At a glance, stock and broth may both seem very similar, and in fact, many people use the terms interchangeably. There are some key differences between the two, however, with each being suited to slightly different tasks.
What is stock?
Stock is primarily used to add a savoury base to stocks, soups and stews, rather than being eaten by itself. It has a strong, savoury flavour, but should only include neutral ingredients, so it can be used in any savoury dish without clashing with other flavours. Unlike broth, it is not seasoned, as you would typically season the complete dish after adding the stock and all the other ingredients.
The use of bones is the key difference between stock and broth. Essentially, if it’s made with bones, it’s a stock, and if it isn’t, it’s a broth. Confusingly, this means that bone broth is technically a stock with added seasoning. Stock has a much thicker consistency, as it contains gelatine from boiled bones and connective tissue, so it’s good for thickening as well as adding flavour.
You may be wondering where vegetable stock fits in, since it clearly does not contain bones. The answer is that vegetable stock is not a true stock, but it is used in the same way - as a base for other recipes. The only real difference between vegetable stock and vegetable broth is that vegetable stock is kept unseasoned and neutral in flavour, while broth should be well seasoned.
Stock ingredients and how to make it
Stock is typically made with bones and a mirepoix, which is a mixture of onions, carrots and celery. These are placed in a large pan, covered with water and boiled for several hours. You should boil stock for much longer than broth, to make sure you get all the nutrients and flavour from the bones. A good stock should have a stronger but more neutral flavour than a broth, so it can stand up to other ingredients without clashing with them.
There are many different types of stock, depending on the type of bones you use. Stocks made with red meat bones like beef or pork are richer and bolder, while stocks made from chicken or fish have a lighter flavour. Watch these video recipes for 7 different types of stock to learn how to make classics like chicken stock, beef stock, vegetable stock, and fish stock, how to make a shellfish stock for seafood dishes, a mixed meat master stock, and how to turn your Thanksgiving turkey carcass into turkey stock.
Stock nutritional values
The nutritional values of stock will vary every time, depending on the ingredients used and how well you boiled them. Stock will almost always have a higher nutritional value than broth, however, thanks to those nutrient-rich bones and its longer cooking time.
A typical cup of chicken stock contains around 86 calories, with 8.5 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fat, and 6 grams of protein. It is an excellent source of B vitamins, with 6% of the RDI for thiamine, 12% for riboflavin, 19% for niacin, 7% for vitamin B6, and 3% for folate, and also provides several essential minerals, with 6% of the RDI for phosphorus, 7% for potassium, 8% for selenium and 6% for copper
How to use stock
Stock can be used as a base in soups, sauces, stews and gravies, as well as being used to flavour rice, risotto, polenta and grits. Here are a few of our favourite stock-based recipes.
Mushroom risotto: vegetable stock is a key ingredient in this classic mushroom risotto, blending perfectly with the mushrooms and giving the rice a deep, savoury flavour.
Shrimp jambalaya: rice flavoured with stock and juicy tomatoes is the perfect base for this spicy and aromatic seafood dish.
Goulash: a bold and hearty meat stock with red wine are the building blocks for this rich, flavourful Hungarian stew.
Nkrakra - chicken light soup fufu: there’s nothing quite so comforting as a warm bowl of chicken soup, and this Ghanaian-inspired version by British chef Zoe Adjonyoh adds some serious gourmet appeal.
What is broth?
Broth is made by boiling meat, and usually also vegetables, in a liquid. Sometimes it can be made using the vegetables only, to make vegetable stock. Unlike stock, broth should have a complex enough flavour to drink by itself. It will be well seasoned, and may contain more interesting flavours like garlic or Parmesan rinds. It is not made with bones, and typically has a much thinner consistency than stock.
Broth ingredients and how to make it
Broth is made by boiling meat and/or vegetables in water. This would usually involve the classic mirepoix vegetables, but here you don’t need to keep things neutral, so you can experiment with different vegetables, particularly ones that complement your chosen meat, like garlic or leeks in chicken broth. Unlike stock, broth is well-seasoned, and your ingredients should include various herbs, spices and other flavourings.
Broth comes in many flavours, but chicken is perhaps the most celebrated. Learn how to make the ultimate sippable broth with our Mother’s chicken broth recipe.
Broth nutritional values
Broth contains many of the same nutrients as stock, but they will usually be in lower concentrations due to the lack of gelatine. It may be more popular with those on a calorie controlled diet, however, as a typical serving has less than half the calories of stock, at just 38 per cup, and it’s lower in carbs and fat, too, with just 3 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fat, while still boasting a healthy 5g of protein.
Broth provides some B vitamins, but not as many as stock, with no thiamine or folate, just 1% of the RDI for vitamin B6, and 4% for riboflavin, but a more impressive 16% for niacin. It fares better in terms of minerals, although it does lack the selenium content of stock. Potassium is only slightly lower, at 6% of the RDI, while it’s copper content matches that of stock, at 6% of the RDI, and it actually contains more phosphorus than stock, at 7% of the RDI.
How to use broth
Broth is a dish in itself, and can be eaten without anything else. You can, however, add solid ingredients like scallops or meatballs to a bowl of broth to make a flavourful appetiser or a satisfying lunch.
Scallops wrapped in pancetta: this refined, broth-based appetiser was created by chefs Italo Bassi and Riccardo Monco, of Florence’s three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri.
Warm soup with speck: rich beef broth and salty bacon dumplings make a deeply flavourful and nourishing meal that’s perfect for chasing away the blues on a cold winter’s day.
Now you know bone broth is technically a stock, but did you know that it’s also seriously good for you? Read our article to find out the many health benefits of drinking bone broth.