Whether it be for your favorite slow cooker beef stew recipe or for the family-favorite creamy beef stroganoff recipe, discovering you don’t have enough beef broth when you’ve planned on making a specific recipe all week isn’t anyone’s favorite in-the-moment realization. And in times such as this, learning what substitutions not only function the best yet also cater to the recipe’s signature flavor, is essential.
That’s why we’ve put together this informative article providing the best substitutes for beef broth in slow cooker recipes, along with bonus vegetarian and vegan-friendly options. These substitutions are quick and efficient, each providing different flavors that can enhance the recipe’s taste. Some substitutions will cater to the “beef” taste more than others, but either way, we’ve got you covered for your favorite slow cooker recipes.
The Difference Between Stock and Broth
There is a key difference between the two in regards to beef or chicken stock and broth.
To make stock, animal bones are cooked with other ingredients in order to thicken the liquid. Because the salt content in stock is often much lower than broth, it can come across as less flavorful than broth.
Comparatively, the process of making broth just requires that meat is used and not the bones. This results in a thinner liquid because of the lack of collagen provided by the bone marrow, however, it is still bountiful in flavor.
Both of these products utilize animal products in some shape or form to create a thin or thick liquid product.
In summary: A beef broth will use beef meat to flavor the broth liquid. Beef stock will utilize beef animal bones which makes a thicker gelatinous consistency, especially when chilled. This process is the same for chicken broth and chicken stock.
The Difference Between Vegetable Stock and Broth
For vegans and vegetarians, buying a vegetable stock or broth is one and the same. Because no meat or animal bones are used, there is truly no difference between vegetable stock and broth. If animal bones were used to make the vegetable stock it would not be considered vegetarian or vegan-friendly.
As some brands will label products as vegetable stock or broth, it is believed that the main difference between the two is that the broth may contain salt, unlike the stock. Vegetable stock will come across as rather “flavorless” as it is often used as a base for soups and other recipes.
Best Substitutes For Beef Broth In Slow Cooker
Beef Bouillon Cube
Looking to keep that signature meaty beef flavor along with the thick bountiful flavor commonly found in broth? Combine one cup of plain water with one beef bouillon cube. The mixture of meaty beef flavor from the bouillon cube combined with the water creates the perfect beef broth substitute to add to your slow cooker.
A type of beef concentrate, beef base is often used to flavor recipes such as stews and soups. This beef concentrate enhances the meaty and savory beef flavors. Often referred to as “beef soup base”, beef base is not a stock. It is a concentrate, or a concentrated beef stock if you will, that has a smooth, syrup consistency with a very notable beef flavor.
Beef base may not contain any salt, so you may need to add salt to your slow cooker recipe when using the beef base as a beef broth substitute.
If using a popular brand like Better than Bouillon Beef Base, dissolve 1 teaspoon (equal to one bouillon cube) of beef base in 1 cup of boiling water as an equivalent to one cup of beef broth.
Beef consommé comes in a clear liquid form and is made from simmering cloudy broth. Similar to beef broth, beef consommé has key differences. Beef consommé is a rich purified broth that has been removed of any and all impurities.
Follow the 1:1 ratio to replace the beef broth with beef consommé.
Au Jus Packet
Sold and marketed as a gravy mix in a packet, au jus packets are a wonderful beef broth alternative. Au jus refers to the drippings that come from the meat while the meat is being cooked. In this case, the au jus packet is made using beef fat, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and other ingredients to make a flavorful mixture.
One packet of au jus is combined with 3 cups of water (make sure to follow the instructions on the packet). The resulting mixture results in a great beef broth substitute. Use one cup of the resulting mixture to replace one cup of beef broth in a slower cooker recipe.
Chicken Bouillon Cube
If you don’t have any beef bouillon cubes on hand and only chicken bouillon cubes, that can also be used to replace beef broth in slow cooker recipes. Same as discussed above, simply take one chicken bouillon cube and dilute it with one cup of water.
Due to the variation in flavor, this may not work with all recipes.
If you are looking for a quick and easy substitution, chicken broth can easily replace beef broth by following a 1:1 ratio.
The flavor and color will be slightly different than beef broth, so it may not work for every recipe. It can still do the job of replacing the beef broth while providing bountiful flavor.
This can be a great alternative to using beef broth, as it provides flavor. Plus, most people have this condiment on hand. To use Worcestershire sauce instead of beef broth you will need to follow these guidelines.
Measure out one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Add it to one cup of water. Mix well, allowing the ingredients to combine together before using it to replace beef broth in your recipe. This mixture will replace one cup of beef broth, following the 1:1 ratio.
White wine can impart a rich flavor when cooking soups, stews, or roasts in the slow cooker. Because of this, it could work as a beef broth substitute.
To replace the beef broth with white wine in a slow cooker recipe, replace the broth with ¼ - ½ cup of white wine and water. If using ¼ cup of white wine, dilute it with ¾ cup of water. If using ½ cup of white wine, dilute it with ½ cup of water. One cup of the beef broth should be replaced by one full cup mixture of white wine and water.
Note: This option has not been added to the vegetarian and vegan-friendly list of options because not all white wine is vegan. During the winemaking process, animal products are often used to make white wine. There are white wines that do not use animal products in the winemaking process and are marketed as vegan-friendly. This beef broth substitute can be vegetarian and vegan-friendly depending on the white wine used.
