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What’s the Difference Between Stock and Broth?

What’s the Difference Between Stock and Broth?

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There are two main ways to think about the differences between stock and broth: how they’re used and how they’re made.

Let’s take a look at both and then talk about what this means for our cooking!


In classic French cuisine, stocks are considered to be an ingredient that’s used to make other things. They’re typically left unseasoned or only minimally seasoned (i.e. little or no salt or other seasonings) so that they can be used in as wide a variety of ways as possible.

Stocks can be used to make soup, reduced into a sauce or a glaze, or used to make a risotto—all these things can be made from the same batch of stock.

Broths, on the other hand, are less of an ingredient and more of a food that can be consumed on its own. They are usually salted and seasoned, and can be sipped just like that or used to make a simple soup.

You could argue that just by adding salt to stock, you have turned it into a broth. In fact, this is how the difference was explained to me when I was in culinary school!

Because broths have been salted, this restricts the ways they can be used. You can use it to make soup, but you can’t reduce it down to a sauce or use it in a risotto without risking an overly salty dish. A broth might also have been spiced or seasoned in such a way that its flavorings aren’t appropriate for all dishes.

This definition of stocks as an ingredient and broths as a food product is the way classically trained chefs tend to think about such things in their restaurant kitchens. You can read more about this in Larousse Gastronomique or in The Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America.


Another way to think about stocks and broths is in terms of how they’re made.

Stocks are typically made from meaty raw bones, leftover carcasses (like a chicken carcass), and meat and vegetable scraps. In the case of vegetable stock, only vegetables are used.

These stocks are usually simmered for several hours to extract as much of the flavor and nutritional value from the ingredients as possible. If you’re making a chicken or beef stock, you also extract collagen from the bones and cartilage, which adds body and silkiness to the finished stock.

Broths are usually much lighter and have less body than stocks. They’re most often made from poaching meat, vegetables, and seasonings in water for a relatively short length of time–often the length of time it takes for the meat to cook or the broth to pick up some flavor! For instance, the liquid left behind after poaching chicken is a broth.

This is how many modern chefs and food professionals think about stocks and broths. You can read more about this perspective in The Food Lab by Kenji López-Alt.


Think of this like a spectrum with homemade stocks at one end and broths at the other, and within this spectrum, there is a range. You can have stocks that have been seasoned with salt and are ready for drinking (this is what’s marketed as “bone broth”). You can also have light broths that have little or no salt, and can therefore be used in similar ways to unseasoned stock.

So which should you use? By and large, you can honestly use either stock or broth in almost any preparation in your kitchen. We’re home cooks who are using what we have, not restaurant chefs trying to get a 5-star review.

Just know that a rich stock will result in a richly flavored dish while a light broth will result in a lightly flavored dish. Neither is necessarily better or worse; they’re just different.

The big caveat is the salt. If your stock or broth has been salted, be very careful of how you use it. If it reduces down at all, this will likely result in an overly salty dish. If you’ve made homemade stock, it’s best to wait to salt it until you’re actually using it in your recipe.


In my experience, commercial brands tend to use the terms “stock” and “broth” pretty much interchangeably. The products have seemed virtually identical to me when I’ve tried them.

These store-bought stocks and broths are also usually closer to the “broth” end of the spectrum. They tend to be lightly flavored and lack the silky body of a long-simmered homemade stock. As such, they’ll result in a more lightly flavored dish than if you used homemade stock, but still something that’s plenty worthy of serving for dinner.

So, yes, you can buy either stock or broth for your recipe. But having said this, I highly recommend buying sodium-free or low-sodium versions. This will give you the most flexibility and allow you to salt your dish to your personal taste.

Want to Make Some Stock?!

Here are a few great recipes!

  • How to Make Chicken Stock
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
  • How to Make Stock from Chicken Feet
  • How to Make Beef Stock
  • How to Make Vegetable Stock
  • How to Make Shellfish Stock

Chicken Stock vs. Chicken Broth

Q: What is the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth? If I don't have time to make stock, can I use canned chicken broth and alter it in some way for use as chicken stock? Becky O'Reilly, Phoenix, AZ

A: Chicken stock tends to be made more from bony parts, whereas chicken broth is made more out of meat. Chicken stock tends to have a fuller mouth feel and richer flavor, due to the gelatin released by long-simmering bones.

Canned low-sodium chicken broth is the busy home-cook's best friend. If you've got an extra few minutes, enhance its flavor by adding any combination of the following and simmering for as long as you can: carrots, onions, leeks, celery, fennel, parsley, bay leaf, black peppercorns, or garlic. That'll help the flavor tremendously.

