8 Broth Substitutes You May Have in Your Cupboard

I always have few staple canned goods on hand, but when a recipe calls for broth I often find myself reaching into my pantry only to come back emptyhanded. 

I used to substitute water for broth and call it a day, until I realized how much flavor that broth can add to a dish. Luckily, there are many broth substitutes that will do the job if you don’t have the real thing on hand.

broth substitutes on a table

Broth vs. Stock vs. Bouillon 

Before we get into broth substitutes, it’s important to now what broth is and how it differs from other liquids.

  • Broth is made from meat and/or vegetables simmered in water. Herbs are added to give the broth flavor. Broth is made by simmering ingredients for 1-2 hours, and often used as a base for soups or to cook grains and other carbohydrates in.
  • Stock is made from vegetables and bones that may have some meat attached. It’s simmered for longer — typically 4-6 hours. The collagen from the bones gives stock a gelatinous texture when cooled. It’s used for sauce, gravy, and as a rich base for soups and stews.
  • Bullion is the French word for broth. Typically when we think of bullion, we envision the cube or powder form. This is dehydrated broth that’s typically high in salt and low in flavor.

Can You Use Water as a Broth Substitute?

Yes, you can use water as a broth substitute, but you may sacrifice the flavor of a dish. It’s important to understand how much broth impacts the taste. For example, if you’re cooking grains in beef broth, which is rich and savory, the broth will play an integral role. If you’re using a little bit of chicken broth in a sauce with other ingredients, you can likely get away with adding additional seasoning to make up for the lack of broth.

Chicken Broth Substitutes

There are many substitutes for chicken broth. You can even try making your own if you don’t have store-bought broth on hand. 

Chicken Bouillon 

cup of water next to chicken bouillon

Mix 1 cup of hot water with 1 teaspoon of bouillon powder or 1 bouillon cube. This will create one cup of broth substitute. Bouillon tends to be saltier and less flavorful than chicken broth, so if you’re using it cut back on the salt you add to the dish.

You could also use Better than Bouillon paste, which has a richer chicken flavor. However, the flavor can be slightly overpowering, so if you do use it we recommend diluting ½ teaspoon of paste in 1 cup of water.

Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth can be used as a chicken broth alternative. It’s less savory than chicken broth, but more flavorful than water.

White Wine

bottle of whtie wine

White wine can help enhance the flavor of a dish, making it a great substitute for any recipe that calls for a small amount of chicken broth (like a sauce). You can use a 1:1 ratio to replace chicken broth or dilute the wine using a 2:1 ratio of water to wine if you’d like a more subtle flavor. If the recipe uses chicken broth as the base, like a soup or stew, we recommend steering clear of this chicken broth alternative.

Make sure to simmer the wine with the other liquids to allow some of the alcohol to evaporate. This will help avoid harsh flavors.

Water and Butter

1 tbsp of butter with water

You can create a makeshift chicken broth substitute with 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil. Include herbs and spices to your liking. This will mimic the fat flavor in chicken broth if you don’t have the real thing.

Beef Broth Substitutes

Similar to chicken broth, you could use water, vegetable stock, or a water and butter mixture in place of beef broth if needed. In my opinion, beef broth brings a bold, savory flavor to recipes that I don’t notice as much with chicken or vegetable broth, so I try to use the real thing when possible.

Beef Bouillon 

beef bouillon and cup of water

Mix 1 cup of hot water with 1 teaspoon of bouillon powder or 1 bouillon cube. Make sure that you reduce the salt in the recipe since bouillon tends to be salty.

Water and Soy Sauce

bottle of soy sauce and cup of water

The savory flavor of beef can almost be replicated with soy sauce. Combine 1 cup of water with one tablespoon of soy sauce. Add seasoning to taste.

Red Wine

Similar to how white wine is a good replacement for chicken broth, red wine is a solid beef broth substitute as long as you’re only using it to replace small quantities of broth. You can either use the same amount of wine as you’d use broth, or dilute it using a 2:1 ratio of water to wine for a subtler flavor.

Vegetable Broth Substitutes

Vegetable broth is typically made with a mix of sweet (ex. carrots) and savory (ex. mushrooms) vegetables, and further enhanced with flavorful herbs. You can use water or alternative broths as a vegetable broth substitute. If you don’t have vegetable broth available, flavoring plain water with herbs will enhance the dish’s flavor.

Water and Herbs

To create a pseudo-broth, you can boil water with herbs like bay leaves, parsley, and thyme. Throw in some garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste. While this concoction won’t be as rich in flavor as vegetable broth, it’s still more flavorful than plain water.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you could try making your own broth! Homemade broth is the most flavorful of all, and can be made by simmering meat, herbs, and spices for a few hours.

Remember, none of these broth substitutes will be a 1:1 replacement, but they’ll still enhance your dish! Do you use any other broth substitutions? Let us know in the comments!