Beef broth is a vital ingredient in many recipes for soups, stews, gravies, and sauces. But what happens when you don't have any beef broth on hand?
Fortunately, there are great substitute options available that can provide the same flavors and consistency as beef broth.
I have used many of them over the years and, in this article, I will bring you some of my favorite options.
- Beef broth is used in many recipes to add flavor and adjust consistency.
- You can substitute many other items if you don't have beef broth.
- Each of these substitutes adds different flavors to your dish, so choose the one that best fits your needs.
Beef Broth Basics
Beef broth is a liquid made by simmering beef and vegetables in hot water along with some seasoning, such as salt and herbs.
The resulting broth has a meaty flavor and can be used to prepare many slow cooker recipes like beef stew, French onion soup, and pot roast.
It is important to remember that broth is already flavored, so recipes may not add additional seasonings.
When substituting another ingredient, make sure to evaluate the recipe as a whole to ensure that it will still have plenty of flavor. You may find that you want to add more seasoning to the recipe.
“Our movements through time and space seem somehow trivial compared to a heap of boiled meat in broth, the smell of saffron, garlic, fishbones and Pernod.”
- Anthony Bourdain, Chef
When substituting for my own beef broth, I typically use an equal amount of the substitute. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of beef broth, I use 1 cup of my replacement.
However, in order to get the same savory flavors found in broth, sometimes other ratios are required.
14 Substitutes for Beef Broth
If you are missing beef broth, you may not have to make a quick trip to the local grocery stores. You can use quite a few easy beef broth substitutes instead.
Here are some of my favorites:
1. Chicken Broth
Chicken broth is one of my go-to beef broth substitutes. It has a mild flavor compared to beef broth, but you can use it interchangeably in most recipes.
Chicken broth is made by putting chicken and vegetables in boiling water along with some seasoning.
If you have homemade chicken broth or chicken stock on hand, that is ideal, but the store-bought kitchen staple works well too. I typically use low-sodium chicken broth so that I can control the amount of salt in the recipe.
2. Vegetable Broth
Vegetable broth is a good option if you are looking for a vegetarian or vegan substitute for beef broth. Vegetable broth or vegetable stock is made similarly to chicken broth but uses vegetables instead of chicken.
I find that vegetable broth can be a little less flavorful than beef broth, so I use a little more in my recipes. I also ensure I test the end product and add fresh herbs or additional seasoning if needed.
3. Beef Bouillon Cubes
Bouillon cubes are a concentrated form of beef broth made by simmering beef and vegetables until they form a paste. This dehydrated beef broth is then dried and formed into small cubes .
To use bouillon cubes, dissolve them in hot water before adding them to your recipe. I typically use one bouillon cube for every 1 cup of broth.
The most significant benefit of these cubes is that they have the same beef flavor as beef broth, making them a better substitute than vegetable broth.
4. Chicken Bouillon Cubes
Just like beef bouillon, a chicken bouillon cube can be dissolved in water and used as a substitution for beef broth. It obviously doesn't taste like beef, but it can provide a savory flavor to your dish.
I find that this dehydrated broth has a milder flavor than beef bouillon, so I may use two cubes for every 1 cup of broth that the recipe needs.
Of course, it depends on the recipe, as some may end up too salty with two cubes.
This may seem odd, but beer can work as a good substitute for beef broth. I prefer to use a dark beer such as a stout or porter. These beers have a deep flavor that can complement many beef recipes.
When using beer in place of beef broth, I find you get an excellent color and flavor if you reduce it before adding it to your recipe.
To do this, simply boil the beer in a pot until it has reduced by half. This will concentrate the flavors and give you a more intense flavor.
You will find that the alcohol evaporates with all the cooking, but you can always use non-alcoholic beer if you have concerns.
6. Red Wine
Like beer, red wine can also be used as a beef broth substitute. It works exceptionally well in recipes such as Beef Bourguignon.
Wine and beer will not add alcohol to your dish if you cook with them long enough. The alcohol will evaporate as it cooks, leaving behind the flavor.
