As far as I noticed the Combination consisting of Bouillon Cube, Wine and spices can make up a good basis for many vegetarian dishes, for instance with Pasta or Rice.

I am using a particular sort of Bouillon Cube and without using it I cannot reproduce the taste. I am suspecting that this sort uses glutamates (or functionally similar substances) in order to give the dish a certain depths.

Now I am in a dilemma since I am trying to use as much natural products as possible. Do you know any good (and rather easy to make) substitutes for Bouillon cubes?


3 Answers 3


The examples you gave - pasta and rice - are presumably using boullion cubes and water. The cubes are basically supposed to be dehydrated broth, so you can just use whatever kind of stock or you prefer instead of the water. Often boullion cubes are saltier and have more umami than the stock they'd replace, so you may find you want to add back in some salt and some other source of umami (MSG or a more substantial ingredient), especially if you're using vegetable broth.

Depending on what your objection to bouillon cubes is, you might also like a vegetable stock base (Better Than Bouillon is a common brand). It's basically the same thing as the cubes, except in paste form.

But in any case, the bouillon is basically stock (minus water) so you should look to stocks for your substitutions. The primary two concerns will be salt and umami, but you probably are benefiting from some more subtle flavors too - and even if the bouillon cubes are lacking in that department, a good flavorful stock will be a welcome improvement.


The packaging for your favourite bouillon cubes should have a list of ingredients that will give you a place to start. Theoretically they are dehydrated stock, but unless it's a particularly fancy brand, they're usually mostly salt. Using wine, or even just water, is often a fine substitute if whatever you're cooking has plenty of its own flavour, though you might want to increase the salt. What else you could be missing is the savoury aspect that would come from the vegetables or meat that would go into the stock. You could possibly make up for this with something like Worcestershire sauce (not vegetarian). If your dish doesn't have much in the way of onions or herbs (common stock ingredients), then saute some onions at the start and add some herbs at the end to substitute.

If adding a commercial sauce isn't as "natural" as you'd like and the onions/herbs isn't the issue, I'd suggest reconsidering just making some stock and freezing it in ice cubes or silicon muffin cups (then pop out into a bag to store). If you are vegetarian, making stock IS actually pretty fast... it really only takes 15 minutes of boiling some veggie trimmings to get a tasty stock. If not, while it does take time to make meat-based stock, very little of it is "active" time and you can make a LOT in one batch (assuming you have freezer space to store the results).

  • 1
    A quick google for the ingredients of the Knorr bouillon cubes suggests that the main flavour-affecting ingredients are probably not the actual stock elements, but salt, MSG, and sugar. MSG enhances the savoury/umami flavour, and assuming you want to avoid MSG, there are lots of good alternatives. Worcestershire sauce, as I mentioned, or fish sauce can help if you're not vegetarian, otherwise seaweed, mushrooms, walnuts, or aged cheese can all help increase the savoury aspect of your dish.
    – Allison
    Jul 24, 2014 at 19:40
  • I generally agree, except while salt msg and sugar may be the big flavor ingredients, it's easy for other things to make a difference too, even in small quantities, and that will come through especially in simple dishes like the rice and pasta that the OP mentioned. It's maybe roughly the difference between cheap bouillon and good stock.
    – Cascabel
    Jul 24, 2014 at 22:22
  • re: msg/umami - I've found that grinding dried shitake mushrooms and seaweed (wakame & kombu are the two I keep around) into a powder and then adding it can provide a great flavor boost. The dried ingredients are a bit stubborn, so you'll need to grind for a while and then sift the results to remove the larger pieces. Dried kombu is especially difficult and the yield (of powder) is small.
    – Michael E.
    Jul 25, 2014 at 18:58

You could make a little vegetable stock. Onion, garlic, carrots, celery, herbs, and a decent amount of salt. That should replace both the liquid, flavor, and salting functions of a bouillon cube.

Mind you, making stock takes TIME, but not much effort. You can also make use of veggies that are a little past their prime that you'd otherwise throw away.

  • My mom would keep a bag in the freezer of veggies that were past their prime, plus parsely stems, parmesean rinds and other flavorful items, then toss it all in when it came time to make stock. (and chicken necks, but the question was about vegetable stock)
    – Joe
    Jul 27, 2014 at 1:02
  • "parmesean rinds" - Umami, but using themwould make the stock technically not even vegetarian. Also, consider adding mushrooms -NOT ones past their prime! Frozen work best here because they will more easily melt and give off flavour. If in doubt, though, treat the stock like a mushroom dish from a food safety standpoint. Strained soak water from dried Shiitake/Maitake seems to be common for asian style broths but I found the taste can be VERY sharp and/or ammonia-like, and according to the english language instructions on the package you are not supposed to use it like that. May 4, 2015 at 22:16

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