Enriching store-bought broth still won't give you the full stock experience, but unless you're making something like chicken noodle soup, where you really do want the stocky mouth feel, it's a great timesaver.

Stock is water simmered with vegetables, aromatics, and animal bones, sometimes roasted, and sometimes with some meat still attached. It is cooked for a medium period of time—usually 4 to 6 hours—then strained. It is usually not seasoned at this stage. The goal of stock is to extract the collagen from the connective tissues and bones being simmered, which give stock its thick, gelatinous quality. When chilled, good stock should have the texture and jiggle of Jell-O. Stock is not served on its own rather, it's used to deglaze a pan, or as a base for a rich sauce or gravy. Stock is also a great binder to use instead of cream or butter, or used in a broth-like manner (just add some water to it).

Bone broth is a hybrid of broth and stock. The base is more stock-like, as it is usually made from roasted bones, but there can sometimes be some meat still attached. It is cooked for a long period of time—often more than 24 hours—and the goal is not only to extract the gelatin from the bones, but also to release the nutritious compounds and minerals (namely collagen, but also glucosamine, amino acids, electrolytes, calcium, and more). It is then strained and seasoned to be enjoyed on its own, like broth.

What is bone broth?

Bone broth is always made with roasted bones and is prepared the same way as stock. The major difference between stock and bone broth is that that bone broth is simmered on very low heat for 24 – 48 hours. This slow-cooking not only releases gelatin but also adds calcium, collagen, glucosamine and other nutrients to the broth.

Bone broth is usually drunk hot and not used in cooking. Bone broth is reportedly beneficial for skin, bone strength, the digestive system and even improving sleep.

What is a stock, broth, bouillon, fond, and fume?

Have you ever wondered what the components are that make up a stock, broth, bouillon, fond and fume?

Stock – Martha Stewart says a stock is “made of water simmered with bones (except vegetable stock). The meat on them provided flavor while the bones and gelatinious connective tissue between them, slowly break down and add body to the liquid.” (p.39)

A frugal stock can be made from the bones and carcasses of a roasted chicken with fresh vegetables. You can save the carcasses in a bag in the freezer until you have 3 or 4 then you can make the stock. It will not be as flavorful as stock made from various uncooked chicken parts but it will beat the flavor of a bouillon cube.

White Stock – raw ingredients are cooked in water. Produces a mild, light flavor for some soups.

Brown Stock – bones and vegetables are roasted in the oven before simmering. Produces a deep color, intense flavor for rich sauces and braises.

Broth – water simmered with meat or bone-in meat and/or vegetables. “It is typically lighter bodies and served on its own.”

Bouillon – sometimes used interchangeably with broth. Refers to a grocery store product that can be reconstituted into a broth substitute.

Fume – concentrated fish stock

Quicker to make then chicken or beef stock. Ask a fishmonger for heads and bones from white fish. You will not want to use a strong-flavored oily fish. I wonder if I can get this at my regular grocery store? I think I will ask next time.

Fun Fact: Stocks, broths, fond and fume may be refrigerated for 4-5 days or may be frozen for up to 6 months.

For even more information read pages 38-39 in the Martha Stewart’s Cooking School Book .

What Is the Difference Between Stock and Broth?

Stock and broth two essential pantry items for any home cook. Though you can often “get away” with using water, having good stock or broth on hand can be the difference between a good and great recipe. But aren’t they the same thing? And aren’t they interchangeable in recipes that call for one or the other? Good questions. The answer is yes and yes, but also no. So then what is the difference between stock and broth? Let us explain.

Generally speaking, stock and broth are quite similar: water simmered with and flavored by meat and/or bones, and vegetables like celery, onion, and carrot along with aromatic herbs, then strained and used for cooking and to impart a depth of flavor that water simply can’t deliver (in the case of vegetable broth, meat is not used). Both are utilized as a base for soups, stews, sauces, and gravies among other things. Truth be told, some chefs use the words interchangeably, but there are key differences between stock and broth.

What Are the Key Differences Between Stock and Broth?

With regard to ingredients “stock is predominantly [made with] bones and some trim,” says Greg Fatigati, associate dean for curriculum and instruction for culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America. As the bones simmer collagen is released creating a rich and viscous cooking liquid with a thicker, more substantial mouthfeel.

