On my vegetarian journey I switched to cooking with vegetable broth exclusively. This meant learning the hard way and perfecting the flavor of something so simple. After a lot of practice and patience, I’m sharing my tips and tricks to mastering flavor!
Soups are my one of my favorite meals, side dishes, and appetizers. Yet the flavor of a soup is so specific, it can be tricky to make them your own. I switched to cooking with vegetable broth years ago, even before becoming a vegetarian, meaning I make a lot of substitutions. So many recipes call for chicken or beef broth and substituting can be a challenge, especially when those broths offer a distinctive texture and taste that defines a soup.
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I’ve had a hard time finding a single vegetable broth that I love best, because I find many to be too sweet, too thick, or just bland. I prefer the low or no sodium varieties, because I prefer to add my own salt to taste. I’ve also developed a set of tricks and tips to follow so that you can perfect your recipes just as I have. These are your keys to cooking with vegetable broth.
Cooking with Vegetable Broth
1. Adjust Your Thickness and Dilute
My vegetable broth of choice for a long time was the Trader Joe’s version, but during the pandemic I’ve branched out. Recently I’ve been using the Whole Foods 365 vegetable broth. Both of these broths are quite thick and too sweet for my taste. This is a common problem among store bought vegetable broths, meaning you must adjust accordingly.
The trick that I’ve learned is to water down your broth. Dilute it slightly and thin it out, otherwise your soup won’t turn out like you expect. The container from Whole Foods is 32 fluid ounces, so how much water is required to dilute it? I recommend using one whole container of vegetable broth with one whole container of water. I know what you’re thinking, will this take away all the flavor? No way. It will not, because adjusting the thickness by diluting your broth is the first key to making a delicious soup with store bought vegetable broth!
Practical Soup Example:
Recently I made matzo ball soup, which can be especially tricky in terms of achieving that perfect broth. I’ve learned that cutting the thickness of your vegetable broth makes the taste almost identical to the traditional chicken broth matzo ball soup. I use the one to one ratio and season liberally. Because of my success with matzo ball soup, I now do this for all of my soups. I really don’t like the traditional thickness of vegetable soups.
2. Season Your Broth Liberally
This feels like a no-brainer, but most of us are afraid of over-seasoning meals, especially when making soup. Don’t be when cooking with vegetable broth. Even when I cooked with chicken broth, I seasoned it myself. Store bought vegetable broths are inherently generic (bland) and seasoning them is essential! My seasonings of choice are always garlic, black pepper, thyme, and a dash of salt.
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My matzo ball soup remains a perfect example for this trick as well, because its traditionally a flavor-packed soup. In addition to the seasonings above, I also add parsley to my broth because parsley opens up the broth flavors and makes it taste even more like traditional chicken broth matzo ball soup!
3. Taste Test Often
Star this trick, because you need to remember it every time. When seasoning your broth, you need to do the following: season, taste, cook, season some more, and then taste it again. This is because when you bring your soup to a boil, you’re boiling off the moisture of the soup and the flavors along with it. This is again why I add water to my soup, because a lot of that water cooks down. If you don’t add water, then you end up with super thick soup. If you don’t taste test and re-season, you end up with bland soup. Taste test often, but certainly before lowering the heat.
In order to perfect the broth of my matzo ball soup, I taste tested twice as much as I would have otherwise. In the past I didn’t always have the perfect ratio of water to broth to properly dilute the store bought broth. This would then mess up the seasonings. I perfected my broth’s thickness and then was able to season it to perfection.
Like anything, finding that perfect blend of added ingredients to make that store bought vegetable broth into a delicious homemade soup takes time and experimentation. Using my tricks and tips will help you find that sweet spot, but please experiment and adjust as needed. Not all store bought broths are the same. I’m working on perfecting a truly homemade vegetable broth, but until that time comes, I too am cooking with store bought. Thankfully I’ve perfected cooking with vegetable broth like this.
Meet Your Soup Expert:
Mandi Mellen is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-Owner of BuzzChomp. She’s an acclaimed Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for her film work, or get lost in her comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow her on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.
Photo Credit to Yours Truly & Whole Foods
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