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I'm making minestrone soup (for the first time) and, on reading the recipe, it calls for chicken broth. Normally this is no problem, but my vegetarian brother is visiting this weekend and I was going to make enough to share.

  1. I'm assuming that chicken broth is non-vegetarian. I've asked him if he's willing to eat it, but for the time being I'm assuming it's verboten.
  2. Not having the broth will obviously change the flavor. (I've never had minestrone before, so I wouldn't have any basis for comparison.) What should I replace it with for best results? Plain water, something with more body (red wine, which the recipe also calls for), or something a little more fun or exotic?
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Are you the type to make your own chicken broth? If you are, then all the suggestions about making your own vegetable broth are for you. If not, lemontwist's answer (buy vegetable stock) is probably a little more helpful. –  Jefromi Aug 14 '12 at 18:20
    
@Jefromi I've never made chicken broth before, but I always enjoy cooking new things. –  CajunLuke Aug 14 '12 at 18:27
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4 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Your question seems to have two parts:

  1. With what do I replace chicken stock to make the dish vegetarian and
  2. How can I add some zing to the dish for added interest?

To answer 1, I'd make a hearty vegetable stock from scratch. Recipies abound. Alternatively you could rely on a bought stock but I find that these can be overpowering and of course you have less control over the flavour.

To answer 2, consider adding a dollop of pistou to each bowl of soup when serving. Freshly made pistou is easy and adds interest and flavour. See, e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pistou_89874.

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Excellent advise to make the vegetable stock apart. –  BaffledCook Aug 14 '12 at 11:08
    
Somehow I totally missed the existence of vegetable stock. That's probably the best option, all things considered. Your link to pistou is interesting and I'll keep it in mind. –  CajunLuke Aug 14 '12 at 18:12
    
I've added pistou to my soups before. It's fantastic. –  edsobo Oct 24 '12 at 15:51
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There are plenty of "non chicken" broths out there that are vegan/vegetarian. For example: http://www.imaginefoods.com/content/organic-no-chicken-broth

Otherwise vegetable broth in general is very simple to find. I don't think you have to worry much about a vegetarian "missing" the taste of chicken or finding it lacking if you use veggie broth. I haven't eaten meat in 6 years and I don't remember what it tastes like, so I'm not going to be offended if veggie broth doesn't taste much the same as chcken stock, for example.

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Most vegetable broths I've seen are just labeled as such, not as a chicken broth substitute. In any case, I'm a little surprised you're the only one who suggested buying it instead of making it. –  Jefromi Aug 14 '12 at 18:19
    
I'm a big fan of the Better-than-Bouillon no-chicken broth. It's the only one I have experience with, but it tastes more chicken-y, and I think makes a better substitute than vegetable broth. –  shujaa Aug 15 '12 at 7:39
    
@Jefromi, I'm pretty lazy when it comes to broth. For some reason I am motivated to make a lot of things from scratch, but not broth. I'm sure it's one of the simpler things to make, but I find buying in this case a lot more convenient. –  lemontwist Aug 15 '12 at 12:13
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Chicken broth is not vegetarian. Or if it is (soy?), you don't want to use it.

The best way to make minestrone without chicken or beef broth -- and in my opinion, it's even better -- is simply long simmering. A proper minestrone should take between 50 and 90 minutes to cook.

The second flavoring ingredient is a parmesan (parmigiano) cheese rind. The rind is the hard, outer part of dry, hard cheeses, and does not melt, even with long simmering. But it does add a bit of umami and fat to the soup, which enhances it. Parmesan is the best for this, but if you happen to have a cheese rind for dry jack, pecorino romano, gruyere, or other very hard cheeses, you can use one instead. A piece about 1 inch by 3 inches is good for a large pot of soup.

So, your basic formula is:

  1. Heat water.
  2. add vegetables and aromatics (and cooked beans, if using).
  3. Add cheese rind
  4. Simmer for 1 hour
  5. take out the cheese rind (and bay leaf, if using)
  6. serve.

For more detail on this, CooksIllustrated published a recipe several years ago which is available (for a fee) on their website. You can probably also find it with some searching.

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Thanks. The recipe I'm looking at (the second hit on Google for "minestrone") doesn't include the rind, but that's an excellent idea, especially since it means I get to eat the rest of the block of Parmesan. –  CajunLuke Aug 14 '12 at 6:38
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Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian: "Parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano is an EU Protected Designation of Origin product and has to be made using calf rennet, so it’s definitely not suitable for vegetarians." <vegsoc.org/saycheese>; Before you make your soup using parmesan, I'd suggest checking with your brother whether he eats it. –  Nicholas Aug 14 '12 at 9:09
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@Nicholas, most vegetarians eat cheese even though there is rennet in it, so the OP would definitely have to ask. –  lemontwist Aug 14 '12 at 11:23
    
@lemontwist: agreed. –  Nicholas Aug 14 '12 at 11:48
    
@Nicholas I know my brother eats Parmesan cheese: he buys it in bulk. I didn't know about the rennet; I'll keep that in mind for future veggie recipes. –  CajunLuke Aug 14 '12 at 14:57
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I've been very happy with the vegetable stock from Heidi Swanson's book "Supernatural Cooking". I regularly substitute this for chicken broth when I run out.

  • 2 onions, cut into eighths
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove smashed
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 2 quarts of water

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the veggies and thyme, sauté for 5 minutes or so until they pick up some color and soften. Add water and a good pinch of salt. Simmer for 30-60 minutes.

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mmm, sounds lovely. a bit of turmeric for color to pass as poultry? –  Pat Sommer Aug 30 '12 at 18:22
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