Sometimes it can be surprising just how many recipes call for something like beef bouillon. It’s expected in a soup, but that isn’t the only situation where beef bouillon may be called for. Many sauces and some dishes may call for beef bouillon as part of their recipe to add an extra level of savoriness. So, what happens when you don’t have beef bouillon?
Fortunately, there are many great substitutes that you can use the next time a recipe calls for beef bouillon.
Some of the best beef bouillon substitutes are:
- Chicken Broth
- Vegetable Broth
- Miso Paste
- Bone Broth
- Soy Sauce
- Red Wine
- Liquid Aminos
- Mushroom Broth
Each of these substitutions can provide your recipe with insane flavor, even if you don’t use beef bouillon.
What is Beef Bouillon?
Beef bouillon is a type of flavoring that is used as the base for broth, in this case, beef broth. It is made from the dehydrated meat and juices of the animals as well as a mixture of other seasonings and vegetables. They are then formed into cubes that way they are easy to use and measure out.
Most commonly, beef bouillon is used to flavor things like soups and stews. It can also be used as a base in sauces to help intensify the flavor without needing to purchase a lot of extra ingredients. Beef bouillon is like the shortcut to flavor in a lot of ways. With just one product, you can completely elevate the flavor profile of your dish.
What Can I Use Instead of Beef Bouillon Cubes?
There are a lot of reasons why someone might choose to not use beef bouillon cubes. You might not be able to find them in the store or, for religious or ethical reasons, you may choose to not consume anything made from beef. Some people also have a rare allergy to red meats like beef and pork in which case they wouldn’t be able to use beef bouillon.
Fortunately, there are plenty of high-quality substitutes for beef bouillon on the market. By using these substitutes you will be able to ensure that your dish is not lacking in any flavor, even if you can’t use the normal ingredients.
1. Chicken Broth
One of the easiest substitutes that you can use for beef bouillon cubes is chicken broth. Chicken broth, which can also be made from chicken bouillon cubes, is made by boiling chicken along with spices. After everything has boiled together for several hours, the liquid is infused with all the flavors and can then be sold.
With chicken broth, you will notice that it likely won’t have as deep of a flavor as you are used to. This is because overall, chicken has a much lighter flavor and the concentration is probably also less. If you are using chicken bouillon to make your broth, you may need to add a slightly higher amount than you normally would.
2. Vegetable Broth
If the meat is what’s making you look for an alternative, vegetable broth or vegetable bouillon cube can also be a great beef bouillon substitute.
Vegetable broth is made very similarly to chicken and beef broth, just without the meat. All you’ll have to do to make vegetable broth is get aromatic vegetables, like onion, garlic, and ginger, as well as other vegetables like carrots. They will then be simmered in a pot of water for hours until the flavors from the vegetables have made their way into the liquid.
After that, the vegetables are strained out and you are left with a flavorful aromatic broth that you can use in everything from stuffing to vegetarian chicken and noodle soup.
Just like with chicken broth, the flavor of vegetable broth is usually much lighter than that of beef bouillon. If you can, you may want to increase the concentration of your broth to bring out a richer flavor. Just make sure to use the low-sodium version if you want to do this.
3. Miso Paste
Another great beef bouillon replacement, especially if you like Asian foods, is miso paste. Miso paste is a thick paste that is traditionally used to flavor soups in China, Korea, and Japan. It is made from a mixture of fermented soybeans and rice.
It has a strong umami flavor that is very reminiscent of beef broth making it a great choice if you’re vegan or vegetarian but still want that nice savory flavor.
When you use miso paste it is recommended to dissolve or thin the miso paste in a small bowl of hot water before adding it to the recipe. This will help to make sure the miso dissolves quickly and lets you work all of the chunks out.
If you add the paste directly to your recipe, it will be more difficult to dissolve the miso paste and you could end up with some very salty chunks.
4. Bone Broth
If you simply can’t get your hands on beef bouillon but you want a super similar flavor, try using bone broth. Bone broth is made by boiling the bones of large animals, like cattle, for many days to extract the flavor. Then it is packaged and sold, but you can also make your own if you desire. You can even make a big batch and freeze some to have in the future.
Bone broth is also one of the healthiest options on this list. It contains 4 grams of protein for every 20 calories of broth and only 1 carbohydrate. This makes it a great option if you’re looking to increase your protein intake without having to up your calorie intake.
As long as you don’t add extra salt to your recipe, bone broth is relatively low in sodium while still packing plenty of that umami flavor you’re looking for. It is hydrating and some people even carry it around and use it as a beverage throughout the day.
When using bone broth as a beef bouillon replacement, you will use it in the exact same way that you would use prepared beef broth. Just make sure to taste the bone broth and add in spices as needed. Since it only includes bones, you may find that it needs extra spices to fully develop the flavor into what you need.
5. Soy Sauce
Another easy beef bouillon substitute is soy sauce. You can use soy sauce to add flavor to lots of dishes, more than just soup. You can use soy sauce as the base of a marinade, thicken it to make a sauce, use it to top salads, and, of course, use it as a beef bouillon substitute.
The sauce itself is made from fermenting soybeans along with salt and usually wheat. This is what gives the sauce its easily recognized salty and umami taste. It is most commonly used in Asian dishes but can be used for any dish if you want to add additional salt or umami flavor to it.
