My mom’s cousin Amy has a story she likes to tell, of learning to make chicken soup from her mother-in-law many years ago. They had met for the cooking lesson and Amy did as she was instructed, putting the chicken in the pot with carrots, onion and celery. Ingredients assembled, one mystery remained. “But how does it become soup? Where does the soupy part come from?”
Wordlessly, her mother-in-law pointed at the faucet. Amy’s mind was blown. (She went on to become an skilled and prolific soup maker. We all have to start somewhere!)
Making soup is really the act of giving flavor and substance to water. It’s an act of magical transmutation that you can eat for dinner. Do you see now why it’s one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen? (Besides making jam, of course!)
I’m heading off into fanciful waters here, when really what I want to tell you about is the homemade vegetable soup base that I make in batches and keep in the fridge. It is one of my favorite tools for starting the transformation of water into soup (I also keep both the chicken and beef varieties of Better than Bouillon in my fridge, for when I want a meatier boost for my concoctions).
It’s relatively cheap to make, keeps forever (and honestly, just gets more interesting the longer it’s been in the fridge), and brings round, robust flavor to all manner of soups and stews. It’s also my secret weapon for days when I’ve been out and need a healthy lunch immediately.
I boil a little water in a small pot and stir in a couple teaspoons of soup base until it dissolves. I add a handful of chopped greens (spinach, arugula, chard, or kale) and once they wilt, break an egg into the pot. Then I it off the heat and let it sit for three or four minutes, to give the egg a little time to cook. I eat it out of the pot with a spoon and feel grateful for good food.
Now before you start praising me and calling me a genius, I must tell you, the idea behind this soup base is not the work of my personal brilliance. I’ve seen it in many places over the years.
Like Heidi, I first spotted it in the River Cottage Preserves Book when it was initially published in the US. Then this piece on dear, departed Culinate riffed on Heidi’s version. Jennie has a version on her blog and in her lovely book, Homemade With Love.
My version is a bit different than those from whom I’ve taken inspiration. Yours can be too. The only ingredient that is non-negotiable is the salt. You need it for both flavor and preservative power.
Homemade Vegetable Stock Concentrate
- 3-4 large carrots a pound or a little more
- 4 celery stalks include leaves if they look good
- 8 ounces sea salt
- 1 large leek remove the tough green tops
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 large bundle cilantro or parsley include the stems
- 4 ounces dried tomatoes I use my homemade ones, but store bought sun-dried tomatoes work well too
- 5-6 large garlic cloves smashed
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- Fit a food processor with an S-shaped chopping blade.
- Chop all the vegetables into relatively small chunks (if you have a smallish food processor, you might want to divide the veg into two batches so as not to overtax your processor).
- Start with the carrots (densest vegetables first!). Put them into food processor container and pulse until they're broken down into small bits.
- Add the celery and process.
- Now add about one-quarter of the salt and process.
- Add leeks and onions and process.
- Add another quarter of the salt and process.
- Add cilantro or parsley and process.
- More salt, and process. You may also need to scrape the sides of the processor bowl down at this point.
- Finally, add the tomatoes, garlic cloves, and black peppercorns and process.
- Then add the rest of the salt and process until it is fully integrated.
- The finished base should be relatively uniform in consistency and color.
- Pack into jars and refrigerate for up to four months. For longer storage, freeze for up to a year.
Intrigued and inspired! Yet another Mason jar might just make it into my fridge soon… Will have to find a good source of dried tomatoes, though (because I definitely don’t have any of my own left). I wonder if anyone sells them at my farmers’ markets… Thanks for yet another round of inspiration! (She says with your two books currently open in my kitchen and on my couch.)
I hope you like it, Elin!
What about dehydrating your mixture then doing a powder for longer storage and keeping in jars. I currently dehydrate my greens then grind into powder. I also dehydrate tomatoes so I can add tomato to different dishes.
I haven’t done it, so I just don’t know. If you try it, please do let me know how it turns out!
I do this, keep it in a jar and it is fantastic. Add a couple of spoons to my water, along with other vegetables that I want in pieces, let it cook, add a couple of whole eggs and let them poach. add some kale,chard, whatever I have frozen from the summer crop. I might add some small pasta to finish the pot. I will try the recipe above, its another way to have a handy way to provide a good base for soup.
I do that by dehydrating greens, but also onions, carrots, celery, garlic, seasonings, and whatever other veggies are at hand, grinding and mixing together for a quick soup base. I also like it for camping; it makes a great broth just as is. Sometimes I add powdered miso mix to give it a little more heft.
Dehydrating would be a great option for those of us who need to minimize our salt intake! I so need to try this!
Would you still use salt?
I dehydrate a variety of veggies, crush them and put it all in one shaker jar. I keep this in the freezer!
Then, I sprinkle this mixture on MANY things I’m cooking – spaghetti mix, chili, any sauce. It adds extra vitamins but doesn’t change the taste of your dish.