Enhancing flavor and color in recipes, red wine may beat out white wine in terms of substituting for beef broth in a slow cooker recipe. An easy pick-up most bring home from their weekly grocery store runs, red wine can be the perfect substitute if it's a staple in the kitchen.
We recommend following the same ratio instructions as given above for the white wine.
Onion Soup Mix
Not limited to being used for only classic onion dips and soups, onion soup mix can also be used to replace beef broth. Some onion soup mixes can be vegan and vegetarian-friendly, but it is important to check the ingredients label for verification as some do contain ingredients that may not be suitable for either diet.
One onion soup mix is combined with 4 cups of water (make sure to follow the instructions on the packet). Use one cup of the resulting mixture to replace one cup of beef broth in a slower cooker recipe.
Homemade Beef Broth
Put that slow cooker to good use by making your very own broth. With homemade beef broth, you have the ultimate made-at-home option where you control what goes into your food.
Combine various cuts of beef and/or beef bones with vegetables like celery, onion, carrots, garlic, and a bay leaf. The longer it cooks in the slow cooker, in the oven, or on the stovetop, the richer the broth. For a quicker version, homemade broth or stock can be made in a pressure cooker in just an hour.
Vegetarian & Vegan-Friendly Substitutions
Vegetable Stock (Or Broth)
As discussed above, there is not a huge difference between vegetable stock and broth since the stock is made without animal bones and the broth without meat. This ensures that the product is animal product-free and completely vegetarian and vegan-friendly. The main difference between the two is that the stock will come across as rather flavorless compared to the broth as the vegetable broth will have more salt and seasoning.
For vegetarians and vegans, using vegetable stock or broth can be a lifesaver during flu season. This beef broth substitute can be used to make warm vegetable soups that can soothe sore throats and relieve other flu symptoms like stuffy noses.
Homemade Vegetable Broth
You can make vegetable broth in a slow cooker or pressure cooker by combining the ingredients provided below. For the vegetables, we recommend combining a mixture of celery, carrots, and onions. To achieve additional flavor, add in other herbs like parsley but use sparingly to avoid altering the broth’s flavor. Cook on low for 8 hours or on low for 4 hours in a slow cooker or for an hour in an Instant Pot.
- 1½ Teaspoons Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 12 Cups Water
- 3 Pounds Vegetables
- 2 Bay Leaves
Excess broth can easily be frozen for future use.
Mushroom Broth from Fresh Vegetables
Another great vegan and vegetarian-friendly substitute for beef broth is a mushroom broth. Made using a combination of fresh mushrooms, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, and other ingredients, mushroom broth boasts great health benefits. From improving gut health to boosting the immune system, a mushroom broth is a great beef broth substitution that provides a savory yet nutty umami flavor.
Slow cooker recipes where mushroom broth would make the best substitute for beef broth include Mushroom Wild Rice Soup, Creamy Beef Stroganoff (not vegetarian or vegan), and Mushroom Vegetable Stew. The mushroom broth amplifies these recipes with a stellar savory boost that enhances each dish’s flavor.
To replace the beef broth with mushroom broth simply follow the 1:1 ratio.
Mushroom Broth from Dehydrated Mushrooms
Rehydrated mushrooms are the quickest and easiest way to make a rich mushroom-flavored broth. You can even use an assortment of mushrooms for a fun and flavorful homemade mushroom broth. I buy the large container of dehydrated mushrooms at Costco and keep it in my pantry year-round for this very reason.
In a heat-safe bowl, add your dried mushrooms. Pour boiling water into the bowl to cover the mushrooms. Use the resulting liquid to replace beef broth by following the 1:1 ratio.
There are a few variations of how to use soy sauce to replace beef broth in a slow cooker recipe. The second is more flavorful than the first, but both are great alternatives.
If you do not have any vegetable broth on hand, we recommend following the following variation. Measure out one tablespoon of soy sauce with one cup of water.
If you have vegetable broth on hand, we recommend this method if desiring additional flavor for your slow cooker recipe. Measure a ¼ cup of soy sauce and a ¾ cup of vegetable broth. Mix well and use in your slow cooker recipe for a flavorful beef broth substitute.
Braggs liquid aminos are the most popular brand available at most grocery stores. This gluten-free variation of soy sauce is less salty, milder, and slightly sweeter than soy sauce. Coconut aminos are also similar in flavor, but rather than being made from soy, they are derived from the sap of a coconut plant.
Liquid aminos can be used to replace beef broth. Follow the instructions provided under “Soy Sauce” for a delicious and easy beef broth substitute.
Contrary to its name, steak sauce does not contain steak or any animal product for that matter. It’s simply frequently used as a sauce for steak. Because of its great flavor and deep color, it can also be a great substitute for beef broth in slow cooker recipes.
Dilute ¼ cup steak sauce with ¾ cup water to for every 1 cup of beef broth needed.
When times are tough, using water can save a recipe. The water will obviously not be as flavorful as the beef broth so we do recommend increasing the seasonings for the recipe being used to make up for the lack of it with this beef broth substitute.
Using a small amount of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, fresh herbs, or even a little bit of tomato paste, can be great additions needed to provide the best results when using water as a beef broth substitute.
Follow the 1:1 ratio to replace beef broth with water in your slow cooker recipe.
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!