Broth, on the other hand, is usually made without bones but rather pieces of actual meat and other parts, so it may have a slightly more identifiable flavor but less collagen and a thinner mouthfeel. Broth is a larger category as it can be made from any fish, mammal or combination of vegetables, while bones (and their collagen) are required to achieve a proper stock.

“Bone broth tastes more like a finished product than a cooking liquid, and can be served on its own,” says Nils Norén, VP of culinary arts for the French Culinary Institute. You can fortify stock with more meat to make broth and give it that soupy “finished” flavor.

Both stock and broth should be simmered slowly for at least a few hours to achieve the desired taste and texture, and while there is no hard and fast rule, the longer you are able to cook either broth or stock, the better they will be. Stock is especially reliant on a long cook to extract collagen from the bones and often times the bones are browned before any water is added to release even more.

When Should I Use Stock vs Broth?

Now that we’re versed on the differences between the two, it would be wise to explore when to use stock and when to use broth. For practical purposes, if you’re making a recipe that calls for stock, you can use broth, and vice versa. So in some respects, the cooking liquids are interchangeable.

But because stock is richer, from all the collagen and gelatin released by long-simmered bones, and with a deep and concentrated base of flavor, it is perfect for hearty stews and sauces. Anywhere a deep, complex flavor is desired, basically.

With a less intense, more nuanced flavor, broth can be used in place of water for a flavorful blanching or boiling liquid, to thin out a sauce or risotto, or as the main broth for most quick soups.

If you’re not making your own stock or bone broth (which you absolutely should see recipes below) you can find canned or boxed broth at most grocery stores (stock is not as widely available). You can use this for any recipe that calls for stock too, but try to find a low-salt version because store-bought broth generally contains high amounts of sodium.

VICUSCHKA / Moment / Getty Images

Why Is Everyone Drinking Bone Broth?

They’re not. The healthy bone “broth” trend you’ve been reading about is actually a bone stock trend since the whole thrust of the concept is consuming mass amounts of nutrients and collagen (found in bone stock) to support gut health along with other health benefits like preventing osteoarthritis, bone decay, and chronic inflammation. The term “broth” seems to have been implemented merely as a marketing maneuver, sounding more like a ready-to-eat food than “stock”.

How Long Do Stock and Broth Last?

Both broth and stock will only keep a few days in the refrigerator, but you can freeze both for months. Tip: if you anticipate having to use stock in various small and large amounts, freeze it in ice trays and then transfer the stock or broth cubes into freezer bags to use at will and in the desired quantity.

Easy Stock and Broth Recipes

Now that we’ve covered the key differences between stock and broth, learn to make both and store them in the freezer so you’ll never be caught without.

1. Basic Chicken Stock

This homemade stock of chicken bones, carcass, vegetable, and fresh herbs can be made ahead of time and frozen for use whenever. There is no substitute for real homemade stock, but feel free to use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot to speed up the process if you’re short on time. Get our Basic Chicken Stock recipe.

2. Basic Vegetable Broth

Classic mirepoix vegetables and earthy mushrooms combine in this homemade vegetable broth. Perfect to start a soup or stew, or thin a sauce, or simply eat (drink?) on its own for a bit of fast, low-calorie, warming sustenance. Get our Basic Vegetable Broth recipe.

Instant Pot, $89.99 on Amazon

A pressure cooker can greatly speed up the broth or stock-making process.

Recipes Using Stock and Broth

1. Quick Chicken Pho

Rip off some chicken from a rotisserie bird, heat up some noodles, and add the vegetables and other ingredients. Then, enjoy all those lovely flavors of ginger, basil, jalapeño, cilantro, Sriracha, and lime. Get our Quick Chicken Pho recipe.

2. White Chicken Chili

This is a real Southwestern comfort food with just a few ingredients yet not short on flavor. Smashing some of the cannellini beans thickens the broth, and a squeeze of lime juice at the end balances the richness and heat with a bright kick. Get our White Chicken Chili recipe.

3. French Dip Sandwich

Ooh, some roast beef and an au jus created with meaty bones and beef broth is just the thing. Add some crunchy-crusted French bread and you’re cooking with gas…and bone broth. Get our French Dip Sandwich recipe.

4. Chicken Tortilla Soup

Using a good quality stock or broth in place of water makes all the difference when cooking soups and stews. All sorts of spices plus some vegetables go into the soup besides chicken and tortillas. Here’s a way to make Tex-Mex into a fall meal. Get our Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe.

