They might look the same, but one is better for certain types of recipes. We break down everything you want to know about stock vs. broth.
Using broth or stock is a sure-fire way to amp up the flavors of your favorite recipes. Sure, you could use plain old water, but these flavor-infused liquids give you a leg up. They contribute rich, hearty notes to your favorite soup recipes, and they’re also great for making rice, risotto, polenta, grits, beans, casseroles and more.
Recipes often seem to refer to broth and stock interchangeably, and you’ll find dozens of store-bought options on the shelves at the grocery store (including those pricey bone broth boxes). So what’s the deal with stock vs. broth: Are they the same, and is it better to use one instead of the other in certain recipes?
Is Broth Different from Stock?
There is one major difference between broth and stock: Broth is made from meat and vegetables, but stock is made with bones. While both are flavorful, broth tends to be thinner. It’s cooked for less time, and it doesn’t contain stock’s thick, viscous texture. When collagen-rich bones are simmered for hours, the heat coaxes out all kinds of flavor, along with gelatin. That’s why stock is usually solid (like Jell-O) when it’s refrigerated, while broth keeps a liquid form.
So why isn’t bone broth called broth stock? Probably because it doesn’t sound as good. Bone broth is a stock that is simmered for a very long time—sometimes as long as 48 hours. It also involves the addition of apple cider vinegar, which aids in the release of nutrients like glucosamine, amino acids and electrolytes.
When it comes to vegetable broth vs. stock, they’re the same thing. Vegetables don’t contain gelatin, so it’s impossible to make a vegetarian stock without bones. The major difference between the two at the grocery store is the broth may contain salt. It’s not always true, but stock is generally considered a sodium-free product because it’s intended to be the base or the start of your dish.
What Is the Difference Between White Stock and Brown Stock?
White and brown stock can be made with chicken, beef, pork or veal bones. The difference between the two is whether the bones are blanched before they’re simmered (creating white stock) or roasted and coated with tomato paste (for brown stock). In classical French cuisine, these stocks are used to make the mother sauces. White stocks create the base for white sauces, like bechamel and veloute. Brown stocks would be used for richer, heartier sauces, like demi-glace or sauce tomat.
Which Is Healthier, Stock or Broth?
In general, stock contains more calories, fat and carbohydrates than broth. But, it also contains more protein, vitamins and minerals. Bone broth (a type of stock, despite its name) includes even more nutrients, including amino acids and minerals.
If you’re looking for the healthiest stock or broth, we suggest making it at home. Follow our guide for how to make chicken stock. That allows you to control the sodium levels (something that can be quite high at the grocery store). You can add vegetables, herbs and spices to further increase the nutrient and antioxidant levels.
Enjoy my signature French onion soup the way my granddaughter Becky does. I make onion soup for her in a crock bowl complete with garlic croutons and gobs of melted Swiss cheese on top. —Lou Sansevero, Ferron, Utah
If you're a fan of classic minestrone but love bold Mexican flavors, this soup's for you! It's pumped up with spices, veggies, and pasta for a filling bowl of fun. —Darlene Island, Lakewood, Washington
A friend gave me the idea to use V8 juice in vegetable soup because it provides more flavor. My best vegetable soup recipe is perfect to prepare on a crisp autumn afternoon. —Janice Steinmetz, Somers, Connecticut
Simmering up a big pot of this soup is one of my favorite holiday traditions. This is a variation on a recipe my mom made while I was growing up. My husband and children can't get enough of the tender dumplings. —Debbie Wolf, Mission Viejo, California
This is one of my favorite vegetarian recipes, especially on those cold winter evenings. I make large batches and freeze it. Homemade pesto is tasty, but you can use store-bought to make the recipe really simple. Serve the soup with garlic toast and a green salad. —Liz Bellville, Jacksonville, North Carolina
My husband grew up in a traditional Asian household and gives this soup high marks for authentic taste. I think the Asian hot chili sauce is what makes the dish, but any type of hot sauce would give it a delicious kick! —Kari Sue, Bend, Oregon
Everyone in my family likes this soup recipe. Sometimes I add mini farfalle because my grandchildren say the noodles look like tiny butterflies. This recipe also works in a slow cooker. —Nancy Murphy, Mount Dora, Florida
Every fall and winter, our staff has a soup rotation. I have modified this recipe so I can prep it the night before and put it in the slow cooker in the morning. My colleagues love it! —Sharon Gerst, North Liberty, Iowa
No question—this is my favorite barley soup! It's so filling that I serve it as a hearty main dish, and I have given the recipe to many of our friends and relatives. It simply tastes too good to keep to yourself! —Diana Costello, Marion, Kansas
This hearty meatless stew made with convenient canned items is perfect for spicing up a family gathering on a cool day. It tastes as if it's made with love and yet it requires so little time and attention. —Pamela Scott, Garland, Texas.
My first Wisconsin winter was so cold, all I wanted to eat was homemade chicken noodle soup. Of all the chicken noodle soup recipes out there, this type of soup is my favorite and is in heavy rotation from November to April. It has many incredibly devoted fans.—Gina Nistico, Denver, Colorado
My family named this spicy soup after our state moniker, “New Mexico, Land of Enchantment.” We usually make it around Christmas when we have lots of family over…and we never have leftovers.
