The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

January 19, 2012

Homemade Plastic-free Vegetable Broth from The Plastic-free Chef

The following is a guest post from 17-year old Mary Katherine from Mountain View, CA who has been participating in the Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge since October of last year and has done an incredible job reducing her plastic waste.  See her trash challenge posts here.  Recently, she started her own blog called The Plastic-free Chef to share her strategies for cooking with less plastic.  

My name is Mary Katherine and I’m 17. I love to cook. I love everything about it (except cleaning). I do most of the cooking in my house. My quest to banish disposable plastic from my life began in August in the toilet paper aisle of Safeway. My mum was going on about the wastefulness of the plastic wrap around the toilet paper. Something just changed all of a sudden for me. My mum always talked about plastic packaging, but we didn’t really do anything. Truth be told, I was apathetic and ignorant of the problem. Sure, we brought reusable bags to the store and bottled water was banned from the house. But I suddenly realized we needed to be doing more.

After we got home, I spent a couple hours researching online for solutions to the plastic problem. I found a lot of resources, but my favorite one was Beth’s blog. Since then, I’ve been working to eliminate disposable plastic from my house. The most challenging area has proved to be the kitchen. But with the help of homemade cloth produce bags, the bulk aisle in Whole Foods, the farmer’s market, Straus dairy products and Cowgirl Creamery cheese, I’ve been able to eliminate most of the plastic from my kitchen. That said, here is one of my favorite plastic-free recipes. This is a staple in my house.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth is something that always comes in plastic. Whether it’s a tetra pak or a plastic lined can, you’re producing plastic waste either way. Bouillon cubes may seem like a reasonable alternative. They’re wrapped in foil and come in a paper box. But they’re highly processed and kind of expensive. Not to mention they still produce waste. I’ve found that the best option is to make it yourself. To make vegetable broth, I collect vegetable scraps in a bowl in my fridge until I get a good amount.

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

You can use whatever vegetable scraps you like. Some I use frequently are:

  • the tough green parts of leeks that aren’t good to cook with
  • onion peels
  • celery tops
  • carrot tops and peels
  • broccoli stems
  • cauliflower cores
  • cabbage cores
  • potato peels
  • beet peels (they turn your broth magenta though)
  • parsnip tops and peels
  • tomato skins and cores
  • wilted herbs from the fridge that didn’t get used up

Once you’ve collected enough scraps, empty the contents into a large pot. The pot I used is eight quarts.

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

Add enough water to almost cover the vegetable scraps. Don’t add too much water though. Your broth won’t be very flavorful if you do this.

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

Bring to a boil and lower the heat a little. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the flavor is strong enough for you. If you cook it too long it will taste bitter. Add salt to taste if you like. I happened to be baking a squash while I was making the broth. It oozed some juices, so I added them to the broth as well.

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

When my broth was finished, it looked like this:

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

Take out as many cooked scraps as you can and discard them. My apartment complex has a community compost pile and garden, so that’s where mine end up.

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

After this, strain the mixture into a clean glass container. I used a Straus milk bottle.

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

Homemade Broth Recipe from the Plastic-free Chef

Enjoy! The broth will stay good for four or five days in your fridge. You can also freeze it for a few months, but make sure to leave enough space for it to expand so the glass doesn’t break. For more plastic free cooking ideas, check out my cooking blog:




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11 years ago

Good job! Also, don’t forget to recycle the veggies in the compost bin. I think of vegetable broth as 2x recycling.

11 years ago

Gah…we’ve been trying to banish plastic for about the last year. So far no more milk containers, no more cans of anything, and a lot more buying and cooking of whole foods rather than processed foods. I’m down about 15 pounds from the effort and we are avoiding a ton of estrogen like compounds. NPR had a program on recently addressing BPA and what’s crazy is that consumers have jumped on the BPA wagon so much, it’s starting to disappear from any and all plastics. Unfortunately, what many fail to realize is that there are many other estrogen like compounds in plastic besides BPA.

