How Do I Choose the Best Substitute for Chicken Stock?

Lee Johnson

Chefs should choose the best substitute for chicken stock by thinking about the specific dish they are making. Substitutes can be made using beef or vegetable stock, making a stock at home, or using water. Stocks are interchangeable within most recipes, and this means that beef, vegetable, or lamb stock can often be used in place of chicken stock. Some dishes are more suited to certain types of stock than others, however. Chefs can also make stocks at home using common ingredients. It is also possible to substitute stock for plain or salted water in some cases.

Celery is a basic ingredient in most stock recipes.
Celery is a basic ingredient in most stock recipes.

The simplest way to choose a substitute for chicken stock is to replace it with a different stock. Most stocks can be used interchangeably, so any stock the chef has available will be suitable. Beef stock, vegetable stock, lamb stock, and veal stock can all be used in place of chicken stock. Chefs can also choose to use a dehydrated bouillon cube in the place of fresh chicken stock if possible. These cubes have to be mixed with water before being added to a dish.

Garlic is an essential ingredient in vegetable stock.
Garlic is an essential ingredient in vegetable stock.

Some dishes work better with some stocks than others. For example, mushroom risotto is often made with chicken stock as the main liquid, but vegetable stock also works well. Beef, veal, or lamb stock wouldn’t work as well with this dish, so they shouldn’t be chosen to replace the chicken stock. Chefs can look at different recipes for the dish and see if any use an alternative stock.

Vegetable stock can be used as a substitute for chicken stock and is easy to make. Chefs should chop up two onions, two carrots, three celery stalks, and a bulb of garlic and add them to a large pan. Seasonings such as salt and black pepper and herbs like bay leaves can be added to the mix. Boiling water is poured into the pan to cover the vegetables and the mixture is left to cook for an hour. The flavors of the vegetables infuse into the water and create stock.

Water can be used as a substitute for chicken stock if no other options are available. Chefs can consider this option if they have extra time to cook the dish and if there are a lot of flavors already present in it. For example, a dish containing onions, garlic, chicken, celery, and mushrooms will create its own stock if cooked in water. The chef might have to leave the dish to cook for longer than usual to allow the flavor to infuse into the dish, however.

Many vegetable dishes can easily be made with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
Many vegetable dishes can easily be made with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

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Discussion Comments


@Ana1234 - Vegetable stock isn't that difficult to make and there are tons of recipes for it online. Actually, chicken stock isn't really that difficult to make either and it tastes much better than store-bought powders.

I do tend to use soy sauce as my go-to flavoring when I don't have chicken stock in the cupboard or fridge though. It's not quite the same thing of course, but it adds a bit of color and that kind of salty, savory flavor that I'm usually looking for when I add a little bit of chicken stock to something.

It's only really for times when you can't get proper stock, though, since it doesn't have nearly the same complexity and it won't enhance your meal the same way if you're making something special.


@MrsPramm - Onions are definitely a staple, but there are other vegetable options as well, like garlic, leeks, shallots and so forth. Although these are all roughly the same sort of flavor, so it depends on what you want. I don't think there's any direct substitute for chicken stock, or for onions, but you can just choose to make a different kind of dish, like a curry or creole flavored one instead.


If you are just looking to add some flavor to a dish then I will usually put onions in as the base rather than add stock later on. Just remember that you have to slice them up and cook them in butter or oil first until they turn clear. They won't cook evenly if they have other ingredients among them and aren't on direct heat and if they don't cook evenly they end up being a little bit crunchy which isn't usually what the chef is going for.

If I'm making something that needs a liquid base I'll just cook the onions in a saucepan and then add the water directly to them and the oil. Than just add whatever else you're planning to make.

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