Best Substitutes for Chicken Broth

bowl of chicken broth

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Known for its soothing properties and rich flavor, chicken broth is a common ingredient in comfort foods like casseroles, mashed potatoes, and—of course—chicken noodle soup. There is nothing like a hot cup of broth to warm you up on a chilly evening or add depth to savory recipes.

The cozy flavors of chicken broth might seem impossible to replicate, but whether you are all out of it or cannot eat it for health or for other reasons, you do have other options. Here is how to substitute alternative ingredients for chicken broth in your home cooking.

Chicken Broth Uses

Chicken broth is made by boiling the meat of a chicken—sometimes with aromatics like onions and garlic, plus herbs and spices—to let their flavors infuse into the water. This process results in a clear liquid that serves as the base of numerous soups across the world, from chicken noodle to Greek avgolemono or even chili.

The major difference between chicken broth and chicken stock is that while broth is made by boiling the meat, stock is typically made by boiling the bones and skin and contains higher amounts of collagen as a result.

But this versatile ingredient goes far beyond a bowl of soup. Chicken broth can be used in creamy sauces, to deglaze a pan after cooking meat or veggies, or to thin out lumpy mashed potatoes. Chicken broth also makes a tasty cooking liquid for grains like rice or quinoa, imparting far more flavor than the usual water. It’s usually not difficult to use up a whole carton fast.

Why Use a Chicken Broth Substitute

For many people, the decision to use a chicken broth substitute comes down to simply having run out of it. But for others who are limiting sodium, have allergies, or are using fewer animal products, chicken broth can no longer play a role in their diet or should be significantly scaled back.

People on a low-sodium diet may need to steer clear of chicken broth’s high sodium content (which can supply more than 40% of the recommended daily amount in a single cup) or opt for a no-salt-added version.

And those on a low-histamine diet for histamine intolerance may choose to eliminate or reduce their intake of chicken broth. Plant-based eating plans like a vegan or vegetarian diet also do not include chicken broth.

Chicken Broth Nutrition

One serving of chicken broth is 1 cup or 249 grams. The following nutrition information for this serving size is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 15
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 924mg (40% D
  • Carbohydrates: 1.1g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 1g
  • Protein: 1.6g

Beyond chicken broth’s nutrient profile, it may have several health benefits. In fact, it may actually lessen the symptoms of a cold or flu.

An older study from 2000 found that, because of its influence on the activity of neutrophils (aka white blood cells), chicken soup might have a mild anti-inflammatory effect on upper respiratory tract infections.

Best Substitutes for Chicken Broth

No matter the reason you are seeking an alternative to chicken broth, there’s a substitute for you. Try the following three options in soups, sauces, meat dishes, and more.

Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth is a simple one-to-one substitute that can stand in just about anywhere. This broth is made by steeping vegetables or vegetable scraps—and sometimes spices—instead of chicken in water. This process creates a finished product similar to chicken broth in its savory flavor, golden color, and thin consistency. 

If you or someone you are cooking for is vegan or vegetarian, switching out chicken broth for vegetable broth makes many recipes suitable for plant-based eating.

When converting a recipe with animal products to something vegans can enjoy, just remember to also swap out all other animal products (like butter) for plant-based options (like vegetable oil).

Substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth will result in some slight variation in flavor, but it is often subtle enough to not make or break a finished recipe. And it won’t alter a recipe significantly in terms of nutrition, either.

Vegetable broth provides 11 calories, 2 grams of carbs, 0.5 grams of protein, and 0.2 grams of fat per cup. Just like chicken broth, vegetable broth also comes in low-sodium and no-sodium-added versions.

White Wine

Granted, a bottle of wine is not the same as a pot of chicken soup, but in the right context, white wine can make an excellent stand-in for chicken broth. As a clear liquid with a not-too-strong flavor, it is similar enough to broth to be swapped in recipes that call for smaller amounts of chicken broth, such as ½ cup or less. (Any more than this and wine will likely significantly change the flavor of a dish.)

In creamy sauces or when deglazing a pan, you can feel confident adding a bit of chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. Just note that you may detect a somewhat more acidic flavor than that of chicken broth.

It is also not likely you will get tipsy from adding a small amount of wine in your cooking; the longer a dish cooks, the more alcohol content from wine diminishes. Still, this doesn’t mean a flash in the pan reduces alcohol to zero.

People who need to keep alcohol out of their diet may need to be careful about including white wine in their cooking. This option would not be an appropriate substitute if you are dining with someone who is sober or working toward sobriety.  

White wine also offers the advantage of being low in sodium and suitable for vegetarians and vegans (as long as it is vegan wine). However, compared to chicken broth, wine has a different nutritional profile, but when used in smaller quantities this will not affect the dish much.

Water and Salted Butter

In a pinch, you can create a chicken broth substitute comprised of two super-common ingredients you are likely to have on hand—water and salted butter. In recipes that do not require chicken broth as a star player, this easy alternative can add richness and a salty bite—though, of course, it won’t perfectly recreate chicken broth’s signature meaty savoriness.

For each cup of chicken broth called for, substitute 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 cup water.

This chicken broth replacement is not vegan but it does work for those who are vegetarian. And though it adds more fat than most broths, it is significantly lower in sodium than chicken broth at 91 milligrams.

A Word From Verywell

Despite chicken broth’s unique flavor, it does not own the market for adding warmth and depth to recipes. If you are all out of this pantry staple, you have a number of viable substitutes at your disposal, each of which will provide a unique flavor to your dish.

Because chicken broth is often rich and flavorful, you will need to keep this in mind when replacing it in a recipe. When cooking with an alternative—particularly the water and butter option—you may have to amp up your seasoning to get the flavor you want. Do not be afraid to experiment somewhat.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USDA, FoodData Central. Soup, chicken broth, ready-to-serve.

  2. Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. 2000 Oct;118(4):1150-7. doi:10.1378/chest.118.4.1150

  3. USDA, FoodData Central. Soup, vegetable broth, ready to serve.

  4. Idaho State University. No worries, the alcohol burns off during cooking—But does it, really?

  5. USDA, FoodData Central. Alcoholic beverage, wine, table, white.

By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.