For most of my cooking life, I thought “stock” and “broth” were just two different terms for the same thing. (Perhaps one was old-timey and the other new age.) I didn’t really think much about those savory meat-flavored liquids beyond the occasion I wanted to make soup. But as it turns out there are actually significant differences between the two.

The differences between stock and broth

It would be easy to assume stock and broth are the same thing, after all, they’re both liquids flavored from simmering various meat scraps and vegetables. But there are three things that set the two apart: the cook time, the ingredients used, and the seasoning (or lack of seasoning).

What is stock?

Stock is made by simmering animal bones (and sometimes, but not always, small scraps of meat) with onions, carrots, and celery in a large pot of water. The bones may or may not be roasted first for added flavor, but bones are always present. Stock needs to simmer on the stovetop anywhere from two to eight hours so that the rich collagen from the bones gets extracted forming a gelatinous layer at the top (this will blend in again when reheat it). It’s usually left unseasoned and unsalted, as it allows the cook the opportunity to season when needed for the recipe.

What is broth?

Broth can mean just about any liquid that has had meat cooked in it. (It may have bones, but it always has meat — the inverse of stock.) Broth also may be made with onions, carrots, and celery in a large pot of water, but it’s typically only cooked for a short period of time — less than two hours. Broths are typically lighter and seasoned with additional herbs, spices, and salt.

How to tell the difference?

If you’re unsure if you’re served a stock or a broth, you can usually do so just by looking at them. Broth will generally be lighter, clearer, and thinner, while stock will generally darker and cloudier because of the presence of collagen.

what is bone broth?

So is bone broth just the same as regular stock or broth? Well, no. This is something different as well. There are two main differences between regular stock and broth and bone broth: simmering time and the parts of the animals it’s made from.

Bone broth is simmered for a much longer period of time (10 to 24 hours) than either regular broth or stock. It usually includes vegetables, herbs, and spices. This extra time allows for even more beneficial gelatin to be extracted from the animal bones. Here’s how to make homemade bone broth.

What is vegetable stock/broth?

If one of the main differences between stock and broth is that of the use of bones and meat, how can either term apply to the vegetarian variety? Well, yeah — it’s kind of weird. The terminology doesn’t really fit here, but it’s been adopted anyway. Both vegetable stock and vegetable broth will typically include some sort of herbs, spices, and salt to help enhance the flavor. Many will also include ingredients like corn syrup, so if you’re buying it in a store, check the ingredients. There is no governing rule for the vegetable versions of these products, but typically vegetarian broth will be lighter than vegetarian stock.

Also see, Easy 20 minute bone broth chicken noodle soup recipe.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.