Vegetable Stock Recipe: What to do with Wilted, Soft and Sorry Vegetables

The Holidays are over and have been complete just long enough to reveal a few nightmare ingredients which remain in the fridge: rubbery carrots, soft celery, a few petrified brussels sprouts, a limp endive and browning radicchio.  It’s not exactly a buffet for Kings but it had to be used.

What can be done with all of this?  Many years ago I would have thought nothing could be salvaged; I’ve since learned that this is all the makings of a wonderful vegetable stock (even the endive and especially the radicchio which darkened it up considerably):

Vegetable Stock Recipe: What to do with Wilted, Soft and Sorry Vegetables Stock

I want to emphasize how poor these vegetables were; they were beyond neglected.  They hadn’t turned to compost in the fridge..yet.  But they were well beyond what I thought was salvageable.

Vegetable stock is as much an idea as it is a recipe so don’t be worried about following too closely.  Here’s my overall process:

  1. Heat a neutral cooking oil like grapeseed oil over medium-high heat.  Start it hot and cool it off when needed.  I used olive oil for years and it just doesn’t get hot enough without smoking.
  2. Dump your vegetables into the pot and brown them.  Don’t worry about over browning but the more they fry, the better they will be.
  3. Pour enough cold water to JUST cover your vegetables.
  4. Add seasoning (but no salt per below) and/ or spices.  You can also do this while frying.
  5. Bring water to a simmer and reduce by half (see below for tips).  This should take about 90 minutes.
  6. Strain and cool as fast as possible.
  7. Store in fridge, covered.

More important than the process are these tips:

  • A ‘simmer’ means barely visible bubbles.  Water doesn’t get hotter than boiling.
  • Don’t leave longer than 2 hours or so.  Vegetables will get bitter.
  • Don’t add salt as the reduction may lead to an over-salted broth.
  • Pepper should be added in grounds (your straining it and it will make it easier).
  • Vegetables should be chopped to approximately the same size as each other.
  • The skin of onion and garlic are fine additions (onion will add colour and both will add flavour).
  • Bay leaf and thyme are standard spices; I also like chiles, peppercorns, savoury, lemon thyme, lemon grass and more.
  • Avoid bell peppers as they will make things bitter.
  • Avoid starch vegetables which will cloud your broth.
  • Radicchio will darken a vegetable stock nicely.
  • I cool my stock by pouring it out of the hot pan ind into a chilled bowl which I carefully place in a sink filled with chilled water and stir it to release the heat.
  • Straining through cheesecloth is fine; I use several different strainers for a similar effect.
  • For the best straining, pour the stock into the colander with a ladle (as opposed to pouring from the pot which will increase the velocity and pressure and force smaller pieces through the mesh).
  • You can roast the vegetables in advance if you’d like as well.
  • Note that carrots can add a LOT of sweetness and too much carrots can sweeten your stock.
  • I use a mirepoix (50% onion, 25% carrot and 25% celery) st start my vegetable base.  Our fermented mirepoix could be interesting here as well.
  • You can freeze stems of herbs, vegetable peels and ends to make stock as well

What else would you add or change on my list?


  1. i had to laugh at your phrase ‘nightmare ingredients’. i’ve had a few of those and never thought that they could be used. thank you for the instruction and inspiration. i’ve made a mirepoix recently and found it was so salty. We use very little salt and salted herbs is not somehig for this household. You are a wealth of info. Thank you.

    • Linda,

      thanks for your kind words and encouragement! They really were awful – not mouldy but awful. I could have used the brussells as slingshot pellets. :)

      Also love the other feedback – know that you can cut the salt from any fermentation (it will just take a bit longer and you need to taste as you go to ensure it’s going ok). Also, if you end up with a ferment that’s too salty you can put a portion in a rice strainer and rinse it under cold water. Only rinse the amount you’ll use that night but it will lower the salt (I had to do this with my first ferments that were always too salty). :)


  2. Annie Wilcox says:

    One of the best ingredients for stock is the skin of that knobbly, ugly, delicious vegetable…celeriac. We’re thrilled when we get it in our CSA box. Plus, we keep all the skins, peeling, tops and bottoms from carrots, onions, leeks, scallions, mushrooms, etc. in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Make stock when the bag’s full.
    I’m a confirmed vegan but get lots from your blog…love all the fermented stuff.