Wal Mart and other retailers are pushing manufactures to get rid of as much plastic from their packaging as possible – both from a consumer demand perspective as well as shipping economics. This is the advent of Heinz “vegetable” made containers of ketchup and the super thin bottles of drinking water now showing up on store shelves. Not sure the science of these changes in packaging is any better from an exposure to chemicals perspective, but it is a start. We all should keep providing feedback to retailers (both verbally and based upon what we buy) to encourage packaging that is glass or not made from plastic.

11 years ago

What an awesome guest post! I’m new to your blog (Plastic Free Life), but already I’m loving it. Both yours and your guest blogger’s blogs are now on my “read often” list, and I’m adding them to the blog list on my blog. I’m trying to go clean,green, and zero-waste/plastic free in Alaska, and it’s tough! I really appreciate your tips and inspiration. Keep up the great work!

Can’t wait to try this broth.

11 years ago

I have only made my own broth a couple times, but it is an excellent way to control the flavor and sodium content. I do not like things too salty, plus sodium can lead to health problems later on in life. I love controlling my ingredients when I make homemade hot sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, and barbecue sauce.

11 years ago

Love this recipe, Mary Katherine, and wonderful healthy way to cook without wasting any nutrients. Thanks, again, Beth, for your inspiring approach to plastic free living. I appreciate the tip not to overcook or it gets bitter. So inspired and will start collecting my scraps for broth. As a vegetarian, I eat lots of veggies so now I’ll be flavoring many soups and dishes with my own homemade broth.

11 years ago

I’ve been trying to make vegetable broth from scraps a few times, but mine always turned out bitter and, otherwise, having a weak flavor. I’ll definitely try again using these instructions!
And, of course, I’ll check out your blog!

11 years ago

Mary Katherine, you’re spot on! My two cents would be this: if you want to use beet ends in your broth/stock, try golden or white beets…they won’t do the magenta thing to your final product ; )

11 years ago

What a great way of using up scraps–not only NOT creating waste, but even giving new life to old scraps.

Mary Katherine
11 years ago

@ Anna: That’s a good idea to make broth in a crock pot. I’ll try that sometime. Also, I put sweet potato peels in the broth and it tastes fine. Are you talking about all potatoes or just ones other than sweet potatoes?

11 years ago

Mary Katherine,

Great article! I actually make mine in a crock pot. See It is good to know that yours came out brown too. I thought it was just mine,. :)

Mary Katherine
11 years ago

@ Rhonda: I use carrot tops all the time and they make it taste pretty good.

Mary Katherine
11 years ago

Thanks everyone! I’m glad you all like it. :)

11 years ago

Great post! Do you ever make broth in a crockpot? Super easy and very low-maintenance. Pretty similar to your idea.
Also, I have tried freezing in glass jars like the one pictured and they have broken every time (yes I’ve done it multiple times…more than two and more than I’d care to admit as I find it embarrassing. ;)

11 years ago

Thank you, Mary Katherine. It’s young people like you who are going to change the world. And change my veggie broth too. I tried making veg broth the other day for the first time and it came out tasteless. Reading your blog, I realize I had waaaaay to much water.
I heard that carrot tops were not good in veg broth. You said otherwise. Any guidance?

11 years ago

That’s more or less what I do, though I find adding more than a small amount of brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, etc) or beets makes their flavours take over. I usually store scraps in the freezer so I don’t have to use them as quickly.

I also came up with a neat little trick with Joel documented at Reduced stocks can easily be frozen in ice cube trays for easy storage and use.

11 years ago

So young yet so wise! :)

11 years ago

Great article, Mary Katherine!

Sharyn Dimmick
11 years ago

Good for you, Mary Katherine. Thanks, Beth, for hosting her and introducing us.

Tracey TieF
11 years ago

Awesome! Your family is very lucky to have you at the helm in the kitchen, and the planet is very lucky to have you, too.