HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


replacement for chicken stock in lentil soup

I plan to make the Barefoot Contessa Lentil Vegetable Soup (recipe below) tomorrow but I dont have any chicken stock on hand. Right now I'm planning to just use water, but looking for suggestions on a good replacement. Any suggestions? I'm worried that water may make the soup bland! (Other recipe suggestions are welcome too - but trying to get rid of some leeks!)


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Do you keep any Better than Bouillon soup base around? Any actual bouillon? You can flavor plain water with either of those. Don't add salt to the soup, though.

    4 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      I've got Trader Joe's vegetable broth concentrate...
      Bought it to try it but I'm not a huge fan.

      1. re: morrissey.brendan

        Trader Joe's veggie concentrate is a poor substitute for Better than Bouillon soup base and, IMO, using those little cubes of plain bouillon would be an insult to your prepared dish.
        Better than Bouillon should be a staple (you can get it in both chicken and/or beef) for any kitchen. Run out and get some and, while you're out, pick up some boxed chicken broth.
        Nothing I can think of would be worse than plain water in preparing a lentil soup .

        1. re: todao

          Penzey's carries many flavors of soup base, which I suspect is the same or quite similar to Better than Bouillon soup base. I believe they carry turkey and ham flavors.

          1. re: todao

            +1 on better than bouillon. they also make a vegetable base that's quite good. and, fwiw, i prefer the turkey base.

      2. When I makeNew England Boiled Dinner aka Corned Beef and Cabbage, I save the liquid for lentil soup.


        1 Reply
        1. re: rich in stl

          Yum - reminds me of something my mom would do back in Boston! Wish I had some on hand.
          There is nothing better than a peeled potato cooked in that liquid...

        2. If you have any pork product--bacon, proscuitto, ham--brown it up slightly and then use to flavor just plain water.

          1. There are lots of flavorful items in that soup. The stock probably contributes the least, except for its water content. I'm surprised she says nothing about the expected salt content of the stock (none, low salt commercial, regular?), or remind you to tweak the salt level. Make it with water, and adjust salt till it is no longer bland.

            1. I like to add beer or wine. Or V8 juice. Just never plain water.

              1. Make your own vegetable broth. Coarsely chop up carrots, celery, onion, and rutabaga. Add to water in a stockpot along with a few whole garlic cloves and some dried herbs of your choice. Cook on stove until vegetables are soft, allow to cool a bit, and then pour liquid off into some vessel reserving the solids. When solids are cooled, use a blender to puree the solids and add them back to the liquid and stir. I have done this and it was great. Then add lentils to cook them when you are ready to make soup.

                Are you discarding the leeks or looking to include them. 'Getting rid' has 2 definitions here.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ChiliDude

                  Except for the rutabaga, all these vegetables are in the recipe already.

                  1. re: paulj

                    That's because they are the go-to aromatics, but are the aromatics pureed and added back to the stock? OK, exchange the carrots for parsnips and add chunks of peeled sweet potato. Also, I didn't refer to the Barefoot Contessa's recipe because she puts me to sleep when she's on the Food Network channel. There's no excitement there.

                    1. re: ChiliDude

                      I start with onion, shallot, garlic,carrot and celery and yes they stay in the soup.... Not pureed, jiust soup sized chunks..Never would have thought to make a separate stock of it, sorry.

                  2. re: ChiliDude

                    I also like adding a whole whack of dried shiitake mushrooms to my veg stock- gives it a bit more oomph, and you can get a huge bag of them at any Asian grocer for a couple of bucks.

                  3. I;d use Better Than Bouillon but if you can't shop first, deeply caramelize some onions and then add water or wine. The fond will have plenty of flavor of its own. Add some form of soy sauce if you have it, and cut back on salt accordingly.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: greygarious

                      Yeah, I was going to suggest tamari soy sauce. It adds some of the umami that stock contributes.

                    2. Uh - how about just popping out & buying some good chicken stock - like Progresso brand, or whatever brand floats your boat. I'm having trouble figuring out why this is such a big problem. Even 7-Elevens carry cans of Swanson's chicken broth.

                      1. Leeks you say?

                        Make a roasted vegetable stock.

                        It might sound wierd to use vegetables to make stock, then throw those vegetables out, then use the stock to put more vegetables in, but think about it.

                        Roasting vegetables adds tons of flavor from the caramelization.... garlic, onions, leeks ect. Use up celery tops that would otherwise go in the garbage, parsley stems ect, steep in water, simmer for hours and strain. Boom. Vegetable stock. A rich flavorful vegetable stock.

                        Use that in place of/along with the water to make up enough broth for the recipe.

                        A wicked link I favorited a long time ago for this:


                        I made my own missing a lot of the ingredients but just following the roasted vegetable method to be used for making a stock and it was so rich and delicious I slurped most of I barely had a chance to use it for something else.

                        You said you had leeks to use up, that would be a great use along with whatever else from that recipe you have on hand.