Soy sauce comes in several different flavors and if you are considering using soy sauce as your substitute, it is important to choose the right one. According to the Japanese Agricultural Standards, there are five different types of soy sauce. These types are common, extra light, fermented, tamari, and light.
If you are trying to get the strongest flavor for your beef bouillon substitute, it is recommended that you use fermented soy sauce. You may also find it labeled as dark or black soy sauce. This soy sauce goes through additional fermentation, making its flavor far more intense. It also has a slightly thicker texture since more water has been evaporated out of the soy sauce.
If sodium is a concern for you, it may be wise to search for a low-sodium soy sauce. Low-sodium soy sauce will usually have just as much flavor but less than half of the sodium that regular soy sauce would have. This means that you’ll still get plenty of delicious soy sauce flavor without getting all the sodium that your doctor recommends you avoid.
6. Red Wine
Now this one may sound a bit odd compared to the more recent suggestions. After all, all of the previous replacement suggestions are technically sauces or broths in their own right. With just a bit of modification, they can be used as a beef bouillon substitute.
Although it is typically used as a beverage, red wine falls into the same category as the other substitutes on this list. It can give your food a deep, rich flavor with just the simple addition of a few spices to up the savoriness.
Red wine can come in many different varieties and each will have a slightly different flavor. For the best results in a savory dish, you will want to pick a red wine that has minimal sweetness. This will help to ensure that the different flavors of the wine pop through without giving your food an undesired level of sweetness.
Keep in mind, that unlike many of the substitutes on this list, red wine does not contain any salt. You will want to make sure to taste your recipe as you go and add salt as needed.
You will probably also want to add in other spices depending on your recipe to ensure that there is enough recipe typical flavor. If you just add the red wine you will end up with a flavorful recipe, but it may not be exactly what you were planning on.
7. Liquid Aminos
This next option is a great choice for this article’s vegan readers. While you’ve read about several vegan options so far, like miso paste, soy sauce, and veggie broth, that isn’t all there is to offer.
Liquid aminos can be made in a couple of different ways. One of the most common ways for liquid aminos to be made is using coconut syrup that has been fermented. This will result in a slightly sweeter, less salty version of liquid aminos.
The next way to make liquid aminos is by using soybeans that have been treated with an acid to create the amino. This version is much saltier and doesn’t have a hint of sweetness like coconut liquid aminos do.
Liquid aminos have a thin, watery texture but that doesn’t mean they’re lacking in flavor. They have a nice tanginess to them as well as plenty of salt. With that in mind, make sure to taste as you go to avoid oversalting your recipe.
If you are sensitive to soy, liquid aminos can be a great vegan substitute for beef bouillon that does not contain any soy. Just make sure to specifically purchase coconut aminos to ensure that no soy was used to make the sauce. If you accidentally get regular liquid aminos, they may still contain soy which could cause a reaction in someone who is allergic.
8. Mushroom Broth
This last beef bouillon replacement is for the mushroom lovers. If you want a deep umami flavor but don’t want to include any meat in your recipe, try making a mushroom broth. It will have a very similar meaty umami taste that beef broth has without having to include any animal products.
To make mushroom broth you will just take your favorite mushrooms, portabellos are great for this due to their meaty flavor, and slice them into strips or large chunks. Then you’ll boil them in a pot of water along with other vegetables like carrots and onions. You’ll also want to add a decent amount of salt and some of your other favorite spices.
After simmering for several hours, a good amount of the water should have evaporated and your vegetables will have cooked down leaving you with a delicious, salty broth. The mushrooms help to give the broth the deep umami flavor that is so often missing from other vegetable broths.
Once prepared it can be used in all the same ways as prepared beef broth. Just make sure to simmer the broth for several hours until the vegetables begin to break down. This will ensure that all of their flavors have entered the broth and will provide you with a delicious broth that has lots of different flavors from each ingredient.
What’s the Best Substitute for Beef Bouillon?
Out of all these substitutes, the best substitute for beef bouillon is chicken broth or chicken bouillon. This will give you the most similar flavor and function that beef bouillon does. It also has a similar level of salt so you won’t have to worry about adjusting your recipe as much as you would with other substitutes.
The main downside to this option is that since it has a lighter flavor, you won’t get quite the same level of umami flavor that you do with beef bouillon.
If you don’t want to consume meat, the best substitutes would be vegetable or mushroom broth. If prepared properly, these substitutes can still have a great, hearty flavor. Mushroom broth in particular can provide plenty of umami flavor when simmered for many hours to extract the flavor from the mushrooms.
If a recipe calls for beef bouillon, don’t feel like you can’t prepare it just because you either don’t consume it or don’t have beef bouillon. With a couple of tweaks, there are several great substitutes that you can use in place of beef bouillon. Using one of these substitutes will ensure that your recipe isn’t lacking at all in flavor.
Generally, the best substitutes for beef bouillon will include anything that is similarly “broth-like.” So any of the options listed like chicken broth, veggie broth, and mushroom broth will be the best choices. Just make sure to add plenty of spices and simmer your broth for several hours to ensure that it is full of flavor.