Stock cubes, known as bouillon cubes in some places, are simply dehydrated stock (or broth) that has been squashed or moulded into cubes (or, often, cuboids). When rehydrated – to turn it back into stock – it can be used in all manner of dishes and sauces, including as a base for gravy, though many products can simply be added in their dehydrated form, almost as an all-purpose seasoning.
As well as stock cubes, there are alternative (but equivalent) stock options in other forms; it sometimes comes in pots or jars or as liquid or paste form or as powder or grains, many of which should usually be diluted according to the instructions.
But whatever form it takes and whatever purpose you have in mind for your stock, for those on a plant-based diet, the big question is: are stock cubes (and other stock products) vegan?
As with so many items in the Is It Vegan? section of our site, we cannot give a definitive answer on this one. As you might expect, some stock cubes (and other stock products) are vegan and others are not. Of those that are, some are specifically designed to be vegan-friendly, while others are accidentally vegan as they contain no animal-derived products (something that applies to some varieties of gravy favourite Bisto).
Let’s take a look at what can stop stock cubes from being vegan and then we’ll run through the best vegan-friendly stock cubes (and other stock options) available at the time of writing. We’ll finish off with a very simple (but very effective) recipe to make your own vegan stock.
What Stops Stock Cubes Being Vegan?
Stock cubes originated as dehydrated meat stock as early as the 1700s (when they were apparently more ‘tablets’ than cubes). Given that meat stock is made by boiling meat or animal bones (along with other non-animal ingredients, such as vegetables, herbs and spices), it stands to reason that stock cubes made from meat stock are not vegan. An example of such a stock cube would be Oxo Beef Stock cubes that contain ‘dried beef bonestock’, which clearly isn’t vegan (although Oxo produce vegan options too, details of which are below).
It is usually the case that any stock cubes, stock pots or other stock-related products that have the name of a particular meat on the label will contain at least some of that animal. The exception to this comes with the likes of products that are specifically made to be vegan or vegetarian but which mimic the flavours of the meat-containing alternatives (such as Oxo Meat Free Stock Cubes Beef Flavour).
Most vegetable stock cubes are vegan friendly as they are often marketed towards vegans or at least vegetarians, so don’t tend to include any animal-derived ingredients. Note that quite a lot of them include palm oil, however, which is avoided by some vegans, especially those who are vegan for environmental reasons.
Also note that some otherwise vegan-friendly stock products could have been produced in environments that handle animal-derived ingredients. In such cases, the product might be marked as vegetarian rather than vegan or might say on the label ‘may contain…’ some animal ingredient or other. This is mainly to cover their backs in case of cross-contamination.
Best Vegan-Friendly Stock Cubes
Here are the top stock cubes and other stock-related products that are suitable for vegans.
|Stock Cube Brand/Variety||Comments|
|9 Meals From Anarchy Hugh’s Classic Vegetable Stock||Made with an array of vegetables, herbs and essential oils, this vegan-friendly stock comes in a jar rather than as cubes and is produced in collaboration with Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage. Available to buy from Planet Organic, Waitrose and Whole Foods, among others.|
|Knorr Vegetable Stock Cubes||This widely available and versatile stock cube from Knorr is one of several vegan-friendly stock products they offer. As well as their standard Vegetable Stock Cubes, they also have a nice Organic Vegetable Stock Pot and Zero Salt Stock Cubes that tick the vegan boxes.|
|Kallø Organic Vegetable Stock Cubes||Despite the vaguely Scandinavian “ø”, Kallø is a British company that produces a decent range of (mostly vegan) organic and natural food products including rice cakes, breakfast cereal and stock cubes. As well as their Vegetable Stock Cubes, Kallø also offer other flavours, including Umami, Mushroom, Garlic & Herb, French Onion, and Sriracha.|
|Oxo Meat Free Stock Cubes Beef Flavour||Maybe not as packed full of vegetable goodness as some on this list, but this vegan-friendly alternative to the original Oxo Beef Stock Cubes (which have been around since 1910) is a fantastic addition to the vegan pantry.|
|Oxo Meat Free Stock Cubes Chicken Flavour||As above, but an alternative to chicken stock cubes.|
|Oxo Vegetable Stock Cubes||If you really don’t want to sample any meat flavours but still want a decent, reliable stock cube that is available in most supermarkets, simply opt for the Oxo Vegetable Stock Cubes.|
How to Make Vegan Stock: An Easy Vegan Stock Recipe
As with the vegan gravy recipe featured in our article on Vegan Christmas Dinners, when it comes to making vegan-friendly stock, you can adapt things to suit your tastes. But if you want a very easy vegan stock, you can’t go far wrong with the following (and then you can jazz it up with whatever additional vegetables, herbs and spices you fancy).
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 large onion (or 2 small ones if you prefer!)
- 1 leek
- 2 sticks of celery
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- A dash or two of soy sauce
- A few pinches of sea salt and black pepper
- 2 litres of water (approx.)
Things could hardly be simpler:
- Dice the veg and crush the garlic and put it all in a pan along with the herbs and water
- Bring to the boil then simmer for 45-60 minutes
- Strain the veg (which can be used for a soup) and allow the liquid to cool
- Alternatively, for a more intense stock, strain the veg but then reduce the liquid further, to taste
- Put in sealed containers (250ml or 500ml approx. depending on your intended use) and store in the fridge (for up to a week) or in the freezer
- Note that you could omit the salt and even the soy if you wanted to create a very low-salt vegan stock. Salt can then be added to taste in the finished dish
Then you can use your vegan stock in whatever you choose, whether gravy, soups, stews, curries, Bolognese… the possibilities are endless.
Stock Cubes: Conclusion
As you will no doubt discover if you saunter down the relevant aisle of your local supermarket, it’s not too difficult to find vegan-friendly stock cubes these days. Now that Oxo have released a vegan version of their meat-flavoured cubes, you might even be able to sneak them into the meals of non-vegans without them batting an eyelid (which saves making two gravies/sauces/stews).