Question? How much does this recipe make? The 2 jars in the pix? An new idea to me, thanks Marisa!
It makes between 7 and 8 cups (the two jars in the picture were a quart jar and a pint and a half jar). I’m adding that to the recipe now.
I am definitely trying this. Used up all my dried tomatoes, but I will buy some.
I have the same question….how much does this makes? I’m intrigued as well, but it seems like a lot of salt. I love salt…but am tying to be careful of sodium.
It makes between 7 and 8 cups of soup base. You’re going to use it a teaspoon at a time. It will really replace the salt you add to soups and stews.
Thanks for this I too use the better than bouillon, I was wondering for the sun dried tomatoes, would they be the dry vacuum sealed kind, not the ones in oil right?
Yes, the vacuum sealed one.
I looked at “In Jennie’s Kitchen” blog that you referenced. She says to use a teaspoon of her concentrate to one cup of boiling water (basically to reconstitute it). Is that the same for yours?
That’s essentially how I do it. Though when I’m making a big pot of soup, I just scoop some into the water, stir it in, taste, and adjust.
Thanks – I was fretting the other day at the store over which vegetable soup base to buy. I also use the Better than Bouillon, but appreciate this economical veggy variety.
Do I need to add all 8 ounces of salt? If I decrease the amount can I just store in the freezer? Thanks! 🙂
The salt makes it flavorful and helps preserve it. Remember that you’re using it a teaspoon at a time, and the salt in the base essentially replaces the salt you would add to your soup.
I’m on a low sodium diet, so when I try this I’ll either freeze it in cubes or dehydrate so it keeps without the salt!
I don’t have a food processor but I do have a Vitamix. Can I process the veggies it that do you think? Love you books!
You’d want to work in a much smaller batch using a Vitamix, but it would work.
I have some of those delicious roasted Romas in the freezer – I wonder if they would work? They would certainly have a higher moisture content than dried ones… I may have to try this this weekend! You’re a wealth of information and I’m so grateful that you share it!
Great post. Never thought of making a base before. Every week we go to our local farmers market for fresh organic veggies and through the “prepping” process we have plenty of peels, ends, etc…that we freeze. after about two weeks we have enough to make a wonderful veggie stock and then it is soup time! Then we freeze the soup in individual containers and pull the night before for lunches. A great time saver and delish.
I’m a fan of the Better than Bouillon Lobster base — I use it to enrich my own homemade shrimp stock. This soup base is appealing, for the shelf life, the veggie-base, and ease (since I sometimes forget to thaw out stock from freezer), but it’s WAAAAAY more than I need (so I’d have to reduce to 1/4 or so LOL). Also – 8 oz of sea salt is over 3/4 cup … wow! Another reason to do this on a small scale and see what I think.
Hmmmm… Looks like I will be making a batch of this soon! I think I’ll freeze some of it in ice cube trays, and then transfer the blocks into a freezer bag. I do this with minced garlic and melted butter/olive oil, and it’s so easy and convenient to use. Homemade soup base flavor cubes sound like a winner! 🙂
This is a keeper!!
Fantastic answers – thanks so much. I just made a list of the couple of things I need since I already have most of the ingredients. Last question from me (I hope)…….your recipe says “sea salt”. I’m pretty sure 8 ounces of coarse sea salt is not equivalent to 8 ounces of fine sea salt, but I’m not sure. Which did you use? Fine or coarse? Thank you!!! And thanks so much for sharing everything!
I always measure the salt by weight in this recipe. That’s what I’m saying when I say 8 ounces. So whether you use coarse or fine, it will be the same. That said, I used fine.
Thank you. It felt like a dumb question after I hit the submit button (you know like what weighs more…a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers!). I actually did look it up to see the difference, but still wanted to know what you used. Thanks!
It wasn’t a dumb question at all! Sometimes you’ve got to ask these things!
Awesome, awesome, AWESOME!!!! I always have jars of Better than Bouillon in my fridge, I hadn’t even thought of making my own!
The recipe is great especially for those who want to cook healthy soups without added chemicals sauces from the store. Sometimes it’s hard to make healthy and tasty soup without meat, with this recipe it’s possible.
I so needed this! I ran out of veggie soup bullion powder over the snow storm and wondered about making my own. Brilliant! Thank you for sharing.
This is an absolutely tasty addition of flavor to my homemade beef or chicken broth! I’m making this tomorrow so that I can add this awesome taste into each cup I drink and soup I make. Soooo excited! I’d love to share this on my site!
First of all, thanks for keeping this wonderful blog – it is a mine of information and great recipes. And the associated books are now definitely on our ‘to buy’ list.
Secondly, I have a question about this particular recipe (which coincidentally came along just as we were wondering about how to create the equivalent of vegetable stock or concentrate from scratch). We are a small horticultural and food-making start-up and will be experimenting with various ways of getting our produce onto market stalls and retailers’ shelves.