    • Annie,

      I LOVE celeriac – I also love to dehydrate it. Celeriac flakes are one of the few true essentials of my kitchen. I’ve also purreed it recently but not thrilled with the results yet…

      Thank you for your kind words; I have so much respect for Vegans and am glad you find things that are useful here too! It’s a tough balance for many here as our way of eating takes a bit of a slice from all pies. :)

      There will be lots more fermented stuff this year; we’re looking ahead and plan to incorporate far more of it into our diets. :) Any of the fermentation that use whey can be done without it as well (though you probably knew that :)).


      • Ouida Lampert says:


        If you “overcook” (boil) celeriac and cauliflower (normally, I would not suggest cooking either of these to death, but, in this case, it works well) with a few cloves of garlic, and drain – maybe even squeeze – the water well, it makes a fantastic puree (I added a bit of better, but ghee or some other fat would work). I’ve tried to like cauliflower puree in all sorts of guises, to no avail. This, however, won me over. Credit for the recipe goes to Jan’s Sushi Bar, not me. She’s brilliant.

        • Ouida Lampert says:

          Um, BUTTER. Of course, butter IS better, so there you go!


        • I’ve tried to puree it with mixed success Ouida. I’ve had it done masterfully in restaurants but my home version is mixed results. You’ve given me a few good tips here – I don’t dry it through and I often add stock; will try your version soon. :)

          • Ouida Lampert says:

            Learned tonight, by happenstance, that the proportion of celeriac to cauliflower is crucial. For the puree to be magical, you need equal amounts of each. I tried it tonight with a “normal” cauliflower and a sort of mingy celeriac – not so good. Needs more of the celeriac. It’s magical. Hmm – wonder if anyone’s ever called celeriac “magical” before?

          • Good to know Ouida! When I read the original explanation I thought you meant cauliflower OR celeriac – didn’t realize both together! So you’re happenstance discovery provided yet another tip for me – and that’s MAGICAL!!!! :) I anyone else has called celeriac magical but we can start a trend. :)

  3. megan noet says:

    I always brown my bones for makeing meat stock, but rarely do I make veg stock so I didn’t even think of browning them too! duh. Thanks. Also, have you canned any? I’ve done our chicken stock in the pressure canner and it’s so nice to just dump out when you need it. How long do you think you’d need?

  4. Al Hunter says:

    I’ve been using virgin coconut oil exclusively for the past year or so for frying/browning. It takes the heat really well without smoking. I always seem to find old green onions at the bottom of my fridge and using them in vegetable stock is way better than adding them to compost or green bin. I’ve also learned recently that regular onion skins are high in anti-oxidants and are now being dried, ground, and added to bread commercially to boost the nutritional value.

  5. Joel, would you mind commenting on your process for doing celeriac flakes – I love this veggie but never use it effectively. Thanks for your help -

  6. Love this post Joel. I just feel so defeated when food needs to be thrown out that I’ve been avoiding my veggie crisper since Christmas. I’ll have a root through the fridge & see what’s soupable. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Most welcome Lyn! let us know how it goes.

      Our dog loves brussels sprouts. We had 98 or 10 that I wouldn’t even feed to him (they were hiding under spinnach); yet they were fantastic in the stock! Could have also frozen them if I didn’t have enough veg I suppose as well. :) Lessons learned. :)

      PS love the term ‘soupable’. It’s gonna stick in my head now. :)

  7. Really appreciate the list of tips! It’s helpful to have so many in one spot. Thanks!

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