Vegetable Stock Vs Chicken Stock – What’s The Difference?

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Stock plays a vital role in several dishes. It can serve as the base for different kinds of sauces, soups, braises, gravies, and so much more. The primary purpose stock is to help you build the layers of flavor in your recipe – giving you that rich and distinct taste. Needless to say, chicken and vegetables are the most commonly used ingredients for stocks.

This leads us to the matter at hand: Vegetable stock vs chicken stock – what’s the difference? The short answer to that is flavor. Chicken stock is made from chicken and vegetables, while vegetable stock is made only with vegetables. This difference produces specific flavor profiles as well as a variety of nutritional benefits for each type of stock.

In this article, we’ll be delving deeper into the differences between these two types of stocks. We’ll also look into the best ways you can make them as well as some storage tips you need to try.

What Is A Stock?

So, before we discuss the difference between a vegetable and a chicken stock, you, my dear readers, first need to understand what stock is and why you should use it (you might already know these things, in which case, you can skip to the next section).

The main purpose of stock as a culinary tool is to provide a dish with a flavor base to build on. This is why they are commonly used for making gravy, soups, and other dishes that require reduction.

So, having a batch of stock in your freezer presents a myriad of possibilities as you have one of the most fundamental ingredients for a tasty and nutritious meal. 

Making stock is the most efficient way to bring out the natural juices of your ingredients. That said, the process of making stock is extractive in nature as you are getting all the flavors out of them. This basic rule applies whether you are using chicken or any kind of vegetable. 

Vegetable Stock Vs Chicken Stock 

Now that we understand the purpose of making stock as well as the benefits that come with it, we need to talk about the matter at hand.

Vegetable stock vs chicken stock – what’s the difference? Perhaps the most obvious answer to this is: chicken and vegetables taste different.

At this point, this answer may seem obvious but bear with us. Presented in this section is a breakdown of the most important differences that set these two apart.

Flavor Profiles

Always remember that your flavor base will have a significant impact on the taste of your dish. This is where the seemingly innocuous difference becomes important.

Chicken stock has a much richer flavor than vegetable broth.

This is because of all the gelatin that you were able to extract while making your chicken stock. This is also the same reason why it would be better to use chicken stock when making gravy as you want it to have a meatier taste that would otherwise be impossible with vegetable stock.

On the other hand, basic vegetable stock is not designed to serve as the star of the dish. That is why people often opt to use vegetables with a neutral but savory flavor profile.

The flavors of a good vegetable stock should remain in the background, enriching the whole experience, instead of overpowering it. This is what makes the combination of carrots, celery, onions,  and mushrooms so perfect for making stock.

At this point, it is worth mentioning that not all types of vegetables should be used for vegetable stock.

For instance, potatoes and other starchy vegetables will make for gummy and undesirably cloudy vegetable stock. There are also vegetables that turn bitter as they slowly simmer.

Nutritional Benefits

Another issue that comes to mind when we speak of chicken and vegetable stocks is the health factors surrounding them.

It is a widely accepted fact that both chicken and vegetable stocks are incredibly healthy and bring a lot of nutritional benefits, especially when consumed on a regular basis.  

Other than this, there is another stark difference between the two. To be more specific, they differ in terms of calorie count.

As you would have guessed by now, you can expect the chicken stock to have more calories than its vegetable counterpart. There is also the matter of chicken fat that is extracted along with the other flavors of the chicken. 

Nutritional Benefits Per Cup

*RDI = recommended daily intake Chicken Stock Vegetable Stock
Calories 86 13
Carbohydrates 8.5g 2.2g
Fat 3g .1g
Protein 6g 0.5g
Potassium 1% of RDI 1% of RDI
Sodium 500mg 200mg
Vitamin A .1% 3%
Vitamin C .8% n/a
Iron 2.8% n/a
Calcium .6% n/a

Of course, there is an easy way to circumvent this issue. All you need to do is defat your chicken stock. This will not affect the flavor but it will decrease your health risks considerably, especially if you are watching your cholesterol level.

Once you have removed the fat from the chicken stock, then the difference between the two becomes negligible.

Dietary Issues

Finally, there is the matter of dietary practices. This issue is worth mentioning as some diets and lifestyles effectively restrict the use of chicken stocks for recipes.

For instance, if you are vegan or vegetarian, then it should come as no surprise that using chicken stock completely out of the question. This will force you to get creative with vegetable stocks and other plant-based alternatives.

Tips for Making Flavorful Stock

Making flavorful stock, similar to other culinary activities, is an art form. Whether you plan on using chicken or vegetables, listed below are just a couple of tips to help you make your sumptuous stock. 

  • Use only the best ingredients – There is but one rule that can never be broken when it comes to stock: you need to have good ingredients. This is true whether you are using vegetables or chicken. For instance, when it comes to making chicken stock, it is hardly surprising to find that free-range chickens are more flavorful than other kinds. The same can be said of organic vegetables. 
  • Be economical with your chicken parts – Make sure that you are maximizing the ingredients you are using. For instance, while you can use a whole chicken to make your stock, it would be better to use the carcass along with the drumsticks and wings. After all, these are the parts the most flavorful parts and they also contain the highest levels of gelatin. 
  • Get the most out of your vegetables – There are two easy ways to extract more flavor from your vegetables. You can either roast them beforehand or let them sweat first. Either way, you will be getting a tastier vegetable stock. 

Storing Your Stock Properly

Whether you made chicken stock or vegetable stock, you will want it to last as long as possible so you can use it for future recipes. That said, you need to ensure that it is stored properly to prolong its shelf life. 

So, before anything else, you need to wait a little while and let the stock cool to room temperature. You can stir the stock every few minutes to help it cool if you want to help the process. Otherwise, just let it sit still.

Once cool, you can then pour the stock into a big container, or several smaller ones. Make sure that the container is clean. 

Do not fill it to the brim.

Instead, make sure that there is at least an inch of space from the top of the container. Remember, the liquids will expand once cold, so leave a little space for that. Make sure that the containers are sealed tight. 

You may now place it in your refrigerator or your freezer. In your fridge, it will keep as long as a week. In the freezer, it can last for as long as 6 to 8 months at least. Just remember that flavor loss is a consequence of freezing your stock. 

Reheating Your Stock

When the time comes for you to use your stock, then you will need to ensure that it is reheated properly.

After all, you can never afford to be lazy when it comes to food preparation. Failure to do so will undoubtedly lead to unpleasant results. 

That said, if you put the stock in the refrigerator, then all you need to do is wait for it to return to room temperature before putting it in your recipe.

If you put the stock in the freezer, then there are two options available to you.

First, you can move your container to the refrigerator so that it can thaw overnight. Once that is done, follow the steps as explained above. 

If you simply do not have the time to do that, then you can follow the quicker route. The alternative is to put your container in a pot of hot water. Just make sure that your container will not be damaged or cause your stock to spill. The application of heat will let it thaw quicker. 

Conclusion: Vegetable Stock Vs Chicken Stock

Like with everything culinary, the matter of vegetable stock vs chicken stock all comes down to taste. They each have their distinct flavor profiles – this is the most important difference between them.

No matter which you use, however, these flavors ultimately enhance the dish and make it better. 

Up Next: The Best Noodles For Chicken Noodle Soup

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