Artesia, New Mexico
I cook with lentils often because they're a nutritious, inexpensive source of protein. This low-fat soup is one of my favorite ways to use them. To make it even heartier, add ground beef, cooked sausage or leftover cubed chicken. —Rachel Keller, Roanoke, Virginia
Each spring my husband takes our dogs and searches for wild asparagus. He's been so successful that I finally developed this asparagus soup recipe. We look forward to this special soup every year.—Betty Jones, Kohler, Wisconsin
Homemade chicken and dumplings from scratch harken back to my childhood and chilly days when we devoured those cute little balls of dough swimming in hot, rich broth. It's one of those types of soup you'll want to eat again and again. —Erika Monroe-Williams, Scottsdale, Arizona
My go-to Thai restaurant inspired this curry soup. Shiitake mushrooms are my favorite, but any fresh mushroom will work. Fresh basil and lime add a burst of bright flavors. —Tre Balchowsky, Sausalito, California
Here's my reproduction of a dish from a famous Chicago eatery. We think it rivals the original. I usually cook this at least once a week. It's a tasty way to keep my lunchbox full of healthy options. —Marilyn McGinnis, Peoria, Arizona
I enjoy this recipe because it’s meatless, inexpensive and simply delicious! You can substitute any vegetables you like—it’s all a matter of preference. Serve warm pita bread on the side. —Geraldine Hennessey, Glendale, New York
Your crew will chase away winter's chill with a spoon when you cook up this hearty soup. It has such a rich flavor...and it's full of nutritious vegetables and chunks of tender steak. —Brigitte Schultz, Barstow, California
If you're looking for a great seafood recipe for your slow cooker, this classic cioppino recipe is just the ticket. It's brimming with clams, crab, fish and shrimp, and is fancy enough to be an elegant meal. —Lisa Moriarty, Wilton, New Hampshire
This slow-cooker soup is a semi-homemade version that coaxes all the flavor out of a rotisserie chicken. The prep work for this can be done the day before so you can toss it into the slow cooker with ease. —Beth Jacobson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Years ago, I fell hard for a lemony Greek soup at Panera Bread. It was just a special back then, but I re-created it at home so we could eat it whenever a craving hit! —Kristin Cherry, Bothell, Washington
Fresh shrimp from the Carolina coast is one of our favorite foods. We add kale, garlic, red peppers and black-eyed peas to complete this wholesome, filling soup. —Mary Marlowe Leverette, Columbia, South Carolina
I remember my mom making this soup; now I make it for my kids as often as I can. It's a good way to use up leftover vegetables. Sometimes I add a can of rinsed and drained kidney or garbanzo beans. —Angela Goodman, Kaneohe, Hawaii
You can prepare this soup as the main course in a hearty lunch or dinner. On cold winter evenings here in New England, I've often enjoyed sipping a steaming mugful in front of our fireplacel. —Guy Turnbull, Arlington, Massachusetts
Try this hearty soup that incorporates the best of vegetable soup and flavorful crab. I break whole crabs and claws into pieces and drop them into the soup to cook, then serve it with saltine crackers and a cold beer. —Freelove Knott, Palm Bay, Florida
I make a soup every football Sunday. I came up with this recipe because I wanted to use lots of vegetables to keep it healthy, but wanted it to be interesting. My wife suggested adding the andouille and now it's one of my favorite andouille sausage recipes. —Steven Thurner, Janesville, Wisconsin
I've been a vegetarian since high school, so modifying recipes to fit my meatless requirements is a challenge I enjoy. This soup tastes rich and creamy and is packed with nutrients! —Carissa Sumner, Washington, DC
My mother has diabetes, so I often prepare this dish for her. I wanted a hearty soup that hits the spot on cold autumn nights, so I paired the lentils with turkey bacon and a handful of spices. —Nicole Hopping, Pinole, California.
This soup is such a family treasure, both my daughters asked for the recipe when they moved out on their own. I cook the tortellini separately, but you can let it plump up in the soup broth, too. —Cynthia Krakowiak, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
This satisfying soup with a hint of cayenne is brimming with vegetables, chicken and noodles. The recipe is from my father-in-law, but I tweaked it to make it my own. —Norma Reynolds, Overland Park, Kansas
Red pepper flakes bring a little zip to this hearty soup that's full of good-for-you ingredients. Should you have any left over, this soup is fantastic reheated, after flavors have had time to blend. I like to serve steaming bowls with rye bread. —Carol Custer, Clifton Park, New York
Looking for a meal in a bowl? Sit down to a Mexican classic full of cubed pork, sliced sausage, hominy and more. It all goes into the slow cooker, so you can come home at night to a table-ready dinner. —Greg Fontenot, The Woodlands, Texas
Pad thai is one of my favorite dishes, but it is often loaded with extra calories. This soup is a healthier option that has all the flavor of traditional versions. —Julie Merriman, Seattle, Washington.
It's a snap to put together this hearty soup before I leave for work. I just add cooked pasta when I get home, and I have a few minutes to relax before supper is ready. —Charla Tinney, Tyrone, Oklahoma
Need a warm meal for a chilly night? Throw together this slow-cooked stew that’s brightened with fresh sweet potatoes, kale and Italian seasoning. The shredded pork is so tender, you’re going to want to make this dish all season long. —Robin Jungers, Campbellsport, Wisconsin
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.