5. Easy Mushroom Farro Risotto

The nutty flavor and delicate chew of this ancient grain, farro, make this risotto a hearty and rustic dish. And with wild mushrooms, you’ll taste heaps of umami. Get our Easy Mushroom Farro Risotto recipe.

6. Easy Mushroom Broth

If you’re a devout vegetarian but find vegetable stock a bit bland, add some earthy ingredients like button and/or cremini mushrooms to the mix. It’s not technically a bone stock but it will taste pretty darn close. Try our Easy Mushroom Broth recipe.

7. Easy Chicken Noodle Soup From a Leftover Chicken

Really, this is just a recipe for making stock and immediately turning it into classic, comforting chicken noodle soup—but there’s nothing wrong with that! Try it once and you’ll never throw away a chicken carcass again. Get our Easy Leftover Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.

Related Video: How to Make a Quick Shrimp Stock

Header image by Chowhound, using photos from Chowhound and Jennifer A Smith / Moment / Getty Images

What’s the Difference Between Broth & Stock?

Broth. Stock. The store sells both, but with seemingly the same ingredients, and it’s honestly kind of hard to tell what the difference is. It leads to a lot of questions: Are you missing out if you use the wrong one? Are you going to ruin a delicate recipe if you choose one over the other?

Well, we’re here to change all that. Broth and stock have a lot in common, the most important thing being that they’re way better when you make them from scratch. Aside from that, there are just a few basic differences that make them suitable for different things &mdash read on to find out what exactly they are and when to use them.


Broth simply refers to a liquid that meat has been cooked in. It often also contains bones, vegetables, seasonings and aromatics. Vegetable broth and bean broth also fall under this category even though they don’t contain meat.

When to use it

Broth is already seasoned so only use it in recipes when you know the flavor profile will work. Broth made with chicken is great for light soups, risotto and other rice dishes and white sauces beef broth is a great base for heartier stews and tomato-based sauces and pork broth is delicious with ramen noodles and veggies.


Stock is made by boiling bones, sometimes with fresh aromatic veggies (though classically, just the bones) to make a rich liquid. Bone broth? Yeah, it’s basically just a modern marketing campaign for stock. The collagen, gelatin and flavors in the bones give stock a richer mouthfeel than broth &mdash good stock will turn to jelly when you refrigerate it. Classically, stock is unseasoned.

When to use it

Since stock is unseasoned, it’s a great base for a lot of dishes. Cook meat and veggies in your stock and add seasoning, and you have a soup reduce stock and add salt, butter and wine for a rich sauce add flour, butter and salt to make gravy. Since it’s unseasoned, stock is more versatile than broth &mdash you can change its flavor profile by adding other ingredients.

To easily made stock, save your leftover bones from meals in a bag in the freezer, then boil up a big batch of stock when the bag is full. You can roast the bones first to give them more flavor. Freeze the stock in an ice cube tray and then use a cube or two when a recipe calls for it.

What about store-bought broth and stock? Well, the store-bought kinds tend to be pretty interchangeable. But in general, stocks tend to be richer and more fully flavored, while broths are a little thinner. Either way, you’ll want to give them a boost at home &mdash try simmering some carrots, celery and onion in either before you use it in any of your meals so they pick up some of that homemade goodness. And always opt for the low-sodium products so you can control the salt level on your own.

Image: Getty Images/Ashley Britton/SheKnows

A version of this article was originally published in November 2017.

What Is Chicken Stock?

Stock is a thick liquid made from a combination of animal bones (which are often roasted first to create more rich flavor) mirepoix (a classic combo of onions, carrots, and celery) and aromatics (like peppercorns, parsley stems, and bay leaves) simmered in water for about 4 to 6 hours. After it is fully cooked on the stovetop and then strained, it should have a viscous, gelatin-like quality that comes from the collagen from the bones and joints. If you chill stock, it should gel.

Stock is typically unseasoned and makes for a good base for gravy, rich sauces, and soups. It’s also useful when you want to de-glaze a pan for a quick sauce.

What's the Deal with Bone Broth?

Bone broth has been trending in recent years thanks to health claims that it fights inflammatory diseases, improves digestion and, you guessed it, bone health. This soothing drink is a hybrid of broth and stock. Despite its name, the process for making bone broth is more like making stock animal bones are roasted, then simmered for several hours, or up to an entire day. But like a broth, it&aposs seasoned afterward, so it&aposs delicious on its own. The proteins and collagen found in animal bones infuse the liquid with nutrients, which we then drink and absorb.