak in boiled water to rehydrate them and then using the liquid as your broth, or by adding dried tomatoes directly into the food. The latter would work better in any dish that requires blending, say a tomato soup.

For a light tomato-based substitute to vegetable broth, mix a half-part of water and a half-part of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce.

7. Wine

Wine has long been used in cooking because of its ability to give food depth of flavor. This is because of the alcohol that wine contains. While alcohol itself doesn't add any flavor to food, it helps to bring out the flavors of all the other ingredients that you're cooking with it, in a way that even a vegetable broth cannot (via All Recipes).

So, it goes without saying that if you're short on vegetable broth, you might want to open a bottle of wine instead. Food52 recommends using white wine in place of vegetable broth for light and clear liquid-based dishes. You can use red wine in more rich and meaty dishes like ragu, chili, and gravies.

When using wine in place of vegetable broth, make sure to allow the wine to cook through properly otherwise you might get a slightly boozy flavor from it. All Recipes recommends allowing the liquid to reduce to half once you've added wine to your dish.

To substitute vegetable broth with wine, use 1/4 to 1/2 parts of wine and then fill the rest of the quantity needed with water.

8. Tea

Here's a vegetable broth substitute that has probably been sitting right in front of you this whole time: tea. You've probably noticed that tea does have a lot of flavor, though it's subtle. When you think about it that way, it isn't all that surprising that you could use it to replace broth when cooking.

According to Masterclass, you can use pretty much any type of tea — loose or bagged, green, black, or herbal. But if you really want to make the most of it, understanding the flavors of different teas and the foods that they complement will go a long way. White tea or jasmine, for example, are both excellent for poaching and in soups whereas black tea is best used in dishes that require more complexity.

You could also mix steeped tea with other vegetable broth substitutes like mushrooms and soy sauce, and use it as a replacement for vegetable broth in something like a dumpling soup.

For the best results, let your choice of tea steep in some boiled water for 10 to 15 minutes. Then use a 1:1 ratio to replace the vegetable broth.

9. Soy Sauce

The slightly sweet, salty, and umami flavor of soy sauce makes it an excellent option to use in cooking. While it's a great substitute for beef broth due to its deep brown color, soy sauce can also be used as a substitute for vegetable broth.

To use it this way, you should mix the sauce with some water first (via Delighted Cooking). While it's not the closest to vegetable stock in terms of flavor or color, it will still make your final dish tasty. Allowing the soy sauce to cook with other ingredients — meats, in particular — will also add some more flavor, too. You should also increase the cooking time in your recipe if you're using this replacement.

It's also best to keep in mind that similar to vegetable stock, soy sauce can have a high amount of salt so you'll want to adjust your recipe accordingly.

For best results, add one tablespoon of soy sauce to one cup of water. Then, use equal amounts of the mixture to substitute vegetable broth in your recipe.

10. Dashi

Dashi is a type of broth that is the foundation for many Japanese dishes, and it works well as a substitute for vegetable broth too. Dashi is made by steeping kombu (a piece of seaweed) in hot water and then replacing it with bonito (aka dried fish flakes), according to Bon Appétit. The result is a clear liquid bursting with umami flavor. Dashi can be used in place of vegetable broth in ramen, noodle soups, and Japanese cooking of course, but you can also use it to boil rice and give it more flavor.

Food52 adds that you can dashi in pretty much any recipe that calls for vegetable broth and that it has a thicker consistency than the broth. You can add it to risottos, use it as a poaching liquid for fish, or apply it for soups, sauces, and marinades. If you would like a vegetarian or vegan-friendly version of dashi, the site suggests making your own batch at home using dried shiitake mushrooms instead of bonito.

When you're ready to use it to replace vegetable broth, you can use equal amounts of dashi.