I have been in the market for a fast, flavorful vegetable broth for many years. I don’t typically have cartons in the pantry (because I’m a snob) or jars of the homemade stuff in the freezer (because I’m a lazy snob). As a consequence I’m often using water in place of broth (I repeat: lazy), but it’s a substitute that usually doesn’t do the recipe service (apologies to Zaynab Issa’s red lentil soup). What I’ve been searching for then is a broth that won’t take too many minutes on a weeknight but will bring big, deep flavor to my meals.
Reader, I found my white whale: a vegan broth that’s ready in less than 30 minutes, with no store-bought cartons, no bouillon concentrate, no scraps simmering for hours. All you really need is nutritional yeast, which dissolves in hot water to lend its savory, nearly chicken-y flavor to the liquid (though a few other ingredients are nice too).
I first learned about incorporating nutritional yeast into vegetable broth from cookbook writer Andrea Nguyen, who uses it in her vegan pho. While nooch may seem like an unexpected ingredient in broth, Alicia Kennedy notes on Serious Eats that some manufactured bouillon cubes actually contain nutritional yeast or other yeast extracts. As a source of glutamates (that is, delicious, lip-smacking umami), its inclusion is actually quite logical.
Sauté alliums (onions, leeks, scallions, garlic) and aromatics (chiles, herbs like rosemary and thyme, lemongrass, ginger), then add nutritional yeast and water, and simmer, partially covered, until flavorful—start checking around 10–15 minutes. I like to add yellow miso to the mix too for another layer of richness, salinity, and body. You can double down on the miso or skip it entirely (knowing you’ll have to add more or less salt depending). In terms of how much nutritional yeast to use, I found that ¼ cup nooch to 6 cups water is a nice ratio, but you can obviously adjust to your own taste, or add more vegetables—like carrots and celery—when you cook down the alliums.
This broth is the foundation of Chickpea Noodle Soup—add some chickpeas as it simmers, dunk in some broccolini at the very end, serve over noodles—but it’s great anywhere a vegetable (or even chicken!) broth would be welcome, like in soup (chicken noodle, leek and potato, chickpea and celery), risotto, or even stuffing. With my next batch I’m going to try that red lentil soup again to see what my first round was missing. (And after that? Matzo balls!)
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