How to Make Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is usually the first step one takes on their long journey toward becoming a chef, and I was no exception.  A stock is a liquid, devoid of any solids or particles, that bears a particular base flavor.  Vegetable, chicken, beef/veal, and pork are commonly found flavors of stock, but it can be made to take on other flavors: Duck, turkey, lamb, fish, and even cheese are all flavors that can exist in stock-form.  For the sake of order and simplicity, here, let’s talk about making vegetable stock.

A garden variety western-style stock (things change when you get into different types of Asian cuisine) calls for carrots, onions and celery (this “trinity” is commonly referred to as mirepoix), and black peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaf (referred to as a bouquet de garnis, or a sachet d’epicebouquet/sachet for short).  Optional additional ingredients include fennel, leeks, or garlic to add to your mirepoix, and parsley or cloves for your sachet.

Before you pick up your knife, make sure your vegetables are clean:

There should be no onion skin or “hairs”, as these things will introduce bitterness to your stock. Carrots should be either peeled or rinsed thoroughly, and have tops/bottoms removed.  Celery should be separated into ribs first (as well as removing all the leaves), and then washed; washing an intact head of celery will only make dirt collect at the base of the head.

Similarly, leeks and fennel bulbs should be cut first, and then rinsed (keep them separate, if using both) in a bowl of standing water; after doing so, allow 3-5 minutes to pass, so that any dirt or grit may sink to the bottom. 

Note all the specks of dirt at the bottom. Would you want that in your stock?

Then, rather than dumping the bowl out into a strainer (whereby the dirt at the bottom would simply be poured over the otherwise clean leeks), gently remove leeks from the top with your hands or a “spider” utensil, doing your best to not agitate the water.

Now that we are working with clean product, for a gallon of vegetable stock, we will need approximately…

2 Cups  (300g.) white/yellow onion (or roughly one large onion), medium diced.

*medium diced means about ¾” 

1 Cup  (150g.)   carrots, medium diced.

1 Cup   (160g.)  celery, medium diced.

1 Cup (75g.) (optional) green leeks, medium sliced.

1 Cup (optional) fennel stalks

3 Cloves (15g.) (optional)  garlic, crushed.


1 Tbsp. (10g.)  black peppercorns

5 Sprigs      thyme

3 Bay Leaves    (fresh, whenever possible), crushed

3 Parsley stems (optional) (leaves optional), crushed

3-5 Cloves (optional)

*Note: the bouquet is so-named, because when using it to season a soup or a sauce, the ingredients are meant to be tied up with cheesecloth, so they may be removed and separated from the more edible/palatable elements meant to be eaten.  Here, since we are making a stock, all the liquid will be strained of any solids anyway, so an actual bouquet is not necessary.

Starting top left, moving clock-wise: garlic, green leeks, onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, thyme, parsley stems, bay leaves, and cloves in the middle

Start with a pot: traditionally, stock pots are tall and narrow, to behave something like a chimney of flavor for the liquid to ruminate.  I’ve made stocks in pots of all dimensions, and I haven’t noticed a difference between the results they produce, so use what feels right, so long as it can comfortably hold about 8qt. The pot I’ve used here is 10″ across and 7″ high.

Set the pot on the stove over medium heat, and add a tablespoon of cooking oil.

Once the oil is hot, add the carrots, onion and celery (and fennel, if you choose), and stir (ideally using a wooden spoon to do so).  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to stir once a minute or two.

*Tip: technically, what makes a stock different from a broth, is seasoning; stocks aren’t salted, and broths are. But just between us, I like adding a good pinch of salt here, to really bring out the flavor in the vegetables, so that flavor winds up in the stock.🤫

After about ten minutes, add the remaining ingredients.

At this point, you’re also including the bouquet ingredients: many people don’t realize that peppercorns, garlic and herbs all have essential oils that are drawn out best by direct contact heat, so go ahead and sweat those peppercorns and parsley stems!

Continue stirring frequently over medium low heat.  The idea is to sweat your vegetables, not caramelize.  This means you don’t want any color to develop on your vegetables.  Instead, your aim is to draw (sweat) all the acidity and liquid out of them as possible, so all that is left is the sweet flavor of the vegetables.

Note how clean the bottom of the pot looks, clear of any caramelization.

You’ll want to sweat your vegetables and aromatics as long as you can, until you can’t help them from sticking to the bottom of your pot.  It should be about twenty minutes in total, but if you can sweat them gently enough to stretch it to thirty minutes before the bottom of your pot is sticky, even better.

Once you’ve reached this point, add a gallon of water, and turn heat up to medium-high.

Once the water begins to simmer, turn the heat back down to medium-low: your goal is for the surface of the water to be simmering very gently.  Simmer like this for one hour.  Stirring is not necessary.

After an hour, your stock should be ready.  I’d encourage, first straining your liquid through a colander (or in this/my case, a wider-spaced strainer).

Then pass it through a fine mesh sieve or chinois.  

See the film being collected at the bottom of the chinois? That’s why you strain it twice!

And that’s it!  Allow to cool before parsing it into containers to be refrigerated or frozen (stock freezes exceptionally well, and will keep for as long as your freezer is running!).

*Tip: if you are short on space in your freezer, you can elect to return your finished product to a clean pot, and return to medium heat to reduce.  You can reduce your stock down as much as you like, for storage purposes, only to reconstitute it with the water it evaporated, or just use it as-is for concentrated vegetable flavoring.

Not only does stock-making require principles and techniques that are essential in intermediate-to-advanced cooking, but stock is universally useful in every kitchen all over the world.  It will make or break a good sauce, soup, braise, and countless starch and vegetable dishes alike.  There are several different interpretations on how vegetable stock can be made, and I’ve been exposed to/taught a lot of them.  After years of seeing how others do it, I’m now here to tell you that you can make perfect vegetable stock in your own home kitchen.

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