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Vegetarian Journal Jan/Feb 1999

Guide to Vegetarian Broths

by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

Have you ever read a recipe ostensibly for vegetarians which called for chicken broth? It's not uncommon to see this in cookbooks aimed at non-vegetarians. Want to make the recipe truly vegetarian? Maybe one day cookbook authors will get the idea, but for now, go ahead and substitute a vegetarian broth for the chicken broth. Are some broths better than others? We'll try to answer this question in this issue of Vegetarian Journal.

What can you do with prepared vegetable broths? Of course you can heat them up and use them as a hot beverage. They're also useful for adding flavor to soups and other dishes. Certainly making your own vegetable broth or stock is another option. This does allow you to control what goes into it and is a way to use up some parts of vegetables which might otherwise be discarded. Generally making your own broth is less expensive than commercially made broth. Broth recipes abound in vegetarian cookbooks. The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook and Meatless Gourmet are two books in our catalog which include broth recipes.

The main component of many commercially produced broths seems to be sodium. Broths are typically low in calories, protein, fat, fiber, and vitamins and most minerals. The sodium content, however, is often high. Several broths had close to half the recommended level of sodium for a whole day. Excess dietary sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and affect calcium status, so it seems prudent to look for broths which are lower in sodium. The table accompanying this article ranks a number of vegetarian broth products by their sodium content. If you choose to use a saltier one in a recipe, omit any other salt. You'll find that as you use less salt and salty products, your tastes will change, and what used to need salt no longer does.

MSG, a commonly used flavor enhancer, appears in many bouillon products. Many of the vegetarian broths found in natural food stores declare on the package that they do not contain MSG. Those I checked on the canned soup aisle of the supermarket often contained MSG. For those who are sensitive to MSG, label reading is important. Label reading is also important because some broths I found had surprise ingredients. For example, Knorr "Vegetarian Vegetable" Bouillon Cubes would not be acceptable to vegetarians as they contain gelatin, a substance which is derived from cows or pigs. These bouillon cubes also contained dairy products, as did several other broths I found. Broths which include organically grown ingredients include Rapunzel Pure Organics, Walnut Acres Organic Vegetarian Broth, Organic Gourmet products, and Pacific Foods Organic Vegetable Broth and Organic Mushroom Broth.

Although broths come in several different forms including bouillon cubes, liquid or paste concentrate, canned, aseptically packaged, and powdered, there does not seem to be a big difference in terms of convenience. If you're interested in adding some extra flavor to dishes, try several kinds of broth, checking ingredients and sodium content, and see which you prefer.

(Broths are ranked from lowest to highest sodium in a serving.)


Sodium Content of Vegetarian Broths

Broth (form)  Sodium (mg/svg)
Hain Healthy Naturals Vegetable Broth, No Salt Added (can)* 20
Organic Gourmet Low Sodium Vegetable Bouillon (cube) 40
Carmel Low Sodium Beef Flavor Soup Mix (jar-powder) 95
Homemade Broth with a small amount of salt added  110
Carmel Low Sodium Chicken Flavor Soup Mix (jar-powder)  115
Organic Gourmet Low Sodium Vegetable Soup `n Stock (jar-concentrate)  120
Rapunzel Pure Organics Vegetable Bouillon with No Salt Added (cube)  130
Vogue Instant Vege Base (jar-powder)  140
Pacific Foods Organic Mushroom Broth (aseptic)  230
Walnut Acres Organic Vegetarian Broth (can)  300
Home Health Nutra Soup, Vegetable (jar-powder)  340
Organic Gourmet Wild Mushroom Soup `n Stock (jar-concentrate)  390
Hain Healthy Naturals Vegetable Broth (can)*  480
Organic Gourmet Vegetable Soup `n Stock (jar-concentrate)  480
Carmel Instant Soup Mix, Chicken-Style (jar-powder)  490
Arrowhead Mills Mushroom Broth (can)  520
Croyden House Instant Soup Mix (jar-powder)  570
Imagine Vegetable Broth (aseptic)  580
Westbrae Natural Londonderry Unbeef Broth (can)  590
Plantaforce Concentrated Vegetable Bouillon (can-concentrate)  650
Carmel Beef Base (jar)  660
Pacific Foods Organic Vegetable Broth (aseptic)  670
Knorr Concentrated Vegetable Broth (jar-concentrate)  730
Westbrae French Country Onion Soup (can)  730
College Inn No Fat Garden Vegetable Broth (can)**  780
Organic Gourmet Vegetable Bouillon (cube)  800
Orrington Farms Vegetable Base (jar)  800
Westbrae Natural California Unchicken Broth (can)+  810
Knorr Vegetarian Vegetable Bouillon Cubes (cube)++  860
Organic Country Harvest Vegetable Bouillon (cube)  870
Organic Country Herb Medley Vegetable Bouillon (cube)  900
Rapunzel Pure Organics Vegetable Bouillon with Herbs (cube)  950
Herb Ox Vegetable Bouillon (cube)+  980
Rapunzel Pure Organics Vegetable Bouillon with Sea Salt (cube)  1000
Vegex Bouillon (cube)  1000
*contains honey
**contains additives which may be animal-derived
+contains dairy
++contains dairy and gelatin

Daily sodium intake should not exceed 2400 milligrams (mg).

Excerpts from the Jan/Feb Issue

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

This article was converted to HTML by Jeanie Freeman

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