Stock vs. Broth: Which Soup Base Is Best?

Updated: May 18, 2023

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. Next, find out the difference between bouillon and broth.

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.

Can You Substitute Broth for Stock?

You can always substitute equal parts broth for stock. Since stock is generally thicker and more flavorful, you might find your favorite recipes get more of a flavor boost by using stock. We like using stock for soups where the liquid is the star, like chicken and dumplings, lemony turkey rice soup and French lentil and carrot soup. Since broth is thinner, it’s better suited for dishes where you want other flavors to shine, like tomato soup, chili and slow cooker sweet potato soup.

In a pinch? Check out our guide for the best broth substitutes.

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.

Give your newfound knowledge a test-drive by making our best broth soup recipes.

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