If you are still concerned about alcohol content, just simmer the wine or beer until it has reduced by half.
7. Liquid Aminos
This is an interesting substitute for beef broth if you are looking for something with a unique flavor. Liquid aminos are made from soybeans and taste a bit like soy sauce.
Both vegetarian and gluten-free, they are a good option if you have dietary restrictions.
I find that liquid aminos provide a lot of punch, so I typically mix them in a 50-50 split with water. This way, they do not overpower the soup or stew.
8. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce has a similar flavor to liquid aminos but is more widely available. An Asian pantry staple, soy sauce can provide a savory, umami flavor to many recipes.
Soy sauce can be used the same way as liquid aminos, although I find it can be saltier. I would add soy sauce gently, a splash or two with water or another substitute and, then adjust it to taste.
9. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce is another common pantry item that can provide a beefy flavor to your recipe.
This steak sauce is made from garlic, red onions, and anchovies, among other things, and has a unique flavor. The sauce is aged 18-24 months, which contributes to its flavor .
Worcestershire sauce and other steak sauces are quite intense, so I would start by adding a small amount to your substitute liquid and then adjusting to taste. A little goes a long way with this sauce.
10. Mushroom Broth
An unusual substitute for beef broth, mushroom broth can provide a lot of flavor to your recipe. It is made by simmering assorted mushrooms and vegetables in water until they release their flavor.
Mushroom broth can be used as a 1:1 substitution for a cup of beef broth called for in your recipe. I find that it works especially well in recipes with Asian flavors.
11. Tomato Juice or Paste
This is a good substitute if you want something with a bit of acidity. Tomato juice can provide a slight tang to your recipe, which can be a nice change of pace.
I would start by using half tomato juice and half water or another substitute. You can then adjust the ratio to taste.
12. Coconut Milk
This may seem like an unusual choice, but coconut milk can actually work well as a substitute.
It is high in fat, which can help to add richness. It is creamy and has a slight sweetness that complements many beef recipes.
At full strength, coconut milk may overpower the other flavors in your recipe. I would start by using 1/4 cup of coconut milk for every 1 cup of beef broth. Then you can adjust as needed.
13. Homemade Beef or Homemade Bone Broth
Not really a substitute per se, homemade beef broth or bone broth can be used instead of canned beef broth.
Obviously, your homemade beef broth will have the full beef broth flavor and rich taste. And homemade broth will probably be a little healthier too.
You can easily make your own broth by gathering stew meat, yellow onion, garlic, bay leaves, parsley sprigs, olive oil, and marrow bones. Simmering beef bones and beef meat with the seasonings will result in a flavorful liquid with a meaty taste.
14. Miso Paste
Miso paste is created from fermented soybeans, barley, or rice, so it is vegan-friendly and yet has a deeper flavor than many vegetable options.
If none of these options suits your fancy, you can try tomato paste, homemade veggie broth, or meat stock as substitutes for beef broth.
Should I Use Water Instead of Beef Broth?
You should not use water instead of beef broth. Water is probably the most common substitute, but it is also the worst. This is because water won't add any flavor. However, like beef base, it will thin out your recipe and make it more soup-like.
Can You Substitute Beef Consommé?
Yes, you can consume beef consommé, especially as a beef broth substitute. It has a richer flavor due to its concentrated nature, so you should dilute beef consommé before use.
What Is the Difference Between Beef Broth and Beef Stock?
The difference between beef broth and beef stock is that broth is made from meat, while beef stock is made from beef bones. In fact, beef stock is sometimes called bone broth. Generally, beef broth will have a more robust flavor than beef stock, though it does have the basic beef broth taste.
Should You Try Beef Broth Substitutions?
This article has covered some of the best beef broth substitutes that you can use to add flavor to your recipe. You may even find that the new flavors enhance your dish.
Of course, you should only use beef broth or a substitute in a recipe that starts with high-quality beef. Fortunately, there are meat delivery services that will bring grass-fed beef right to your door. Click here to check out our roundup.