Ummmm…. look at that jar of gold! Flavor gold, that is! It’s a jar of concentrated vegetal flavor that is easy to make, very healthy and full of amazingness! It will take you no more than 30 minutes, I promise (unless you are easily distracted, like me!), and will serve you well in the future for enhancing your soups, stews, pilafs (or other grain dishes), casseroles, sauces, marinades, glazes – wherever you need a boost of savory flavor.
But the best thing about this paste, is you control what goes in it. Use your favorite vegetable flavors and enhancers. Maybe you will want to add rich tomato paste to yours (instead of the sun-dried tomatoes), or fresh mushrooms (instead of the dried), or maybe parsnips, or turnips, or winter squash. Maybe you want to make an all raw bouillon paste! Feel free to try it out without cooking any of the vegetables. I haven’t tried this, but I would probably put everything in the food processor (in batches) first and then transfer to a blender with just enough water to get the right consistency.
What makes a good vegetable stock? My quick answer is, one with intense flavors that you like. A bouillon paste is just a concentrated stock that you add water to and make that rich, flavorful stock or broth.
Stocks form the basis of soups, stews, savory sauces, flavorful pilafs and other grain dishes, and they can transform a braised vegetable (or meat) dish from good to excellent. In addition, you can tailor a stock to suit your whims. This is where herbs and spices reveal their playfulness. Concentrated stock bases like this one are composed by the chemistry of flavors, textures, aromas and tastes that can be built into the process.
Vegetables and Umami
Your choice of vegetables will affect flavor due to their flavor molecules waiting to be unleashed. Root vegetables, like carrots, contain reserves of starch and over time, enzymatic reactions release sucrose, and they also thicken a stock. Alliums, like onions, garlic, leeks and shallots, have sulfurous molecules that heat changes into new substances that enhance flavor. Glutamate, for instance, adds a much-desired umami/savory character. Celery releases aromatic substances, such as sedanolide, that build flavor and enhance flavors from other ingredients. Mushrooms, dried and ground into a powder, contribute two important molecules: glutamate and a nucleotide called GMP. These two molecules amplify each other’s umami taste.
Other flavor-enhancers can be tomatoes (paste or dried), soy sauce, miso, spice powders and nutritional yeast of which I used a few.
Heat creates and releases flavor molecules from the vegetables. I choose to “brown” my vegetables without oil or water over low heat, using the water released from the vegetables as they heat up. This allows for a bit of caramelization and the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction occurs between the sugars and the amino acids in the vegetables. This reaction produces new taste and aroma molecules as well as color to the paste. Just avoid getting them too dark as they will turn bitter.
Finally, I add some fresh ingredients that brighten the flavor and liven things up a bit. Fresh herbs or citrus zest (or both) can provide that here.
I kept the sodium to a minimum so that you can add just the right amount in any dish you use it in for your tastes and health concerns.
I added some ingredients that could be optional for you, like chile peppers, caramelized onions (just because I had a jar of them that needed to be used) and mushroom powder. You may choose to add miso paste or soy sauce for added flavors. Oooh… what about some citrus zest?! I may do that next time!
I used fresh herbs from my garden, but you can easily adapt by using 1-2 tablespoons of various dried herbs instead. Hmmm… what about grinding up some bay leaves or amazing spices like star anise or coriander? The options are endless. But I digress, as usual.
The point is to give it flavors you like and use in your cooking anyway and avoid all the things you don’t want like way too much salt, or MSG, hydrolyzed soy protein, maltodextrin, sugar, palm or soybean oil, caramel coloring or any other ingredients you don’t recognize that are found in commercial bouillon.
But the very best part – hmmm, I guess I keep saying that, don’t I? – is if you freeze in an ice cube tray, you will have ready made portions to drop into anything you desire and believe me, your future self will thank you! Freeze in the tray, then remove the cubes and drop them into a freezer bag or container, label them well, and remember to use them! I tend to use 2 cubes when making a large pot of soup or stew or a casserole, but only one for a sauce or marinade, etc. I guess I would say, you might use 1-2 cubes per quart of water. Totally up to you. I don’t think you can have too much of this flavor!
I hope you will try this out out. I’d love to see what deliciousness you create. I always love hearing from you. So feel free to comment below, or tag me on IG @healthysexykitchen or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your thoughts on how to better serve you! Seriously!
Homemade Vegetable Bouillon Paste
- 12 ounces onions, leeks or shallots rough chopped
- 6 medium carrots rough chopped
- 6 celery stalks rough chopped
- 6 cloves garlic peeled
- 4-6 ounces celery root (celeriac) rough chopped, optional
- 1-3 small hot chile peppers rough chopped, optional
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs I used thyme, marjoram and parsley. If using dried herbs, reduce amount to 1-2 tablespoons.
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon celery seed ground or whole
- 2 tablespoons mushroom powder just grind a few dried mushrooms of choice, optional
- 1/2 red bell pepper can use any color you like
- 2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil or re-hydrated
- 1/4-1/2 cup nutritional yeast I used 1/4 cup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, celery root, chiles and peppercorns to a dry pot or skillet. Cook, covered, over low heat, for about 10 minutes or until slightly browned, stirring occasionally. You don't want anything to burn. Turn up the heat a little and add a tablespoon or two of water (more, if needed) and continue to cook, covered, until vegetables are somewhat soft, but not mushy - 2-3 minutes. Don't let vegetables burn or dry out.If using an Instant Pot, add 1/2 cup water along with vegetables, cook on manual for 8 minutes with natural release. Let cool slightly.
- Transfer cooked vegetables to a food processor or blender (I used a blender) and add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. You may need to add a small amount of water to get things moving. Do not add too much. You want it to be a paste.
- Store some (the amount you think you will use) in a clean jar for use in the next week or so (keep refrigerated). Freeze the remainder in ice cube trays. Once frozen transfer the cubes to a freezer bag or container. They should keep frozen for up to 3-4 months.