Which Is Healthier, Stock or Broth?

Not all soups are created (or simmered) equal...

FNK_SimpleChickenSoup_H

FNK_SimpleChickenSoup_H

Chef Name: Food Network Kitchen Full Recipe Name: Simple Chicken Soup Talent Recipe: FNK Recipe: Food Networks Kitchen’s Simple Chicken Soup, as seen on Foodnetwork.com Project: Foodnetwork.com, FN Essentials/Weeknights/Fall/Holidays Show Name: Food Network / Cooking Channel: Food Network

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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By Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen

Here's the skinny.

Once upon a time, grocery stores only sold canned broth, remember that? Now there are rows and rows of colorfully printed boxed broth to choose from. And even more, we've moved beyond the expected beef and chicken: seafood, vegetable and other specialty flavors have popped up (Vietnamese-inspired pho broth, anyone?). And then came stock, broth's big contender in the aisle, which has the same ever-growing selection of fancy labels and flavors. Unless you are brand-loyal how does one choose? And since most recipes will be successful with broth or stock, which is better when you're making chicken soup? If health is a concern, then there are a couple simple ways to compare them.

The Basic Difference

The simple explanation: Bones are used to make stock, while broth uses primarily meat for flavoring.

A deeper dive: Homemade or store-bought stock gets all the good stuff — gelatin and proteins released from the simmering bones makes for a richer and deeper flavor. Plus, stock gets help from mirepoix (that's a fancy French word for the trio of chopped carrots, celery and onion) and aromatics like herbs and bay leaves, and will cook for hours, whereas broth relies mostly on meat as a flavoring, simmering for less time leading to a slightly less robust flavor that usually has more sodium.

Protein and Sodium

From a nutrition label standpoint, stock is inherently higher in protein than broth so if you're looking to add grams to your daily intake go for stock — though remember, stock on its own is not a significant source. Regular store-bought stock is not considered a low-sodium product (140 mg or less per serving) but it's often lower than regular store-bought broth. If you're watching your sodium intake, go for lower- or reduced- sodium versions of either stock or broth — that means there is 25% less sodium than their comparable regular versions.

Homemade or Store-bought

There is an advantage to making stock and/or broth from scratch. You have more control over how it tastes and how much sodium is added (by way of table or kosher salt) and it’s the perfect place to use up veggie scraps or those leftover rotisserie chicken bones. Both can be cooled and stored in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Or fill empty ice cube trays with your homemade liquid gold, freeze until set, pop them out and store in freezer-safe bags and add them to sauces or use to thin out soups and stews a la minute.

Not everyone has time to make stock or broth from scratch, luckily there are plenty of good store-bought options available.

Flavor Tip

If you're using a low-sodium product then remember to sprinkle lightly with salt while you cook. A pinch while your veggies are sweating at the very beginning can make a huge difference at the end — you'll have better flavor and less sodium.

And the Winner Is

Stock! Whether homemade or store-bought it has more protein and usually less sodium per serving as compared to broth. Plus, the flavor is just better which means you'll start with something tastier and will hopefully use less salt to taste at the end.

Runner-up

Low-sodium broth is an excellent back-up if you're watching your intake but don’t want to compromise on flavor.

Nutrition Label Cheat Sheet

  • Neither stock or broth are a significant source of protein on their own so pay closer attention to sodium.
  • If you're looking for a low-sodium product, there should be 140 mg or less per serving.
  • Remember that lower- or reduced- sodium versions of both stock and broth have 25% less sodium compared to regular versions.

Summary

If you can, try making your own stock or broth — you'll be able to tweak the flavor and sodium to your liking. Look for store-bought stock or low-sodium chicken broth and be sure to check to label for sodium content.

Ok, soup's on!

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