One of the great mysteries when cooking certain dishes may be whether to choose stock or broth. They are often spoken of, and used in place of one another, although there are significant differences in the preparation and nutritional profiles.
They both add flavor to recipes, although broth can be used as a soup while stock is traditionally used as more of a base. Every cook has likely used one or the other in a pinch, and this article clears up the confusion and provides ways to use both. Also, because the preparation of cooking both from scratch can feel overwhelming for the novice chef, there are many good store-bought versions that we recommend at the end of this article.
Take note that soups, broths and stocks are notorious for being loaded with sodium so check the labels before purchasing, and look for varieties that are labeled “low sodium” or “unsalted” as you can easily add your salt if needed.
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What is stock?
Stock can serve as the foundation for many dishes, and while stock usually contains less ingredients than broth, store-bought varieties can be pricier due to being more labor intensive to produce.
Stock is typically made from bones versus meat, and often herbs are used to boost the flavor profile and add a dose of antioxidants. Stock is thicker than broth due to the viscosity from collagen, it also contains more calories, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals than you will find in broth.
Over the past few years, stock has gained popularity as a sipping drink, commonly known as bone broth, due to the rise of the Paleo, Whole30 and keto diets. The name “bone broth” creates a lot of confusion because in reality it is a stock and not a broth. Bone broth is associated with many unfounded health benefits, although a recent study showed that it may be beneficial for people with gastrointestinal disorders, such as ulcerative colitis, because of the its anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to sipping, stock is commonly used to make gravy, soups and stews, and can add a boost of vitamins and minerals when used to prepare grains.
- 86 calories
- 8 g carbohydrate
- 6 g protein
- 3 g total fat
- 0 g fiber
- 3.7 g sugar
- 5.4% DV potassium
- 2% DV magnesium
- 5.2% DV phosphorus
What is broth?
Broth is usually a clear soup, and is routinely made from simmering the meat from chicken and/or beef and vegetables to create a flavorful and thinner consistency liquid. There are also fish and shellfish variations. Carrots, celery, onion, garlic and herbs are all typically used to prepare broth in addition to animal meat, although many other vegetables can also be used.
Most recipes call for the meat from chicken and beef, and it cooks for much less time than stock because the meat tends to become overcooked quickly if left to simmer for too long. It can be consumed as is, and although many people drink broth as well, it does not contain as much collagen, vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory benefits as found in stock. That said, it can be used in many of the same ways as stock, and is often found as a main ingredient in recipes for soups and stir-fries.
- 15 calories
- 1 g carbohydrates
- 6 g protein
- 0.5 g total fat
- 0 g fiber
- 0 g sugar
- 1% DV potassium
- <1% DV magnesium
- <1% DV phosphorus
The main difference between stock and broth is that stock is made from simmering animal bones and herbs for many hours, which produces a gelatinous consistency containing collagen from the bones. Stock often has a rich and heartier taste due to the increased fat content from collagen and the longer cooking method. The bones used to made stock are often roasted to add more depth of flavor, especially beef bones.
Broth, on the other-hand, is made from simmering meat, vegetables and herbs, and can cook for much less time, within thirty minutes if needed.
Additionally, as more people adopt plant-based and vegan diets, vegetable stock and vegetable broth has grown in popularity, although there is less of a difference between these two because they are not made with bones, and there is not any collagen being produced.
Which is healthier?
Generally, store-bought stock contains more vitamins and minerals per cup than store-bought broth. It contains more than double the electrolytes, and is a good source of potassium. It is higher in protein, carbohydrates, fat and calories containing 86 calories per cup versus 15 calories found in broth.
Which one is better for you is really up to your individuals goals and needs. If you are an athlete and lose a lot of sweat while exercising, stock may be a better choice for you due to the higher electrolyte content. If you are working towards a weight loss goal, maybe broth would fit better into your lifestyle because of the lower calorie count.
Consommé, bouillon cubes and bone broth
- Consommé: Consommé is often confused with broth, but it is actually a regular stock that has been clarified. To achieve the clarity, stock is simmered with egg white and eggshells and then strained. It is completely clear with no cloudiness and the fat has been removed.
- Bouillon: Bouillon (broth in French) is made from dehydrated stock and is usually sold in the form of cubes, powder or paste. Bouillon dissolves in water and is often used in place of broth or stock. It can be very high in sodium so look for low sodium versions if purchasing.
- Bone broth: As discussed above, bone broth is strained stock and is popular as a sipping drink especially with Paleo and keto diets. Many recipes and store-bought versions add apple cider vinegar or lemon to assist in breaking down the collagen.
- 1 small chicken (2½ to 3 lb) (*take note this recipe include the whole chicken with meat and bones)
- 1 large onion (8 oz), quartered (leaving the skin is ok)
- 2 medium carrots (4 oz), trimmed and cut in large chunks
- 2 stalks celery (4 oz), trimmed and cut in large chunks
- 8 sprigs parsley
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 clove garlic
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Place the chicken in a large stock pot (this should be tall and narrow rather than short and wide) and cover with cool water (about 8 cups).
- Make sure to use a pot that is a few inches taller than the chicken. This allows the water to flow around ingredients and extract the most flavor. It will also make it easier to skim away anything that rises to the surface.
- Gently bring the water to a simmer. As it simmers, skim and discard anything that rises to the top. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the onion, carrots, and celery and continue simmering for 1 1/2 hours more.
- Make the bouquet garni (AKA a package of herbs wrapped in cheese cloth): Lay the parsley, thyme, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf on top a folded over piece of cheese cloth. Wrap up and tie with twine.
- Using this in your stock is like adding a tea bag – it will help to infuse the flavor of the herbs into the broth, while still being easy to remove.
- Add the bouquet garni to the pot and simmer until the chicken is super tender and the broth is very flavorful, 30 to 45 minutes (adding the herb package too early can cause the flavors to cook away completely or become dull).
- Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl and season the broth with salt. Shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones, and reserve to serve with soup or use for another recipe.
- Line a colander with rinsed cheesecloth (set over another pot or measuring cup) and ladle the broth into it. This will catch any additional scraps left in the broth.
- Transfer broth to jars or containers and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
- 4 lb. chicken parts or bones
- 2 carrots
- 2 medium onions
- 2 stalk celery
- 1 washed leek (optional)
- A bouquet garni, consisting of 1 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon thyme, 6 parsley sprigs, 6 peppercorns, and 3 whole garlic cloves, wrapp
- Place the bones (and chicken, if you’re using one) in a large stockpot with water to cover well. Bring to a simmer, skimming as necessary to keep broth clear of scum.
- Add the vegetables and simmer very gently, uncovered, for about 3 hours, skimming periodically. (Remove the chicken when it is cooked through and tender). Add water if necessary to keep ingredients covered; do not allow stock to boil. Strain the stock through a sieve into a bowl.
- When stock has cooled, set uncovered in refrigerator for several hours until fat is hardened; scrape off. Use within two days or freeze.
If you are short on time or if home cooking broth or stock isn’t for you, we have gathered a few of our favorite store-bought items:
Amy (she/her) is a registered dietitian with the Nutrition Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering nutrition- and health-related content and product testing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Miami University of Ohio and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. Prior to Good Housekeeping, she worked at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City as a cardiac transplant dietitian. She has authored numerous chapters in clinical nutrition textbooks and has also worked in PR and marketing for food company start-ups.