Although there are new and exciting revelations in the culinary world every day, sometimes the range of possibilities is baffling.
While we’ve all been using beef stock for years, suddenly the shelves are also filled with beef broth, beef bouillon, and beef base!
But what if you have a recipe that calls for beef base and you don’t have any?
What are the best beef base substitutes? The best substitutes for beef base are sauces and seasonings that are similar in terms of richness and depth of flavor. This includes beef-based seasonings or substitutes such as Worcestershire sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, or a good quality beef stock.
Trying out a new recipe that calls for beef base, but your local store doesn’t stock this product?
Don’t panic, these substitutes will make sure your dish still tastes delicious! Let’s take a look at the best substitutes for beef base and how to use them.
What Is Beef Base?
Nowadays, there are many different forms of beef flavorings that we can use, and the choice can be somewhat confusing. To better understand how to substitute beef base, let’s, first of all, take a look at how it is made.
The vast majority of beef flavorings are based on a simple but effective ingredient – beef stock.
A stock is a liquid made by simmering different ingredients for a long period of time, allowing the flavors of the ingredients to infuse the water. This liquid is then used as a flavorsome base for soups, casseroles, and many other dishes.
The base recipe for beef stock consists of cooking up beef bones, meat, vegetables, and water. This creates a liquid that is thin, cloudy, and light brown, with a subtle beef flavor. A true stock has very little seasoning, as the focus is on the flavor of the basic ingredients.
Many people make beef stock at home with meat and bones left over from dinner, but beef stock is also available to buy in cartons in the shops.
Beef stock is used to make beef base, a highly intense beef flavoring. To do this, beef stock is simmered for at least two hours, until it is reduced by half. This allows the water to evaporate, concentrating the flavors in the remaining liquid.
This process turns a thin beef stock into a rich syrup-like paste, that is dark brown in color. It will have an intense beef flavor, but, like beef stock, very little seasoning.
If you have the time and ingredients, here’s a great tutorial from Chef Jack Ovens for making your own beef stock to use as a beef base substitute!
What Is Beef Base Used For?
Beef base is a flavoring ingredient, used when you want the intense taste of beef without an excessive amount of liquid.
This makes it ideal for foods such as pasta, casseroles, and stuffing, bringing a beefy flavor to the dish.
It can also be used as a fuller-flavored beef stock in soups and stews and mixed with other ingredients to create flavorsome marinades and dipping sauces.
Best Beef Base Substitutes
So now we’ve got you all excited about beef base, we need to turn our thoughts to what you can use as a substitute for this incredibly rich flavoring.
There are plenty of options available, so don’t be disheartened if your store doesn’t sell beef base!
Here are the best substitutes for beef base:
1. Beef Stock or Broth
As we know that beef base is simply a concentrated form of beef stock, it makes perfect sense that the ideal substitute for beef base is beef stock or broth!
Beef stock contains all the same flavors as beef base, but has much more liquid.
And while many stores may not have beef base on the shelves, beef stock has long been a cupboard staple that is easily found in many neighborhood shops.
There are two ways in which you can use beef stock to replace beef base, and the option you choose will depend on your recipe.
Take a look at your recipe – does it ask to add both beef base and water? If so, use an equal quantity of beef stock to replace the amount of water in the recipe, which will give you a similar beefy flavor.
Alternatively, for recipes that do not have a high water content, you can reduce your beef stock to make beef base.
This is more time-consuming, as you will need to simmer it gently for around two hours. But the end result will be an authentic beef base, ideal for your recipe!
2. Vegetable Stock
It can be so frustrating when you find what looks like a vegetarian or vegan recipe, only to discover that it contains beef broth!
If you’re cooking up a meat-free dish, then using vegetable stock is a great way to add flavor instead of using beef base.
As with beef stock, how you use the vegetable stock will depend on the amount of liquid your recipe calls for. Vegetable stock is not as concentrated as beef base, so you may need to simmer it first to reduce the amount of liquid.
For the maximum earthy, beef-like flavor, opt for a vegetable stock that contains mushrooms. This will have a richer, stronger flavor, perfect for adding meatiness to vegetarian or vegan dishes.
3. Kitchen Bouquet
Another option for vegan or vegetarian dishes, Kitchen Bouquet is an intense flavoring used to bring an intense richness to food.
And although Kitchen Bouquet is made entirely of vegetables and spices, the flavor that most people associate with this punchy seasoning is beef!
If using Kitchen Bouquet as a substitute for beef base, bear in mind that it is highly seasoned with salt and spices. This means you will need to adjust the amount of seasoning in your recipe accordingly.
Some people think that Kitchen Bouquet has a slight undertone of burnt food, but this adds to the caramelized flavor of your dish.
A vegan Bolognese sauce made with lentils, finely diced mushrooms, and Kitchen Bouquet is equally as beefy as its meaty counterpart!
4. Beef Broth
Here’s another beef-based flavoring to throw into the mix – beef broth. Like beef base, broth is made from beef stock but is simmered for a shorter time. Broths are also seasoned to taste, making them ideal for soups, stews, and casseroles.
If using beef broth as a substitute for beef base, there are two things to bear in mind.
Firstly, broth is less concentrated than base, so you will need to use more to get the same beef flavors. This will increase the liquid content of your dish, so you will need to reduce any additional liquids accordingly.
And secondly, beef broth is already seasoned, while beef base contains very little seasoning. If using beef broth you will need to add salt to taste, to avoid oversalting your food.
5. Red Wine
Chefs have long known that beef and red wine are the perfect partners! The rich intensity of red wine works perfectly in beef dishes, and this alcoholic drink can make a great substitute for beef base when braising or stewing meat.
Don’t panic about the strong flavor and alcohol content of red wine, as this will evaporate as the dish simmers. You will be left with a delicious flavor that blends perfectly with the beef juices.
Like beef base, red wine will not add to the saltiness of your dish.
6. Beef Bouillon
Yes, we’re back to the beef flavorings again! Beef bouillon is a highly concentrated form of beef broth. You will find beef bouillon in several forms – as a powder, paste, or bouillon cubes.
In terms of beefy flavor, bouillon will give you the same intensity that you get from using beef broth.
However, beef bouillon is very highly seasoned and contains a lot of salt. This means you will need to cut out most, if not all, of the seasoning required in your recipe.
7. Gravy Master
For those who are not familiar with it, Gravy Master does exactly what it says on the label – it makes delicious and perfect gravy, every time.
Gravy Master contains a blend of vegetables, in a base of caramel, vinegar, salt, and sugar. It is marketed for use as browning and seasoning sauce and will add an intense flavor and richness to your savory dishes.
When using Gravy Master as a substitute for beef base, they are both very similar in terms of intensity of flavor. However, Gravy Master is highly seasoned and is also a natural thickener, so it would be advisable to halve the amount you use.
8. Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce is a rich and pungent sauce that makes a great substitute for beef base. It will add an intense depth of flavor to cooked dishes but is less salty than Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master.
This sauce is made from a unique combination of molasses, garlic, onion, and spices, along with anchovies, which will lift and enhance any savory dish.
It is not quite as beefy as some of the other substitutes on our list but will add deep brown color and taste to your dish.
9. Beef Consommé
Beef consommé, like beef base, is made using beef stock. However, consommé is clarified using egg whites, giving a beautiful clear beef-flavored liquid.
Consommé can be used as a substitute for beef base in a pinch, but it will not add color or the same intensity of flavor to your dish.
Unlike some other substitutes on our list, consommé does not contain additional seasoning, so it is ideal if you want an alternative to beef base that is not too salty.