However, being complete novices at canning (which is not as all as common here in Europe as it is across the pond), we were wondering whether the instruction “just pack it into jars” was really as simple as that or whether the jars need to be pressure-canned, especially if they are to be given or sold to others? We don’t want to get publicity through poisoning our customers rather than delighting them!
If you read a little more closely, my instructions are to pack it into jars and refrigerate. This is not a shelf stable recipe and I don’t believe that it could be made to be one. Pressure canning would change the flavor, color, and consistency irreparably. You could only make a product like this for sale if you kept it cold throughout the entire supply chain.
Thank you for the clarification. We did note the refrigeration aspect, but knew that in itself wouldn’t pass muster outside a home environment unless we used refrigerated transport. Looking forward to trying out the recipe in any case. All the best!
I just made some. It’s delicious! Thank you for the recipe.
i just made a batch and offered some to my friend whose husband is a vegetarian. I’m going to make a roasted veggie soup for dinner in the next few days and will use some of this to boost the flavors! And thanks to those who have talked about dehydrating some too. My daughter is going on a several months hiking trip and I can make her a bag or two of that so she gets good nutrients and some of my home-cooked meals that I’m sure she’ll miss. Cuz I’m going to SO miss her!
Should one soak /reconstitute the dried tomatoes or add as is
Hey now…. I like this idea! I actually am thinking that I could make this without the salt and add it to things as I cook as sort of an Umami paste of deliciousness…. hrrrm…
Looking very tasty and very interesting idea to make delicious soup base, thanks for sharing.
*mind blown* And of course I am going to make this! Although I must say I use my own pressure-canned beef and chicken stock pretty often in the kitchen….but still, I can see how this veggie paste would be useful. And my kids are really into hot drinks now, so this could be another option for them.
Mind: Blown. It never occurred to me that I could make vegetable soup base myself! Totally trying this when I get my new food processor 🙂 (my old one was one of those super-complicated deals that was so popular in the 90s, and I could barely figure out how to use it!)
I made this right away! It was the perfect thing to use up a bunch of veggie odds and ends that were pushing the end of their lifespan. I made soup with a few tablespoons the next day, and it was so delicious. I love this stuff – thank you!
Absolutely love this idea…thanks for placing another pleasant task to my to-do list!!
Excellent idea! Next time I will not use whole peppercorns, mine did not break down in the food processor.
Have you tried dehydrating it? I just made a batch and punched it up with curry leaves, ginger, chili, and kaffir lime leaves for pho in a jar. I will definitely make a non-South Asian version next, but I really, really want to put it in my dehydrator….
I’ve not tried it. But if you do, please let me know how it turns out!
This looks awesome! Any thoughts on how one might be able to make a homemade version of the chicken or beef Better than Boullion? I haven’t been able to find anything about this…maybe it just wouldn’t be sufficiently fridge-stable?
None of the veggies are cooked before putting in the food processor?
Nope. You don’t cook them at all.
BRILLIANT!!! Just the other day I was thinking why didn’t I have some in my fridge of the veggie better than bouillon. This will be something I can totally do some weekend.
BUT.. (and I hate asking b’c I hate people who ask this kind of thing) I have someone in my family allergic to tomatoes. Generally it is no big as when I make soup stock I just don’t use them. But are the necessary for the base here? can I sub mushrooms instead? or are tomatoes one of the acids that makes this fridge stable longer?
Sorry to be a pest. Thrilled there is such a recipe like this. THANKS!
The tomatoes aren’t necessary and you can sub mushrooms. This base isn’t about acid, it’s the salt that keeps it safe.
THANKS! Am very excited to try this.
I noticed several mentioned wanting to dehydrate this but never commented back with the results. It works incredibly well!!! I made up two batches…. one with the sun dried tomatoes and one with mushrooms/ginger. Perfection in a jar!! After drying I did a quick grind to further break things up and then dried it a bit more. Honestly it made the best Christmas present!
When you dehydrated the veggie paste, did you eliminate the salt or cut it back any? I’m trying to find ways to cut my salt intake. But am not sure if i can cut the salt in this recipe and it still be preservable?
Thank you Peggy for your dehydrating results posted. Think will have to give it a try for future gifts, awesome.
Where is the pin it button! I want to try this recipe.
This is amazing and just what I was looking for. I no longer need to spend so much money on Better Than Bouillon constantly! thank you thank you!
So glad to hear that you’re happy with that recipe!
I was tickled to find this recipe, and shared the link with four others! Since I live in the desert SW, most of my friends like spicy things! I added two serranos and one yellow hot.-perfection when I cooked a pot of rice!
I’m making this today and thinking I may portion it out by 2 tbsp size on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Then When frozen I can pop them off and put in bags then vacuum seal. Then would last for a long time and be easy to use as wanted. What do you think?
I think that sounds like a great idea.