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What’s the Best Substitute for Chicken Broth? Here Are 4 Great Ideas (Including One You Definitely Have on Hand)

You found the most scrumptious recipe for chicken pot pie soup and can barely contain your excitement so you head straight to the store with your ingredient list then rush back home to start cooking your dream dinner. Alas, when you start taking the groceries out of the bag, you realize you’ve made a terrible mistake: You forgot the chicken broth. Do you A. Delay your dinnertime gratification and schlep back to the store B. Hold back tears and call for pizza delivery or C. Roll up your sleeves and press on despite the absence of an important ingredient? Hold on, we’ll answer for you—the correct choice is C. We tapped the experts for the best swaps (i.e., our chef pal) and it turns out there’s at least one suitable substitute for chicken broth already hanging around your kitchen.

1. Water

Don’t be shy to straight-up swap water for chicken broth. Yep, water is a perfectly acceptable 1:1 substitute for chicken broth and it happens to be our favorite out of the bunch since it doesn’t require another grocery store run. Hear us out: Soups, stews, sauces, and more are typically full of aromatics and flavorings that simmer in water, which means you’re basically building your own broth anyway. Just be sure to taste your dish and adjust the seasoning accordingly since you’ll likely need to amp up the flavor with more herbs, salt, and other flavor boosters (Parmesan rind, anyone?).

2. Bouillon cube

Try this trick: Dissolve an old school bouillon cube in hot water as directed and use the liquid as a 1:1 swap for chicken broth. If you go this route, consider using less seasoning than you typically would for the dish, since bouillon cubes (i.e., tiny salt bombs) are typically more potent than both store-bought and homemade broth, even when diluted per the instructions.

3. Vegetable stock

If you have some hanging around and are short on time, you can, of course, use boxed vegetable stock, but know that the store-bought variety has a tendency to be dominating in flavor. Instead, our chef expert suggests home cooks make their own veg stock from whatever is in the fridge for a more subtle flavor. To make a vegetable stock, simply simmer the trimmings of any veggies you have on hand—mushroom, onion, carrot, celery—along with some aromatics like bay leaf and thyme. The quick and easy process can be achieved in as little as 20 to 30 minutes—basically the time it takes to complete the remaining dinner prep—and the flavor boost is worth the effort. Note: This is another 1:1 substitute, but we recommend accounting for ¼ to ⅓ cup of lost liquid when measuring out the water prior to simmering.

4. Bean or chickpea liquid

The next time you drain a can of chickpeas for a salad or some black beans for taco Tuesday, don’t let that liquid go to waste—it’s a rich, flavorful stand-in for broth that you’ll be happy to have handy. As a substitute for chicken broth, you’ll want to dilute the bean liquid with equal parts water, since the bean juices are so starchy on their own. The watered-down mixture can then be used as a 1:1 swap in any recipe that calls for chicken broth.

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