We Tried 7 Brands of Vegetable Broth, and Here Is the Winner

We Tried 7 Brands of Vegetable Broth, and Here Is the Winner

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Christine Gallary
Sep 29, 2015
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

To me, vegetable broth has always been a tricky thing. Of course you can make your own, but what if you just want to pick some up at the grocery store? Unlike chicken broth, which clearly needs to taste like chicken, just what should vegetable broth taste like? Out of all the available brands, which one is the best?

Why Taste Test Vegetable Broth?

Each vegetable in broth has its own role and adds its own flavors and characteristics. You can use almost any vegetable in broth, but here are the usual suspects and what they do: onions add depth, carrots add sweetness, tomatoes add sweetness and body, and mushrooms add super-savory flavors. Striking balance in vegetable broth is always the key; you want it to taste not distinctly of one vegetable, but of a medley of slow-cooked vegetables whose flavors have all come together. Too much of one thing can overwhelm the whole broth.

So what's my ideal vegetable broth? One that isn't too sweet or carrot-y, which unfortunately is what I find a lot of times in commercial broth. I want a broth that will work well in whatever I'm cooking it with, providing background and structure to the dish without taking over.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

How the 7 Brands Were Selected

Before I did my own taste test, I looked around and explored how other people did their taste tests:

Other Vegetable Broth Taste Tests

The seven brands I selected were brands that were easy to find at national chain grocery stores. For each brand, I chose organic and low-sodium if possible. And although we know there are vegetarian broth pastes and cubes that many people like to use, we stuck to ready-to-use broths and stocks for this tasting.

Tasting Method

I first noted the sodium amount and ingredients. I then poured each broth into a glass bowl so I could really see the color of the broth (notice the huge differences in the photos!). After also noting consistency and aroma, it finally came down to tasting.

Just like in the chicken broth taste test, there were really only two questions to ask: Does this broth taste good, and would we buy it?

Here are the seven brands I tasted, the price for a 32-ounce box, and notes on each.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Whole Foods Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth ($2.99)

  • Sodium content: 140 milligrams per cup
  • Core ingredients: Vegetable concentrate (water, carrot, onion, celery), salt, pear juice concentrate, sugar, carrot juice concentrate, sunflower seed oil, onion powder, mushroom powder
  • Appearance: Thin, cloudy, light golden color
  • Aroma: Celery and onions
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Thin, watery, bland; it tasted like celery and onions just simmered briefly in water
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Trader Joe's Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth ($1.99)

  • Sodium content: 140 milligrams per cup
  • Core ingredients: Water, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, carrot juice concentrate, tomato paste, leeks, garlic, onion juice concentrate, seasonings (parsley, thyme, bay leaf, black pepper, olive oil)
  • Appearance: Orange, opaque
  • Aroma: Sweet-smelling, strongly of tomato and carrot
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Thick, sweet, lots of carrot and canned tomato flavors
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Kitchen Basics Unsalted Vegetable Stock ($3.99)

  • Sodium content: 210 milligrams per cup
  • Core ingredients: Vegetable stock (carrot, mushroom, tomato, onion, celery, red bell pepper), spices and herbs (bay leaf, thyme, black pepper)
  • Appearance: Similar to beef stock in color, clear
  • Aroma: Not much smell, very faintly beefy
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Sweet, carrots, mushroom and onion flavor, thin in texture
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Pacific Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth ($3.99)

  • Sodium content: 135 milligrams per cup
  • Core ingredients: Water, carrots, onion, celery, tomatoes, leeks, mushrooms, garlic, sea salt, savory leaf, ground bay leaf
  • Appearance: Golden colored, slightly cloudy
  • Aroma: Sweet, tomatoes, carrots
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Very strange sour flavor that was off-putting
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Imagine Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth ($3.79)

  • Sodium content: 140 milligrams per cup
  • Ingredients: Water, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, spices, garlic, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, salt
  • Appearance: Yellow, cloudy
  • Aroma: Not much aroma, a little sweet-smelling
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Thin, slightly sweet, celery, clean tasting
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

More than Gourmet Vegetable Stock ($3.99)

  • Sodium content: 75 milligrams per cup
  • Core Ingredients: Mirepoix stock (carrot, onion, celery), white wine, lemon juice from concentrate, tomato paste, sea salt, carrageenan, roasted garlic powder, onion powder, spices
  • Appearance: Dark golden color, clear
  • Aroma: Sweet, sugary, no noticeable vegetable aroma
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Thin, bitterness from maybe the garlic, could taste the wine
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Swanson's Vegetable Broth ($2.99)

  • Sodium content: 800 milligrams per cup
  • Ingredients: Vegetable broth (water, concentrated juices of carrots, celery, tomatoes, celeriac, onion, cabbage), salt, yeast extract, vegetables (carrots, onions, celery), potato flour, dehydrated carrots
  • Appearance: Clearest of all the broths
  • Aroma: No noticeable vegetable aroma
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: Saltiest, sweet, tasted most like chicken broth
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Our Top Pick: Imagine Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth

While I really liked the balanced flavor of Swanson's, I suspect I really liked it because it tasted salty; but salt's not what I'm looking for in a vegetable broth. I prefer one with little to no sodium so I can control the salt level in my cooking.

I thought the Imagine vegetable broth was the most balanced, with no one vegetable really standing out and overwhelming everything. It was clean tasting, and not too thick or sweet. In my book, it was the clear winner!

What brand of vegetable broth do you like to cook with?

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